One of my favourite activities while on vacation is sunrise/sunset chasing! I’m always on the hunt for the best local spots to catch the show. While in Tempe, I got to explore some wonderful spots both first thing in the morning, and to close off the evening. They’re all quite remarkable, whether you’re an early bird or someone who loves a good sunset. Each location could be visited at either time of day, as they offer either breathtaking panoramic views, or create a beautiful atmosphere even when the sun isn’t visible on the horizon. Each one has its own unique charm, so whether it’s morning or evening, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
“A” Mountain (Hayden Butte)
- Address: “A” Mountain Park, 615 S. College Ave., Tempe, AZ
- Known for: Spectacular sunrise and sunset views over Downtown Tempe, Tempe Town Lake, and the surrounding landscape.
This is the shortest “hike” I’ve ever done, so don’t worry about having to navigate through the woods in the dark or anything like that. This is a 1.1km (0.7 mile) out-and-back, with a slight elevation gain (114m/374ft). The grade is moderate, and the path is paved or packed dirt. It’s pretty straightforward, and can be accessed from 3 different points right in downtown Tempe! It won’t take you more than 30 minutes to get up – we were out for a leisurely stroll and summited in 20 minutes.
“A” Mountain offers various starting points, making it easily accessible from downtown Tempe. I’ve circled all the points in pink on the map above.
As you climb up “A” Mountain, there are panoramic views of Downtown Tempe, Tempe Town Lake, the Arizona State University campus, and the surrounding mountains. At the summit you’ll be able to look out over the whole city and to the stunning Sonoran Desert. Since the view from the top is 360, you can go for sunrise or sunset and you’ll get to watch the sun on the horizon, plus catch the gorgeous colours across the way.
- Address: 51 E. 5th St., Tempe, AZ
- Known for: Captivating urban skyline views at sunrise and sunset, providing a stunning vantage point for cityscape photography.
Skysill is a rooftop bar and restaurant at the Westin Tempe. It’s open to the public, if you book a dinner reservation or come grab drinks at the bar. With gorgeous, nearly unobstructed views of the city, the lake, and beyond, this is a MUST visit (in my opinion). Come early so you can snag a bar stool facing the view! This one only works for sunset if you’re visiting the restaurant, but I bet they also have stunning sunrises you can soak in if you’re staying at the hotel.
Tempe Town Lake
- Address: 620 N. Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ
- Known for: A serene setting that reflects the beauty of the dawn at sunrise and offers shimmering waters for sunset reflections, providing a peaceful and picturesque scene.
The town lake felt like the focal point of Tempe, although I recognize that this could have just been my perspective since that’s where the Ironman Village was set up… Either way, it’s a very pretty lake with lovely walking paths and parks all along the shore. This spot works for both sunrise and sunset, as the sun lights up the river both morning and evening. Pick any point along the lake to grab a bench or picnic table, or stroll along the waterfront pathways and pedestrian bridges!
Desert Botanical Garden
- Address: 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, AZ 85008 (Adjacent to Tempe)
- Known for: A magical place to experience the sunset in the serene beauty of the desert flora, with the soft evening light creating a unique atmosphere.
The Desert Botanical Garden is a must visit at any time of day, but if you can get there for sunset, you’re in for an extra special treat. The cacti at golden hour are truly a sight to be seen! And the red mountains in the background look stunning as they glow with the fading sun. Plus, after dark, there are twinkle lights throughout the garden that make it feel completely magical!
Note: This is the only spot on the list that doesn’t really work for sunrise, since it doesn’t open until 8am.
Rio Salado Pathway
- Address: Multiple access points along the Rio Salado Pathway.
- Known for: This scenic pathway along the Salt River offers a picturesque route for biking, walking, and running. It’s known for its tranquil setting, connecting visitors to nature within the heart of the city.
This pathway runs along the Salt River, and is the ideal spot to go for an uninterrupted run or ride (see, no cars!). The pathway runs through the Tempe Beach Park, and continues in both directions. If you’re looking for a peaceful place to get in a morning or evening stroll, run, or roll… this is my top pick!
And that’s a wrap! I’m sure there are many other stunning sunrise/sunset viewpoints throughout the city, but these are the ones I was lucky enough to get to experience. If you’re in Tempe and looking for things to do or places to eat, check out my other Tempe posts here: Total Tempe Travel Guide & Where to Eat in Tempe.
And for the full trip experience, check out my YouTube vlog from the long weekend:
*Kinda sponsored: I was hired by the Tempe Tourism Office to create an Instagram Reel with highlights from my trip. So while this post is not sponsored, a portion of the trip was covered by the office.