Take Interstate 17 to State 74 (known as the Carefree Hwy.) and head east. Most of the attractions are along the curve of Cave Creek Rd., north of Carefree Hwy. and west of Tom Darlington Dr. INFO cavecreekchamber.org
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Why go now: Beat the heat―and catch wildflowers at their peak―in this cowboy-friendly town on the edge of metro Phoenix.
Dress code: Jeans and boots.
The real pedestrians: Streets here are dotted with javelina-, quail-, and horse-crossing signs―you’ll see the real ones too.
Get the lay of the land: Hike up Black Mountain, once crisscrossed with gold and silver mines, for a great view of town (free; trailhead at School house Rd. south of Cave Creek Rd.; free guided hike third Fri of each month, reservations required; blkmtnconservancy.org).
Knock one back with a local: Belly up to the bar at Harold’s Cave Creek Corral, the town watering hole since the 1930s ($$; 6895 E. Cave Creek Rd.; 480/4881906).
Or sip something stronger: Get an espresso at Cave Creek Coffee Company & Wine Bar―there’s a cushy chair for you and a hitching post for your horse ($; 6033 E. Cave Creek Rd.; 480/4880603).
Share that hitching post: With well-heeled Harley riders, who love to stop in town.
More ways to experience the Old West in and around Cave Creek:
The Lazy Lizard Gussy up the ranch with Western furniture and accessories from this eclectic consignment shop. Look for vintage cowboy pieces and silver and turquoise Native American jewelry. 6116 E. Cave Creek Rd.; 480/488-6505.
Suzanne’s Hot Stuff Add a little heat to your cooking with locally made salsas, hot sauces, glazes, and rubs at this pocket-size shop, which also sells pepper sauces from around the globe. 6245 E. Cave Creek Rd.; 877/246-8498.
Bartlett Reservoir At this desert-ringed lake, set in the Tonto National Forest about 20 miles east of town, hike, picnic, and, this time of year, look for wildflowers. $6 per vehicle; buy a Tonto Pass at locations listed at www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto; 480/595-3300.
Full Circle Ranch B&B Get more time in Cave Creek by spending the night at this folksy bed-and-breakfast, which has accommodations for you and the horse you rode in on. From $160; fullcircleranch.com.