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Grand Fall aka “Chocolate Falls” Road Trip

If you’ve ever wanted to experience the chocolate falls from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, you might want to take a spontaneous trip to Arizona’s painted desert. A rare natural occurrence only occurs a few times every year. A day trip to the Grand Falls, also known as Chocolate Falls, is only three hours from Phoenix, so grab that extra box of chocolate for the road and start planning this February.

Grand Falls Chocolate Falls

Normally, muddy water does not draw crowds, but when it resembles chocolate sauce and is larger than Niagara Falls, there appears to be an exception. It is intriguing enough to attract thousands of people each year, and we believe you will too!

The Grand Falls in Arizona only flow for a few months each spring. Planning now for your trip in late Feb-April is key. Record winter rainfall and snowpack fuels the flow, the Grand Falls should be at peak levels for the spring run this year.

Where Are The Grand Falls? Grand Falls aka Chocolate Falls are located about 39 miles northeast from the heart of Flagstaff, Arizona. It sits on the Navajo Nation land in the Painted Desert and dumps into the Little Colorado River.

From Flagstaff: 1 hour
From Phoenix: 3 hours
From Page: 2.5 hours

It is suggested to always use the south approach near Leupp because the road conditions- while still very wash-boarded and at times wet from rain- is easier than the north. From this direction, a high clearance 4×4 is not required but at the very least an SUV! Sedans can make it but the ride will be much less enjoyable.

Fun Facts: Grand Falls are 185 feet tall which makes them taller than Niagara Falls! They were formed by lava flow from the nearby Merriam Crater which erupted approximately 150,000 years ago. The lava flowed into the Little Colorado River which created a lava damn. The flow of the river was diverted to the northeast, then dropping back into its original channel thus forming Grand Falls.

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WM Phoenix Open Begins February 6th

Dubbed “The Greatest Show on Grass,” The WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale has no problem living up to its name. In addition to playing host to the greatest players in the game, the tournament is the PGA TOUR’s best-attended event – drawing nearly 500,000 enthusiastic spectators each year. Tournament Week: February 6 – February 12, 2023

As one of the first events on the PGA TOUR calendar, The WM Phoenix Open kicks off the year with a bang. Unlike any other tournament in the world, spectators become central to the event – helping to transform the famous 16th hole into “The Coliseum” – and the loudest hole in golf.

Defending Champion Scottie Scheffler

The best golf players in the world come to TPC Scottsdale for a tournament that is broadcast worldwide. Some of the big names in attendance will include defending champion Scottie Scheffler, Rory Mcllroy, Xander Schauffele, Sam Burns, and many more.

Annexus Pro-Am

Michael Phelps, Albert Pujols, Emmit Smith

The most decorated Olympian of all time Michael Phelps, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith, and one of only four members of MLB’s exclusive 700-home run club Albert Pujols are among the early list of celebrities set to appear in the popular Annexus Pro-Am at the WM Phoenix Open on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course.

Birds Nest

For four nights every year, the hottest nightclub in Scottsdale is located inside a tent erected in north Scottsdale. It is, of course, the Coors Light Birds Nest. With great music, beautiful patrons, and enthusiastic partying, the Birds Nest has earned near-legendary status on the PGA TOUR. It offers a show all its own and is totally unlike anything else associated with professional golf. This year’s sold-out headliners included The Chainsmokers, Machine Gun Kelly, and Jason Aldean.

The tournament begins on February 6th, but the biggest events will be happening from the 10th through the 12th. You can see the full event calendar here.

This year marks the 91st Anniversary of the creation of the Phoenix Open Tournament, so surely the Thunderbirds have big plans in store. You can buy your tickets for the Open by clicking here. First Responders, Military Members, and Veterans get in for free!

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Pony Express Gallops into Fountain Hills

There are few sights on the Avenue of the Fountains to rival the Hashknife Pony Express posse thundering by. Deer-skin fringed leather jackets flying, as the authentic “Old West” riders deliver and pick up mail at the Fountain Hills Post Office.

