Everyone knows about north Scottsdale's spectacular, guard-gated mansions and immaculately groomed golf greens. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll discover a folksier angle, one that includes plenty of horses, ranches, and wide-open spaces.
May's sunny, dry days make it a great time to explore the area's rustic roots. Hike, take photographs, and grab a burger at an old-school outdoor cowboy bar, then re-enter north Scottsdale's present-day persona by treating yourself to an hour or two at a luxurious resort spa.
Reach north Scottsdale by exiting State 101 at Pima Rd. Once in town, access McDowell Mountain Regional Park by heading east on Dynamite Blvd./Rio Verde Dr., then south on Forest and McDowell Mountain Roads.
McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Drive past ranches, orchards, and open desert to this 21,000-acre park. The moderate 1.2-mile Lousley Hill Trail loop offers unfettered, Kodak-moment views of the Verde River, Four Peaks, and other landmarks. INFO: $5 per vehicle; 16300 McDowell Mountain Park Dr., between Fountain Hills and Rio Verde; 480/471-0173.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. Treat hike-weary muscles at the resort's adobe-style spa, then linger poolside, where attendants pass complimentary fruit kebabs and iced towels. INFO: Spa treatments from $90; 10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr.; 480/515-5700.
Greasewood Flat. Cowboys, bikers, and Prada-clad fashionistas share this beloved outdoor desert bar, which once served as a stagecoach stop. Order burgers and drinks inside the creaky bunkhouse, festooned with graffiti and dollar bills, then dine outside shaded by tamarisk trees. INFO: $; 27375 N. Alma School Pkwy.; 480/585-9430.
Pinnacle Peak Village General Store. Grab coffee, trail mix, locally made salsa and barbecue sauce, and even gas at this quirky cafe/store. INFO: $; 8711 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd.; 480/991-1822.
Our favorite splurge is Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, where luxe casitas are tucked between boulders and cacti ― and the spa is top-notch (from $525; 480/515-5700). From the resort's back gate, you can access excellent hiking at adjacent Pinnacle Peak Park. And when you return, toast spectacular sunset views with margaritas on the lobby lounge balcony (hiking boots welcome, of course).
More adventures in Scottsdale