Every dog has its day on Phoenix hiking tours
Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • October 09, 2021
Laurel Darren, owner of the Wild Bunch Desert Guides, pauses during a hike to pose for a selfie with one of her two Plott Hounds, Waylon, with a picturesque backdrop behind them.
“I did two guided trips with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides and give them the highest possible recommendation. Friendly, personal, safety conscious yet tons of fun, great equipment, everything provided, red-carpet treatment. Can't wait to come back and tour again with the Wild Bunch!” – Monica, Boston, Mass., on Tripadvisor, Jan. 2020
For Major League Baseball players, the so-called “Dog Days” come in the withering heat of a seemingly endless August.
But this canine-loving Phoenix adventure tours owner has a bone to pick with that notion.
For visitors to the Valley of the Sun, any day during the cooler temperatures of late fall, winter and spring work much better as real “Dog Days” to have your pup join you on guided hiking tours in Phoenix & Scottsdale.
My boyfriend Brett and I hike our dogs 2-3 times per week early in the morning from Oct. 1-June 1 before I start work at my Wild Bunch Desert Guides.
We live about a mile away from the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, so that is a popular destination for us to hike with our two Plott Hounds, Daisy Mae and Waylon.
Daisy Mae has been hiking with me for six years, so she has done every trail imaginable in the Phoenix area.
Waylon is just reaching the age where he can manage more than the usual walk around the block, so he has begun to join in the fun.
Whether at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve or McDowell Sonoran Preserve, hiking is great exercise for all of us.
For me, the experience is especially gratifying and fascinating when the instincts of my dogs kick in and they begin working together when they pick up a scent or get on a track.
I know I have one of the craziest breeds ever – and they require a lot of exercise to remain in tip-top shape physically and mentally.
But I certainly understand the desire by other dog lovers of all shapes and sizes to bring their best friends with them on one of the Wild Bunch’s Phoenix hiking tours.
The great news? Your dog is more than welcome to join your guided adventure!
However, while there is no extra charge for having the pooch at your side, there are a few dogged details to know so you and Fido are not chasing your tails.
Daisy Mae, the oldest of Laurel Darren's two Plott Hounds, takes a moment to peer through a rock formation with her owner at one of the trademark Southwestern vistas seen on Phoenix hiking tours.
Dog friendly hikes Phoenix – Rule No. 1
First and foremost, Arizona follows a strict leash law. Unless in an enclosed yard or designated dog park, Rover must be on a leash “not more than six feet long” at all times.
And yes, this includes the wide-open spaces of the Sonoran Desert and the many hiking trails in the Phoenix area.
The concept is the same as the Wild Bunch requiring all human guests to remain on the trails for their own safety during Phoenix adventure tours.
The law to keep dogs on a leash even during hikes cuts down on incidents with both Rattlesnakes and Cactus.
Dog owners want to keep their pets out of harm’s way, so I am always making sure to keep Daisy Mae and Waylon under control and in close proximity on hikes.
And even then, they are Plott Hounds, so their noses are constantly on the ground during hikes.
I cannot tell you how many times either of them has turned around to look at me with Cactus needles sticking out of their noses while not even offering a whimper.
But my dogs are locals – so they are familiar to that peril now. Imagine the painful surprise for visitors and their pets, particularly a less sturdy breed, when Cactus needles get in their nose or paws.
There have been numerous times when me or my guides have been on tour -- or on our own personal time -- and stopped to try and assist a tourist with their dog after meeting a Cactus.
That is something people fail to think about when they visit the desert, and it can be difficult to deal with because the dog is under stress and sometimes hard to manage while in a lot of pain.
What do you do if your dog is freaking out?
This is where hiring the Wild Bunch Desert Guides becomes priceless by helping keep you and your dog stay safe during guided Phoenix hiking tours.
But if there is a run-in with a Cactus – the Wild Bunch carries Tweezers and has the experience to deal with that challenge.
God forbid if there is ever any trouble with a Rattlesnake – but the Wild Bunch also has the medical training and real-world experience to manage that calamity, too.