For 65 years, the Hashknife Pony Express has made this ride during January/February, traveling 200 miles from Holbrook to Scottsdale, Arizona. These swarthy riders deliver 20,000 first-class letters by horseback. This is the oldest officially sanctioned ride in the world, and the only one still authorized by the US Postal Service. Each of the 24 riders is sworn in as an honorary mail messenger braving weather, terrain, and modern-day obstacles to deliver the United States mail. The riders will continue to Scottsdale as part of Scottsdale’s Western Week that culminates in the Parada del Sol.

pony express
Hashknife Pony Express posse

The riders are expected to arrive in Fountain Hills at approximately 3:00 PM on February 2nd, 2022. Delivering mail to the Fountain Hills Post Office at the intersection of Avenue of the Fountains and La Montana Drive. The public is invited out to greet the riders at the Post Office. There is usually a good group to cheer them on as they ride up the Avenue. The RE/MAX Sun Properties office is a great place to see the action and enjoy a beverage. Join us!

Around Arizona Desert Plants and Wildlife Outdoor recreation Things to Do

Where to See the Salt River Wild Horses

If you’re wondering where you can go to see wild horses near the Salt River in Arizona, here’s everything you need to know before you go. The short scenic drive from Fountain Hills or Scottsdale alone is worth the visit as you are surrounded by the Sonoran Desert. You’ll see parts of the Goldfield Mountains, Stewart Mountain, and Red Mountain on your way to see the Salt River wild horses. And, after this winter’s dramatic storms, the wildflower season will be stunning!

where to see salt water horses

Best Places to See The Salt River Wild Horses

The Salt River is fantastic because there are various locations where you can observe the horse up close without having to travel very far into the desert. You may park, stroll down to the river, and try your luck sighting the horses at one of the several recreation areas that are located right beside the river. Here are some suggestions on where to go and view the horses.

These are the 7 recreation sites where you can see the wild horses:

  1. Granite Reef
  2. Phon D Sutton
  3. Coon Bluff
  4. Blue Point
  5. Pebble Beach
  6. Saguaro Lake
  7. Butcher Jones

These 7 recreation sites are all within 13 miles of each other, only taking 20 minutes to get from the first (Granite Reef) to the last (Butcher Jones).

Once you do spot the horses along the Salt River, you’ll typically see a group together. As you continue to stay, more horses tend to come out and join them.

Spend some time just observing them, if possible. It’s fascinating to watch them play, roll in the water, run around, eat plants along the shoreline, and communicate with one another.

Other Ways To Experience The Wild Horses

If you’re a little more adventuresome, you can also see by kayaking the Salt River. Saguaro Lake Ranch, which as you can probably guess, is on the Saguaro Lake Recreation Site and offers kayak rentals (including a shuttle ride back to your car).

Kayaking on the salt river

Another popular way is to tube the Salt River. This is available with Salt River Tubing from April or May (depending on weather) through September. If you go tubing, you’ll want to go earlier in the morning to give yourself the best chances. Mid-day weekend tours with lots of people have lesser chances of seeing the horses but you’ll still have a great time tubing!

When to Go

The Tonto National Forest offers the horses a sizable amount of space to explore. To give you the best opportunity to see them in their native environment, they do, however, occasionally come down toward the water.

The best time to see the horses is within 2 to 3 hours of either sunrise or sunset when the horses are most active. They typically come down to the water to drink, eat and play in the water around that time.

Passes & Prices

The Salt River is within the Tonto National Forest which has its own fees. So in order to visit, you will need a recreation pass.

There are several types of recreational passes you can use:

  • Tonto Daily Pass
  • Tonto Discovery Pass
  • America the Beautiful Pass

Tonto Discovery Passes and some America the Beautiful Passes are sold via the phone and shipped directly to you. You can also order online here.

