15 Best Things to Do in Cave Creek (AZ)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

Cave Creek is found in Arizona’s Maricopa County, just a short distance north of Phoenix. The town has a permanent population of around 5,000 but that is boosted in the main weeks of the tourism season because Cave Creek and nearby Carefree provide an excellent base for exploring the wider region.

The location is the Sonora Desert, which sustained human life for centuries before there was any sign of white settlers. The Hohokam Indians lived here long before historical records.

The elevation in Cave Creek results in slightly cooler air than Phoenix and a clean natural environment. There is a host of day trips available as well as immediate attractions. If this is starting to interest you, here are 15 things to do in Cave Creek to perhaps increase your interest further.

1. Cave Creek Regional Park

Cave Creek Regional ParkSource: jmenard48 / Flickr
Cave Creek Regional Park

This 3,000-acre park is located at an elevation that varies between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. It is a real gem for anyone looking for fresh air and exercise. Whether you want to hike, take a mountain bike or ride a horse, there is something for you within this park.

The Go John Trail is arguably the most popular of its routes, covering a distance of just under 6 miles in a loop. The views along the trail, or indeed, anywhere in the park, are spectacular and there is an inevitable feeling of being miles away from civilization.

If you prefer a shorter trail, take Slater Trail, which is just half that distance. If you are interested in history, you may like the trails that go out to former gold-mining sites.

2. Black Mountain Trail

Black Mountain TrailSource: Sandi Nickler / Facebook
Black Mountain Trail

If you are looking for something a little more exacting, you should try the Black Mountain Trail. The route is simply up and back and you will climb over 1,000 feet in the process. The whole walk is around 2.2 miles.

You certainly need to have proper hiking boots because the walk is steep and rocky in places. Dogs are permitted if they are always on a leash and under control. The false summit can be frustrating but keep going; the actual summit provides amazing 360-degree views.

One of the highlights is the flora; colorful wildflowers in season.

3. Cave Creek Museum

Cave Creek MuseumSource: Marine 69-71 / Wikimedia
Cave Creek Museum

After you finish your Black Mountain hike, you might like to go into the museum at its base. Cave Creek Museum is approaching 50 years old, having opened in 1970.

It is primarily an effort of volunteers with the historical society having got together half a century ago with a view to preserving the known history of the region. Its appeal to the public for exhibits got a great response and more were added in subsequent years.

There are prehistoric artifacts of tools and pottery, which help teach about desert life all those centuries ago. The museum also has excellent coverage of settler, miner and military days in the immediate region.

4. Desert Foothills Library

Desert Foothills LibrarySource: Desert Foothills Library / Facebook
Desert Foothills Library

In the early days of settlement, when the population was just a few hundred, the library was a mobile affair; books were housed in a variety of places. Today, the library has an impressive selection of books where visitors can certainly learn more of the region’s history, as well as just pick up a piece of fiction.

The library runs regular events year-round, suitable for every age group and every interest. Even today, the library on Schoolhouse Road is being expanded and if you wish to know the details of its history, buy the book that has been written about it.

5. Have a game of golf

Rancho Mañana Golf ClubSource: Rancho Mañana Golf Club / Facebook
Rancho Mañana Golf Club

Arizona has created a reputation for good golf. Courses usually have areas where you play off bare rock and sand if you miss the lush fairways. You can expect to enjoy some lovely desert landscapes as you head around any of the courses.

Water is sensibly employed to maintain tee, fairway and green rather than to grow heavy ‘’rough.’’

Public courses locally include Rancho Manana, Legend Trails and Dove Valley Ranch.

Private courses where you might fancy a game include The Boulders, Desert Forest and Tatum Ranch Golf Clubs; the choice is yours.

6. Cave Creek Cave

Cave Creek CaveSource: Desert Foothills Land Trust / Facebook
Cave Creek Cave

The owners of the private land, Desert Foothills Land Trust, in which this cave is located are happy to allow group tours of the site a few times a year. It has a rich history, including the story of marauding Apaches using it as shelter both from the weather and the cavalry during a raid in 1876.

Some were killed as they emerged in the morning but the bulk of the band escaped for home. If you take the tour you will learn more about its history. The cave has occasionally been known as “massacre cave.” Although that is somewhat of an exaggeration but adds to the drama of the setting.

7. MacDonald’s Ranch

MacDonald's RanchSource: MacDonald's Ranch / Facebook
MacDonald’s Ranch

The whole family will enjoy a visit to MacDonald’s Ranch even if none are horse riders. It is a great place to enjoy riding but there is much more.

A taste of the “Wild West” comes in the form of stagecoach rides and cowboy “picnics.” It is a place that welcomes groups of all sizes and can be a venue for a special occasion for someone in the family or group of friends.

Youngsters will love the zoo and the pony rides in a perfectly safe environment. All in all, you can have a great day out on Cave Creek’s doorstep.

