Phoenix hiking tours: Hot times, cool thoughts

Phoenix hiking tours: Hot times, cool thoughts

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • June 30, 2021

Our guide did an excellent job of judging our fitness and our level of interest in information about the area. He was very willing to answer questions. Best of all he gave us a great hike that we could not have done or fully appreciated on our own. The pace was not too slow or too fast and was a little bit challenging all the way. He was well prepared and brought all the supplies we needed. I showed up with only good sneakers and a hat. Someone let on that it was my birthday and when we got to the summit, he even had a birthday snack for me. I like doing tours while traveling and this was a good one. Well worth it as a private for two people. I would do another one of their tours or a second route on this same (trail).”
Ben, Annapolis, Md., on Tripadvisor, July 2019


With an incredible desert vista as the backdrop, and a cactus looming over their shoulders, an early-morning summer hiking group pauses for a photo on a particularly picturesque part of their path.With an incredible desert vista as the backdrop, and a cactus looming over their shoulders, an early-morning summer hiking group pauses for a photo on a particularly picturesque part of their path.


Local weather turned into national headlines last week when the official start of summer launched on Father’s Day with a record-setting heat wave in Arizona and America’s other Great Western vacation destinations.

Thankfully, the temperatures have “cooled off” to 106 degrees here in Phoenix before Independence Day and the start of the vacation migration to the fun and sun of the Southwest.

Whether a veteran visitor or first-time tourist to the Valley of the Sun, a Camelback Mountain hike is both a ubiquitous and seductive bucket list item to check off, beckoning in the distance of your drive into town or winking back as you arrive by plane or looming large in your internet search of once-in-a-lifetime area experiences.

The iconic Phoenix landmark truly is a scenic wonder – but only if you can overcome the physically-daunting challenge to reach the top and “Ride the Camel.”

That task becomes even more difficult, though – some like me say impossible -- in Arizona’s legendary July heat.

So, wipe that too-dangerous desire from your mind this summer.

My Phoenix adventure tour company – the Wild Bunch Desert Guides – have pulled Camelback Mountain hiking from our menu of options until the safety of cooler temps come Oct. 1.

A Camelback Mountain hiking trip simply is too treacherous right now as I will explain.

However, there are many other breathtakingly beautiful, guided Phoenix hiking tours for us to take you on that are not only safer and easier on you physically, but more economical for your vacation budget.

Heck, book online using code SUMMER21 and receive a 15-percent discount on any of our hikes.

And best yet? The Wild Bunch’s medically trained guides help show you the safe way to a hot time while avoiding the worst of the heat.

With Teddy Bear Cactus waiting in the foreground, a solo hiker makes her way along one of the hundreds of trails in the greater Phoenix area with an early-morning Arizona summer sun starting to raise the temperatures.With Teddy Bear Cactus waiting in the foreground, a solo hiker makes her way along one of the hundreds of trails in the greater Phoenix area with an early-morning Arizona summer sun starting to raise the temperatures.
 

Phoenix hiking tours: The heat is on!
This sounds like a comic setup.

HOW HOT IS IT?” wonder Arizona’s many visitors.

My response: “When you step off the plane at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, be prepared for 1,000 hairdryers on high slapping you in the face.”

Ba-dum-ching goes the old comic rimshot.

However, not even a M*A*S*H-style laugh track can help save that rather unfunny line.

But then, “Arid-zona’s” summer heat truly is no joking matter.

Instead, like a lot of the Joker’s material from Batman fame, the punch line really is a punch in the gut.

Case in point: Also ripped from the local headlines of Phoenix’s June heatwave is a recent rise of Camelback Mountain rescues for heat-distressed hikers.

The problem has gotten so bad, firefighters from technical rescue teams have been hospitalized with their own heat illnesses, and there is local debate about closing the iconic Phoenix landmark when the thermometer reaches a certain number.

This is why the Wild Bunch Desert Guides have decided against offering any Camelback Mountain guided hikes in the summer.

The Wild Bunch is committed to the safety of our guests, our guides, and our community.

Arizona’s First Responders should be available for “real-life” emergencies – not stretched too thin as a unit or compromised health-wise by needing to save hikers stuck on the mountain when they need not be there.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is much better than a pound of cure.

And trust me: There is nothing worse than being stuck on that mountain halfway up but needing to go down – and fast.

Remember, there is no elevator or escalator on Camelback Mountain, only steep, single-file climbs featuring railings to help battle rocky, gravel trails.

The only way down besides your own two feet is to be hauled out on a stretcher by a rescue team of firefighters – or turning affordable guided Phoenix hiking tours into a $50K helicopter ride via an emergency airlift to a hospital.

