Escaping the Heat and Exploring Northern Arizona


In an effort to get our kids exposed to as much outdoor time as possible, we’ve been gathering with another family to explore our own AZ backyard! The hardest part about getting outside in the summer is the dang heat! Unless you have a pool at home, due to Covid, access to a pool elsewhere is proving difficult.  Another way that we have been escaping the heat is by heading north.

Here I will share our favorite places we have been so far, and those we would like to visit.

Verde Valley

Just an hour and a half away from North Phoenix, this makes for an easy day trip. We have visited the Verde River in several locations, as well as Oak Creek. It is amazing what a couple of miles can make in the change of scenery.

At Oak Creek we saw tadpoles and frogs, turtles and birds. The temperature in this area is not much cooler than Phoenix (just ten degrees or so), but the presence of trees and water makes for a completely different experience.

In the Verde River, over by Camp Verde, the water was so impressively clear. We saw crayfish nuzzled in the rocks under the water.


In Payson we visited Ellison Creek, near the Second Crossing Campground. The most amazing part about rivers in Arizona is that you can almost always find your little corner of privacy, tucked away in between majestic boulders.

This location was about two hours away. We took the kids, and packed lunch, blankets and towels. The sound of two nearby waterfalls created a great ambiance for our 4 hour stay. Due to the heat, and the age of our children, we didn’t go for much of a hike.  But as motherhood has taught me, priorities with children change, and it usually means we prioritize slowing down.


Sedona is full of wonder!  The list of places to visit is endless. Our favorite places to visit are along Oak Creek. On the south side of town is Crescent Moon Picnic Site, which allows for easy in, easy out water play. Although any place in Sedona seems to be busy, this location allows for finding quiet sections along the water way.

Another spot is further up into Oak Creek Canyon. Of course, there is Slide Rock. This is always busy these days. My husband has fond memories of his time there. I avoid any place where I can see cars lined up along the road. Further up, there are places that are tucked in the trees. And apple orchards, when the time is right.


We found a cute little city park a couple of weeks ago, Watson Lake Park. A hike was just enough for two 2 year olds and two 4 year olds. The kids jumped in the water, although it was low. Their standards are low and priorities have more to do with cooling off than keeping clean.

We saw lots of wildlife up close, including many types of ducks and swans. Great for a bit of environmental education!


In our list of places we’d like to go before the end of summer is Flagstaff. Since it is a three hour drive, we are thinking we will rent a small cabin to spend the night.


My husband’s family has a property in this area. So we intend to spend sometime here as well. The temperatures are MUCH cooler – about 35 degrees cooler than Phoenix. Since this is a 3.5 hour drive, we would also be spending the night.

A friendly reminder that when you’re escaping the heat up north, always take home what you bring into our precious wild areas in order to keep them clean for all visitors. We like to explicitly tell our children this so that it is ingrained!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here