Outdoor and Active

Day Trip from Tempe: Cave Creek

I’ve lived in Arizona my whole life and there are so many places to explore in my home state. Cave Creek is one place that I remember well from childhood, but I hadn’t visited with my husband and my daughter. I’ve been married for 12 years and my daughter is eight years old. A visit to Cave Creek was way overdue!

On a recent Sunday, we set off to rediscover scenic Cave Creek, a place that is within 45 minutes to an hour north of Tempe. It’s known for beautiful Sonoran Desert hiking trails, wide open spaces and spots that are reminiscent of the Wild West.

We started out at Arizona Bread Co. in Tempe. This local favorite serves breakfast and lunch daily. They have one of the most tempting pastry cases that I’ve ever seen their menu is full of delicious omelets, breakfast sandwiches waffles and pancakes. We fueled up for our next adventure, and headed north to our hike at Cave Creek Regional Park.

Cave Creek Regional Park is a hiker’s paradise. There are lots of trails to choose from, so I suggest going into the Nature Center and asking for recommendations. The staff was super helpful and they guided us to a trail that was the perfect length for my daughter, Piper. We did the Overton Trail and the Clay Mine Trail. The trailhead was right behind the Nature Center so it was really easy to find. The trails are well marked and there are even a few benches along the way for resting or a snack break. As we gradually ascended up the mountain, we saw all kinds of beautiful cacti, from majestic Saguaros to cholla and prickly pear.

We stopped at the entrance to the Clay Mine, where many years ago, a female entrepreneur used to mine clay that was sold as a health remedy. The entrance to the mine is fenced off, but we still felt like we learned a bit of Arizona history that we didn’t know before. We turned around here and made our way back to the Nature Center. If you have more time, you can also take a horseback ride inside the park at Cave Creek Trailrides.

After our hike, it was time for lunch. We drove down the main street of Cave Creek, named Cave Creek Road of course, to the family-owned Grotto Café. Their online menu looked enticing, but in person, it was hard to choose just one thing! They serve breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to noon and lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Their portions are more than generous, so we went with a salad, turkey panini and grilled cheese and we couldn’t help but steal a bite or two from each other’s plates. The inside is decorated with all kinds of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia and vintage signs. They have a large patio too, perfect for sunny Arizona days. And, their staff was really friendly and helpful.

After lunch, we drove just a few blocks to Frontier Town, also located on Cave Creek Road. It’s just like stepping back into the old West. Here you’ll find buildings that look like what you’d see in a Western movie, cute shops selling all kinds of souvenirs, a boot hill cemetery and lots of metal sculptures, wooden wagons and other places for great photo ops. We did some shopping at the Happy Hogan, a small Navajo-style Hogan filled with handmade jewelry, gemstones and tchotchkes. And, we bought a few candles from the Cave Creek Candles & Gifts.

After Frontier Town, we made our way back to Tempe for a well-deserved dinner at a locally owned restaurant called Spokes on Southern. “Spokes” for short is a casual beer and bicycle-themed restaurant. Their menu ranges from burgers and salads to what they call “Southwest-ish” dishes like tacos and enchiladas. Craft brew aficionados will find more than a few favorites with 24 taps featuring local and popular beers that have made their way to Arizona. They have a large lakeside patio and even a lounge area with couches and board games. It’s a place where you’ll want to hang out for longer than just a quick meal.

Here’s a map showing all of our stops on our day trip from Tempe to Cave Creek and back. You can find more ideas for day trips from Tempe on the Tempe Tourism website. Happy traveling everyone!

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