At first glance, unincorporated Maricopa seems to be nothing more than dirt, mountains and tumbleweeds. But as you explore the sprawling, rural desert communities called Hidden Valley and Thunderbird Farms — areas that still claim a Maricopa address — you might just find a few hidden gems.

Here are some interesting things to do and see in unincorporated Maricopa, rich in history, entertainment value and whimsy.

A home shaped like a pyramid in the desert. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
A home shaped like a pyramid in the desert. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
PYRAMID SCHEME
2457 S. Warren Road

No, this eccentric Hidden Valley home doesn’t contain a deceased pharaoh.

Step into this pyramid-shaped property and watch the ground-level foyer quickly give way to a subterranean spruce-wood interior resembling the upstate chalets of Flagstaff. Almost all its 20 windows are cut or stained glass.

The home’s original owners started building the pyramid in 1989 and became residents in 1992. Once listed at $1.1 million, it was relisted in 2012 for $295,000. After more than a year on the market, it was sold at that price on New Year’s Eve in 2013.

Petroglyphs on rocks in Hidden Valley, on the side of Hidden Valley Road.
Petroglyphs in Hidden Valley. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
ROCK ART
Northwest corner of West Fulcar Road and North Hidden Valley Road
Did you know Maricopa is home to 1,000-year-old petroglyphs?

About 200 Hohokam petroglyphs are etched into a pile of boulders at the base of a mountain range on a stretch of road just outside city limits.

If you decide to visit the site, be respectful of the petroglyphs and the millennium-old stories they tell.

“People would take their kids to the site because the petroglyphs do tell a story,” says Elaine Peters, director of the Ak-Chin Him-Dak EcoMuseum. “Whether it is hunting, spirituality or what have you, they do tell a story.”

A stunning field of sunflowers, taken June 19th, 2023. [Jenece Mordt]
SUNNY SIDE UP
Southwest corner of State Route 238 and North Ralston Road

As much as locals try to escape the heat during the dog days of summer, thousands of sunflowers relish in the sweltering desert sun just outside town.

When June rolls around, people reliably flock to a farming field on Ralston Road just south of Highway 238. After their season, the field loses its golden color for most of the year — so, like the notoriously fickle banana ripening on your windowsill, you’d better time your visit with that fleeting moment of peak-yellow glow.

Remember to respect the property owner’s rights by not entering the field, picking or cutting the flowers. Instead, park your car on the roadside, enjoy the scenery from a safe distance and capture those unforgettable photographs.

Skydive Phoenix. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
FREE FALLIN’
56580 W. Dasher Drive

Ever wanted an aerial view of Maricopa? In the western reaches of Hidden Valley, the sky’s the limit.

Skydive Phoenix gives both newcomers and experienced jumpers a place to experience the thrill of skydiving. Newcomers can also take classes to get certified in solo jumping.

Anywhere from 10 to 100 people sign up for tandem jumps daily. The facility is open every day weather allows.

Maha Ganapati Temple of Arizona [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
Maha Ganapati Temple of Arizona [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
A TASTE OF INDIA
51293 W. Teel Road

Did you know there is an ornate Hindu temple with a Maricopa address? The Maha Ganapati Temple of Arizona has been a functioning place of worship in the Thunderbird Farms area since its groundbreaking in 2007.

In 2002, the temple was first established in a double-wide trailer inside modern Maricopa city limits. The palatial structure in the desert just outside town took seven years to complete.

The temple’s exterior showcases four 26-foot-tall towers, or vimanas, decorated with deities. The interior features plenty of traditional Indian artwork on all the shrines, like a 1,400-pound granite statue of the supreme Hindu god Ganesha.

Ernie Adams stands with his creations.
Ernie Adams stands with his creations. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
MINI COOPERS
52954 W. Halfmoon Road

It’s like a classic car met a shrink ray.

The Dwarf Car Museum is the home of eight sized-down replicas that drive well, are fully-functioning and street legal. Most of them were built by 26-year Hidden Valley local Ernie Adams, the inventor of Dwarf Car Racing, now dubbed Legends Racing.

Adams determines the ratio from real to dwarf car and starts recreating. Details can never be too small.

“I got all the pictures of the dash, and the taillights, and the steering wheel, and everything I needed to make mine just like the original,” Adams says of his dwarf red 1940 Mercury Sedan.

Adams’ favorite part of building dwarf cars is the feeling of finishing a model. His creations are on display for $5 per visit.

Kristin Crocker rides her horse at Thunderbird Arena. [Raquel Hendrickson]
Kristin Crocker rides her horse at Thunderbird Arena. [Raquel Hendrickson]
BULL PEN
12365 N. Ralson Road

Roping, horseracing and bull taming — activities true to Maricopa’s Wild West cowboy identity.

Thunderbird Farms Arena is the perfect place to test your skills with other equine experts.

The Thunderbird Arena Community Council holds monthly 4D barrel racing events, where riders must guide their horses around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern without knocking any down. Fastest time wins.

Perhaps you prefer roping from horseback to racing. TACC also hosts events like breakaway practice, where you can test your roping skills and catch runaway calves.

There are even options for kiddos who want to get into the sport. Some events like Thunderbird Farms Junior Rodeo have leadline horse shows, barrel racing and pole bending.

In 2011, some Thunderbird Farms residents organized a civic action group called the Thunderbird Arena Community Council to rehabilitate the old Thunderbird Arena into what it is today.

Waterfall trailhead [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
ROCKY ROAD
South of 53538 W. Robin Road

Do you want to leave the pavement behind and test the suspension on your truck or bike?

The Stanfield and Maricopa trail is great for hiking, horseback riding and off-roading. This is a 4.7-mile loop trail with 291 feet of elevation gain.

The trail features plenty of elegant Saguaro cacti that tower over the brushy desert foliage. It’s a rocky road, so if you come in a vehicle, be prepared for bumps and uneven ground.

If you want to hike or offroad the trail, make sure you are prepared. The Arizona State Land Department requires a State Trust Land permit to enter. To obtain a permit, you can visit Land.AZ.gov or the Arizona State Land Department offices in Phoenix.

A Maltese cross near Stanfield. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
SIGN OF THE CROSS
Southeast corner of West Clayton Road and Midway Road

If you ever take an aerial trip over Maricopa — or even scroll around the area on Google Maps — you may have noticed some flat, Maltese crosses strewn across the landscape. These crosses are part of the Casa Grande Photogrammetric Test Range, according to schematics by scientist David D. Byars of the defunct U.S. Defense Mapping Agency in 1975.

The test range was established in the 1960s and used by the U.S. Air Force and NASA to test and calibrate cameras, some of which went on to be used in the Earth Resources Technology Satellites.

Aerial film, laser altimeters, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and camera systems were also tested, using this giant grid of ground-level crosses to calibrate.