3 min read

Arizona sunsets make great theater

Arizona sunsets make great theater
Yet another magical sunset over downtown Phoenix.

(Editor's note: Barrel + Bombs will pause over the holidays, and will resume January 12, 2022 with the freshly styled content and inspired photography you've come to expect. Happy Holidays to all, and thanks for reading!)

IT'S POSSIBLE MOTHER Nature is a painter. Her palette may be the inspiration for the Crayola 64 box, and her brushes are likely made of fairy dust and mermaid tails.

How else do you explain the never-ending magic of desert sunsets? Where the colors can be so breathtaking. Where the skies turn gloriously deep shades of orange, purple and gold. Where the sun represents not just the fireball heating the planet, but the centerpiece of nature's visual ecstasy.

It happens in Phoenix and Yuma. In Palm Springs and El Centro. In White Sands and Death Valley. The evening skies reveal a kaleidoscope of color, sometimes subtle, sometimes bold and occasionally so ridiculous it doesn't look real.

The image featured at the top of this page is one of those nights where you can't believe – or predict – what the skies have in store for you. Shot from the top deck of a parking structure at Sky Harbor International Airport, that image was the result of patience, as the early returns on the sunset were underwhelming.

But as the cloud formation pushed further northeast, and the sun dipped lower in its angle to orbiting Earth, the magic began to materialize.

Winter is a special time to visit desert climes. Phoenix, with it's sprawling metropolis, plush resorts and plethora of golf courses, is a popular winter getaway. And while the Valley of the Sun offers no shortage of dining, shopping, sporting events and cultural celebrations, it's the Sonoran beauty that's on display full time. Think of it as an annual quinceanera – a celebration of passage – where the desert adorns its magnificent dress of color and vibrancy.

When in town, check out any of these three recommendations for sunset viewing in the greater Phoenix area.

Camelback Mountain

The hike to the top of famed Camelback Mountain, just north of downtown Phoenix, is rewarding in so many ways. With 360-degree views of the valley, your elevated heart rate (1,400-foot vertical ascent) can return to resting levels as you take in nature's light show.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Located in Scottsdale and tucked below the McDowell Mountains you'll find a plethora of scenic hikes and trails for all levels.  The McDowell Sonoran Preserve gives you a taste of the desert landscape while offering incredible views.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Located on the far western reaches of the valley, White Tank has plenty of options for all skill levels and is often less crowed than the more popular routes near the city. Choose from easy to strenuous (a 3,100-foot elevation gain) and take in those magical colors.

Cacti stand tall as the evening show begins.

The Barrel

Keeping with the sunset theme, you can't beat Different Pointe of View, the outdoor dining patio at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort. Margaritas are a great accompaniment to desert sunsets. The views are insanely gorgeous.

The Bomb

Hot air balloons dot the skyline every sunrise and sunset. So if that's your thing, you probably can't beat the views. But if you'd rather not be standing in a picnic basket floating 2,000 feet above the valley floor, head north to Cave Creek, a small village with great dining, resorts and golf. The scenery is vintage desert, with a hint of nostalgia for the western frontier. And the vibe is relaxing.

The Eagles' 'Desperado' is a concept album with a twist.