“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is fast approaching the 40th anniversary of the classic movie’s 1986 release. While I work hard – and juggle a lot of side gigs with the same fervor – I identify with the iconic film for a couple of reasons. For starters, I am a Midwestern native, growing up a short car ride away from Chicago and its suburbs, the setting for the high school hookie adventure. And like the main character, I believe in playing hard, too – sharing in Ferris’ motto that, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Which brings me to one of my latest thrill-rides …
Reasons to remember our Phoenix hiking tours
(TOP) A group of friends pose on the craggy landscape for a memorable photo during their Phoenix hiking
tour with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides. (COVER) A couple celebrates their engagement during a truly
unforgettable Wild Bunch hiking experience.
While we still offer fun in the sun during the remainder of September, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides officially opens our eighth season of Phoenix adventure tours on Oct. 1.
Little has changed since the dream began in 2016, when this transplanted Midwesterner-turned-Arizona adventure tour guide got fed up seeing tourists being taken advantage of by the quantity-over-quality Big Box companies offering nameless and faceless cattle calls.
I don’t know what pissed me off more as a "cowboy" on one of these cattle drives – the too-short, unorganized rides they offered on a mountain bike or the bland, tasteless and aimless hikes provided to groups so large they were barked at through a bull horn.
Whether enjoying Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours, my little mom-and-pop shop was built on providing excellent customer service while supplying completely customizable and totally private small-group experiences.
And to this day, I am happy to report, we remain dedicated to delivering once-in-a-lifetime adventures by following those three guiding principles while showing off the beauty of the Sonoran Desert.
However, for those new to the Wild Bunch – or returning guests who may have forgotten – here are the details to remember that help make your adventure with us unforgettably memorable.
A group of friends pause to take a picture during their private Phoenix hiking tour with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides to capture the unforgettable experience. Every adventure booked with the Wild Bunch is exclusive to you and your family or travel party.
1. Phoenix hiking tours never combines groups
Everything the Wild Bunch Desert Guides does is private from the pickup to the drop off.
Unlike our bigger competitors – who are built to handle the big cattle calls and bus tours – we offer a much more intimate experience.
Wild Bunch is made for memory making and celebrating special days for our guests such as engagements, weddings, anniversaries or birthdays.
Because we are focused on individuals and small groups such as families, we are specially built with children in mind.
We love to take kids with their parents and reveal the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. That is why a large part of our business is getting kids out to safely explore – whether learning about the desert during one of our Phoenix hikes or experiencing a thrill ride on a trademark Phoenix mountain bike ride.
NEVER will we ask to include in your group Frank from Fresno, his girlfriend Bobbi from Bakersfield, or those six Fraternity brothers from back East on Spring Break.
Your Wild Bunch experience is only for your eyes – and the eyes of your family or travel group.
A older couple customized their Phoenix hiking tour with the Wild Bunch by opting for a flat, easily traveled trail featuring handicapped accessibility.
2. Tailoring Phoenix hiking tours to the guests
The Wild Bunch Desert Guides are extremely focused on delivering an excellent experience to every guest.
So, we are never in “default mode.” We are always trying to customize the adventure to the wants and needs of you and your family or travel party.
For starters, the Wild Bunch tries to take guests on Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours as close to their hotel or resort or Air BNB as we can in terms of trails if they meet their level of physical health and ability.
Hiking is a little bit easier because most trails can be used.
Our guides can accomplish a hike with the beginner, intermediate, or advanced hiker – or a mix of those levels – incredibly seamlessly. It is not really that difficult to find a trail or two that are very close to where you are staying that fits what you or your tour group want and need.
Matching a mountain bike rider’s experience to a trail’s level of difficulty is tougher, but we make sure to spend the time necessary to make the adventure perfect.
After Oct. 1, simply pick a preferred time during the online booking process.
Wild Bunch offers either adventure in a 90-minute to 2-hour format at 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and at sunset – with the start time varying because of the earlier and earlier changing times of when the sun drops.
Or guests are always welcome to book a sunrise tour earlier than 8:30 a.m., which also varies because of the sun. But altering the 11 a.m. or 1:30 start times is not possible because of the tours booked ahead of your adventure.
Wild Bunch also offers half-day Phoenix adventure tours of 3 ½ to 4 hours in length at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
A secret many fail to realize until too late – the sunrise and sunset options are especially spectacular in The Valley of Sun.
Because of the arid climate, dust particles float on the breeze to make for some of the most colorfully beautiful sunup/sundown scenes in the world as Arizona's skies light up brighter than any Christmas tree or Easter Egg basket.
With their two small children captivated by the amazing surroundings and super attentive guide, a family of four enjoyed immensely their Phoenix hiking tour with the Wild Bunch.
3. Excellent customer service on Phoenix hiking tours
The Wild Bunch Desert Guides goes the extra mile to ensure an unforgettably memorable experience.
After booking online with us, guests are contacted personally by me to make sure we pick out the perfect trail to fit both your health and skill levels, as well as where you might be staying.
The latter detail is important to hopefully help allow for a quick and easy commute by guests to the trailhead to meet their guide – a preferable option for most -- rather than waiting for any pickup or drop-off service that we can provide.
In the meet-the-guide option, guests are asked to be at their trail 15 minutes prior to their adventure beginning. Any pickups are asked to be ready at least 30 minutes prior to their tour starting, depending on what trail is chosen.
I also ask questions to get to know your name, background, past experiences and motivations.
The reasons are two-fold – not only does the information help to better customize the adventure, but we also get to know you better because you are so much more than a booking number to us.
Once on Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours, our guides also want to get to know your name and who you are because we offer personal experiences you can’t find from the Big Box discount providers down the street filling up their latest cattle call.
With our state and local permits requiring one guide for every seven guests, Wild Bunch is all about you and your family or travel party. We now limit the overall size of groups to a 25-guest maximum to ensure even our largest group adventure is an intimate experience to be remembered forever.
-- Sunrise or Sunset: Phoenix hiking tours shine
-- Phoenix hiking tours: No tricks; just a treat
-- Phoenix hiking tours: Be spontaneous & open to new experiences
Laurel Darren, professional cactus hugger and adventure tour company owner.