Located in Pinal County between the cities of Phoenix and Tucson, along the Interstate 10 corridor, Eloy is a town of fewer than 20,000 residents which lies in the vast Sonoran Desert.
Though there’s not much to the town itself, it has its fair share of historic, geologic and natural sites that you’ll want to visit when in the area.
Eloy has the odd distinction of being home to more prison facilities and inmates per capita than nearly any other town in the southwest. Not surprisingly, the majority of the town’s jobs are in the correctional sector.
It’s worth a stop, even if you’re just passing through.
Below are the best things to do in and around Eloy, Arizona.
1. Sunland Visitors Center
If you happen to find yourself in Eloy, Arizona with time to kill and no idea how to kill it, consider a trip to the Sunland Visitors Center.
Located on Toltec Road just off Interstate 10, the little trailer is chockfull of information about the area and staffed by volunteers who know all about the cool and interesting things you’ll probably want to see before heading out.
It’s free and you can take lots of brochures and pamphlets with you if you like.
When you get off the highway at Exit 203, follow the signs for the Tourist Information Center.
2. Skydive Arizona
Located on North Taylor Street in Eloy, Skydive Arizona is purported to be the largest skydive facility in the world.
The business was founded in 1978, and though it started small, it has become the ultimate destination for thrill seekers who come from near and far to hurl themselves out of airplanes thousands of feet over the Sonoran Desert.
Hosting more than 100,000 yearly jumpers, the facilities also include overnight accommodations, campsites and all the amenities you’d expect.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience, as most guests don’t. Whatever your ability, there’s a package that’ll work for you.
3. SkyVenture Arizona
If jumping out of a perfectly good airplane thousands of feet above the concrete-hard Arizona desert sounds like a bad way to spend an afternoon, then consider a safe and exhilarating alternative: SkyVenture Arizona.
Located on North Taylor Street in Eloy, the facility has a massive and powerful wind tunnel that recreates the sensation of free-falling from an airplane, but you’re never more than a few feet from a safe landing.
They’re staffed with experts who will show you the ropes for a few minutes, riding up and down on the wind stream from the top to the bottom of the tunnel.
4. Picacho Peak State Park
Majestic Picacho Peak rises nearly 3,400 feet from the desert, making it one of the most iconic and notable features in the area.
The dark, wind-worn lava rock has been eroded over the ages and makes an appealing contrast against the cloudless blue sky above.
The park’s entrance is on Picacho Peak road, and though it’s easily accessible, the trail to the summit is long and tricky in places, so it’s not for everyone.
If you go, wear good shoes and take plenty of water.
Reasonably priced camping and RV sites are available too and don’t usually attract big crowds.
5. Ironwood Forest National Monument
Tucked into the Sonoran Desert not far from Eloy, the Ironwood Forest National Monument has been around since 2000.
It’s one of the largest concentrations of ironwood trees in the southwest; the area is also home to other plants and animals that are considered endangered.
The grounds include hundreds of Native American archaeological sites too, which include petroglyphs and ruins left by the Hohokam people who called the desert home for many thousands of years.
The directions are a bit tricky, so check out the Bureau of Land Management’s website and print a copy before you go.
6. Bowlin Picacho Peak Plaza
Scampering around the hot Arizona desert all day can really take it out of you.
Located on East Camino Adelante Road in Picacho, the Bowlin Picacho Peak Plaza is a great place to stop and fill up that empty stomach, have a cool drink, and top off the gasoline in your overworked car.
The plaza was made to look like an abandoned mining town but the inside is pleasantly air-conditioned and the store is full of Native American-made items, t-shirts, hats, and lots of other nifty Arizona memorabilia.
One wall is nearly covered with crosses of differing sizes and designs that are particularly neat.
7. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
In years past, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was considered the most dangerous national park in America.
In 2002, an officer was killed by Mexican drug smugglers, which resulted in the vast majority of the park being closed for more than a decade.
It was only recently that the 520-square-mile park was reopened, due to increased border enforcement.
