A quirky town just northeast of Phoenix, Cave Creek is an Old West style Arizona town where it’s just as common to see horseback riders trotting along Main Street as it is to see a motorcycle cruising by. It’s got that small town charm where locals are friendly and excited to share their town with visitors. With the Sonoran Desert and Tonto National Forest nearby there is no shortage of outdoor adventures to be had on your day trip.

Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and hot air ballooning are a few favorites. It’s also home to several mouthwatering restaurants and numerous unique shopping opportunities.

1. Wild at Heart

Wild at Heart
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Wild at Heart is a non-profit rescue center for birds of prey in Cave Creek. Its main purpose is to rescue injured hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons, rehabilitate them, and then release them back into the wild. But they also relocate burrowing owls who have been displaced, oversee species recovery programs, provide educational presentations, and supervise habitat improvement projects.

The rescue center features 54 aviaries and an indoor critical-care room for raptors that need ongoing medical treatment, or just short-term care.

Visitors are welcome to tour the center outside of the busy season, May and June. Tours are free although visitors are encouraged to make a generous donation. Tours also need to be scheduled at least one week in advance. Browse our romantic weekend getaways in Arizona guide for more ideas.

31840 N 45th St, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, Phone: 602-493-5090

2. Spur Cross Ranch Trail

Spur Cross Ranch Trail
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The Spur Cross Ranch Trail is a six-mile trail, roundtrip. It cuts straight across the width of the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area (one mile) before climbing mountainous Tonto National Forest. At the start of the trail visitors will enjoy stunning big-sky vistas of purple mountains and saguaros before it funnels into a slender trail along Cave and Cottonwood creeks.

Along the way they’ll pass by a wide variety of Arizona desert flora and fauna including sycamores, mesquites, bobcats, deer, and mountains lions. Considered an out-and-back trail, visitors can technically travel much further than three miles in, however it’s recommended to turn around at mile three, due to numerous washes which are tricky to navigate.

44000 Spur Cross Road, Cave Creek, AZ

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3. Cave Creek Regional Park

Cave Creek Regional Park
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Cave Creek Regional Park is an expansive 2,922-acre park located in the upper Sonoran Desert. This mostly undisturbed natural oasis provides over 11 miles of joint-use trails, 55 picnic sites, 44 campsites, and sweeping views of the desert in every direction. Trails can be used for mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding.

They range in difficulty from easy to hard with some trails as short as 0.2 miles while others span 5.8 miles. The Slate Trail is ideal for beginners while the Go John Trail is reserved for more advanced hikers, bikers, and riders.

Visitors can also partake in ranger led hikes departing from the nearby Nature Center.

37900 E. Cave Creek Parkway, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 623-465-0431

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4. Cave Creek Trail Rides

Cave Creek Trail Rides
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Cave Creek Trail Rides provide safe and memorable horseback riding excursions in the Phoenix area. They offer seven distinct experiences from a one-hour loop tour, ideal for young children to a three-hour tour, perfect for seasoned riders who are a minimum age of ten years old. The latter travels through the Cave Creek Recreation Area along the Go John Trail, it passes through varying eco-systems, backcountry passes, and several mines. Cave Creek features a specialty tour as well, the Historic Clay Mine Ride. This 1.5-hour adventure leaves from the corrals, crosses the mountain, and ends at the historic mine where visitors will then dismount and enjoy a guided tour inside the mine before returning to the corrals.

37019 North 32nd Street, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 623-742-6700

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5. Cave Creek Museum

Cave Creek Museum
© Cave Creek Museum

Cave Creek Museum preserves artifacts pertaining to the culture, history, and legacy of Cave Creek, the neighboring town of Carefree, and the foothills area in between the two. This is done through research, education, and interpretive exhibits. Displays in the museum’s north wing feature a replica of a Hohokam house, and several displays of prehistoric artifacts pertaining to the Hohokam and Salado Indians. The south wing focuses on the area’s pioneer life in the late 19th to early 20th centuries including its rich ranching and mining history. Cave Creek Museum also boasts a tubercular cabin, native botanical garden, gazebo, research library, and a restored Historic Cave Creek Church.

