It’s no secret that Arizona is hot in the summer, as I learned growing up in Scottsdale. But I don’t want you to think that it’s always 115 degrees. Usually, the temperature hovers in the much more comfortable 100°-105° range. “Comfortable?!” my friends ask. “You’re crazy! That kind of heat isn’t meant for humans to live in.”
I spent last week in my hometown and couldn’t wait to feel the blast of hot air as I stepped onto the sidewalk at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. For me, the weather evokes memories the way an old song playing on the radio does. It also feels basic and primal, like going back to a time when the first humans walked the Earth.
You’ll hear Arizonans say, “It’s a dry heat” with pride, and I’m right there with them. I would take Arizona summers over a sticky 85° with 75 percent humidity any day.
Though Phoenix and Scottsdale boast ideal weather in spring, fall, and winter, I love convincing people that summer is a great time to visit. Off-season rates make extended stays at five-star resorts like the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, The Phoenician, and Four Seasons Scottsdale a reality. You’ll get all the desert tranquility and luxury at a fraction of the cost. (Think frozen grapes delivered poolside, like they do at Four Seasons, and dine-in movies in the pool at the Fairmont.)
To be fair, summer visits require a little extra planning on your part because of the extreme heat. For instance, going for an afternoon stroll is downright foolish. Anything outdoors has to be done very early in the morning.
I like starting my day at 6 a.m. with a hike up Camelback Mountain (so named because, from a distance, the shape of the mountain looks like a camel laying down, at rest in the desert landscape). There are two routes to the top — the longer Cholla Trail and Echo Canyon.
On a recent scramble to the top via Cholla Trail, I could think of nothing except my beating heart and the incredible panoramic views of the Phoenix skyline, the Scottsdale I know like the back of my hand, and the McDowell Mountains. They are friendly mountains, ones you can glimpse everywhere as you drive the clean, open roads.
There’s something compelling about the juxtaposition of landscapes that feels as old as the Earth itself and the area’s modern shopping centers, restaurants, and hotels.
Though Biltmore Fashion Park and Kierland Commons offer shoppers a refreshing mist as they make their rounds outside, when the peak afternoon heat hits, I escape into movie theaters or the beautiful Scottsdale Fashion Square. If I’m feeling more cerebral, I’ll while away the hours at the quirky Musical Instrument Museum or head to the Heard Museum to catch the latest exhibit on American Indian culture.
August brings the monsoons, with desperately needed rain washing everything clean. The parched landscape seems to breathe a sigh of relief, the quenching of a long thirst, and the once-foreboding skies return to their natural shade of blue, the air softened by the sweet smell of creosote.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Granted, this is a rosy picture. There are times the heat can attack with a vengeance, causing sweat to trickle down your back and your thoughts to turn foggy — times when the holy grail presents itself in the form of a shaded parking spot.
Locals know it is an easy escape to the cooler northern climes to enjoy Sedona, Flagstaff, and Prescott. But just when you think you can’t take it anymore, there comes a chill in the mornings as the seasons change.
Bottom line: There just isn’t a bad time to visit Arizona. But I will always appreciate the summer months. And there are still a few weeks left of those unyielding rays warming the Valley of the Sun.