Cave Creek, Carefree, Tonto National Forest, Horseback & Jeep Tours
There’s something for everyone to explore in a short drive from the Pinnacle Peak area. From cowboy towns and artist Mecca’s, to sunset jeep rides and horseback riding…there’s plenty to do around here. Outdoor adventures should be limited to the early morning in summer, but otherwise we have a very long season of nice weather here, from mid-October to May.
This beautiful and somewhat zany western town is laced with wild west stores,cowboy saloons and Native American shops. Just 15 minutes away up Scottsdale Rd. and west at its terminus at Cave Creek Rd., you will wend through the historic town, where you can easily stop at a number of shopping areas.
Cave Creek has lots of festivals and events throughout the year, including Fiesta Days in spring and Wild West Days in Fall, which feature parades, old-timey events like Poker Runs on horseback and bathtub races.
Cave Creek road needs a connecting mechanism between shopping areas, such as a sidewalk or trolley. But in the meantime, just expect to drive a little ways and keep getting out of your car. Another note…not all the colorful shops and eateries are in a shopping center, but are free-standing buildings interspersed between, usually with descriptive signage and products in front and very convenient parking. The speed limit is only 30 mph on Cave Creek road so you have plenty of time to react to places you see. Here’s just a few of the attractions:
Heading West on Cave Creek Road, first up on the right is Stagecoach Village, a unique collection of old west inspired shops in an open air environment with winding sidewalks. Wine, crepes, Indian jewelry, art galleries and more.
Harold’s Corral, Buffalo Chip & Tap Haus
You’re already thirsty right? Harold’s has been around for decades and now is a sprawling old west saloon with the finest patio in the whole area, where you can enjoy a draft while watching the sun set behind cactus-studded mountains. Sharing the same huge parking lot, Buffalo Chip next door is even more rustic, their claim to fame is outdoor bull riding on Wednesday nights. Across the street, Tap Haus just opened in a very cool rustic building and offers 50 microbrews on tap.
El Encanto Mexican Restaurant
Enjoy an authentic Mexican meal in their spectacular courtyard.
Walk across the street from El Encanto and wander around a mini replica of an Old West Town and visit a variety of small shops and eateries.
Tonto Bar & Grill & Rancho Manana
Final stop is down a bit on the right where the road begins to curve… Rancho Manana Golf Course and their acclaimed Tonto Bar and Grill. Sit out on the patio and enjoy a margarita and southwest inspired lunch or dinner. Check out their rollicking desert golf course, our favorite in the North Valley. They have just reopened their delightful casitas we hear!
Visit Tonto Bar and Grill Website.
For more information on Cave Creek, visit www.CaveCreekGuide.com
Carefree is reknown for their cultural festivals, held all the time except for summer. Carefree is a gorgeous retirement community with three predominant shopping areas. All are located on the east side of Tom Darlington Rd. (that Scottsdale Road turns into), between Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway.
Very close to the Boulders Resort is this very unique southwestern-flavored open air venue, popular for cultural and music festivals, upscale boutiques and an array of places to dine.
Spanish Village is a great place to bring visitors if you are a local. It’s an outdoor shopping experience with many unique little shops and galleries as well as lovely courtyards, rooftop cocktails, and winding paths. Carefree has a lot of retirees and to reflect that, they have great street names such as “Ho” and “Hum”, “Dream Street.” “Tranquil Trail”, “Lazy Lane”, and “Rocking Chair Road.” One of very favorite places to dine al fresco is the sublime Carefree Station where you can sample a varied and affordable menu in a charming courtyard.
Carefree Town Center
Many unique small shops and eateries here and lots of activities and events during snowbird season such as farmer’s markets and art festivals. Check out the huge sundial, once the world’s largest.
Tonto National Forest
North Scottsdale actually abuts the Tonto National Forest, north of Rio Verde Blvd. (Dynamite Blvd.) near Pinnacle Peak. The Tonto has to be one of the most remarkable of the nation’s national forests. For one, at three million acres it’s one of the largest National Forests in America. Secondly, it’s obviously not all woodsy, although the higher terrain near Payson and along the Mogollan Rim certainly is. This is jaw-dropping beautiful country, ranging from Saguaro cactus-studded high Sonoran desert to pine-forested terrain. This variety in vegetation and range in altitude (from 1,300 to 7,900 ft.) offers outstanding recreational opportunities throughout the year, whether it's lake beaches or cool pine forest.
Be aware that enjoying the Tonto’s designated recreation areas requires a Tonto Pass…just $6 for the carload. You can pick up Passes at many service station stores, such as the Shell at Dynamite and Alma School.
Visit Tonto National Forest Website
Visitors or newcomers to Pinnacle Peak might be amazed that they are a beautiful 45 minute drive away from a sparkling high desert lake, tucked into the cactus-studded rolling foothills of the Tonto National Forest. There you can rent a variety of watercraft. Why not get a 20 ft. pontoon boat for the day and bring the inlaws? You can even take Rover.
If you just want a scenic drive, you can also turn left to Bartlett Flats, which will take you about three dusty miles through beautiful, to the lake’s beach.
From Pinnacle Peak, head north on Pima Rd. and turn east on Cave Creek Road. Take Bartlett Lake Road for 13 miles to the Bartlett Lake Marina.
Visit Bartlett Lake Website
Jeep Tours & Off Road Adentures
Because North Scottsdale and Pinnacle Peak are located just a few miles from the Tonto National Forest, jeep tours for every interest from archaeology to botany and geology can be easily arranged. Our pal Johnny Ringo operates Carefree Adventure Jeep Tours, which offers some awesome tours. Johnny has special access to some locations like Four Peaks that no one else has. From jeep trails that lead through the rugged and rolling Sonoran desert of the Tonto National Forest, to the high mountain passes of Four Peaks and even tours to prehistoric archaeological sites, there’s something for everyone.
Visit Carefree Adventures Website
If you want to explore on your own, Extreme Arizona in Cave Creek can set you up with ATV dirt bike, Jeep and ATV rentals.
Phone: 480 488-8529 6061 E.
Cave Creek Rd. Cave Creek, AZ, 85331
We ask that you respect the land and all the living creatures that make their home in the desert. Please stay on the trails and only ride on the trails that are appropriate for your chosen vehicle.
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There are a number or stables around Pinnacle Peak and particularly Cave Creek. Cave Creek Outfitters (which isn’t in Cave Creek) and is one of the closest to Pinnacle Peak, located in the gorgeous upland Sonoran zone near the Tonto National Forest around Granite Mountain, where there are huge saguaros and lots of boulder formations. They can pick you up from the Four Seasons, or if you have a car it’s only 15 minutes, down Rio Verde Dr. to 144th St. and north to Lone Mountain. Horseback riding doesn’t require any experience and is a great way to see the Sonoran desert and discover more about the history, desert plants and unique animals that make it their home.