Day trip 1: Mesa to Globe/Miami via the Apache Trail (AZ 88)
Starting from Mesa (home of the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics), this trip loops through the craggy desert in the Superstition Mountains and Tonto National Forest. It's rugged going, with narrow, winding road and steep drop-offs.
That's particularly true of the unpaved section before Roosevelt Lake and Dam—a perfect excuse to stop in the Old West town of Tortilla Flat, grab some chow at the saloon, and stretch your legs like stagecoach passengers did in the early 1900s.
After passing the glittering blue of Roosevelt Lake, the paved road ribbons southeast to Globe. A mile outside of town, visit Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park for a glimpse into what life was like for the Salado people who occupied the site nearly 800 years ago.
The ruins of Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaelogical Park / Credit: Jim Lindstrom
At Noftsger Hill Inn, fall asleep in school without risking detention. Built in 1907, the elementary school-turned-B&B's spacious guest rooms are adorned with mining-era antiques and art, as well as the original classroom chalkboards.
On the return trip to Mesa, take U.S. Route 60, stopping at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park to walk among the spring wildflowers in bloom.
Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Noftsger Hill Inn
Day trip 2: Scottsdale to Cave Creek
If you're staying near Scottsdale Stadium (springtime home of the San Francisco Giants) or Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies), this day trip will take you to three distinct experiences.
Credit: Musical Instrument Museum
Hop off State Route 101 to take in the sounds at the Musical Instrument Museum and its more than 6,800 instruments collected from around the world. A special exhibition during Spring Training, "The Electric Guitar: Inventing an American Icon," features more than 80 of the world's rarest electric guitars and amplifiers.
Spring training lands during a beautiful time of year in central Arizona. Take advantage of the sunshine and perfect temps with a hike at Spur Cross Conservation Area. Situated north of the Musical Instrument Museum in Cave Creek, this picturesque desert region offers difficult hikes—like the two-mile Elephant Mountain Trail with steep elevation gains—and moderate trails such as the 1.2-mile Tortuga Trail.
For an up-close wildlife experience—and a fulfilling conclusion to your day—consider spending a few hours volunteering at Cave Creek's Wild At Heart, a rescue, rehabilitation and release center for birds of prey. Before you visit, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a volunteer packet.
Musical Instrument Museum
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
Wild at Heart
Day trip 3: Surprise to Wickenburg
As the most northwest Cactus League location, the city of Surprise (home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers) is an ideal launch point for a road trip along U.S. Route 60 to Wickenburg.
Just before you enter Wickenburg, you'll approach the 770-acre Hassayampa River Preserve, a favorite of birders thanks to the 280 species of winged creatures spotted in this riparian corridor. A self-guided trail system explores the desert oasis—the only place where the Hassayampa River flows above ground over its 100-mile course.
For 50 years, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg has displayed the art and history of the American West, from indigenous peoples to mining, agriculture and rodeo. Special exhibits through March 10 include the bronze work of John Coleman and "Wagons West."
Heading back to Surprise, a stopover at Western Trails Ranch offers an array of activities. Food, drinks, dancing, live bands and team roping—pretty lively for a former ghost town!
Desert Caballeros Western Museum
Hassayampa River Preserve
Western Trails Ranch