A Tonto Daily Pass costs $8 at retailers and $12 on-site. If you purchase on-site (credit card only), the cost is $12 and a receipt will print that expires in 24 hours.

When you purchase at a retailer, you will receive a hangtag where you can scratch off the day and time of your visit.

You can purchase the Tonto National Forest daily pass online here.

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The 2022 Fountain Hills Hiking Challenge

The cooler weather makes November the perfect time of year to go hiking around Fountain Hills. This Fall you can take your adventurers to the next level by participating in the Fountain Hills Hiking Challenge!

Fountain Hills, AZ Hiking Challenge

This year’s hiking challenge includes two levels, an easier (shorter) and a challenging longer with more elevation series of the best hiking trails in Fountain Hills, totaling over 34 miles. New this year are the guided hikes with the Steward of the Sonoran Conservancy of Fountain Hills. Sign up and enjoy the company of fellow hikers while exploring the longer tails at Fountain Hills Park and Rec.

The challenge, which is proudly sponsored by the Sonoran Lifestyle Team at RE/MAX Sun Properties, begins on November 1st, and lasts for the entire month. SPECIAL BONUS! Stop into the RE/MAX Sun Properties (Sonoran Lifestyle team office) for a printed map of all local trails. We’ll have a goodie bag with handy gifts selected especially for hikers. Stop by anytime in November, Mon-Fri, 10a-5pm. Our address is 16824 E. Avenue of the Fountains, Suite 12, in Fountain Hills.

The registration Fee is $15 for the Hiking Challenge. All registered participants will receive a commemorative Fountain Hills Hiking Challenge T-shirt. Complete the long or short-challenge hikes. Registration Here Share your pictures on social media to be entered to win a $50 gift card to Just Roughin’ It. Share your hiking pictures by tagging @fhparksandrec on Facebook.

Adero Canyon, Sunrise Peak, AZ

The Short Challenge


The Garden offers an easy hike on 8 acres of the native Sonoran Desert.  The trail has informative signs.  The Garden is also an eBird site.  It is located on Fountain Hills Boulevard about 1.5 miles south of Palisades


Said to be one of the best views in Fountain Hills, this easy hike rises 300 feet above Fountain Park offering panoramic views of the mountains surrounding the town.  Marked access is just east of Saguaro on Panorama Drive or further east on Panorama near the parking lot.  When you reach La Montana Blvd, follow the signs a short distance to continue the trail.


From the Adero Canyon Trailhead parking lot, go through the gate.  The sign posted Overlook Trail begins on your right.  You might want to have a hiking pole for this hike as you will hike up to a very scenic overlook.  At the top, there is a diorama that shows the mountains and other points of interest.   On the way back to the trailhead, you can detour on the Easy Trail to extend your hike by about .2 miles.


From the Adero Canyon Trailhead parking lot, go through the gate.  The sign posted Western Bike Trail will be found on your left.  This trail winds up to the Andrews Kinsey Trail.   You will have views of Adero Canyon the entire way.  Once you reach the Andrews Kinsey Trail turn left and follow it to the sign for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  Return the same way.


From the Adero Canyon Trailhead parking lot, the Promenade Trail begins after the gate.  It follows an old jeep road for .8 miles with scenic views the entire way. The first uphill is the only difficult part of this hike.   Once you reach the signposted Sonoran Trails return to the trailhead.  If you wish to go further, hike the Lower Sonoran Trail a short distance to the sign-posted Scenic Overlook.  Return the same way you came.

Long Challenge


From the Adero Canyon Trailhead, go through the gate and follow the Promenade Trail (an old jeep road) to its end to the Sonoran Trails. The Sonoran Trail and Lower Sonoran Trail form a loop.  You can shorten the loop by taking one of two marked crossover trails.  Do not pass the entrance sign for the McDowell Mountain Regional Park you have gone too far and missed the turn!


