Labor Day Means Back To School Fun... For Parents - Scottsdale Hiking Tours

Labor Day Means Back To School Fun... For Parents - Scottsdale Hiking Tours

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • August 31, 2021

“Based on good reviews here, I signed up for a half day hike with Wild Bunch Desert Guides. Signup was easy on their website and Laurel, the owner, reached out quickly to confirm and to chat about what kind of experience we were looking for. They will cater to your needs and interests. Met our guide Matt at the trailhead. He was a great guide -- knowledgeable, personable and easy to talk with. All important traits especially as we were together for almost four hours. Learned a lot about the desert, the vegetation, animals, etc. Plus got in a bit of exercise. I recommend and would utilize them again!” Att, Westwood, Mass., on Tripadvisor, Jan. 2020

A couple of hikers pause together during a Wild Bunch Desert Guides hiking tour to take a picture of one of Arizona's iconic Saguaro cactuses.
A couple of hikers pause together during a Wild Bunch Desert Guides hiking tour to take a picture of one of Arizona's iconic Saguaro

Schools are back in session nationally!

That means the children are back in a day-to-day routine. The oldest kiddos are even away in college. So, the time has FINALLY come for super-stressed moms and dads to get some alone time – and catch a quick weekend getaway on the extended Labor Day holiday weekend.

If you are planning a long weekend in Phoenix or Scottsdale, consider joining the Wild Bunch Desert Guides for guided Phoenix hiking tours.

Either adventure is part of a great couples retreat for those fresh empty nesters dropping their kids off at Arizona State University and looking for some fun on the way home.

Same for those couples and families taking advantage of the long weekend to sneak in the last blast of the summer.

Just remember some of these helpful tips for your quick trip from one of the highest rated adventure travel tour companies in the Southwest!

An interested man (left) and smiling woman (right) enjoy the unbelievably beautiful scenery of Arizona's Sonoran Desert during a recent Wild Bunch Desert Guides hike.

An interested man (left) and smiling woman (right) enjoy the unbelievably beautiful scenery of Arizona's Sonoran
Desert during a recent couples retreat on a Wild Bunch Desert Guides hike.

Tip 1 – Know yourself
You know yourself and your limits better than anybody. So, look in the mirror and be honest with yourself and know what you can – and better yet, CANNOT handle.

The biggest question often is guided Camelback Mountain hiking – because the physically-demanding challenge is not for everyone.

The iconic local landmark is a bucket list adventure for many that frequent Phoenix, and a tourist-trap attraction for all visitors to the Valley of the Sun.

However, Camelback is off our menu of options until after Oct. 1, for reasons discussed in this previous blog.

In general, guided Phoenix hiking tours are definitely the most popular activity because literally anyone can enjoy the fun.

Even if you are wheelchair-bound, there are trails we can take you on to enjoy the Sonoran Desert.

Hiking is a stroll (or roll) anyone can do – and it comes complete with some unbelievable scenery and surroundings to make for a once-in-a-lifetime memory.

Decide between a 90-minute or 3-½ hour hike to meet your sightseeing desires, workout wishes, and time demands.

However, if you are in great shape and really want a good workout and go out and rip – do the half-day tour of 3-1/2 hours.

Typically, Wild Bunch suggests, if you are flying in on say Friday for that weekend, you take a day to get acclimated to the conditions before going out on a Sonoran Desert adventure with us.

Most people coming to Phoenix for the holiday weekend want to go out on the actual holiday on Monday to experience a hike or mountain bike tour.

However, Wild Bunch does already have some bookings of Labor Day Monday, so guests may need to consider another morning earlier in the weekend.

The bottom line at this time of year? Get out early, get it done and get back to your resort or family for more fun – including traditional Labor Day Weekend celebrations such as picnics or cookouts.

A hiking group makes its way up a scenic hill during a Wild Bunch Desert Guides outing. The leader of the pack (orange hat) peeks over his shoulder to admire the view and spies the last two hikers pausing to take a picture with the sweeping landscape behind them. A hiking group makes its way up a scenic hill during a Wild Bunch Desert Guides outing. The leader of the pack (red hat) peers over his shoulder to take in the view, and spies the last two hikers in the group pausing to take a picture with the sweeping landscape behind them.
Tip 2 – Know the surroundings
A friend of mine likes to tell the tales of taking his entire family to Disney World one year – his mom and dad, and siblings and spouses and all their kids.

They are Disney veterans, so they cagily decided to go in early January – after the avalanche of holiday visitors – knowing that is a laidback time to visit the Magic Kingdom.

Or so they thought – until they got there and discovered longer lines than they had ever seen.

Asking around, they learned the extended Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend is a “run-to-Disney” getaway for anyone living in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.   

Labor Day Weekend in Phoenix is similar with guests flooding to the Southwest.

The weather here is nice enough for you to go swimming at your resort literally around the clock. Drinks with umbrellas by the pool are certainly popular. Outdoor adventures are the locale’s natural amusement park.

Along with Wild Bunch Desert Guides, there are countless other companies offering adventure tours of all kinds.

Grand Canyon or Sedona trips with Detours American West are popular. But just know – on Labor Day Weekend, everything like that will be super busy. It is like the new ride at the amusement park – everybody’s going. So, prepare for the lines and the crowds.

