There are a few essentials you need when gearing up for a picnic: A picnic basket, blanket, homemade lunch, and lastly (but most importantly!)—a perfect spot. Gearing up with the essentials can seem a lot easier than finding a great locale. Here in Arizona, there are seemingly infinite options available when choosing an outdoor picnic spot. Armed with gorgeous state parks and beautiful desert views, Arizona has no shortage of outdoor dining areas. Here are the best local areas to enjoy Mother Nature while on a picnic.
The Farm at South Mountain is a serene location to enjoy a picnic without having to make your own meal. This kitchen, café, and restaurant includes a picnic option for diners looking to enjoy their meals outdoors. The picnic party includes a self-serve breakfast or lunch buffet with hand crafted desserts. Customers can take a picnic basket on a stroll through Pecan Grove before deciding on a lunch spot. For larger groups, private spaces are available on the Farm Kitchen Patio.
Encanto Park was put on Forbes list of “America’s Best City Parks.” This 222-acre park lives up to this honor through its location and amenities. The park resides in a gorgeous residential area of Phoenix and incudes a lagoon, boat house, natural trail, and two golf courses. Encanto, Spanish for “enchanted,” is a popular destination for picnicking families on the weekends. They have two picnic areas complete with 12 tables and two grills.
Steele Indian School Park is one of the most historic parks in Phoenix. The park is built around the Phoenix Indian School—opened in 1891. The Phoenix Green area of the park features acres of green grass, shade trees, and meandering walkways. This peaceful sanctuary in downtown Phoenix also surrounds a lake and includes five family-size picnic ramadas. Steele Indian School has so many great shaded spots that choosing a picnic spot is a walk in the park.
South Mountain Park is a great spot for picnickers that are up for a hike. This 16,000-acre park and preserve is one of the largest municipally operated parks in the country. It includes 51 miles of trails for and encompasses three mountain ranges. There are several easy to moderate hikes that end with picturesque views. The Desert Foothills trailhead has a bird’s eye view of downtown Phoenix whereas Gila Lookout gives a peak at Gila River Valley. No matter the trail, there are plenty of spots to grub after working up an appetite in South Mountain Park.
Papago Park is known for the “Hole in the Rock”—a natural rock formation and trail with picturesque views of Phoenix. It also makes for a great picnic spot. Park visitors can hike up the West Park Trailhead for a less crowded picnic location. This relaxing trail ends atop buttes that offer clear views of the sprawling city. For non-hikers, Papago has several grassy areas that surround a fishing lagoon that are easily accessible and picnic friendly.
Fountain Park is an expansive, 64-acre recreation area that is home to a world-famous fountain. “The Fountain” is at the center of the park and was once regarded as the tallest fountain in the world by Guinness World Records. The fountain reaches heights of over 500 feet and is surrounded by over 35 acres of turf. This area also includes several large oak trees and is a perfect place to sprawl out with a picnic blanket.
The Margaret T. Hance Park is a hub for several cultural centers—including the Japanese Friendship Garden, Irish Cultural Center, and Phoenix Center for the Arts. Visitors can set up a picnic between visits amid this sprawling 32-acre park. Along the park’s west side is an expansive open grass area. This is close to the Irish Cultural Center and has amenities including ramadas, grills, and drinking fountains.
Red Rock State Park is a 286-acre nature preserve with some of the most stunning scenery in the state. The park’s signature red rocks are surrounded by green meadows and vegetation. Trails along the park make for a great spot to picnic and get a peak at the riparian habitat and its wildlife. Five self-guided trails lead picnickers through loops of the red rock vistas or banks along Oak Creek.
Water views are precious commodities in Arizona—and Roper Lake State Park has some of the state’s best. The park’s two main areas, Roper Lake and Dankworth Pond, both make for a great picnic setting. Roper Lake has a 30-acre lake as well as a stone hot tub, island, and campsites. Meanwhile, Dankworth Pond includes several picnic tables and ramadas. This picnic spot is best for a full day excursion or camping trip.
The Crescent Moon Picnic Site is home to one of the most photographed areas in Arizona. The picnic site has a view of the immense Cathedral Rock—one of Sedona’s most iconic rock formations. Aside from the spectacular views, this picnic spot has a lot to offer. The picnic area is located in the Coconino National Forest along Oak Creek at Red Rock Crossing. Tourists often take a refreshing dip in the creek before enjoying a picnic lunch.
Set in the northern Arizona city of Payson, the Green Valley Park checks all the boxes of a great picnic location. It has over 17 acres of grass, trees and shrubs, three picnic ramadas, and three lakes. The park is in a quiet neighborhood and has plenty of shaded areas that make for a perfect getaway from the scorching summers of southern Arizona. After a picnic, visitors can enjoy the many walking paths, boating, and fishing areas.
The Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza is known as the “jewel” of downtown Prescott. This plaza is adjacent to the famous Whiskey Row and is the nucleus of downtown Prescott. The plaza has a fountain, equestrian sculptures, an expansive grass lawn, and over 170 trees. The lawn is consistently crowded with tourists, exercisers, and dog walkers and hosts more than 130 activities annually. Picnickers can post up on the lawn with a blanket and enjoy people watching and a show in this busy downtown hub.
Though the name can be off-putting, Dead Horse Ranch State Park has some of the best picnic spots in the Coconino National Forest. This 432-acre park is elevated at 3,000 feet—meaning there are mild temperatures in the summer time. Along the Verde River, there are camping, biking, and hiking spots for tourists. Along the beach are several picnic areas with ramadas, tables, and grills. During a picnic, you’ll encounter outstanding views of the water in addition to the occasional encounter with some of the many species of wildlife that call this park home.