Phoenix hiking tours: No tricks; just a treat

Phoenix hiking tours: No tricks; just a treat

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • October 18, 2022
“I was blessed to have Laurel, the owner, as my guide on a private hike in the Sonoran Desert and she was awesome to work with. Super responsive and customer service-focused from my initial outreach when I had questions about booking, through to the actual hike itself. She's a very patient, friendly, knowledgeable and responsible guide and I highly encourage anyone considering to book with Wild Bunch. Learned lots about the desert plants and geography of the area during the hike as well. Overall, a great experience!” Lanthi, Leesburg, Va., on Tripadvisor, Oct. 2019

Laurel Darren (center), owner of Wild Bunch Desert Guides, is in a Christmas costume for a holiday hike celebrating with two guests reaching the summit of Camelback Mountain.
Laurel Darren (center), owner of Wild Bunch Desert Guides, is in a Christmas costume for a holiday hike celebrating with two guests reaching the
summit of Camelback Mountain.

The most wonderful time of the year is finally upon us.

With all due respect to Christmas – which usually gets that billing – the old yuletide only ranks No. 2 on my list of favorite holidays.

Instead, Halloween is my annual jam.

Why? Well, if you know me, this Rob Zombie-loving, Horror-flick chick LOVES dressing up and attending costume parties – and I still do whether it is Halloween or not – and even though I am a bit too old now to go door-to-door for Trick-or-Treat.

The superhero origin story shared in my very first Blog says it all (read here).

After all, I have the devil-may-care “Devil Woman” alter ego to live up to now in both my personal and professional lives.

So, whether rocking a pair of colorful socks – or dying my hair a radical color – or putting on a crazy costume -- I love surprising guests of my Wild Bunch Desert Guides to set a fun-loving mood for one of our Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours.

Whatever the surprise, though, the accessories all add up to my favorite outfit – dressing up as a Phoenix adventure tours guide and showing visitors to the Valley of the Sun the wonderous beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

Laurel Darren, owner of Wild Bunch Desert Guides, joins a couple of other costume-wearing hikers celebrating Christmas atop Camelback Mountain.
Laurel Darren (center), owner of Wild Bunch Desert Guides, joins a couple of other costume-wearing hikers celebrating Christmas atop Camelback Mountain. 

The trick of Phoenix hiking tours
No costume can disguise my passion for guiding – and that is why I am in business for myself and my loyal bunch of merry men and women that also guide for my small mom-and-pop specialty shop.

After moving from the Midwest more than a decade ago to chase my love of cycling, I began serving as a Phoenix adventure tours guide for other outfits, and quickly learned what I could do better than the big box stores.

So, Wild Bunch Desert Guides was founded in 2016 to offer Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain bike tours that are completely private to you and your family or travel group. Never will you be asked to make room and share your adventure with Steve or Stephanie from St. Louis, or Fred and his family from Bedrock.

Wild Bunch also seeks to deliver once-in-a-lifetime memorable experiences for you and yours. So, during the booking process, we take the time to find out who you are and what you want to do – and then customize your adventure around the varying skills and fitness levels or the special dreams and goals of your group.

Never will you be loaded on a tour bus and herded like cattle on a mindless, cookie-cutter excursion. Instead, our Phoenix adventure tours guides want to get to know you as more than a number or the next tour group coming through.

Celebrating a birthday or anniversary? Please let us know so we can help make the occasion extra special.

Quality over quantity always applies to the Wild Bunch. Homespun hospitality and our undivided attention is what makes us different.

Besides serving as your pathfinder – and showing you all the tricks on hundreds of miles of trails to get those perfect vacation pictures -- Wild Bunch guides also are medically trained to handle any emergency.

Bumps, bruises, and scrapes are commonplace occurrences on a mountain bike. Dehydration also can happen fast if not prepared for the desert sun and heat. But no matter the issue, don’t be haunted by doubts and worries -- the Wild Bunch Desert Guides keep you safe and give you peace of mind while keeping you on track for a great time.

The mock comic book cover of
The mock comic book cover of "Devil Woman," from Laurel Darren's first Blog as Wild Bunch Desert Guides owner.

Phoenix hiking tours a real treat
Personally, I love cycling and hiking – and I also love guiding, because I relish the opportunity to show guests a great time – so owning and operating the Wild Bunch Desert Guides is a real treat for me.

For those curious about what Phoenix adventure tours are all about, I tell them all of the time I have the greatest job imaginable.

What brings me the most happiness is when I have someone accomplish something they believed was impossible or at best improbable.

One of the greatest examples came last December before Christmas, when I met Philadelphia radio voice John Duffin, who was driven to make a third attempt at scaling Camelback Mountain after two previous failures.

We shared John’s inspiring story in this Blog last year (read here).

I HATE what the iconic local landmark has become – and what it has done in victimizing so many uninformed visitors drawn by the hype of the challenge – so much so, the Wild Bunch no longer offers Camelback Mountain hiking tours.

But I am so thrilled to have made such a good friend in John – and am so glad I thought twice and decided to yield to his impassioned request.

Also feeding my soul like so many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in my Jack O’Lantern candy bucket is another Camelback Mountain memory.

My pal Todd, who has a prosthetic leg, dramatically improved his fitness level one year intent on returning to kick Camelback Mountain in the ass after previously failing to reach the summit himself. We shared that feel-good story in our first of many cautionary tales meant to spook guests away from the often frightening challenge (read here).

But same as when I find candy corn in my Halloween pail, I have been delighted by so many other memorable experiences -- such as making a Sedona trip happen for the mother of my great friend Mirna Valerio, better known as the social media sensation “The Mirnavator” – as detailed during her epic 2021 visit in this Blog (read here).

But truth be told, as is the case any time I dive into my Trick-or-Treat treasure trove, I get great satisfaction in every one of our Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours.

I love being the point guard and helping facilitate others realizing the success of a once-in-a-lifetime memory.

Along the way, I also get to meet so many fantastic people from this great country of ours -- and some become great friends like John and Todd, whom we stay in touch with well after talking about all sorts of things on one of our five-star rated Phoenix adventure tours.

As we begin the seventh season of my passion play, those personal stories drive me to deliver my best in business every day – whether or not I get a chance to don a colorful costume.

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.


Featured Reviews

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.

Took a half-day trip with Laurel through some amazing trails near Scottsdale. Being from the UK, I struggled a little with the heat -- luckily Laurel had packed some Cadburys chocolate for the ride which was only a little melted and gave me a great boost. Great scenery, great bikes, great energy. Book with Wild Bunch Desert Guides and bring your cycling A game!

- Katie L.

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