Restrooms and drinking fountains are available at the visitor’s center near the trailhead.
The Organ Pipe Cacti in the park are natural wonders that really should be seen, but it’s advisable to check out the National Park Service’s website for updated information.
8. Hit the Trails
Located in a valley between mountains to the east and west, Eloy and nearby Casa Grande are starting points for many trails leading into the surrounding desert.
The City of Casa Grande, in particular, has a few of the most popular trails in the area, most of which are open to hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
The Peart Canyon Trail is just off Interstate 10 a few miles, and at less than a mile long, it’s not too exerting.
Spine Loop Trail is another longer but popular trail that’s only moderately difficult.
Both trails provide magnificent vistas, plenty of cactus and even wildflowers if you’re lucky enough to be there after a spring shower.
9. Casa Grande Valley Historical Society & Museum
The towns of Eloy and Pinal County have an interesting history; one of the best places to learn about it is the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society and Museum.
With tens of thousands of artifacts, pieces of furniture, photographs and personal letters from centuries past, you’ll get one-of-a-kind glimpses into the town’s cultural, economic and personal pasts that you won’t likely find elsewhere.
The Historical Society was established in the ‘60s and is a not-for-profit organization, so consider leaving a small donation to help them continue their good work.
The museum is located on West Florence Boulevard in nearby Casa Grande.
10. Creative Market Fair
With tons of vendors selling all kinds of yummy, quirky, and creative items, you’ll love browsing through the stalls at the Creative Market Fair and picking up some unique things you just won’t find anywhere else.
Located on North Overfield Road at the Avocado Nursery in Casa Grande, the fair is part market, part social gathering, and all fun.
Whether you’re looking for some wind chimes, turquoise jewelry or a big jar of prickly pear jelly, you’ll probably find it.
It’s best to come with an empty stomach because the fair is known for its irresistible baked goods and yummy coffee.
11. Mesquite Groves Aquatic Center
Located a quick drive up Interstate 10 in Chandler, the Mesquite Groves Aquatic Center is operated by the City of Chandler. It has all the things you and the little ones could possibly want for a day frolicking in the cool water and escaping the Arizona sun.
There are water slides, diving boards, a manmade river, and even a water vortex, but if swimming laps is more your style, there are designated areas for that too.
There’s even a toddler-safe slide and pool, as well as lounge chairs, restrooms, and dressing rooms.
The admission fee is negligible; for all you’ll get, it may just be one of the best values of the trip.
12. Public Libraries
Call me old-fashioned, but I like libraries. They’re quiet, free, and full of comfortable chairs and books. The only thing missing is a cappuccino machine.
The City of Casa Grande, just a few miles from Eloy, has two libraries. Although as a visitor you may not be able to sign out books without going through enough red tape to choke a bureaucrat, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the AC and browse around.
Libraries also host lots of exhibits, speakers and educational activities from time to time, and they’re usually free.
Casa Grande’s libraries are on North Drylake Street and North Arizola Road.
13. Ed Hooper Rodeo Park & Paul Mason Sports Complex
Whether you’re a player or just a fan of America’s pastime, the Paul Mason Sports Complex in Casa Grande is a place you ought to spend a few hours on your trip to Eloy.
Just up the road in Casa Grande, the park complex includes softball diamonds, scoreboards and even a snack bar that might just make you think you’re at a big-league park.
The complex is inside the larger Ed Hooper Rodeo Park, which is full of horse facilities, picnic tables, a dog park, and even barbecue grills.
The facilities will keep you busy and content, and offer lots of events too, so check out their website before you go.
14. Hit the Links
Even if you’re only an occasional golfer back home, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t play at least one round on a scenic Arizona course.
Part of the City of Casa Grande’s parks department, the Dave White Golf Course is open all year. At more than 6,600 yards, it’s as challenging as it is scenic.
Though it’s a desert course, its irrigation system keeps the greens and fairways from getting too hard during the summer. You’ll want to rent a cart and take advantage of the beverage cart to replenish those lost fluids.
Book a tee time in advance if possible, especially during peak season.