Phoenix hiking tours a real winner | Wild Bunch Desert Guides

Phoenix hiking tours a real winner

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • April 13, 2024
A group of friends sharing a Phoenix hiking tours adventure together with the Wild Bunch pauses to take a memorable vacation photo in the Sonoran Desert.
(TOP) A group of friends sharing one of the Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch Desert Guides pauses to take a memorable vacation
photo in the Sonoran Desert. (COVER) With a breathtaking sunset behind them, a family of four snaps an unforgettable picture during one
of the Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch.

I was blessed to grow up in a great place to raise kids called the Quad Cities – a cluster of communities along the shores of the mighty Mississippi River on the border of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.

A number of famous figures also call the area home -- but perhaps the biggest name, John Deere, is also the region’s largest employer with the worldwide company’s headquarters based there.

Besides those green-and-gold colored Midwestern roots, two other essential details to know about me:
  1. I was a 3-sport athlete in high school – and played softball in college – before finding in my post-college life crazier endurance pursuits such as marathon running, triathlons and mountain biking. And yes, the latter sport led me to sunny Arizona and my life’s passion as a guide and eventual owner of a Phoenix adventures tours company – the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.
  2. I was all about the concept of “Girl Power” long before the term became popular and well ahead of owning a small business.
So, considering all of that, imagine my thrill this spring to see Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes CRUSHING IT AGAIN in reaching the national championship game for the second straight season in Division I college women’s basketball.

Iowa City, the home of the Hawkeyes, is a quick 45-minute drive from my girlhood home.

The Hawkeyes coach, Lisa Bluder, started her coaching career by building a powerhouse at my local small college alma mater, St. Ambrose.

And I loved the way Clark and her team carried themselves – with hard-working humbleness and humility mixing with competitive fire, brassy confidence and a flair for the moment.

Only the fairytale ending of a national title was missing from another golden season that included a spate of scoring records, memorable moments and national acclaim.

To see a bunch of Midwestern girls help set national TV standards – and far surpass viewership of the NBA, much less the men’s college final one night later in Arizona – had this Midwestern girl grinning from ear-to-ear.

And those good vibes in turn inspired me to take stock of my own mom-and-pop specialty shop – which offers guided Phoenix hiking tours & guided Phoenix mountain bike tours.

I am exceedingly proud of the Wild Bunch -- so please allow me to pound my chest a bit and shout from the mountain tops.

An extended family celebrates on the Sonoran Desert trails one of the Phoenix hiking tours with the Wild Bunch,

An extended family celebrates on the Sonoran Desert trails one of the Phoenix hiking tours with the Wild Bunch,

Championship-caliber Phoenix hiking tours
Looking back over the last decade, I am blown away by the growth of my Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

What began as the germ of an idea now boasts multiple professional guides utilizing a fleet of bikes and hiking backpacks for guests on daily Phoenix adventure tours available year-round.

When I arrived in the Valley of the Sun in 2012, I never dreamed my slavish pursuit of the best mountain biking in the world would lead me to this milepost.

I only started working as a guide for Phoenix mountain bike tours to make some extra cash while doing something I loved.

The life-altering moment came when I realized I could offer something so much better – a more intimate experience than those cattle-call bus tours and large corporate events I was working for the big box national outlets.

I was forever frustrated to find guests barely allowed to enjoy my favorite sport for more than a few minutes of riding the trails. The sheer number of participants in these large groups also prevented me from truly sharing my knowledge and passion.

So, in 2016, I struck out on my own at the urging of some Phoenix adventure tours industry friends and supporters.

I wanted to deliver a boutique experience that was fully customizable and completely private – geared only to the skills and dreams of a guest and their family or travel party.

Wild Bunch continues to accomplish that goal with every one of our guided Phoenix hiking tours & guided Phoenix mountain bike tours.

Now, that should not suggest a straight line to the top of the mountain.

To be sure, there were challenges, struggles and growing pains along the way -- as discussed in the first Blog I wrote for my new website in January of 2021 (read here).

