Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in San Tan Valley, AZ

  • Published 2023/01/26

San Tan Valley is an unincorporated community in Pinal County, Arizona.

Less than an hour from Phoenix, it’s known for its agriculture and residential neighborhoods.

While its main attraction—San Tan Mountain Regional Park—has an entrance fee, there are other places to enjoy without spending a single penny.

Best of all, more attractions and outdoor fun await you at the neighboring town of Queen Creek and other surrounding communities in both Pinal and Maricopa County.

The free things to do in San Tan Valley, Arizona, await you.

Check this list for your definitive guide!

Ride a Bike along North Drifter Pass Road

North Drifter Pass Road is an expansive stretch that runs parallel to the community’s railroad tracks.

While mainly railroads, the area features desert terrain, making this one of the best places to bring your mountain bike or dirt bike.

If you’re an avid fan of countryside trains, this is a great quiet place to observe the many locomotives that use the tracks.

When you bike along North Drifter Pass Road, you’ll also see one of the best community-side views in San Tan Valley, teeming with desert hills, ponds, and a bit of wildlife here and there.

North Drifter Pass Road is a famous place for locals to bike, as it’s one of the best free experiences in San Tan Valley.

Take a Breather at Skyline Ranch Community Park

If you’re looking for a quieter way to enjoy the scenic beauty of San Tan Valley, Skyline Ranch Community Park is a fantastic place to spend a lazy afternoon.

Found along North Pebble Creek Drive near the railroad tracks, Skyline Ranch Community Park is easily accessible if you decide to bike along North Drifter Pass Road.

It’s a well-maintained park that’s an excellent place for children, as there are a couple of fun things here, like a basketball court and a playground.

It’s also full of trees, which makes this a popular spot to hang out with friends and family, as there’s plenty of shade and breeze.

Dogs are also allowed here, making this a great all-rounder for families and travelers.

Go Fishing at Catch and Release Pond

Located in the neighborhood of Johnson Ranch along North Desert Honeysuckle Drive lies a famous pond for fishing among locals: the Catch and Release Pond.

Catch and Release Pond is an excellent place for anglers of all levels, as it’s a laid-back place brimming with fish.

The most common catches you’ll get here are bluegills and carp, an exciting way to practice your chops while getting a nice dinner.

Catch and Release Pond is also a great place to hang out.

Many locals go here to fish, so if you’re feeling sociable, this area is a great place to immerse yourself in the community of San Tan Valley.

This place is a free urban spot for fishing and an excellent addition to your outdoor plans in San Tan Valley.

Read a Book at San Tan Valley Library

San Tan Valley Library is a great quiet spot if you want to spend some downtime during your trip to San Tan Valley.

Also called the San Tan Valley Library, it’s a new facility that boasts modern facilities and a wide range of books for children and adults.

It’s a fantastic spot for kids and children; it also has a board game area that can keep the family busy for several hours.

A competent staff of librarians manages the place to help you throughout your stay here, especially if you’re on the hunt for a particular book.

The San Tan Valley Library also has a set of computers that you can use in case you need to do some work during your trip.

Found along North Schrempf Road, this excellent library is easily accessible in the heart of San Tan Valley.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

Try Archery at Paseo Vista Recreation Area

Located in the heart of Chandler, Arizona, is the Paseo Vista Recreation Area, 29 minutes from San Tan Valley.

Paseo Vista Recreation Area is a vast open space with many free activities, headlined by its archery range.

The range is also a self-service area where you must communicate adequately with fellow archers to keep everyone safe.

If you don’t have archery gear or would rather do anything else, you can go jogging or play disc golf.

Moreover, watching the sunset at this relaxing place is also popular among the locals.

The recreation area also has a dog park if you have a dog with you.

Spend an Afternoon at Mansel Carter Oasis Park

Mansel Carter Oasis Park is in Queen Creek, Arizona, 20 minutes from San Tan Valley.

There’s a lot to do at Mansel Carter Oasis Park, but the sprawling splash pads and picnic grounds are the main attractions here.

One of the best free parks in the neighboring Maricopa County that Queen Creek is a part of, this is a must-visit if you’re visiting with kids.

There are many kiddie contraptions here, including a jungle gym and a fishing pond for the grownups.

Mansel Carter Oasis Park is a beautiful place to spend the afternoon.

Play Sports at Gilbert Regional Park

Gilbert Regional Park is a great recreational park in Gilbert, Arizona, only 25 minutes from San Tan Valley.

It has plenty of complimentary sports amenities and is on a first-come, first-served basis if you plan to use them.

Some of their best sporting facilities here are their tennis, pickleball, and volleyball courts which are popular with the locals.

There’s also a splash pad if you’re raring to cool down with your children during your trip.

As one of the most highly rated parks near San Tan Valley, Gilbert Regional Park, is an excellent addition to your itinerary.

See the Ancient Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Daytime view of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Phyllis Peterson /

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is one of the best attractions near San Tan Valley, located in the neighboring community of Coolidge, Arizona.

This place is 28 minutes from San Tan Valley.

This is one of Arizona’s most distinctive historical landmarks, as the ruins are known to date back as far back as the 14th century.