Not often do we incur snakes on the trails, but it can happen, so we have to prepare our guests for that possibility.
Daisy Mae takes a drink from a water bottle during a break with her best pal Laurel Darren during a dog hike in Phoenix. Keeping your pooch hydrated is
a challenge during Phoenix hiking tours because of the Arizona heat.
Dog friendly hikes Phoenix – Rule No. 2
Another local law to follow is the Phoenix ordinance against hiking dogs in temperatures hotter than 100 degrees.
In fact, if you are caught committing this Class One Misdemeanor by a park ranger, you are facing the same penalty for breaking the leash law -- a $2,500 fine and six-month jail term -- because hiking dogs in the extreme heat is considered animal cruelty.
More than likely in October, 100-degree temps are not a worry, but personally, I prevent my dogs from hiking if it is 90 degrees or warmer.
So that is the cutoff for the Wild Bunch Desert Guides, too.
Phoenix hiking tours with pooches are not allowed in 90 or better heat because we do not want to turn your four-legged friend into a hot dog.
Daisy Mae, left, and her owner Laurel Darren, enjoy a quiet moment of reflection surrounded by nature during the early-morning quiet of a Phoenix dog hike.
Dog friendly hikes Phoenix – Rule No. 3
There is a saying that the City of Scottsdale uses in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve – “There is no Poop Fairy.”
So be prepared to clean up after your dog. Hiking etiquette and proper pet ownership demands performing this simple task.
Locals carry bags and the city hands out clips to put on your leash, so that way you are scooping, putting the waste in a bag, and bringing it back to the trailhead for proper disposal.
Some people do leave the bags along the trails, and sometimes I do pick them up on the way back if I am hiking with my dogs to make sure everything remains nice for everyone.
There are many other good stewards of the hiking trails, but remember, your mom does not work here! So, be a good visitor and pick up after yourself and your dog!
A gorgeous Arizona sunrise is among the fringe benefits of hiking early in the morning with your dog in Phoenix. The cooler temperatures are a bonus for our furry friends, too.
Dog friendly hikes Phoenix – Rule No. 4
Stay away from the three most popular Phoenix hiking tourist attractions because dogs are not allowed on:
Service Dogs are permitted on Camelback, but even then, I still would recommend against hiking either the Echo or Cholla Trails.
- Camelback Mountain
- Pinnacle Peak
- Piestewa Peak
The three iconic challenges listed simply are not for everyone. Nor are they dog-friendly because they feature steep terrain, single-file ascents, and dangerous descents requiring handrails.
I know if my Plott Hounds see anything moving – because they are air-scent tracking dogs – they would pull me hard in the direction of a moving squirrel or a flying bird or a Chuckwalla lizard darting in the rocks.
And that could be a dangerous proposition for me or anyone around me, whether ascending or descending or standing on the summit of any of those landmarks.
Plus, considering the number of people doing those hikes daily, mixing dogs with that large of a crowd is never a great combination.
Dogs are just like people – they do not like everyone or even every other dog. So, there is too much of a chance of something bad happening.
The cities are smart to set aside these trails as human-only.
Besides, there are tons of dog-friendly hikes in the Valley of the Sun.
Waylon scans the vast natural beauty of the Valley of the Sun. Phoenix & Scottsdale is among the top areas in the country for hiking, with hundreds of miles of dog-friendly trails to offer visitors and their pooches.
Dog friendly hikes Phoenix – Steps to success
I know from experience that travelling with your pets is extremely hard. There are all sorts of challenges and restrictions to navigate – from lodging to flights.
But the “Ruffest Stuff” is over once you and Fido are in the Valley of the Sun.
Here is a simple step-by-step guide for visitors considering a hike with their dog in Phoenix & Scottsdale.
Some dogs are not hiking breeds – they are more house pets you let roam in a fenced back yard.
Both my dogs are hunting dogs, so hiking is right up their alley. We also have them snake trained, so they know what to do if they encounter a Rattlesnake.
Arizona tourists normally will not have that same sort of training for their pet, so they need to be able to keep the dog under control and out of trouble.