From the Golden Eagle Trailhead at the end of Golden Eagle Blvd, follow the marked sidewalk and signs to the entrance to McDowell Mountain Regional Park ($2.00 fee required).  Follow the Dixie Mine Trail to a road. Turn right and go down a short hill.  At the bottom of the hill, turn left on an unmarked trail that will take you a short way to the Dixie Mine.  Return the way you came.


From the Adero Canyon Trailhead, go through the gate and take the signposted Western Bike Trail on your left. When the trail meets the Andrews Kinsey Trail, turn left and follow a short distance to the Western Loop Trail.  The WesternLoop Trail climbs steeply to a scenic view.   The trail continues and descends steeply to the Promenade Trail.  Return to the trailhead on the Promenade.


From the Adero Canyon Trailhead, go through the gate and take the signposted Western Bike Trail on your left. When the trail meets the Andrews Kinsey Trail, turn left.   The trail climbs as it winds through the Adero Canyon to the Sunrise Trail with the hitching post.  Return the way you came.  For an extra challenge take the Sunrise Trail to the top of Sunrise Peak.


From the Adero Canyon Trailhead, go through the gate. The signposted Overlook/Ridgeline trail begins on your right.  This trail follows a ridge overlooking Adero Canyon.   The Lower Ridgeline provides an optional 1-mile loop starting at mile marker R2 and ending at mile marker R4.   Near the eastern end of the Lower Ridgeline, there is a 0.2-mile spur leading to an overlook.


This hike can be done as either a round trip 10-mile hike or shortened to a one-way 5-mile hike if another car is left at the Adero Canyon Trailhead. From the Golden Eagle Trailhead at the end of Golden Eagle Blvd., follow the marked sidewalk and signs to the entrance to McDowell Mountain Regional Park ($2.00 fee required).  Follow the Dixie Mine Trail to the Sonoran Trail.  When you enter the McDowell Mountain Preserve, you can follow either the Sonoran Trail or Lower Sonoran Trail to the Promenade Trail. Follow the Promenade Trail to the Adero Canyon Trailhead where you can take a break before returning the same way or phone for a ride home!!

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Summer 2022’s Desert Vibe Magazine Is Here!

The second quarterly issue of Desert Vibe magazine is finally here, and it’s full of must-see information about local events, listings, and market information!

Here are some of the things you’ll see in the summer Vibe:

This Desert Vibe, as with the previous, is being released in an online-only format, with interactive links to everything you’ll need! To read the full Desert Vibe magazine, go to

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How The “Beeline” Highway Got Its Name

For residents of the east valley, the Beeline Highway is an important part of daily life, the gateway to the Mogollon Rim. It’s the only modern highway that connects to Fountain Hills.

The official name of the road is State Route 87, so you might wonder: why is it called “The Beeline Highway?”

History of Travel from Rim to Valley

You can see in this 1937 map that the Bush Highway follows its modern route. This is 21 years before the Beeline Highway. You can also see that the only trail that passes through modern Fountain Hills is likely the Stoneman Road.

The first major car route between Mesa and Payson was the Bush Highway, named after Harvey Granville Bush. He was a lumberman by trade, and thus had homes in Mesa and Payson, where the tall pines grow.

Getting lumber to the Valley from the mountains was a huge challenge during the days of wagons and early automobiles, involving several disjointed trails that went through the dangerous Reno Pass. So, Bush pushed an initiative with the state and the lumber industry to create a unified road from the city to Payson. Completed in 1934, the path, named after Bush, was the best and most convenient route to get to and from the Mogollon Rim.

As Phoenix’s population boomed after World War 2, camping became a larger and larger pastime, and the traffic up the Bush Highway increased drastically. This came to the attention of Grady Gammage, president of Arizona State Teachers College in Tempe. Gammage lobbied the state government and worked with James G. Hart of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to begin the creation of an official State Route to access and pass Payson.

After receiving permission from the Salt River Indian Reservation and Fort McDowell Indian Reservation, construction began.