With high-arching earth structures that truly bring out a simple aesthetic, the ruins make for a fantastic photo souvenir worthy of an Instagram post.

Ruins under a roof at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Traveller70 /

Plenty of research accounts also shed light on these ruins.

Admission here is free, so count Casa Grande Ruins National Monument as a can’t-miss destination in your trips to Maricopa and Pinal County.

Ruins on the grounds of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Phyllis Peterson /

Take a Stroll along Velda Rose Nature Trail

Another lovely outdoor location is the Velda Rose Nature Trail, found in Mesa, Arizona, around 30 minutes from San Tan Valley.

Velda Rose Nature Trail is a quick scenic walk if you’re interested in seeing an abundance of flowers during your trip to San Tan Valley.

You can find desert plants here, like cactuses, and plenty of wildflowers, like roses.

Various animals are also found here, tiny mammals like rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks.

Dogs are allowed, so you won’t have to worry about leaving them behind!

See the Wildlife at Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

A great heron at Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Christopher M Hall /

Another must-see attraction in the town of Gilbert is the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, a free-to-enter natural area teeming with all sorts of wildlife.

This is easily one of the best places in Arizona to watch wildlife, as it’s full of migratory birds, small mammals, and various reptiles and amphibians.

Some popular species are pelicans, rabbits, waterfowls, and turtles, guaranteed to excite any wildlife enthusiast.

Sterling bird at Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Christopher M Hall /

There is also a library and an observatory at Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch.

Finally, the preserve is also famous for its Dinosaur Dig Site, which guests can rent for a fee.

The preserve is 28 minutes from San Tan Valley.

Stream at Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Albert Barr /

Try Activities at Desert Mountain Park

Just 15 minutes away from San Tan Valley lies Desert Mountain Park.

Desert Mountain Park is a great urban city located in Queen Creek with all sorts of fun activities.

There are plenty of sports courts and fields, like softball, baseball, and even sand volleyball, for a unique experience.

Biking is also famous here because of its sprawling bicycle paths, a local hit.

If you’re lucky, you might see the locals bring their horses to Desert Mountain Park.

Bring the Kids to Freestone District Park

Freestone District Park is another location in Gilbert that’s only a 28-minute drive from San Tan Valley.

It’s an urban park famous for its weekend carnivals dedicated to the kids, making this a great stopover if you have some young ones.

During its carnival weekend, there’s a fantastic train ride and many other fun activities.

Even if you’re not going on carnival weekend, Freestone District Park has sprawling facilities, including batting cages, soccer fields, and walking trails.

As an excellent destination for the family, this park makes for a perfect destination when visiting the nearby town of Gilbert.

Take Photos of the Scenic Veterans Oasis Park

Ducks on Veterans Oasis Park lake

Sean Xu /

Veterans Oasis Park is famous in Chandler, Arizona, around 24 minutes from San Tan Valley.

If you want an alternative to Riparian Preserve, Veterans Oasis Park is an urban nature preserve home to many wildlife.

Veterans Oasis Park is one of the best free attractions near San Tan Valley; it brims with many birds, making it a haven for birdwatching and photography.

Quail at Veterans Oasis Park

AZ Outdoor Photography /

Besides, you can find plenty of year-round exhibits here as it has its dedicated nature center.

If you love beautiful scenery, Veterans Oasis Park has a large lake with gorgeous little waterfalls, especially on a bright and sunny day.

Coyote at Veterans Oasis Park

Sean R. Stubben /

See the Val Vista Lakes

Val Vista Lakes is another Gilbert attraction you can see for free, just a stone’s throw away from Freestone District Park, a 28-minute drive from San Tan Valley.

As the name suggests, Val Vista Lakes is a sizable lake in Gilbert.

The best way to see its glistening waters is along East Baseline Road, where you’ll find plenty of parking and unobstructed views of the lakes.

If you go around the vicinity, you can also visit the Val Vista Lakes Rose Garden, a community gardening initiative among the locals.

Best of all, Val Vista Lakes also has a shopping district where you can grab a bite or do some shopping after your visit.

Visit the San Tan Historical Museum

Exterior of San Tan Historical Museum

Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The non-profit organization San Tan Historical Society manages the San Tan Historical Museum, found in Queen Creek, just a 14-minute trip from San Tan Valley.

A museum is a fantastic place if you’re into the history of Queen Creek and its surrounding areas, such as Higley, Chandler Heights, and the San Tan Valley region in general.

You can find various relics and documents here that date back to the pioneering families of Queen Creek.

You can also find artifacts from the Hohokam tribe, one of the indigenous settlers who pioneered civilization in Queen Creek.

San Tan Historical Museum is a small museum that packs a lot of history, so visit it if you have extra time.

Final Thoughts

San Tan Valley is an excellent place to visit if you’re planning to explore the communities, towns, and cities of both Maricopa and Pinal Counties.

The community isn’t known for many free attractions because San Tan Mountain Regional Park has entrance fees, but its surrounding areas are abundant with budget-friendly attractions.

With this list of free things to do in San Tan Valley, Arizona, you’ll have the time of your life without breaking the bank!

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