As described in another Blog, the 2020 pandemic shutdowns required sacrifice and threatened the long-term viability of my business (read here).

But through every hurdle, I have remained blessed to be surrounded by great people – including some incredibly loyal friends and guides who are the anchors of a fantastic guiding staff.

These days, I am happy to report Wild Bunch is consistently busy and rewarded with five-star rated reviews on all sorts of travel sites from our guests.

But perhaps the greatest compliment we receive is to see the number of repeat guests who come back for another adventure.
A family makes its way along a winding Sonoran Desert trail during one of the Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch.
A family makes its way along a winding Sonoran Desert trail during one of the Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch.

Guests win big on Phoenix hiking tours
I believe homespun hospitality gleaned from my Midwestern roots is one of the big reasons behind the success of the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

To us, our guests are more than another booking number on a Tuesday morning.

We take the time to get to know the names and backgrounds of all of our guests – and we ask questions to make sure we match them with the PERFECT guide for their PERFECT adventure.

I am also a straight shooter – some might consider me a tad “abrupt” – but I never hesitate to be ethical and tell you the unvarnished truth.

Even if I am not guiding your group on the day of your adventure – or you end up deciding to book with another company or activity -- I owe you my best advice to guide you through the booking process to help ensure a once-in-a-lifetime memorable experience.

Also huge in the Wild Bunch success story? All of our guides do a tremendous job by bringing the same important traits to the table.

They all have great personalities and are passionate about what they do, who they are doing it for and where they are doing it – and the ratings they receive speaks to the high quality of work they do on behalf of our visitors to the Valley of the Sun.

They are all certified and medically trained, too, so our guides can manage any emergency on the trails and help keep our guests safe on our guided Phoenix hiking tours or guided Phoenix mountain bike tours.

And the fact we are a small mom-and-pop shop works in our favor because we keep the focus of our Phoenix adventure tours on the quality of the experience – not the high-volume quantity of filling up a bus tour.

Never will our guests need to squeeze in a couple of strangers from the Carolinas or a random group of frat boys from the northeast.

Each and every Wild Bunch excursion is exclusively private – and completely customizable -- for only you and your family or travel group.

Need ADA compliant Phoenix hiking trails for handicapped members of your family? Let us know so you don’t feel the need to leave anybody behind.

Want a special adventure to celebrate a significant milestone such as a birthday, anniversary or engagement? We do that all of the time.

Looking to get off the flat pavement for an off-road trail to give you the most thrilling ride of your life? We know where to go.

Wild Bunch Desert Guides does all of that and more to make sure your vacation, getaway or business trip to Phoenix is a winner.

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.


Recent Blog Posts

Phoenix hiking tours offer hot summer discount & cooler morning times

“Don’t wear white after Labor Day” has been advised seemingly forever by grandmothers and Fashionistas alike. Approaching the same sort of generational standard is my annual summer mantra to visitors in the Valley of the Sun – “Don’t sleep-in on vacation in Phoenix after Memorial Day.” I do not say this to be mean or cruel to our summer guests. Instead, once the pottery-kiln summer heat gets turned up, outdoor activities are turned down in the Sonoran Desert – and that includes guided Phoenix hiking tours & Phoenix mountain bike tours from my small mom and pop specialty shop, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

Beat the heat on Phoenix hiking tours

The hottest big city in America started sweating earlier than normal this year. But Wild Bunch Desert Guides helps take away the worry of guided Phoenix hiking tours & guided Phoenix mountain bike tours operating in the record-setting heat.

Phoenix hiking tours a real winner

The road to a national championship ended this week in my backyard. Congratulations to UConn for beating Purdue to cap a dominating run to a repeat title in the Division I men’s college basketball final. My Wild Bunch Desert Guides were blessed to host a number of guests in town for the Final Four including the operations crew in charge of the ladders for the trademark cutting down of the nets by the winners. However, hoops was hardly the only golden activity in the Sonoran Desert with five-star rated guided Phoenix hiking tours & guided Phoenix mountain bike tours offered daily.