Arizona Plein Air Painting Spots

Looking for a place to paint? You can always join us on a paint out, but if the timing isn’t right, you might want to head out to some of these great spots on your own - or much better with a friend. Just remember to be safe! Always let someone know where you’ll be, take plenty of water, be wary of the heat in the desert areas, and keep an eyeball peeled for snakes.

Scottsdale and east valley Areas

browns ranch trailhead.jpg

Brown’s Ranch Trailhead
McDowell Sonoran Preserve

30301 N Alma School Pkwy
Scottsdale, AZ 85262

Easy Access Areas

Watch for raised pedestrian walkways which act as speed bumps. These are “killer” speed bumps if you go too fast.

There are ramadas, restrooms, trails and large vistas.

FYI: The name of the main rock formation is “Goldie’s Butte.”

More info here.

Gateway trailhead all trails.jpg

Gateway trailhead
Mcdowell sonoran Preserve

18333 N. Thompson Peak Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ, 85255

Easy Access Areas

Restrooms, Seating, Shelter, Water, Biking, Dogs, Family Friendly, Hiking Trails

More info here.


Saguaro lake

Tonto Pass Required

From Mesa, travel 27 miles north on State Hwy. 87 to Bush Highway/Forest Road (FR) 204 and turn right. Follow FR 204 for 4 miles to the Lake.

“Saguaro Lake is set in the Sonoran Desert and is rimmed with canyon walls. As the name implies, the shores of the lake are studded with majestic Saguaro cactus.”

Many different places to paint here. Give yourself time to explore. Access and amenities are variable, depending on where you go around the lake.

More info here.
Illustrated map here.


canyon lake and the apache trail

Tonto Pass Required

Canyon Lake, with it’s red rock cliffs is a great plein air painting spot. It’s situated along one of Arizona’s most scenic drives - The Apache Trail. Just be aware, driving beyond Canyon Lake on the the Apache Trail, (SR 88) not far past Tortilla Flat, the road becomes dirt. The ride down to Fish Creek is harrowing with a very narrow road, great dropoffs, and tight switchbacks. It’s not for the faint of heart, but well worth the trip. If you’re careful and take it slow, you’ll find iconic Arizona just waiting for your artistic interpretation.

From Mesa, take U.S. 60 to the Idaho Exit #196. Go north on State Hwy. 88. The entire route to Canyon Lake is paved, but heavy traffic is common.

More info here.