6140 E Skyline Drive, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-488-2764, (website link)

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6. Black Mountain Trail, Cave Creek, Arizona

Black Mountain Trail, Cave Creek, Arizona
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With an elevation gain of over 1,200 feet, the Black Mountain Trail is a 1.1. Mile footpath that reaches Black Mountain’s summit. The mountain itself is nearly 3,400 feet above sea level so visitors will need to drive almost two-thirds of the way up the mountain to reach the trailhead. Cars can park along south Schoolhouse Road, the trailhead is easy to spot from the road. It’s one of the most popular trails to climb due to its height and difficulty, Black Mountain is one of the tallest summits in the area with a relatively steep incline. Those who reach the top are rewarded with scenic vistas of the surrounding area.

37622 N Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ

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7. Desert Foothills Library, Cave Creek

Desert Foothills Library, Cave Creek
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Desert Foothills Library was created to foster the sharing of knowledge, culture, and ideas by offering personalized and responsive services, resources, and learning opportunities for the community of Cave Creek. This includes teen and kid focused programs such as college planning and story time. They also provide a digital library as well as a wealth of practical online tools like career resources, jobseeker opportunities, tax information, test prep tools, and reading recommendations. The library is equipped with conference rooms overlooking scenic mountain vistas, a prep kitchen, a botanical garden, and an outdoor terrace with a waterfall and fireplace, ideal for events, meetings, and weddings.

38443 North Schoolhouse Road, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-488-2286

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8. Frontier Town, Cave Creek, AZ

Frontier Town, Cave Creek, AZ
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Situated in the heart of Cave Creek, Frontier Town offers visitors an old west experience. They’ll feel as though they’ve been transported through time as they walk along Main Street, which is lined with lovely boutique shops. Debra Ortega’s Native American Jewelry & Arts, Happy Hogan Hut Unique Creations, Suzanne’s Hot Stuff, and Udder Delight Milk Soaps & Creams are a few specialties. Home to a gallows and Boot Hill Cemetery, Frontier Town reminds visitors of the wildness of the Old West with public re-enactments like duels. It also hosts several events such as country music concerts, and features a charming white chapel, and an event pavilion perfect for rustic-style weddings.

6245 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-488-9129

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9. The Caroline Bartol Preserve at Saguaro Hill

The Caroline Bartol Preserve at Saguaro Hill
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Owned and operated by the Desert Foothills Land Trust, The Caroline Bartol Preserve at Saguaro Hill is 6.2 acre preserve named after the woman who championed its purchase. This magnificent hillside is home to hundreds of saguaro cacti and provides stunning, panoramic views of the Desert Foothills and Black Mountain. The preserves feature a short, half-mile interpretive nature trail that begins at the Desert Foothills Library parking lot off School House Road in the town of Cave Creek. Visitors will learn about the life of saguaro cactus and what habitat is needed for them to thrive. The preserve is also home to the Goldwater Memorial and the Richard E. Rudolph Garden.

38021 N Schoolhouse Road, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-575-4360

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10. Johnny Ringo’s Carefree Adventures, Cave Creek, AZ

Johnny Ringo’s Carefree Adventures, Cave Creek, AZ
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Located in Cave Creek, Johnny Ringo’s Carefree Adventures offers jeep tours of the Sonoran Desert and the Tonto National Forest. Guides are extremely knowledgeable on Hohokam prehistoric Native American ruins, natural waterfalls, archeological artifacts, and native animal and plant life. There are four tour options to choose from, Gold Mine, Above it All, Hidden Treasures of Cave Creek, and Four Peaks Adventure. The latter is a six-hour tour that travels 18 miles through the desert and forest, ending at a mountain known as Four Peaks. Once there guests will enjoy an educational nature walk that stops at Mud Springs before climbing a little higher to get a pretty extraordinary view of Ponderosa pines.

40222 Spur Cross Road, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-488-2466

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11. Watson’s Hat Shop, Cave Creek, AZ

Watson’s Hat Shop, Cave Creek, AZ
© Watson’s Hat Shop

Watson’s Hat Shop is a dream realized by owner and master hatter, Eric Watson. His interest in the craft was sparked when he was just twelve years old. The inspiration? The very fedora Indiana Jones is known for wearing. It was then that he began his foray into the art of restoring fine vintage hats. Throughout the years, Watson had the pleasure of learning from seasoned hatters while also obtaining necessary hatter equipment. Each of Watson’s creations are handmade using 100% USA raw materials, and designed to last a lifetime with the proper care. They make handcrafted fedora, panama, cowboy, and dress hats for both men and women.

