If you live in the Phoenix metro area, you’ll see these terms used regularly, literally hundreds if not thousands of times a year. But the general public doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of what constitutes the Valley of the Sun, East Valley, West Valley and Simply “The Valley”. Here’s the scoop; let’s take a close look at a map of Phoenix and the surrounding cities and towns that make up the Metro area. You can clearly see the mountains surrounding The Valley in the pic below!
The Valley of the Sun Defined
The Phoenix Valley measures about 50 miles West to East, by 40 miles North to South, and encompasses approximately 2,000 square miles. Phoenix is the 6th largest city in the US and the metropolitan area is estimated to be about 5 million.
The Phoenix Metro area is known by the people of Arizona as “The Valley of the Sun,” or simply, “The Valley,” since it sits in a very large flat valley with mountain ranges on all sides. This Valley is Sunny pretty much year around; thus, “The Valley of the Sun”! Phoenix’s NBA team is known as “The Phoenix Suns” because it’s home is in The Valley of the Sun.
Phoenix Metro Mountain Ranges that form “The Valley”
- West side of the Valley is the White Tank Mountains. The summits of this range are mainly above 3,000 feet.
- South border is comprised of three mountain ranges.
- The Sierra Estrella Mountains dominate the Phoenix skyline on the East side of this south border. These mountains are often the backdrop of many postcards of downtown Phoenix. They have the most predominance over Phoenix than any of the other mountains. They sit at the base of the Gila river basin, which is the lowest point of Phoenix. Their peaks rise over 3,200 feet.
- South Mountain occupies the center of the South border.
- Santan Mountains are south of Gilbert and Queen Creek on the East side of the valleys southern border. It’s high point is 3,104 feet.
- East are the famous Superstition Mountains. These mountains east of Apache Junction form the eastern edge of the Phoenix Metro Valley. The view of these mountains from Mesa and Apache Junction are spectacular. The history and lore of these mountains and the “Lost Dutchman Gold Mine” are known the world over. The Superstition Peak summit is 5,057 feet and is the highest point surrounding the Phoenix valley.
- North boundary has several Mountain ranges:
- Goldfield Mountains are a small jagged range North of Mesa and Apache Junction. These summits are mainly between 2,000-3,400 feet.
- Usery Mountains are a small group of mountains between the Goldfield Mountains and the McDowell’s, North of Mesa and east of Scottsdale. The high point is 2,959 feet.
- McDowell Mountains form the Northeastern boundary of Scottsdale and are North of Mesa. On the east side of the mountains lies the city of Fountain Hills. These summits are typically between 3,900 –4,060 feet.
- New River Mountains are North of Carefree and Cave Creek continuing West along the North valley boundary.
- Hieroglyphic Mountains; Lake Pleasant is located here and this mountain range anchors the Northwest Corner of the Valley.
Where Is the East Valley?
That definition varies, but we define the East Valley as those cities and towns in Maricopa County that are south and east of Phoenix and Scottsdale. These include:
- Apache Junction
- San Tan Valley
- Queen Creek
We do not include Scottsdale in any definition of the East Valley. Yes, it is east of Phoenix. Still, like Phoenix, Scottsdale is centrally located and is most commonly mentioned on its own.
Where Is the West Valley?
We include all the cities and towns that are west of Phoenix. Those include:
- El Mirage
- Litchfield Park
Although they are not cities or towns, we include Sun City, Sun City West, and Sun City Grand in West Valley.
What About Phoenix?
The City of Phoenix is well-defined, but there are a few communities that are usually included in discussions of Phoenix. The original Anthem is not a city or a town. It is a large community north of Phoenix that started as a planned community. Cave Creek is also in the northern part of town, and it is often associated with Phoenix. The two even share some zip codes. Some people prefer to associate Paradise Valley with Scottsdale, probably because both are considered affluent areas. Geographically, Paradise Valley is probably more closely aligned with Phoenix.
What About Scottsdale?
Again, the city of Scottsdale is well-defined. Geographically, it runs all along the eastern border of Phoenix and is over 30 miles long. Most people include Carefree with Scottsdale, although Cave Creek and Carefree are sister communities that are both in the northeastern part of the metro area. They associate Fountain Hills with Scottsdale as well.
How Do You Define Greater Phoenix?
There is no official designation known as Greater Phoenix. The Phoenix Metropolitan Area, commonly known as the Valley of the Sun, the Salt River Valley, or Metro Phoenix, is the metropolitan area anchored by the city of Phoenix and surrounded by most of the central portion of the state of Arizona. The United States Census Bureau designates the area as the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes Maricopa and Pinal counties.
The informal designations Greater Phoenix and Metro Phoenix refer to the places where most people around the Phoenix-centered region live, work, go to school, and play. This means that in everyday usage, these terms usually also comprise Native American lands, Gold Canyon, Superior, Florence, Maricopa, and Casa Grande since they are geographically very close to but not necessarily in Maricopa County, but neighboring Pinal County.