Phoenix hiking best adventure for group outings

Phoenix hiking best adventure for group outings

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • June 20, 2021

“Our company hosted this non-traditional (i.e. not golf) bonding experience with important company relationships within our industry as our guests. The Wild Bunch did an outstanding job of making sure everyone had a fantastic experience and thus a positive reflection on our company. Can't recommend them highly enough. They are GREAT!!” – Gary, Newport Beach, Calif., on Tripadvisor, Nov. 2017

A group of eight hikers happily pose along the rocky terrain of another once-in-a-lifetime guided Phoenix hiking trip with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.A group of eight hikers happily pose along the rocky terrain of another once-in-a-lifetime guided Phoenix hiking trip with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.


Small companies call all the time wondering if the Wild Bunch Desert Guides take corporate groups on Phoenix adventure tours.

The simple answer is YES!

Both guided Phoenix hikes and guided Scottsdale mountain bike tours are available for groups sized larger than the usual nuclear family of four.

However, for the largest groups – anything in the double digits -- I suggest guided hiking in Phoenix.

Please allow me to explain why.

A long line of hikers makes it way along the twisting trails to experience the unforgettable Southwest scenery on another Phoenix group hike with the Wild Bunch.
A long line of hikers makes it way along the twisting trails to experience the unforgettable Southwest scenery on another Phoenix group hike with the Wild Bunch.

 
Phoenix hiking vs. mountain biking
Prior to founding the Wild Bunch Desert Guides, I worked for a now-defunct Arizona adventure tour company and always was part of a group of guides who ran the big, giant corporate events.

The company was known for being able to handle the logistical challenges of large group outings. They did a great job serving the needs of many.

However, I will never forget the day this company (and my teammates) tried to serve up a once-in-a-lifetime experience to a group of 100 mountain bike riders.

What a nightmare it was to get every single person on a bike that worked for them, much less get all the bikes physically set up and match riders to groups with similar skill-levels.

I still doubt that everyone in that group went home exhilarated like you should after a thrill ride through the Sonoran Desert.

So, when I opened my own Phoenix adventure tour company, I always wanted to keep group outings to smaller, more private groups. That means the Wild Bunch refers those bigger groups of 75 or more to other companies that can better handle the logistics for that size and scale of an outing.  

But what has happened over five years in business is the Wild Bunch has been getting more and more smaller corporate groups of between 10-30 people.

And what we have found is that in almost every instance, guided Phoenix hiking is the best option for large groups.

A Wild Bunch group of hikers stops to take a picture with the iconic Southwest scenery during a large group hike in Phoenix.

A Wild Bunch group of hikers stops to take a picture with the iconic Southwest scenery during a large group hike in Phoenix. 

 
Phoenix hiking: Group benefits
For starters: Typically, everyone in a large, diverse group can manage walking a short distance at an easy pace.

Mountain biking? The skill levels of the riders can vary too much to properly offer everyone a great time.

Hiking is truly an activity EVERYBODY can do – or at least, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides can pick a path that is appropriate for everyone, including those confined to wheelchairs. There are several handicapped-accessible trails at our disposal, so the terrain is not a preventive challenge.

There are trails suitable in both the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Phoenix Mountains Preserve where Wild Bunch can easily accommodate all guests with disabilities.

Typically, Wild Bunch takes corporate groups on a guided Phoenix hike, where there are multiple city parks to accommodate larger groups and get them out on an amazing Sonoran Desert experience.

I LOVE mountain biking, so Wild Bunch is all about getting people on mountain bikes. I love sharing the thrill of Phoenix mountain biking, especially with novices and first-timers. There is nothing better than helping strip away fears and unlocking a passion to launch a lifetime of fun.

However, hiking in a corporate scenario is much easier logistically, much more enjoyable for all participants, and much more affordable for a company’s bottom line.

A Phoenix hiking tour essentially is taking a memorable walk together in an exotic place of unforgettable beauty.

Harder on everyone is matching a wide variety of different sizes and shapes of bodies to a bike and the seat length. Harder still is matching varying skill levels to the trails and terrain challenges. One size does not fit all well when considering large group Phoenix mountain bike tours.

Most people physically can manage a Phoenix hike and Wild Bunch can easily split the groups up into novice, intermediate and advanced.
Wild Bunch Desert Guides can then tailor a hike to these three groups in the same area and sometimes on the same trail to give each guest the unique experience they are seeking.

Phoenix guided hikes also are a naturally more intimate experience than mountain biking.

Sometimes these corporate groups are arriving from different parts of the country and these people only know each other via email. So, maybe somebody from Davenport, Iowa, works with somebody in Boise, Idaho, but this might be the first time they meet each other face-to-face. It is so cool to see when they put a face to a name.

Oh, you’re Sally from California!” Listening to them talking and getting to know each other better while you are guiding them on the trail is a real treat. It is even better when you have foreign travelers – like a European meeting a co-worker from the United States. The togetherness of shared experiences and the understanding of differing backgrounds is where the best team-bonding happens.

Hiking is so much easier to get people talking like that, whereas mountain biking you are focused more on the cactus or navigating the terrain. You are not able to really talk amongst each other like you can on a hike.

