Oases in the desert: Phoenix's prettiest parks and gardens

Whoever said that the desert was all sand has never been to Phoenix.

  • 7
Take This Trip

Created by johille - January 28th 2019

Phoenix may lie in a desert, but it's hardly a barren landscape. Visit one of the city's parks and gardens, and you'll discover that the Sonoran Desert is teeming with a variety of lush, colorful and unique plant life. These perfect oases feature a wide range of beautiful plants. Lush lagoons, exotic flowers, stunning architecture, art installations, serene walking paths, and more make exploring these gardens a worthwhile escape. Just remember to bring along sunscreen and plenty of water.

Photo of Desert Botanical Garden

1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ, US

Desert Botanical Garden

Cacti and desert plants can be seen all across Arizona and the city of Phoenix, but you've never seen as many beautiful plant species all in one space as you will at the Desert Botanical Garden. Trails weave through the 140-acre property, guiding you through informational displays and exhibits that not only include plants, but art as well. Tours and activities are offered daily, a butterfly garden gives space for peaceful fluttering creatures, and the Schilling Library is available to those wanting to further their research and knowledge of plants worldwide. Paying a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden is a wonderful way for people of all ages to spend the afternoon.

Photo of Encanto Park

2300 N 17th Ave, Phoenix, AZ, US

Encanto Park

Encanto Park boasts over 200 acres consisting of trails, golf courses, and lagoons, all located in the heart of Phoenix. Palm trees reign over the water, welcoming everyone wanting to enjoy a sunshine-filled day at the park. There are plenty of basketball and tennis courts, and for something a little different, the clubhouse serves as a space for poetry readings and other performances. Enchanted Island Amusement Park is also located within Encanto, ideal for young children and families. A carousel, rides, canoes, and much more are available for a day of fun. Not many parks cover this much acreage and cater to as many outdoor activities as Encanto does.

Photo of Japanese Friendship Garden

1125 N 3rd Ave, Phoenix, AZ, US

Japanese Friendship Garden

For a relaxing afternoon that feels like you're escaping from the city, or maybe even the country entirely, the Japanese Friendship Garden is perfect. Three and a half acres, with a tea garden and teahouse, it encourages you to take a stroll and embrace the cultural awareness between east and west. The cities of Phoenix and Himeji, Japan, became sister cities back in 1976, and the garden represents this relationship. This garden is truly a hidden gem right in the middle of the city, and is a great way to relax or seek some peace of mind. The gently flowing streams, koi fish, and serene nature will evoke a sense of appreciation for not only Japanese culture, but life itself. Events and classes are held throughout the year, so be sure to take advantage of this amazing little space you might otherwise miss!

Photo of The Arboretum at Arizona State University

556 S Packard Dr, Tempe, AZ, US

The Arboretum at Arizona State University

Open daily to the public, The Arboretum at Arizona State University is home to desert horticulture that takes you through Arizona's vast history of plants. Olive trees, date palms, cacti, and much more make up this "living laboratory" that is important to both classroom and public education. Housing over 900 species, the space is Arizona's largest public arboretum, and contains trees that were planted as far back as 1908. Tree tours based on themes such as "Medicinal Plants,” "Edible Landscapes,” and "Tropical Trip" are offered throughout the year, so be sure to check this season's tour schedule for an exclusive treat! The university truly prides itself on the knowledge and resources it has to offer when it comes to horticulture, and even additionally provides virtual tours for those wanting to learn from their own home.

Photo of Xeriscape Botanical Gardens

5959 W Brown St, Glendale, AZ, US

Xeriscape Botanical Gardens

Located right in front of the Glendale Library, Xeriscape Botanical Gardens is a convenient spot right in the city, featuring a short trail that allows you to take in hundreds of species of plants. Here you'll find new ideas for your own landscapes and be able to take note of any you didn't previously know about. Xeriscaping is simply a form of landscape design that requires little to no irrigation or maintenance. It's often seen in arid regions, and is easy for the average homeowner or plant-loving individual to create. A sculpture garden can be found behind the library, as well as additional trails right in the area, for a little afternoon outdoor adventure right in Glendale.

44000 N Spur Cross Rd, Cave Creek, AZ, US

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

You won't see a tumbleweed drifting by, or a cowboy riding past, but you'll feel as if you might in Spur Cross Ranch, a cactus-filled county park full of wildlife and hiking trails. Spur Cross Ranch features petroglyphs, a river that flows throughout much of the year, barely touched paths ready to explore, and views that will take your breath away. Elephant Mountain Trail is the longest in the park at two miles long, but it can be strenuous. The Limestone Trail connects to it, creating a much longer loop that allows you to see a wide variety of plants and animals, all while getting a great hike, bike ride, or horseback ride in. The park is conveniently located minutes from Phoenix, but secluded enough to allow visitors to wander a variety of trails through pristine desert and a saguaro forest. Allow yourself some time to enjoy the hike and embrace all the wildlife Arizona has to offer.

Photo of Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

37615 E. Highway 60, Superior, AZ, US

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Founded in the 1920s by Col. William Boyce Thompson, Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is named after the mining magnate and is the oldest and largest arboretum in the state. The park spans over 300 acres and is run with the help of Arizona State University. It's about an hour outside of downtown Phoenix, but makes a great day trip. It's dog friendly, home to desert plants and animals of all kinds, and hosts a variety of events and activities. The art gallery, gift shop, and plant shop even allow those interested to get their shopping fix in. Hike the trails throughout the park and take in the killer views that will leave you in awe. The arboretum has a rich history that speaks to the diverse culture and wildlife of the land it inhabits. A visit to the park will be a stop on your trip that you're sure to remember.

Spending time in any of Phoenix's parks will give you a new appreciation for the desert. Not only do those endless skies and striking plants offer a unique trip that encourages you to take a deep breath of fresh air and feel relaxed, but the photogenic panoramic views and towering saguaros will leave you with the urge to return again and again.