A new, more convenient route was then built west of the Bush Highway. It was a significant shortcut for most Phoenix residents, considering it connected to West Mesa on Country Club Drive instead of all the way in Apache Junction.

The shortcut was so obvious, that it was considered “taking a bee-line” up to the Rim, with the term “bee-line” being a slang term referring to a shortcut.

While the Bush Highway passes through scenic and mountainous terrain, the Beeline shortcut cuts distance and time and travels along mostly smooth ground.

From then on, the Beeline Highway was paved and expanded on top of, and sometimes next to, the old Bush Highway. The original “bee-line” shortcut ends where the modern Bush Highway meets the Beeline, just north of Goldfield Ranch. You can still see the original route along the modern Beeline to this day, all the way to Payson.

The Beeline Highway as we know it today was fully realized in 1966, with the merging of the old State Route 65 (which connected Winslow to Strawberry) and the ever-expanding path of Route 87.

Around Arizona Things to Do

Must-See Mountaintops in Arizona

Arizona has a lot of mountains, some that are high in the forest and others that tower over the low deserts. The views on top of many of these mountains are so good, you’ll have to see them all.

Here are five mountains in Arizona that have particularly standout views:

Kitt Peak

Parts of the summit of Kitt Peak were damaged by a wildfire in June, but the view is still fantastic.

Kitt Peak is one of the sky islands of southern Arizona, located in the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. While its peak is only at 6,883 feet, the views from the summit are stunning.

On a clear day, you can see for hundreds of miles in any direction, and at sunset, you can look down as the sun sinks below the horizon to the west. The Kitt Peak National Observatory sits at the top but is currently temporarily closed due to damages from the Contreras Wildfire in June of 2022.

Mt. Lemmon

Mount Lemmon is another sky island, located just north of the city of Tucson. It sits at over 9,000 feet in elevation and is known for the Mount Lemmon Ski Resort.

From the summit of this beautiful mountain, you’ll have views overlooking almost every ecosystem in Arizona, from the high forests of the sky islands to the chaparral transition zones to the Sonoran and Chihuahua Deserts.

Piestewa Peak

Piestewa Peak is the twin sister to Camelback Mountain, right in the middle of the Valley, and it does not disappoint. This peak requires a hike through a beautiful desert preserve to reach, so be sure to bring sunscreen and a lot of water.

At 2,610 feet, you’ll still be in the Sonoran Desert ecosystem at the summit, and you’ll have a fantastic view of the entire Phoenix area in all directions. One of the mountains you’ll be able to see from here is the next entry on this list.

Thompson Peak

Thompson Peak is “the antenna mountain” of the McDowell Mountain range that towers over Fountain Hills and east Scottsdale. This peak also requires a hike, and at the top, you’ll be able to see the entire Phoenix metro area to the south and west, vast swaths of Tonto National Forest and McDowell Mountain Regional Park to the north and east.

While the trail to Piestewa Peak is only open from sunrise to sunset, a big standout feature of Thomspon Peak is that it is a popular destination for night hiking. Start your hike at sunset (with lots of water and flashlights) and in 2 or 3 hours you’ll be overlooking the brilliant glimmering city lights in one direction, and the quiet darkness of the forest in the other.

Mount Ord

Mount Ord is a tall peak in the Tonto National Forest that typically marks the halfway point between Fountain Hills and Payson during a trip to the Mogollon Rim. You’ll have to drive a dirt road to get close to the top, before hiking the final half mile to the summit. The road is well maintained, but if there’s been rain or snow, you should avoid taking a city car up the very curvy path.

At the top is another radio tower, and some amazing views to the south. From Mount Ord, you can see all of Roosevelt Lake, the Reno Pass, Bartlett Lake, Fountain Hills, and much of the Phoenix area. If you have a Tonto Pass and decide to camp near the top, you’ll be able to see both city lights and shooting stars from the same peak, thanks to its altitude and distance from Phoenix.