Hiking with your dog in Phoenix can be a wonderful experience for the dog and dog lover – but it can also be extremely demanding for the pet owner.
Guests are responsible for overseeing their dog and making sure the pooch is well behaved. The owner assumes all the risks of having the dog along on the hike.
And let us just keep it to dogs for now. No cats or other pets. Hiking with dogs is a natural activity. Hiking with a fish? As they would say in The Sopranos – FOHHHGETTABOUTIT!
If you plan to bring your dog on one of our Phoenix hiking tours, definitely call or email to let us know. Fido is free of charge, but we need discuss the many options and tailor the experience to you and your pooch during our personalized booking process.
- STEP TWO: Once decided, call or book online with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.
As a small mom-and-pop shop, the Wild Bunch is all about homespun hospitality and paying close attention to your every need.
We are not one of those big box stores offering the same cookie-cutter experience to everyone. Nor are you piled into a bus for a tour that reminds you more of a can of sardines.
Instead, the Wild Bunch follows up before every one of our Phoenix adventure tours to ensure the trail selection and every other detail perfectly matches your wishes.
Hiking with your four-legged friend also can be a great, economical option for those travelers that find their Airbnb’s or hotels have rules against leaving pets behind in their rooms.
Whether your dog is accompanying you alone, or your family, or travel group, I will highly recommend hiking early in the morning and choosing a 90-minute option.
- STEP THREE: Listen to your hired experts as we guide you through a totally private experience.
I often hike longer with my dogs – but not much longer – so I consider our 3 ½-hour options a little long for our four-legged friends, especially those visiting from out-of-town and thus unfamiliar with both the terrain and the climate.
I know as a small business owner – with making money the goal -- that may not be smart for my bottom line to admit. But I am brutally honest and completely transparent with my guests – and 90 minutes is clearly enough time for a good hike for you and your dog.
As mentioned, Arizona’s “dry heat” is a worry. The temperature law is on the books because dogs get dehydrated faster and more easily than humans.
Dogs also were dropping at an alarming rate in the extreme heat on the big tourist attractions a few years ago – which is another reason for the law and the ban on dogs on those trails.
I also advise against hiking dogs later in the day because rocks retain the sun’s heat and get too hot for their paws.
The Wild Bunch’s morning start times for Phoenix adventure tours is 8:30 a.m.
However, you can definitely request to go even earlier, and that is likely preferable if a dog is included on your hike. Just do not ask to go later in the morning – even at 9 a.m., for instance – because that is not an option.
The one restriction to Phoenix hiking tours that include dogs: We do not provide transportation in that circumstance. That is a meet-at-the-trail-only hiking option.
This is a Wild Bunch requirement because Arizona law mandates residents to license their dogs and have regularly updated rabies shots.
So, in case there is a dog-biting incident at the trail involving your furry friend, you will want to have this information handy to avoid any legal problems or entanglements with local animal control officials.
After all, this is why you hired the Wild Bunch Desert Guides in the first place.
- STEP FIVE: Except for bringing a leash for your dog – and proper hiking clothing for yourself -- leave all the other details to us.
Water? We always haul along plenty of agua for our guests – and that includes your dog – although we also never turn down anybody willing to carry along their own extra water.
Wild Bunch also can provide a clean and sanitized collapsible bowl upon request for your dog’s water dish on the trail.
Guests should bring along any special treats they normally feed to their dog beyond the Milk-Bone our guide will carry for break time.
Tweezers? Yeah, we have that in case there are any incidents with a Cactus.
Our guides also carry First-Aid Kits as well as the waste bags to clean up behind your dog – just know that is your task, not the guides’ job (ha).
In all seriousness, that might be the toughest duty when hiking with dogs in Phoenix & Scottsdale.
That is why it is so dog-gone smart to go out with a Wild Bunch guide that is fully prepared and knows the lay of the land.
Our guides have everything needed and know how to troubleshoot any problems. The Wild Bunch Desert Guides is your security blanket for any challenges that might dog you and your furry friend on an otherwise unforgettable Phoenix hiking adventure.
About the Author
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