A little more off the beaten path, if you want to do something on four wheels and avoid human-powered activities, I always recommend Stellar Adventures and their ATVs and other off-trail, all-terrain vehicles. We always give them a shout out.

Hot Air balloons soaring over the Sonoran Desert are really cool, too.

Either Hot Air Expeditions or Rainbow Riders is a great choice. But check to see if they are doing morning or evening flights at this time of the year, because they do often switch times.

If you are into horseback riding, Windwalker Expeditions is super cool. I am sure they are still going out in the early morning, too, like most of the Arizona adventure tour industry.

Rock climbing and canyoneering with 360 Adventures is really cool to do – especially when it is hot to get into those canyons to get cooled down really quick for relief from the heat.

A word to the wise, though: Wild Bunch has Labor Day Weekend availabilities for completely private and customized tours. But as a small mom-and-pop specialty shop, Wild Bunch can quickly reach their limits, so if considering a visit, make sure to book ASAP as spots get gobbled up fast.
A large family gathering included a Wild Bunch Desert Guides hike along this winding trail for these Phoenix visitors.
A large family gathering included a Wild Bunch Desert Guides hike along this winding trail for these Phoenix visitors.

Top 3 – Know the climate
Labor Day Weekend still can be dangerously hot in Arizona.

So, remember, Wild Bunch Desert Guides is like everybody else in the Arizona adventure tour industry by limiting outings to early-morning times to keep guests safe.

A quick reminder of the importance of those early morning starts comes from last Labor Day’s local news coverage, when there were a rash of rescues on Camelback Mountain for under-prepared and unguided hikers.

The temperatures in Phoenix do not start cooling down until the end of September and the beginning of October, which is why Wild Bunch keeps our summer start times really strict from June 1 to Oct. 1.

I might make some exceptions at the end of September for some sunset adventures. However, the rule of thumb in my world, if it is over 100 degrees at the start of the tour, it simply is not safe.

Guests need to realize – especially with a small mom-and-pop specialty shop like Wild Bunch  – we are always looking out for the best interests of our guests.

We are not herding cattle and protected by sheer volume like some operators.

We cannot afford to have bad outcomes.

We want to give guests the best experiences and so we need to keep our guests safe.

I also want to keep my guides safe, too, because they are my family and my livelihood.

Our guests should trust that when we ask them to do a 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. start, we are not trying to ruin anyone’s vacation.

Nor are we trying to be jerks in making you wake up early.

We are not trying to be difficult because you have children.

We are simply trying to keep you and your family safe.

We are sincerely looking out for your safety.

You do not want to be out in the desert late in the morning or, heaven for bid, sometime in the afternoon. .

You do not want to get severely dehydrated and have to deal with the consequences – like heat illnesses or needing a helicopter rescue.

Wild Bunch Desert Guides does not want your entire vacation ruined – and neither should you.

Once you have been severely dehydrated, you are susceptible to suffering that condition again and again and again.

So, when guests get upset or question me about needing to get up so early – it is because I am trying to keep you safe AND show you the best time during a once-in-a-lifetime memorable experience.

When I was guiding at another company prior to founding the Wild Bunch, I was out there when someone had extreme dehydration and it is not fun as a guide to be put in a dangerous scenario like that.

As the owner of the company now, I have vowed to never ever put my guides and my guests in that situation. I want to keep everybody out of danger, so I am extra careful, overly cautious and forever looking out for everybody’s best interests.


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 or call 602-663-0842.


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We go mountain biking in Arizona every year. There are two things we look for -- a challenging trail appropriate for our family, and an amazing guide. Laurel is an amazing guide we have worked with previously, and we couldn't have been more excited to support this business she is growing. Why was this excellent? We had full trust that she would pick a trail that fits us (started at Tom's Thumb and ended 21 miles later back at Tom's Thumb), and she knows when to push us and when to dial it back. Laurel has an amazing energy and positivity to her that's infectious. She works incredibly well with our son, who mountain bikes in middle school, challenging him appropriately, while also not letting those a little less fit (me) get too far behind. The bikes were fantastic, she had everything we would need for a fun day. It made it an incredible end-to-end experience and we will definitely see her again when we return to Arizona. I think you'll find Wild Bunch unique in the sense that if you are a hard-core mountain biker, you'll be challenged … if you are middle-of-the-road amateurs like us, you will be challenged and have fun, and even if you are somewhat of a beginner, you'll find that Wild Bunch can adjust to what's right for you and show you a great time!

- Wilson D.

I recently had foot surgery and am still recovering but wanted to do a hike with my daughter on our visit to Arizona. We had the great joy of hiking with (Wild Bunch Desert Guides) on a 2½-hour hike through the Sonoran Desert. Not only was our guide understanding of my slow pace and incredibly accommodating, he also is an incredibly intelligent young man. As people from the East Coast, my daughter and I really didn’t know much about the local landscapes, so we loved learning throughout our hike. … Our guide also was very respectful of the ongoing pandemic and ensured that he wore his face mask throughout our hike, provided us with hand sanitizer, and maintained the appropriate distance. We really cannot say enough wonderful things about him and the experience he gave us. We can’t wait to come back to Arizona and book with Wild Bunch again!

- Donna A.

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