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3 Arizona Destinations to Beat the Summer Heat

It’s summer in the Valley, and it’s hot. If you have time for a day trip, or even an extended stay, up in a place with cooler weather, why wouldn’t you? Luckily, there are forests and high elevations in almost all directions, where the weather is significantly cooler and wetter and the views are second to none. The best part: you can drive to all these places in a few hours.

Big Lake

Located near the town of Greer and the Sunrise Ski Resort, Big Lake is just one of the dozens of natural lakes on the Mogollon Rim. The elevation in the Big Lake area sits around 9,000 feet, and the average high temperature in the nearest towns is a beautiful 75.6 degrees in July.

The fishing is great here, and the views of meadows, forests, and often perennially snowcapped mountains are stunning. There are lots of places to park an RV or go camping, and there are cabins available for rent in Greer all year round.


Flagstaff is the biggest city in northern Arizona, known for being the gateway to the Grand Canyon, home of Northern Arizona University, and the Sno Bowl Ski Resort. Arguably the best features of Flagstaff are its beautiful ecosystem and cool temperatures, all while being only a 2.5-hour drive from the Phoenix area. The average high temperature in July is 82 degrees.

There are countless resorts, hotels, and B&B’s in and around Flagstaff waiting to take in flatlanders trying to escape the heat. In the downtown area, there are several great food options and bars.

The nature in Flagstaff and the surrounding area is absolutely amazing, with stands of ponderosa pines mixed with aspen trees, occasionally separated by meadows.

Mount Lemmon

Mount Lemmon is one of the most prominent “Sky Islands” in southern Arizona, and the weather does not disappoint. Situated just north of the city of Tucson, a drive from Fountain Hills to the resort on top takes about 3.5 hours.

While Mount Lemmon is best known for its ski resort that runs throughout the winter and spring, the surrounding village is full of cabins to rent, trails to hike, an observatory to tour, and a few cute restaurants to enjoy.

The drive up the mountain and what you’ll see from the top are some of the best views you can find in the state. With an average July temperature of 76.5 degrees and an elevation of 9,171 feet, Mount Lemmon is a place you’ll want to see – and feel.

About Fountain Hills Around Arizona Desert Plants and Wildlife Outdoor recreation Things to Do

Monsoon Season Begins!

The temperature is high, the winds are getting stronger in the afternoons, and the thunderhead clouds are building up in the north.

If you’re familiar with our weather patterns, you’ll know these are some of the early signs of monsoon season, perhaps the most interesting time of the year when it comes to meteorological phenomena.

The National Weather Service declares that June 15th is the “official” start date for the monsoon season, and it runs through September 30th. These dates are the average, but there are other ways to tell when the season has begun.

Map of “Precipitable Water” compared to air pressure in 2021. Higher millibars (mb) signify lower air pressure, which also contributes to stronger storms.

Dew Point

Scientifically speaking, the monsoon has begun when three consecutive days pass in June during which the Dew Point at night exceeds 55 degrees. That means that water vapor reaches its saturation point, turning to cloud at air temperatures of 55 and below.


Another way to tell when the season has begun is to listen for cicadas. Cicadas begin their chirping during the hottest, driest weeks of the year. These weeks just happen to often coincide with the dew point exceeding 55 degrees. Once you hear cicadas outside for several days in a row, you’ll know it’s only a matter of time before the first storms begin.

While the season may begin halfway into June, June is still the driest month of the year in the valley. Typically, the first raindrops of the season won’t hit the ground until the first week of July.

If a monsoon storm brings in enough moisture, the clouds can descend and even cover parts of the McDowells in the mornings. This happened a few times in the 2021 monsoon season.

This was the case in 2021, which turned out to be a record-breaking monsoon season in many parts of Arizona. Check out’s 2021 Monsoon Review for more details on what made last year’s season special.

The NWS explains its prediction of an above-average monsoon season in this short video.

The National Weather Service is predicting another above-average storm season for the summer of 2022, so stay tuned for some of the best shows of nature that Arizona has to offer!