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Thrills and Chills

By: Nora Burba Trulsson

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October 3, 2016

Find both exciting and relaxing adventures across Arizona.

About the author

Nora Burba Trulsson

Nora Burba Trulsson

Nora Burba Trulsson is a long-time Arizona resident and a freelance writer specializing in travel, food, lifestyle, architecture and design topics. Her articles have appeared in Sunset, Arizona Highways, Vegas Seven,, Valley Guide, Scottsdale Magazine, United Airlines Hemispheres, Westjet's Up!, Renovation Style, Beautiful Homes and other publications and websites. She can be reached through

Maybe you feel the need for speed, or perhaps you prefer to cool your jets around water. From adrenaline-pumping roller-coaster rides and zip lines to calming beaches and quiet fishing holes, Arizona is filled with thrills and chills.

Zip Lines

For those who like their adventures to be above the fray, zip lining offers a unique perspective on Arizona’s terrain. Near Greer, mountainous Sunrise Park Resort is known for winter sports, but spring through fall, six zip lines cover a mile and send you hurtling over Ponderosa Pine-covered terrain at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.

In the small community of Oracle, north of Tucson, Arizona Zipline Adventures has six zip lines that whisk you over high-desert terrain in the shadow of the Santa Catalina Mountains – well above the saguaro cacti below

You’re also well above the lions and tigers and bears (oh, my) on the Predator Zip Line, which traverses over animal habitats at Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde.

Amusement Parks

Need to scream? Castles-n-Coasters is a ten-acre amusement park in Phoenix that offers – among other rides – Arizona’s only permanent roller coasters. Hang on as Desert Storm climbs and plummets you through a series of loops, twists and swirls, while the Patriot thrills riders with steep ascents and descents.

At Scottsdale’s Crackerjax amusement park, when you say “jump,” the answer isn’t “how high.” Specifically, it’s up to 30 feet in the air via the shaded Bungee Dome, where you can bounce and fly to your heart’s content.


Get your motor running with go-carts. Scottsdale’s Octane Raceway has a one-third-mile track that loops indoors and out, and their electric European-made carts can zip up to 45 miles per hour.

Across town, K1 Speed Phoenix has an indoor track with a high-grip racing surface that allows you to push their electric carts to the limit.

Tucson’s Autobahn Indoor Speedway boasts 70,000 square feet, making it Arizona’s largest indoor go-carting facility, so you’ll have plenty of room to zoom up to 50 miles per hour on their F1-inspired, Italian-made electric carts.

ATV Adventures

Arizona has many designated places where you can ride your off-highway vehicle – hills with trails, sand dunes, canyons and more. Not sure where to go? Ride with an expert. Stellar Adventures has guided ATV tours through the rugged desert north of Phoenix and Tonto National Forest.

Arizona ATV Adventure Tours guides groups through Sedona’s Red Rocks or to a remote box canyon between Phoenix and Tucson.


Rafting Arizona’s rivers can range from thrilling to chill. Mild to Wild Rafting in Central Arizona offers half-day to overnight rafting trips in early spring when the Upper Salt River Canyon outside of Globe is roiling with Class III to Class IV whitewater rapids due to mountain snowmelt.

Want something a tad calmer? In Page, Colorado River Discovery has half- and full-day rafting trips from spring through fall on the placid part of the Colorado River, just below Glen Canyon Dam. Sandstone cliffs, wildlife and petroglyphs are part of the scenery.


Maybe you want to hit the water on your own steam. Outside of Mesa, Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch offers two- and four-hour kayaking treks from spring through fall down the Salt River, where wild horses and herons are likely to ogle you.

For a more urban experience, Boat Rentals of America has single and double kayaks for rent at Tempe Town Lake, so you can paddle under bridges and watch the light rail whoosh by.

Want a reward at the end of your kayak adventure? Sedona Adventure Tours’ Water to Wine tour has you floating down the Verde River for about an hour, ending up at Alcantara Vineyards in Cottonwood, where you can enjoy a wine tasting.


Yes, Arizona has beaches, particularly along its West Coast, where the Colorado River turns southward. In Lake Havasu City, Rotary Beach is a 40-acre beach and park where you can loll in the sand, swim in calm waters and play beach volleyball

Farther south, Parker’s Blue Water Resort and Casino has a beach along its stretch of the Colorado River where you can picnic, dunk in the water and watch the boats go by.

At the southern end of the Colorado River, Yuma offers Gateway Beach and, nearby, the newly developed Centennial Beach. Both beaches are in park settings where you can enjoy the river, play in the sand and picnic.


Fishing isn’t necessarily about the catch. For many, it’s the zen of the wait. Get yourself an Arizona fishing license and lose yourself in the moment at one of the state’s many fishing holes. Near Phoenix, Lake Pleasant is a popular reservoir known for its largemouth bass and crappie.

Oak Creek twists through the Sedona area and is best known for rainbow and brown trout as well as largemouth bass.

In Southern Arizona, Patagonia Lake is a placid, reed-rimmed body of water where you’ll find rainbow trout (in the winter), largemouth bass, crappie and sunfish.

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