The mistakes people make when visiting Phoenix include some of which are quite common among 1st-time visitors to the Valley of the Sun. The city got its nickname for a reason: it’s right in the Salt River Valley in the northern Sonoran and receives abundant sun.

    Phoenix has always appealed to outdoor enthusiasts – you don't have to leave the city limits to enjoy beautiful hikes, with the likes of Camelback Mountain right on its doorstep. But the beauty of the desert ought to be enjoyed safely. Read on for important tips on this as well as things to avoid during your trip to Phoenix.


    Hiking in summer

    And going up the mountains alone

    One of the big no-nos, especially for 1st-time visitors to Phoenix, is to go hiking in the mountains of Salt River Valley in the peak of summer. Sure, you might be an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast who has done plenty of alpine climbs. And you may be used to the heat with humidity from where you're from. But Arizona has very dry heat that saps moisture from you the moment you step outside.

    Some of you may want to hike solo to avoid the crowds, but this is simply doubling the risk. Local authorities recommend choosing an easy or populated hiking trail if you really want to go it alone. Plus, it’s sensible to always let others know you’re going hiking and bring your phone, too.


    Not bringing enough water

    It’s important for both you and the car

    With the dry heat of Phoenix, it’s important to always bring enough drinking water and stay well-hydrated while enjoying the great outdoors. That applies whether you’re hiking up in the mountains or even just going out for a stroll around Downtown.

    Phoenix locals say that as soon as you feel thirsty outside, it might be a little late. On any hike in the mountains, don’t refuse someone asking for water as their life could depend on it. There are water refilling stations at most hiking trails. Bringing clean water is just as important on road trips as you never know when your car radiator will need it.


    Not minding the traffic on 1-way Downtown streets

    Beware of speeding vehicles

    Some streets in Downtown Phoenix are pretty and relaxing while others are downright hazardous. The north-south 7th Avenue is a long and straight stretch that’s notorious for its high number of accidents. It all goes down to the collective mentality of motorists. Unfortunately, many exceed the speed limit on Phoenix’s 1-way streets.

    Therefore, such streets in the Downtown area aren’t the friendliest for 1st-time motorists and pedestrians. Although some major 1-way streets have become 2-way streets in recent years, they remain sketchy for cyclists and pedestrians. Put simply, watch the traffic when out and about.


    Disrespecting nature

    Let the wildlife and the cacti be

    When out and about in the Sonoran, always be aware of your surroundings. Even the outskirts of the city are home to potentially dangerous wildlife like coyotes and rattlesnakes, as well as smaller desert critters like scorpions. Some locals even find them in their backyards.

    As beautiful or terrifying as they may be to us, they always deserve our respect. On any encounter, give them a respectable distance. The same goes for the indigenous plants such as the majestic saguaro. They're protected, and damaging or vandalising a cactus by slicing, carving or hitting one is considered a felony. Chopping one down is punishable with up to 25 years of jail time, plus a hefty fine.


    Defacing Native American sites

    Doing so to any historical site is a big no-no

    The Phoenix area is home to major Native American sites, some with a series of petroglyphs on soapstone boulders that date back centuries. They’re for all to see and cherish and should remain for generations to come.

    Unfortunately, there have been several cases of vandalism in the past, with rock carvings either painted over with modern graffiti or parts scraped beyond recognition. Please be considerate of the landscape, the local history, and future explorers who wish to see these works of art.


    Not exploring beyond the city limits

    Enjoy great hikes in Sedona and day trips to the Grand Canyon

    Downtown Phoenix has its offerings and there are great hiking trails with gorgeous landscapes like Camelback Mountain and the Phoenix Mountains Preserve right on its doorstep. However, it’s worth combining a trip to the city with a day trip to some of the unmissable sights outside the city limits.

    Sedona, with its rich and alluring landscapes of red rock formations, is worth adding to your itinerary if you have the time. It’s within the 2-hour drive north via Interstate 17 N. If you have more time, the Grand Canyon is surely a natural wonder worth seeing in anyone’s lifetime – it’s around 3.5 hours north of Phoenix.


    Missing out on small restaurants and local food

    Check out the alleged birthplace of chimichangas

    Phoenix’s food scene is enriched by iconic dishes that you shouldn’t miss on your visit to the valley. These range from the jerky-like traditional Sonoran machaca (comprising spicily marinated beef or pork and often used as the filling for tacos or burritos) to original Native American ceme't flour tortillas.

    Another must-try while in Phoenix is chimichangas – the city is known as the birthplace of this wholesome deep-fried stuffed tortilla. The story goes that Woody Johnson invented it entirely by accident. He was making a traditional, meat-filled burrito when he accidentally dropped it into a deep fryer. Head to the longstanding Macayo’s Mexican Food in Downtown Phoenix where it all happened.


    Choosing the wrong time to visit

    Take note of peak season in Phoenix

    It’s hard to predict the weather and the start and end of seasons in places with desert climates like Phoenix. You’d hardly see any autumn colours or spring flower blossoms, nor does it snow in winter. Even so, it does get a little cold and even freezing in the winter months, with highs of around 50°F.

    The high season in the region is usually October–May. Many consider the best time to visit Phoenix is between November and April, when the sky is at its bluest and when temperatures are more pleasant. Hotel rates are also at their peak between January and April. Summer, from June to September, is best avoided if you’re planning a hike in the mountains.


    Not packing right

    Prepare for Phoenix’s extreme temperatures

    As it can get sweltering hot by day and freezing during the night in Phoenix, you’ll need to pack right for your trip. The sun’s rays are strong during the day – a hat, sunscreen with SPF30 or higher, sunglasses with high UV protection, and layers of cool and breathable clothing are among the necessities. Light layers for daytime wear and thicker ones for the evenings are recommended.

    For footwear, you can include comfy gym shoes and sandals alongside your hardy hiking boots. Extra pairs of socks and a good pair of boots are essential for hiking through the Sonoran Desert as you’ll need to protect yourself not only from the heat but also from the unwanted and unexpected, such as sharp rocks, cactus needles, and snakes.


    Relying solely on public transport

    Cars are often a necessity for getting around

    Phoenix is one of the desert metropolises in the US where cars are the main means of transport. Although it’s very possible to visit and get around the city without a car, you’ll likely end up burning a hole in your budget with taxi fares. For getting around Downtown, public transport is mostly by bus and the 20-mile Valley Metro Rail system that runs through downtown and into Tempe and Mesa in the east.

    Ride-hailing services such as Uber, Lyft, and zTrip are great alternatives, but most of the top attractions are outside city limits anyway, so hiring a car is usually the way to go.

    φωτογραφία από Tony Webster (CC BY 2.0) τροποποιήθηκε

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