A group of six hikers make their way down a rocky hillside during a Wild Bunch Desert Guides summer adventure.A group of six hikers make their way down a rocky hillside during a Wild Bunch Desert Guides summer adventure.

 
Phoenix hiking tours: Keeping it cool
Arthur Fonzarelli was the epitome of cool during the late 1970s and early 1980s on the hit TV show “Happy Days.”

As luck would have it, we are all a bunch of little Fonzie’s at Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

Our recommendations for any guided Phoenix hiking tours include:
 
  1. When the temperatures are over 100 degrees, it is super important to hike early.
July annually is the hottest month in Arizona with an average daily temperature of 104. August never lags far behind those boiling-point numbers.

That is why nearly all of the Phoenix adventure travel companiesWild Bunch Desert Guides included – peel back to special summertime hours.

So, if you come to Phoenix in those months and want to go hiking, do not get mad at us for making you get up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. to be picked up at your resort or meet our guide at the trail.

The start times are 6 a.m. or earlier for a four-hour, half-day hike, and 7 a.m. for the 2-hour to 90-minute hike.

Few companies even offer sunset options because it is still too hot to be safe at sundown. The heat of the day continues radiating off the baked earth.

So, I will not negotiate for a later start, but I will never turn you down if you want to go earlier than those stated cutoff times.

Earlier always is better in the summer. Trust me.

Limiting outdoor activities and prolonged exposure to the triple-digit heat is essential during the Arizona summer.

Human-powered activities such as guided Phoenix hiking tours should be restricted to the relatively cooler temperatures of the early morning.

A thousand hairdryers on high are EXACTLY how the Arizona summer heat feels as early as 4 a.m. and well after the sun goes down after 9 p.m.

But unlike your best handheld salon styler, there is no off button.

A couple enjoy the beautiful desert scenery during one of this summer's Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch Desert Guides. A couple enjoy the beautiful desert scenery during one of this summer's Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch Desert Guides. 

 
  1. You need to drink water. Lots of it.
Not to sound like “The Waterboy” here, but drink lots of “H20” prior to arriving in Arizona.

Then drink more “agua” prior to stepping off the plane. Drink a bottle of water right after you get off the plane. Drink glasses of water during every meal in Arizona. And especially drink lots and lots of water prior to going out on any outdoor activity such as a guided Phoenix hike.

You get the picture?

Bobby Boucher Jr. was right – with all due respect to the many wonderful flavors of Gatorade, there is nothing better than water to keep you hydrated.

Now, understand, I am “normal” just like you all (ha).

I am a Moscow Mule fan. I love myself a good IPA. And Prickly Pear Margaritas are an Arizona treat.

So, I do not want to tell guests to avoid a good time while they are on vacation!

However, it is so important, especially if you are flying in the day or night before a guided Phoenix hike to drink lots of water and watch your soda and alcohol intake.

Sneak in a few waters with those shots, those beers, and those margaritas. A one-to-one ratio is advised.

Better yet, wait to drink alcohol until after the hike to celebrate.

A family of five is thrilled by the sight of a real-life cowboy on horseback during one of our Phoenix hiking tours. Taking children on a Wild Bunch Desert Guides adventure always is a rewarding experience because no one ever knows what sort of once-in-a-lifetime sight they will see.
A family of five is thrilled by the sight of a real-life cowboy on horseback during one of our Phoenix hiking tours. Taking children on a Wild Bunch Desert Guides adventure always is a rewarding experience because no one ever knows what sort of once-in-a-lifetime sight they will see.

 
  1. Take special care of the youngest and oldest in your group because they are most susceptible to the heat.
I know it is tough for families with small kids to get them to drink enough water.

I have two small “children” of my own in my Plot Hounds – who are up and ready to go at 5 a.m.

It is similar with kids – they want to go, go, go, but my boyfriend and I have to hike them early enough, so it is physically safe for them. Phoenix even has a law about hiking your dogs in the heat.

Children and grandparents should be afforded the same sort of consideration.

So, if you want your kids to go out hiking in Phoenix, or the grandparents want to go along with your kids on a guided Phoenix hike, you have to be up early and make sure they are drinking enough water.

Smaller bodies and older people get a lot hotter a lot quicker.

Three women have smiles on their faces as they traverse through a rocky ravine during a Phoenix hiking tour this summer with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.
Three women have smiles on their faces as they traverse through a rocky ravine during a Phoenix hiking tour this summer with the Wild Bunch.?

 
  1. Do the smart thing. Listen to your body.
The Wild Bunch Desert Guides can suggest guests avoid donning dark colors and instead wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Guests should wear sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, and lip balm to protect themselves from the sun.