7100 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-595-9777

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12. Things to Do in Cave Creek, Arizona: Grotto Cafe

Things to Do in Cave Creek, Arizona: Grotto Cafe
© Grotto Cafe

Grotto Café is a family-owned restaurant located in the charming town of Cave Creek. A popular neighborhood spot, it boasts a homey, southwestern style. Antique furniture, intricate hand-crafted wood tables and chairs of all heights, styles, finishes, and bold red-painted walls adorned with oversized menus, vintage posters, magazine covers, and memorabilia create a casual and cozy ambiance. The restaurant’s most distinguishing feature is the outdoor grotto. Surrounded by lush southwestern foliage and equipped with vintage-style, black-wire tables and matching chairs, it’s the perfect place to enjoy their southwest-style breakfast and lunch menus. The latter consists of salads, tacos, cold cuts, and hot sandwiches like the Meatball Marinara.

6501 E. Cave Creek Road, Suite 8, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-499-0140

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13. Things to Do in Cave Creek, Arizona: Tonto Bar & Grill

Things to Do in Cave Creek, Arizona: Tonto Bar & Grill
© Tonto Bar & Grill

Located in Cave Creek, Tonto Bar & Grill is a modern desert restaurant with a storied past. Situated on land that originally belonged to the Tonto Apache tribe, it was eventually settled by a U.S. Cavalry before becoming the home of the largest and most famous dude ranch in Arizona during the 1940s. Today, Tonto Bar & Grill is housed in a piece of the historic Rancho Manana dude ranch. Retaining much of its original character, the restaurant boasts a southwestern style infused by sandstone painted walls, desert patterned chairs, and magnificent handcrafted wood furnishings. The atmosphere is complemented by the southwestern-style menu offering an eclectic selection of dishes from Tortilla-Crusted Crab Cakes to Root Beer Braised Boneless Short Ribs.

5736 E. Rancho Manana Boulevard, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-488-0698

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14. Sonoran Arts League Center for the Arts

Sonoran Arts League Center for the Arts
© Sonoran Arts League Center for the Arts

The Center for the Arts is located in Stagecoach Village in Cave Creek. The center is run by the Sonoran Arts League which is dedicated to instilling a love of visual arts in the community. The Arts League has more than 700 member volunteers from all over the US who actively engage in art programs, exhibits and art camps for children. Visitors are encouraged to stop by the center where you can visit the gallery, join a workshop, meet some of the artists and, perhaps, learn a new skill. The highlight of the art year is the Hidden in the Hills Artist’s Studio Tour which takes place the weekends before and after Thanksgiving – a must for all art enthusiasts.

Sonoran Arts League Center for the Arts, 7100 E Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, 480-575-6624

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15. El Encanto, Cave Creek, AZ

El Encanto, Cave Creek, AZ
© El Encanto

A family-owned restaurant, El Encanto is a beautiful Mission-style property anchored by a large, serene pond in its courtyard. A stunning covered patio decorated with wrought iron and tile-painted furniture overlooks this beautiful water fixture populated by playful wildlife. Home to some slow-moving turtles, cooing owls, quacking ducks, and even a majestic blue heron, diners can interact with these animals by purchasing cups of birdseed from the machine near the water’s edge. A menu of authentic Mexican dishes exquisitely complements the enchanting ambiance with staples like overstuffed enchiladas, tacos, and fajitas. Pollo Fundido is a signature dish made with roasted chicken breast, pepper, and onions rolled in a crispy tortilla and slathered with gooey, spicy, jalapeno-cream-cheese-cheddar sauce.

