Phoenix Travel Guide for Backpackers

Phoenix, along with a number of other adjoined suburb cities, sits in the middle of a low-level desert valley.  In all honesty, Phoenix isn’t exactly high on the radar of too many backpackers.  The city is much more popular with Canadians, and Americans from the northern states, looking to escape the harsh cold winter.  Thus, the region caters to people with cars and people who are planning on spending most of their time on the golf course.  As such, most backpackers skip right through Phoenix, and those that do stay tend to just use it as a stop over between Las Vegas, Los Angeles and one of the Texas destinations of choice.  That being said, although Phoenix is far from Backpacker friendly, there is still a lot to do and see in the valley.

Things to do and see in Phoenix

As I mentioned, there is actually quite a bit to do in the city, although you’ll want a car to get around if possible as public transport in the Valley lags far behind.

  • Phoenix Zoo: The Phoenix Zoo is a very well organized zoo with lots of really open spaces for the animals.  Among the favourites here are cheetahs as well a cage you can walk through to be right along side dozens of capuchin monkeys.
  • Desert Botanical Gardens: The gardens are right next to the zoo and you could do both in one hit but it would be a long day.  The gardens are a must see.  They are not only a collection of vegetation from the nearby deserts but from all over the world.  They say that the best time to visit is in March when all the flowers come to bloom, but I think it’s probably very good any time of year.
  • Hiking: There is actually some decent hiking right on the edges of the valley, however if you go up on a weekend be prepared for a lot of traffic on the trails.  Of the different hikes, Camelback Mountain is probably the favourite with South Mountain being a close second.
  • Sporting Events: Phoenix has just about every type of sport you can imagine going on.  There are major league baseball, football, basketball and hockey teams in the city as well as a number of College teams.
  • Golfing: Phoenix is a golfers paradise.  There is basically a course on every corner and playing one of them doesn’t cost much at all.  Most courses have midday specials for around $20 which includes use of a power cart.  My favourite course to play was called Falcon Ridge which was adjoined to an airforce base which meant we got to watch fighters shoot overhead as we played.
  • Downtown Scottsdale: This is the historic part of the city and it still feels that way.  The area has loads of shops and cafes.
  • Sedona Day Trip: It’s completely possible to do a road trip to Sedona for the day if you have a car.  However, I would recommend that you take a little bit more time than that for Sedona.  On the way to Sedona there are also a couple of national monuments to see including the ancient Montezuma’s Castle.

Where to Stay

As far as I know, there are no backpacker specific hostels in Phoenix.  However, hotel rooms in the city are very cheap and you wont be paying too much more, and actually might even save money if you are a couple or a group of 3 or 4.  In my experience, the Motel 6s are the cheapest hotels and they all have free WiFi.  Also, if you check online sometimes they have really good sales.  You can expect to pay about $30 a night for a room.

Getting out of Town

Phoenix is right in the middle of a number of different possible travel destinations all of which are accessible by the greyhound.  Places of interest might include the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Las Cruces, or Los Angeles.  If you want to get to Supai you’ll need to rent a car.

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