20 Best Things to Do in Cave Creek, AZ

frontier town Cave Creek, AZ
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The charming town of Cave Creek, Arizona, is where history, wonder, and desert beauty come together to create an unforgettable experience.

Proudly embodying the motto “Where the Wild West Lives,” this place is as country as it can get.

It’s in the northern edges of the Sonoran desert in Maricopa County, making it a gateway into this region's rugged mountains and deserts.

Aside from that, the town boasts a storied past, with remnants of its history still standing today.

So wherever you look, there’s some hidden wonder awaiting.

Make this place your top choice for your next outdoor adventure!

Here are the 20 best things to do in Cave Creek, AZ:

Discover the Hidden Wonders of Spur Cross Ranch

Cacti at Spur Cross Ranch
Sean Foster, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lying north of Jewel of the Creek Preserve, Spur Cross Ranch serves as a prime example of the Sonoran Desert.

It has deep and arid valleys, weathered rock outcroppings, and high-elevation mesas that reach more than 4000 feet above sea level.

You’re welcome to explore the 2,154-acre expanse, with many trails weaving through the canyons and onto the steep plateaus.

Landscape of Spur Cross Ranch
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One of the most striking features you’d find would be the dense patches of Saguaro cacti, standing tall and solemn like sentinels of the desert.

Don’t forget to check out one of the 90 archeological sites on the ranch!

These markings, petroglyphs, and paintings were made by Hohokam Indians thousands of years ago, as they considered this area a sacred place.

Beautiful bird at Spur Cross Ranch
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Immerse in the Wild West Culture of Frontier Town

Daytime view of Frontier Town
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Frontier Town is where you can get an authentic experience of the Wild West heritage.

Visiting here is almost like stepping into the past—one that doesn’t shy away from the brutal yet beautiful life of cowboys in a bygone area.

You’ll see accurate recreations of gallows, where outlaws and murders are hung, and Boot Hill, where the dead are buried.

Shops at Frontier Town
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But there are also cheerier attractions, such as saloons, souvenir and jewelry shops, clothing stores, and even restaurants.

And they all follow the same rustic architecture that adds to the Wild West atmosphere of the location.

If you’re lucky (or have good scheduling skills), you might even catch one of the shows held here.

From live music to gunfight reenactments, there are a lot of things to see every now and then at Frontier Town.

Flower souvenir shop at Frontier Town
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Visit the Quaint Jewel of the Creek Preserve

The first of the many nature-related attractions in this list is Jewel of the Creek Preserve, and it deserves this spot as one of the most beautiful desert attractions in this region.

It is a 26.6-acre area that is unlike the other desert locations, with more trees and vegetation that results in a greener appearance.

These unique features are because of the area’s geographical characteristics, which allows the small Cave Creek to irrigate this patch of land.

Since the trees here stand taller than others in the region, Jewel of the Creek Preserve has become an important bird habitat that shelters the many avian species of the area.

You’re welcome to hike the small trails along the stream to try and see these birds as they flit about in between branches.

There are also other historical sites nearby, such as an abandoned gold mine that was once used by the first settlers of the location.

It’s actually where the town’s name comes from.

Book a Tee Time at Rancho Manana Golf Club

Rancho Manana Golf Club offers a unique desert golfing experience that amateurs and professionals should add to their bucket lists.

This 18-hole course is set in a high-elevation location amidst hills with sparse vegetation and an interrupted skyline.

And with the well-maintained fairways, cacti-studded landscape, dramatic elevation changes, and well-planned layout, the course offers great gameplay for every golfer.

In fact, Rancho Manana Golf Club has earned recognition as one of the top ten courses in Arizona and one of the top 50 golf courses for women in the country.

Another favorite attraction here is Tonto Bar & Grill, which features a Western theme and al fresco dining with views of the course and nearby hills.

It’s a great place to relax and refuel after an exceptional round!

Tour the Exhibits of Cave Creek Museum

A Sign at Cave Creek Museum
Marine 69-71, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While Cave Creek was discovered by soldiers, it only flourished when prospectors found gold in the town.

Cave Creek Museum celebrates this history, and you’re welcome to tour both its interior and exterior exhibits.

For those who want to see curated archeological and historical artifacts, the interior exhibit of the facility is where you should visit.

Exhibits of Cave Creek Museum
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And if you want to see long-standing structures that have been around since the founding of the town, then tour the exterior exhibits.

You’d see the Tubercular Cabin, which once housed people with tuberculosis, the First Church of Cave Creek, and the Golden Reef Stamp Mill.

These offer glimpses of the lives of the town's first residents, allowing you to see how much has changed and how much has been preserved.

Exhibits of Cave Creek Museum
Marine 69-71, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hike the Trails of P.A. Seitts Preserve

Set between Cave Creek Regional Park and the modern neighborhoods of Cave Creek, P.A. Seitts Preserve is a beautiful buffer zone linking nature and human civilization.

This riparian habitat is an important ecological hotspot, serving as the home to sensitive plant and animal species of the northern Sonoran Desert.

Covering 271 acres, the site offers panoramic vistas aside from wildlife encounters.