8. Spur Cross Ranch

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation AreaSource: Joel Hensler / shutterstock
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

The conservation area known as Spur Cross Ranch has trails that welcome hikers, bikers and horse riders. Elephant Mountain is probably the most popular of its trails among seasoned hikers but it is classified as difficult. The reward for tackling it is the stunning scenery.

It leads to Tonto National Forest, the largest in the State of Arizona and covering close to 3 million acres. Among the highlights is the chance to see the bald eagle, which nests there annually.

Those wanting an easier challenge should take either the Metate or Towhee Trail.

9. Frontier Town

Frontier Town, Cave Creek, ArizonaSource: tishomir / shutterstock
Frontier Town, Cave Creek, Arizona

This recreation of a Wild West town is great fun. Most frontier towns consisted of a main street that ran the length of the town and this recreation is of that design. You can see the gallows where outlaws and murderers would be hung in public and Boot Hill where the dead were buried.

There are plenty of good photo opportunities to get pictures of yourself and the family in “Wild West” surroundings.

Shops in Frontier Town sell a range of interesting souvenirs of your visit to Cave Creek. Jewelry, clothing and general trinkets are available to buy before you leave.

10. Carefree Desert Gardens

Carefree Desert GardensSource: Roger Siljander / shutterstock
Carefree Desert Gardens

It is easy to dismiss a desert as an uninteresting area of sand and little else. These lovely small gardens in the heart of Carefree soon dispel that idea.

One of just two botanical gardens in the valley, you will see an extensive range of vegetation that can thrive even in seemingly harsh conditions. Bushes, cacti and other plants are well laid out with descriptions of each of the varieties.

The gardens have been described as an oasis in the heart of town and they should certainly be in your plans when you pay a visit.

11. Wild at Heart

Wild At HeartSource: Wild At Heart - An Arizona-based raptor rescue organization / Facebook
Wild At Heart

This facility has become the savior of many raptors. Some will never return to the wild because of the likelihood that they would not survive, but others are healed and returned into the Sonoran Desert.

It is rare to be able to get close to birds of prey, yet you can at Wild at Heart. It is essential to book your visit in advance, and you will be welcome because the clinic plays an educational role as part of its mission. Clinic staff also visit schools to spread the word about raptors.

12. Grace Museum of America

Grace Museum Of AmericaSource: Bourbonjohnson / Wikimedia
Grace Museum Of America

Grace Voss Frederick began this museum aiming to teach visitors about significant events and periods in American history. That is a broad subject, covering early times to modern times, and the future.

The museum features exhibits on everything from electricity to candlelight, and then moves into scientific achievements from television and computers to space exploration.

The role of this charitable organization is educational and it succeeds very well. Contact the museum to book your tour in advance.

13. Rare Earth Gallery

Rare Earth GallerySource: Rare Earth Gallery / Facebook
Rare Earth Gallery

Nature is a great artist. The materials, textures and colors that it has created are numerous and at Rare Earth Gallery, you will see a number of fantastic examples of this. If you are looking to get something for the home or office that is a little different, you may well find what you are looking for in this Gallery.

Creating works of art from what nature has provided is a challenge and the Gallery has many items that seem to have met the challenge. Wander around and see for yourself.

14. The Boulders Resort & Spa

The Boulders Resort & SpaSource: theboulders
The Boulders Resort & Spa

Visiting new places can be a tiring exercise, and a holiday should be relaxing after all. One way to enjoy the great outdoor environment that Cave Creek provides and yet be ready and refreshed for the following day is to visit the 33,000-square-foot spa in the The Boulders Resort & Spa. You do not need to be a hotel guest but should book in advance.

You can expect a wide range of treatments, from massage and skin care to the use of private rooms, hot tubs and pools, with the extra touch of champagne and chocolates. Even if you are not on an especially active break, pamper yourself.

15. Carefree Sundial

Carefree SundialSource: marada / Flickr
Carefree Sundial

This sundial, which has been a significant landmark for around 60 years, is amongst the largest sundials in the USA, casting a 35-foot shadow along the pavement.

Jo Wong was the architect and John Yellott the solar engineer. Their creation’s dimensions are 72 feet in height and 90 feet in diameter; it points directly at the North Star. It is made of steel with anodized copper plating and gnomon. On a sunny day, the photographs you can take with the Sonoran Desert background will be impressive indeed.

15 Best Things to Do in Cave Creek (AZ):

  • Cave Creek Regional Park
  • Black Mountain Trail
  • Cave Creek Museum
  • Desert Foothills Library
  • Have a game of golf
  • Cave Creek Cave
  • MacDonald’s Ranch
  • Spur Cross Ranch
  • Frontier Town
  • Carefree Desert Gardens
  • Wild at Heart
  • Grace Museum of America
  • Rare Earth Gallery
  • The Boulders Resort & Spa
  • Carefree Sundial