Avoid Phoenix hiking tours last-minute challenges

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • April 04, 2023

“My 7-year old daughter & I went on a guided hike and mountain bike ride with Don. He was a wealth of information and took some amazing pictures of us and of the desert. Our safety was his priority and he spent plenty of time teaching my daughter how to ride a mountain bike over uneven ground before he let us take off for the real ride. He is an excellent coach! Laurel and Don also worked with us on the timing of both adventures, as the weather forecast threatened our plans. My daughter and I really enjoyed both experiences and created some amazing memories during our trip to the Scottsdale area thanks to Laurel and Don!” Evelina D, McLean, Va., March 2023 on TripAdvisor


A picture taken by Evelina (see above testimonial) shows her 7-year-old daughter taking in the vastness and wild beauty of the Sonoran Desert during a 2023 Phoenix hiking tour with the Wild Bunch. (TOP) A picture taken by Evelina (see above testimonial) shows her 7-year-old daughter taking in the vastness and wild beauty of the Sonoran Desert during a March 2023 Phoenix hiking tour with the Wild Bunch. (COVER) A group of eight friends celebrate seeing the breathtaking beauty below their perch on a Wild Bunch hiking tour in the Phoenix area.
 

A year ago this April, most everybody in the Phoenix adventure tours industry was looking forward to a much-needed break on Easter Sunday.

The reason? From New Year’s Eve to the annual Easter Egg hunts, there was little free time in between.
No one could remember a busier tourism season in Arizona than in 2022.

Amazingly, 2023 has been just as memorable but for other reasons.

Tourists still have flocked to the Valley of the Sun – especially with the addition of hosting the Super Bowl to the local events calendar in February.

But unlike a year ago, the only flood of bookings have been of the last-minute variety.

I picked up no fewer than a dozen calls a few mornings ago seeing if my Wild Bunch Desert Guides could squeeze in same-day guided Phoenix hiking tours or guided Phoenix mountain bike tours.

And my small mom-and-pop shop is hardly alone in experiencing the often-frustrating challenge of a last-minute rush job.

Without knowing guests are coming in advance, the only thing I can do is to check and see if any of my guides are free of any personal or other work plans.

And if they are – say they can take a tour at 3 p.m. after they get off another job – will the guests be able to make that?

The push-pull often does not work out – and that is disappointing because Wild Bunch is built to show guests an unforgettably great time, as well as reveal the unbelievable beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

With a variety of cactus along the trail, a wife and husband enjoy a Phoenix mountain bike adventure together with the Wild Bunch.
With a variety of cactus along the trail, a wife and husband enjoy a Phoenix mountain bike adventure together with the Wild Bunch.

 
Phoenix hiking tours at the last minute
I believe there are many reasons conspiring together right now on this last-minute phenomenon. Here are my thoughts:
  • Because of rising inflation over the last year, visitors have a tighter budget for their vacations and getaways – and thus are spending less on the extras. The Arizona hotel industry has contributed to this problem by increasing their rates to pass along rising costs to their customers.
  • Also prominent in the news this year: Airlines have had their problems delivering passengers. The delays and cancellations have made visitors reluctant to book Phoenix adventure tours in advance – and who can blame them in trying to avoid challenging 48-hour cancellation policies for activities. The Wild Bunch Desert Guides always recommends guests avoid trying to enjoy Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain bike tours within 12 hours of arrival. And this is one of the reasons for waiting until after getting settled. But this year has been especially crazy.
  • Despite the increasing costs of guest accommodation, visitors are not cutting their trips shorter – but they are looking for bargains and discounts. And I don’t blame them. But I already believe the Wild Bunch is a great bargain for the service provided – customizable adventures geared to your skills, fitness levels and special needs; completely private to you and your family or travel party; and certified safe with medically-trained guides leading the way. My small mom-and-pop specialty shop also has not jacked up our rates – and I am determined not to devalue my business because we are holding the line on costs.
  • The weather has been crazy enough so far in 2023 to throw a regular monkey wrench into plans, too. Arizona has never seen this much rain – and the storms regularly rolling through the region have made many trail adventures unsafe – which has led to late cancellations of popular tours to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff and Sedona. Hot Air Balloon rides over the desert also have been grounded at the last minute by rain or high winds.
When those other Phoenix adventure tours are unable to go, the Wild Bunch receives a number of late calls from guests looking for something else to do.

While we appreciate the referrals and recommendations, many times we are shut down as well by the weather conditions.

Otherwise, if the trails we use are safe, we do look for a window of opportunity when the weather cooperates – but that requires a lot of flexibility by both the guides and guests to find a time that will work for everybody.

And even when we are up and running, the large number of overcast days has led many to call and attempt to cancel -- no joke -- because this is not the usual sunny Arizona weather they were expecting for their activity of choice.

So, we can’t seem to win either way right now.

And all of these factors make the schedule insanely unpredictable for a business that depends on the advance availability of independent contractors who pair their passion for adventure guiding with a “real-life” career.

I never know now what to tell my beleaguered guides.

This week? We're slammed. Last week? Not so much. Next week? Too early to tell.

And another confounding question: When did spring break become the last week of March?

A Phoenix mountain bike tours participant rides over a rough patch on the trail during an adventure with the Wild Bunch.

A Phoenix mountain bike tours participant rides over a rough patch on the trail during an adventure with the Wild Bunch.
 

Same-day solutions for Phoenix hiking tours
I find myself offering guides extra money as an incentive for breaking personal plans or taking personal time at work to serve potential guests for late requests.

However, that is not a fail-safe option.

The best I can do when I get a same-day request at say 9 a.m. to go on Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours?

I contact all my guides to see if anyone is available. And my rule of thumb is to let the guide pick the time they are available to fulfill the last-minute request – because without them, there is no tour.

Most guests are thankful just to get a Phoenix adventure tours time later in the day.

However, every once in a while, there are guests that think it unreasonable for a guide to set the time. But that is the absolute best we can do – so when making a same-day or late request, please understand this fact and be flexible.

Much better is the tip to book activities as far in advance as possible.

But if you find yourself needing to make a last-minute or same-day request – certainly please call – just know that you may not get exactly what you want -- or anything at all.

However, whatever you do get, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides will do our absolute best to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime experience full of memorable vacation photos for you and yours.


With guests in the background, Wild Bunch Desert Guides founder & owner Laurel Darren smiles proudly during another one of the successful Phoenix hiking tours from her boutique business.With guests in the background, Wild Bunch Desert Guides founder & owner Laurel Darren smiles proudly during another one of the successful Phoenix hiking tours from her boutique business.

About the Author

Laurel Darren is the founding owner of the Wild Bunch Desert Guides, a 5-star rated adventure tour company that offers guided hiking tours and guided mountain biking tours in Arizona’s picturesque Sonoran Desert in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Arriving in the legendary “Valley of the Sun” in 2012 -- from the home of John Deere in the Quad Cities of Eastern Iowa/Western Illinois -- this corn-fed Midwest girl brought 30 years of athletic chops under her chaps. A 3-sport high school standout and former college softball player – who won her conference’s Athlete of the Year award as a prep senior – Darren has graduated to competing in many races as an adult, from road running and cycling, to cyclo-cross and Mountain Bikes, and even Duathlon and Triathlon “Ironman” competitions. Darren was a popular, top-rated senior mountain bike guide at Arizona’s Outback Adventures before branching out to start her own small adventure business in 2016. To book a guided mountain bike tour or guided hiking trip – or a combination of the two adventures – please visit the home page www.wildbunchdesertguides.com or call 602-663-0842.



 

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