Are you looking for a challenge? Winter is a perfect time to visit Picacho Peak State Park and tackle the Hunter Trail that ascends to the summit of the peak.

This two-mile trail offers stunning views of the Sonoran Desert. The route is steep and twisting, with steel cables (gloves are recommended) anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare.

Want a challenge closer to Phoenix? Then head to Lost Dutchman State Park  in Apache Junction.

Join in on a ranger-led moonlight hike on December 19 from 7 to 9 p.m. The Superstition Explorer Hiking Series continues in December with hikes on December 1, 8, 15 and 22. Visit the park’s website for hike details.

On December 11, the park’s Saturday Family Program will be a Star Party hosted by the Superstition Mountain Astronomical League. This event starts at dusk (around 6:30 p.m.).

Select parks are offering a winter camping special: Stay seven nights for the cost of five! The offer is good for December at the following two parks:

•    Cattail Cove State Park south of Lake Havasu, which has a beach, boat ramp, fantastic views and 61 campsites

•    Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area in Show Low, which offers camping among 100-foot pine trees beside a quiet lake

December brings festive decorations to three State Historic Parks.

•    From December 11 to January 2, visit Fort Verde State Historic Park  in Camp Verde for a Victorian holiday. Come see the homes at the fort decorated in a Victorian Christmas fashion and join the holiday festivities. On December 17 and 18 enjoy a Candlelight Tour of the historic homes along Officer’s Row.

•    Tour the festively decorated Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff. Your tour guide will lead you through a pristine arts & crafts style home filled with original artifacts, handcrafted furniture and personal mementos of the Riordan families. The impressive home contains an exceptional collection of Craftsman furnishings with appointments by Edison, Stickley, Ellis and Steinway. Tours begin daily at 10 a.m.

•    At Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park in Yuma enjoy the Christmas Village and an ice skating rink December 10–30 (closed December 24–25). The Christmas Village will debut following the 2010 Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade.

KACA_cave.pngAnd a fantastic underground adventure awaits you at Kartchner Caverns State Park in Benson. Experience a stunning limestone cave in Southeastern Arizona that boasts world-class features.

This “live” cave, discovered in 1974, is host to a wide variety of unique minerals and formations. Water percolates from the surface and calcite formations continue to grow, including stalactites dripping down like icicles and giant stalagmites reaching up from the ground. Tour guides will unveil this fascinating underground landscape during a memorable 1½-hour tour. Call (520) 586-2283 for cave tour tickets.

To learn more about all of Arizona’s state parks, get driving directions or watch introductory videos, visit AZStateParks.com.

(Brought to you by Arizona State Parks.)