The Wild Bunch will be keeping an eye on the forecast but pay attention to the weather yourself, so you know what you are getting into.

We also recommend fully-charging your cellphones for safety – as well as some memorable photos from your adventure.

Our guides also require you to stay on the established trails for another layer of safety.

However, the best safety tip is listening to yourself because no one knows your body and capabilities better than you.

Know when you have reached your limit and need a break. Be honest when a trail or challenge appears too difficult. And if you start feeling bad – and begin experiencing any heat illness symptoms – turn around immediately.

I do not want to ruin your vacation – but I also do not want YOU to ruin your vacation. Be proactive rather than reactive.

If you start feeling anything out of the ordinary in the Arizona heat, resist feeling the urge to wrestle with that beast to complete an adventure. It never ends well. You should not talk yourself into something your body can not do.

A guide and a guest share a breathtaking view during one of our Phoenix hiking tours. The Wild Bunch Desert Guides want to enjoy showing our guests a good time. However, the guides also are medically trained to handle any emergency while on an adventure.
A guest (left) and guide share a breathtaking view during one of our Phoenix hiking tours. The Wild Bunch Desert Guides want to enjoy showing our guests a good time. However, the guides also are medically trained to handle any emergency while on an adventure.

 
  1. If something happens, Wild Bunch Desert Guides knows what to do.
All of our guides are trained to handle medical emergencies of all kinds. However, each are especially prepared in the case of Arizona’s biggest threat to tourists -- heat-related illness.

All of the Wild Bunch guides carry electrolyte tabs and electrolyte drink mix, as well as a lot of extra water and snacks.

Some of my guides even carry wet towels on the trail in the case an emergency cool down is needed.

But should there be an extreme heat issue, better to have a problem on the relatively flat ground of say Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Desert Preserve where it is much easier and thus quicker for rescue teams to reach you as opposed to Camelback Mountain.

However, safety all starts with guests being proactive before any Phoenix hiking tours and understanding the environment they are putting themselves in.

A long line of hikers make their way across a rocky ridge line during a Wild Bunch Desert Guides adventure.A long line of hikers make their way across a rocky ridge line during a Wild Bunch Desert Guides adventure. 


Phoenix hiking tours: Fun in the sun
The bottom line for you – guided Phoenix hiking tours with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides is a safe, affordable, and fun activity at any time of the year, even during the blast-furnace summer heat in Arizona.

The Wild Bunch want to help take guests to incredible places to show them unforgettable sights and make memories that will last a lifetime.

However, the guides from my small, private mom-and-pop shop also are prepared to step in and help keep you safe if the memory-making is interrupted by a medical emergency.

But let us try and work together to prevent that from happening!

Heed the tips. Follow the recommendations. Listen to our advice.

After all, that is why you hire the Wild Bunch – to show you the way to a hot time while avoiding the worst of the summer heat.

Laurel Darren (front) -- the owner of Wild Bunch Desert Guides -- hams it up for the camera during one of her adventure company's guided Phoenix hiking tours.

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.



 

Coronavirus & Tours

Getting outdoors and hiking or biking is not only good for you mentally and physically, but it's one of the safest activities you could participate in. We are taking all appropriate measures following CDC guidelines to avoid any COVID-19 transmission. More details here.
 

Summer Tours on SALE!

Use code SUMMER21 when checking out online to get a 15% discount on your tour.
 


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Mark the guide for my solo ride was awesome! Made the perfect ride for what I was looking for -- great challenge and great views. I would recommend this company for all levels. We had done a family ride the day before with Laurel -- also awesome, very nice experience for the entire family. Nice bikes and great views!

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My sister and I had the opportunity to hike with Laurel and members of her amazing team. We were first timers to the Scottsdale area and Wild Bunch Desert Guides were recommended to us. We did two wonderful hikes, Gateway Ridge and Spur Cross in Cave Creek. Laurel could not have made this any easier--hotel pick up, narration about the trails, the area, plant life, and she was fully stocked with water and snacks. For me though, what makes WBDG so exceptional is the work on the front end. Laurel was rigorous during booking--what did we want, what was most important, our assessment of our own skill level and then her follow-up questions. Everything was geared to us and for us. Laurel, Ellen and Tommy didn't just guide us, they hiked with us, and after four hours we felt as if we had made new and wonderful friends. They were also attentive to others on the trail, checking in with hikers who looked like they might need assistance and offering guidance to a mountain biker who had gone astray. These hikes were the highlight of our trip and truly I can't say enough about the experience. Pricing is more than reasonable and frankly the opportunity to spend time with these experienced guides -- Priceless!

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