When we can keep a group to say under 50, the Wild Bunch guides still are able to talk to each guest and get to know their name, too, and it is not like you are cattle being herded along a trail.

You are not cattle. You are somebody with a name and a family and a background and we want to learn about you and so do your co-workers.

Do not get me wrong: Mountain biking is a blast! But it is a more personally focused experience than a group hike where you are sharing the time, trail, and experience.

Group hiking is an especially intimate experience as seen on this Wild Bunch adventure, where friends are made while walking and talking and soaking up the scenery.

Group hiking is an especially intimate experience as seen on this Wild Bunch adventure, where friends are made
while walking and talking and soaking up the scenery. 

 

Phoenix hiking: The dos
Ask about the Wild Bunch’s group rates. Discounts start kicking in at 11 people or more.

Just like dining out, please understand there will be a 20-percent automatic group gratuity added to the final bill.

For every excursion, Wild Bunch provides water, snacks, and backpacks for everyone to borrow.

Wild Bunch also provides enough guides for a roughly 1-to-8 ratio for safety reasons.

I also ask if there are any specific food allergies in the group so together we prevent any mishaps and keep every guest safe on their adventure.

There are all kinds of hikes in Phoenix. Wild Bunch can help pick all sorts of trails tailored especially to your group. We also can make the transportation simple by matching the Phoenix guided hiking tour to your resort to make sure the event is time efficient. There are a lot of options.

It is preferred that large groups arrange for their own transportation – and their hotel or resort often helps with that.

Most of the corporate groups are staying at the bigger resorts, such as the Phoenician, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, or the Four Seasons. Those bigger resorts make everyone’s lives easier in terms of getting guests to and from the trails.

But otherwise, Wild Bunch provides turn-by-turn directions to the trailhead to meet for your adventure.

Typically, large group hikes are kept to a two-hour maximum, and Wild Bunch recommends getting them done in the morning depending on the time of year.

I credit my friend Michelle Caldwell for brilliantly recommending the 90-minute option in my second year of business.

Michelle was the head concierge at the Phoenician at the time. Now, she is the concierge manager at the Silverleaf.

I never forget her sitting down with me and saying, “You have to add a 90-minute option to your menu of services because corporate people want to get in, get out and get back to the hotel or resort.”

Michelle was so right. Adding an hour-and-a-half option has been a key to the success of my small mom-and-pop specialty shop.

Wild Bunch does more of those 2-hour hikes and mountain bikes than any other tours we offer. The timeframe fits everybody, but especially families, large groups. and corporate outings.

Most of the times, corporations have one person assigned to handling all the details. Wild Bunch already has a group of 50 booked for a tour in October, and they are sending two people out to do a site inspection this month when our guides will take them out on the trail they plan to hike so they can properly prepare their group.

A hiker listens intently to his Wild Bunch guide during a group hike on a particularly majestic Phoenix hiking trail.
A hiker listens intently to his Wild Bunch guide during a corporate outing on a particularly majestic stretch of trail on a guided Phoenix hike.


 
Phoenix hiking: The do nots
From June 1-Oct. 1, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides join the entire Arizona adventure tour industry in operating under special summer hours because of the triple-digit heat in Phoenix. Those pottery kiln temperatures require adventure start times of 7 a.m. or earlier.

In the late fall, winter, and spring months? The beginning times are more flexible, and there are opportunities to experience an unforgettable Arizona sunset.

However, the Wild Bunch still recommends a morning start to corporate outings to jump start the rest of the day’s activities, whether that means back to the board room for meetings, back to the hotel for a seminar or better yet on to another fun stop less affected by the elements.

One restriction for a large group outing?

Wild Bunch absolutely CANNOT offer a guided Camelback Mountain hiking option in a large group setting.

Because of the physical and logistical challenge, the largest group we can accommodate is six people – and those six have to be able to hike up steep inclines and be prepared for the challenge of a physically-demanding environment.

Any request for a guided Camelback Mountain hike over six people? The answer is NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Non-negotiable. Ain’t happening.

I will never forget working for that other company before I founded Wild Bunch.

There was a group of 60 sports nutritionists from a company one year that wanted to hike Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain.

Another guide and I were the two handling the summit, while the other 15 guides were placed along the mountain or leading groups.

It turned out to be an absolute nightmare to get guests to the top and then get them down again.

Not all of the sports nutritionists were in shape. My teammates and I were working hard to ensure everybody’s safety, but it turned out to be a bad idea logistically for this diverse group of people to attempt Camelback Mountain.

That is why we will not, under any circumstances, offer Camelback to large groups.

If interested in mountain biking? Sure. We can do that. We are certainly willing to talk about the many options ahead of your group.

However, I strongly recommend, if you would like to experience the Sonoran Desert in a large group setting, the best way is via two feet on a guided Phoenix hiking tour.

A hike allows our guides, who are exceptionally educated, as well as fun and safe, to show your group some of the most beautiful Southwest scenery.

And, of course, you have to get a picture of your corporate outing hugging one of our iconic Saguaro Cactus.

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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