These features and its relative nearness to civilization have made it a favorite hiking destination.

You might even spot the historical sites along the way, such as burial grounds, cemeteries, and military trials.

However, some areas have restrictions in order to protect the important habitats and animals living in them.

Play a Few Rounds at Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club

Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club stands toe-to-toe with Rancho Manana Golf Club as one of the best golf courses in Cave Creek.

The unsurpassed natural beauty of this facility, complemented by the large pond in the middle of the course, adds to the excellent gameplay you’d experience here.

It also has manicured transition areas, well-maintained fairways, and contoured greens that are player-friendly, even for the most novice golfers.

The layout itself may be challenging for the uninitiated, but with proper course management skills, it is gentle and easy enough.

Make sure to check out their well-stocked pro shop if you need equipment, gear, and apparel before tee time.

Explore the Trails of Cave Creek Regional Park

A sign at Cave Creek Regional Park
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Compared to Jewel of the Creek Preserve, Cave Creek Regional Park is a much larger natural attraction located east of the town proper.

It covers more than 3000 acres of the Sonoran desert and has altitudes varying from 2000 to 3000 feet above sea level.

The rugged landscape, desert vegetation, and isolated setting have made this a favorite destination for those who want to escape from busy lives.

One of the more trafficked routes is Go John Trail, which is accessible on foot or by riding a bike or a horse.

The looping road will bring you to some of the park’s most beautiful vistas, such as patches of towering cacti, unusual rock formations, and uninterrupted panoramas.

During years when rains are abundant, desert flowers will also start blooming in the park.

So you can try wildflower viewing during spring!

See carpets of poppies, globe mallows, lupines, and so many blooms that create a riot of color to the otherwise monochrome landscape.

View Stunning Pieces at Sonoran Arts League - Center for the Arts

The Sonoran Arts League is the premier organization in Cave Creek that celebrates human talent and creativity.

One way the members have showcased their magnificent works is by founding the Center for the Arts.

It’s a hub that houses rotating exhibits featuring artworks by the town’s most talented masters.

Visit the location during your trip and check out paintings, sculptures, art installations, jewelry, and many other artisanal crafts.

Some of these are available for purchase, allowing you to bring home a particular piece that touched your soul.

Not only will you have a unique piece of art, but you’d be supporting the budding artistic movement of the community.

Have a Fun Family Time at Desert Awareness Park

The large desert parks of Cave Creek may not be suited for the whole family, especially with the hot temperatures, prickly cacti, and venomous wildlife that can pose a threat to children.

So if you’re looking for a place that’s more family-oriented without sacrificing the natural characteristics of the region, then head over to Desert Awareness Park.

It’s located at the heart of Cave Creek, but the traffic noises are drowned out by the thick vegetation that gives the illusion of being in the middle of nowhere.

There are many modern amenities here that make for a convenient stay, such as shaded playgrounds, picnic spots, and ramadas.

For those who want to explore, there are two trails that will bring you to various beautiful spots.

Along the way, you’d see signposts that will tell you about the specific desert flora growing in front of you.

It’s a great way to learn about the hardy species that thrive in the unforgiving conditions of the Sonoran Desert.

Trek the Challenging Black Mountain Trail

Sandy trail of Black Mountain
Scuba909, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The route to the summit of Black Mountain is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Black Mountain Trail is unbearably hot during summer, is full of treacherous paths and unstable rocks, and has the occasional snake slithering underfoot.

But this hasn’t stopped many hiking enthusiasts and mountain climbers from conquering the peak.

That’s because the surrounding area is one the most beautiful places in Creek Valley, with vibrant wildflowers, humungous cacti, and 360-degree views of the nearby cities and desert.

Starting point sign of Black Mountain Trail
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Most people brave the dark to reach the summit for sunrises, but this is only recommended if you’re an expert hiker.

People also hike during late afternoons to avoid the heat and stay long enough to see the Phoenix Metropolitan Area light up.

From this vantage point, you’d be treated with stunning nighttime views that are well worth the effort.

Just be careful on the way down!

Stony trail at Black Mountain Trail
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Rare Earth Gallery is one of those places that you have to see to believe.

Located just a block away from Frontier Town, this otherworldly destination is a must-visit place for geology enthusiasts, lovers of sparkly things, and regular visitors wanting to see something truly stunning.

The outside is already a sight in itself, with a “petrified forest” of marbled stones and magnificent sculptures made from the rocks of the region.

Inside is a massive collection of the most aesthetically pleasing rocks you’d ever see.

Amethyst geodes, crystal sculptures, entire blocks of quartz stones, and other precious minerals are displayed on every corner of the shop.

You’d find crystal bonsais, marble dining implements, slices of onyx, sculptures made from gemstones, and so many other items that are, of course, for sale.

So choose the ones that resonate with your soul and bring them home!

The products here are the perfect souvenir for your Cave Creek adventure.

Participate in a Guided Tour at Grace Museum of America

Grace Voss Frederick founded the Grace Museum of America, situated in the foothills of the Sonoran Desert.

It includes numerous noteworthy 19th and 20th-century relics, including authentic models and antiques, and several of Frederick's possessions amassed throughout her life and travels.