6248 E Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-488-1752

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16. Arizona Balloon Safaris, Cave Creek, AZ

Arizona Balloon Safaris, Cave Creek, AZ
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Arizona Balloon Safaris is owned and operated by Randy Long, an accomplished, FAA licensed commercial balloon pilot with more than 30 years experience. Open since 1991, he has logged more than 4,000 flights and personally flown more than 50,000 passengers. Flights launch from somewhere in the Sonoran Desert, the exact location is determined by Mother Nature the day of the flight. They last roughly 45 minutes, typically travel five to seven miles in any direction, and reach heights of up to 5,000 feet above the ground. These trips provide unobstructed 360-degree views of the beautiful desert landscape and include a sit-down champagne breakfast upon return as well as a traditional balloonist ceremony, and a first flight certificate.

29834 N Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ, Phone: 480-502-7640

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17. MTM Ranch

MTM Ranch
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At MTM Ranch visitors are given the exciting opportunity to explore the jaw-dropping Arizona landscape from the saddle, the way it was first seen centuries ago by the original pioneer settlers. The ranch covers 870 private acres of stunning desert landscape which begs to be uncovered. Here you get to saddle up and set off into the desert wilderness under the guidance of your enthusiastic wrangler to experience the beauty of the desert for a few precious hours. There are trail rides to suit just about all levels of experience starting with the 1-hour Buckaroo Ride and the 90-min. Ocotillo Hill Ride. More experienced equestrians can choose half-day trail rides or request a customized out-ride.

MTM Ranch, 43001 North Spur Cross Road, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, 480-488-4538

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18. Rare Earth Gallery

Rare Earth Gallery
© Rare Earth Gallery

The Rare Earth Gallery is a one-of-a-kind destination which showcases all kinds of minerals, gemstones and fossils as home-décor pieces. The gallery is the largest of its kind in the world, attracting enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. When you step inside the gallery it is quite easy to feel a little overwhelmed by the vast array of colorful gifts from Mother Earth which have been turned into décor items for your home or office. The enormous collection has been put together over a period of 40 years by owner/rock-hound Wayne Helfand, who has traveled near and far in search of the most beautiful and original gems from the Earth.

Rare Earth Gallery, 6401 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, 480-575-4360

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19. Cave Creek Olive Oil Company

Cave Creek Olive Oil Company
© Cave Creek Olive Oil Company

The number one foodie destination in Cave Creek, the Cave Creek Olive Oil Company stocks a wide range of healthy and delicious olive oils, balsamic vinegars, home-made pastas, raw Arizona honey and much more. The company stocks over 50 different varieties of beautiful olive oils, all of which can be freshly bottled for you on-site. To find your favorites you can take part in an Olive Oil Tasting. In addition to the oils you can also taste a range of distinctive Balsamic Vinegars. Other specialty and gourmet products include Atomic Frog Balls (pickled Brussels sprouts), mustards, olives, pesto’s and prickly pear products. Just about everything in the store would make a perfect gift for any foodie.

Cave Creek Olive Oil Company, 6201 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, 480-595-3157

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20. Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club

Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club
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Designed by Robert Trent Jr., the Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club is often described as the best public golf course in Arizona. The course has been specifically designed to embrace the natural lie of the land which has resulted in a beautiful layout which combines stunning vistas and lush foliage. The course offers a challenging but “player-friendly” game for golfers of all abilities. Although this is basically a classic desert course, there are plenty of “water holes” to test your accuracy. After an enjoyable round of golf you can relax with a drink and meal at the Copper Bar and Lounge.

Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club, 33750 North Dove Lakes Dr, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, 480-488-0009

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21. Buffalo Chip Saloon and Steak House

Buffalo Chip Saloon and Steak House
© Buffalo Chip Saloon and Steak House

The Buffalo Chip Saloon and Steak House is a must-visit destination for all visitors in search of a genuine Western Saloon experience in Cave Creek. The establishment offers all the necessary ingredients for a fun night out including genuine Texas-style BBQ, multiple bars and TV’s, live music, live bull-riding and western dance lessons. The menu includes all your favorite BBQ delights including Smoked Beef Brisket, Glazed Burnt Ends, Pork Butt and Ribs and a good selection of sides. On Friday nights there is an all-you- can- eat Fish Fry special. Under 21’s are allowed into the Saloon provided they are accompanied by parents/chaperones.

Buffalo Chip Saloon and Steak House, 6823 E. Cave Creek Rd, Cave Creek, AZ 85331, 480-488-9118

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