Important artifacts from the past two centuries of American history are displayed in the Grace Museum of America.

The Grace Museum of America offers tour programs featuring displays to trace America's evolution across time.

The guided museum tour lasts around two hours and includes both live and audio descriptions of the exhibits.

Browse for Items to Buy at Watson's Hat Shop

Eric Watson, the founder and skilled hatter has accomplished his ambition by opening Watson's Hat Shop.

At twelve years old, his curiosity about craftsmanship was piqued.

Eighty varieties of ribbons in varying widths are sold, with up to 29 distinct color options.

Handcrafted leather hat bands, knotted horse hair hat bands, platinum and gold hat bands featuring your choice of jewels, braided kangaroo hat bands, and silver hat band buckle sets are available.

Both men's and women's handmade fedora, Panama, rodeo, and dress hats are produced onsite.

Some of the greatest beaver furs felt hats are available at Watson's Hat Shop!

Admire the Views at MTM Ranch

Since 1989, The MTM Ranch has constantly been running on its 870 private acres.

There is no place where you can uncover a more beautiful and private portion of the desert, one where you have only the sky and the surrounding desert to yourself.

Their completely trained wranglers will proudly lead you through breathtakingly magical scenery as the most experienced facility of its kind.

Visitors are offered the unique chance at MTM Ranch to experience the breathtaking Arizona terrain from the saddle, much like the original pioneer settlers did hundreds of years ago.

Starting with the Buckaroo Ride, which lasts an hour, and the Ocotillo Hill Ride, which lasts 90 minutes, there are trail rides to accommodate almost any level of ability.

Appreciate Stunning Works of Art at Sonoran Arts League Center for the Arts

The Sonoran Arts League, an organization devoted to fostering a love of the visual arts in the community, operates the Sonoran Arts League Center for the Arts in Stagecoach Village at Cave Creek.

They want to create a setting where creative people with related interests may collaborate and develop alliances that advance their work and benefit the neighborhood through cultural and educational initiatives.

More than 700 volunteer members from the US actively participate in child's art events, exhibits, and camps.

They welcome everyone interested in supporting the arts, including art lovers, supporters, collectors, and others.

Additionally, they offer camps, classes, workshops, and conferences.

Savor a Meal Outdoors at Grotto Café

Situated in the quaint and lovely town of Cave Creek, the family-run Grotto Café serves delicious food.

It is a well-liked local hangout with a cozy, southwestern design.

The antique furniture establishes a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, with elegantly crafted wood tables and chairs in various heights, styles, and finishes, and the vibrant red walls decorated with large menus, retro posters, magazine covers, and souvenirs.

The outdoor grotto is what makes the restaurant stand out the most.

It's the ideal location to enjoy their southwest-inspired breakfast and lunch cuisines since it is surrounded by rich southwestern vegetation and furnished with old-school, black-wire tables and chairs.

The latter includes hot sandwiches such as Meatball Marinara, burritos, appetizers, and cold meats.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Once you’re done with your tour, why not visit these other destinations nearby?

Visit the City of Phoenix

Buildings of the City of Phoenix
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Cave Creek is part of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, and the capital city of Arizona is just a few minutes’ drive from the town.

This metropolis serves as the cultural and recreational center in the region, with many attractions that you can tour within a day.

Exterior of the famous Phoenix Art Museum
Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock.com

These include the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Desert Botanical Garden, and the famous Phoenix Art Museum.

For those who want to try world-class cuisine, visit well-known restaurants such as Bobby-Q, Chelsea’s Kitchen, and The Capital Grille.

Waters of the City of Phoenix
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Learn Horseback Riding at MacDonald’s Ranch

MacDonald’s Ranch is located in nearby Scottsdale, and it’s a famous destination in the state for horseback rides.

So if you’re looking for another “Wild West” adventure, this place is the ideal place to be.

Families, friends, and corporate groups are welcome to join horseback riding tours into the surrounding desert landscapes.

There are also riding classes that will turn the most inexperienced tourist into an expert rider.

See the Giant Sun Dial of Carefree Desert Gardens

Archway of Carefree Desert Gardens
Lonnie Paulson / Shutterstock.com

Desert plants are fascinating life forms that deserve your appreciation, but it’s difficult to see them all when exploring the parks and nature reserves of Cave Creek.

Thankfully, Carefree Desert Gardens has all of these plants curated for you.

This botanical garden is only a few minutes away from Cave Creek, and it boasts a vast collection of native flora in a four-acre area.

Cacti at Carefree Desert Gardens
Lonnie Paulson / Shutterstock.com

Towering saguaro cacti, unusual desert bushes, dainty succulents, and rare desert flowers are just some of the plants you can expect to see here.

There’s also a giant sundial that casts a 35-foot long shadow—one of the longest in the US.

Framed by the plants, this landmark is the perfect subject for a stunning landscape photo.

Sundial of Carefree Desert Gardens
Lonnie Paulson / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

For fun and memorable desert adventures, make the charming town of Cave Creek your top choice!

Check out this list to find out the top destinations that you shouldn’t miss during your visit.

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