Sunrise or sunset: Phoenix hiking tours shine

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • November 12, 2022

”We have been to the Phoenix area several times and drove by the desert, but never actually spent time (there) and wanted to be able to appreciate it. ... The Wild Bunch had just what we were looking for ... Laurel did a great job setting us up and picking just the right guide ... The reviews were right on. Our guide, Jay, customized our hike to just what we were looking for. Jay was great. He answered all of our questions and gave us a good perspective of the Sonoran Desert environment. He was congenial, knowledgeable, and fun. We learned a lot and even tasted edible cactus. Our tour was at sunset, and we got some great pictures to document our experience. We highly recommend!” – Ron H, New Jersey, Tripadvisor, Nov. 3, 2021

With a gorgeous sunset and southwestern landscape as the backdrop, a guest pauses during one of the Phoenix hiking tours with the Wild Bunch.
(TOP) With a gorgeous sunset and southwestern landscape as the backdrop, a guest pauses during one of the sunset Phoenix
hiking tours with the Wild Bunch. (COVER) One of the amazing Phoenix sunsets is pictured, giving Wild Bunch guests an idea
of what they can expect to see during Phoenix hiking tours or Scottsdale mountain bike tours.

Florida owns the nickname “Sunshine State.”

However, Arizona annually wins the battle with more sunny days – 300 on average -- than any other state in the country.
No wonder the greater Phoenix metropolitan area is known as The Valley of the Sun.

The non-stop sunshine combined with the out-of-this-world scenery of the Sonoran Desert makes Arizona the ultimate playground for outdoor activities such as Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain bike tours.

Seeking that sort of fun in the eternal sun is why I moved to Arizona more than a decade ago from my hometown in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.

Loving my new surroundings – and seeing the need for guides to provide these Phoenix adventure tours to visitors – is also why I started my own small mom-and-pop specialty shop in 2016.

So, as both a resident adventurer – and the owner and operator of Wild Bunch Desert Guides -- I can tell you one of the coolest, must-do things in Phoenix is to experience an Arizona sunrise or sunset during a guided Phoenix hiking trip or guided Scottsdale mountain biking tour.

A Wild Bunch guest revels in the amazing scenery during one of our sunrise Phoenix hiking tours.
A Wild Bunch guest revels in the amazing scenery during one of our sunrise Phoenix hiking tours.

Phoenix hiking tours: Somewhere out on that horizon
Arizona is world renown for owning one of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

When I first moved to the state, I could barely believe my eyes – and even now, often find my breath taken away by the beauty of a trademark Arizona horizon.

I still describe the feeling to friends back home as Mother Nature dying Easter eggs across the sky twice every day.

Gorgeous streaks of fiery orange and all shades of reds and yellows mixes with pink cotton candy and lavender clouds for an amazing sight.

Each morning and especially every evening delivers a new combination of picturesque color bursts suitable for framing by a horizon filled with mountains and other worldly sights like the majestic Cactus found only in the Sonoran Desert.

Science explains the phenomena of such a vividly painted sky occurs because Arizona is one of the driest environments on the planet, which increases the number of dust particles floating on the wind to help color the scattered light.

That also is why some of the best sunsets are unfortunately revealed when there are wildfires around the Valley of the Sun.

The most beautiful way to experience an Arizona sunrise or sunset is outside civilization in the exotic wild west beauty of the desert.

And one of the most enjoyable ways to see this cactus-filled trademark is by one of the Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours offered by my Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

Our Phoenix adventure tours are totally private – only for you or your significant other, your family or your travel party.

Never will we ask you to scoot over and make room on your journey for the addition of anybody else to maximize our guides and profit margins like our competitors regularly do at the big box operators.

So, there will never be any Craig from Chicago or Jane from Jupiter jumping into your vacation memories with us. Instead of flying commercial, you are on a private jet to fun with the Wild Bunch.

Our guided hiking trips in Phoenix – or guided mountain bike adventures in Scottsdale – are also completely customizable to fit the needs and desires of you and any others on your tour.

That is because we take the time and special care in the booking process to check on the small details. We offer quality instead of quantity, so you are more than another booking number to us – you are our guest, and we want to treat you special by getting to know you.

As the Southwestern hospitality goes – Mi casa es su casa (or in English, “my home is your home.”)

The Wild Bunch also supplies everything needed for guided adventure tours in Phoenix/Scottsdale. Hikers borrow backpacks for their essentials while mountain bikers are provided gear such as the bike and helmet for their ride. Wild Bunch guides also carry snacks and extra water for their guests.

The Wild Bunch pathfinders also are certified desert guides – so there is no need for maps and navigational gear -- and each are medically trained to help ensure your safety on your Phoenix adventure tours.

So, your Wild Bunch guides are not just a warm body we found yesterday on the street – they are professionals who have a passion for serving people and showing off the best our area has to offer.

The only details you need to worry about?
  1. Paying attention to the weather forecast so you can dress for the conditions – and we have a checklist of suggestions for you here;
  2. Making sure your cellphone is charged – not for any emergencies, necessarily, but instead to ensure you have enough juice for all the pictures you will be taking and all the phone calls you will be making to friends or family missing out on all the fantastic scenes you are adding to your vacation photo album;
  3. Watching the clock to make sure you are on time to meet your guide, so you get as much time as possible – and following our turn-by-turn instructions for reaching the trailhead from your resort, hotel, or Airbnb.
 With an old west landscape as a backdrop, a couple pauses for a picture in front of a colorful Arizona sunset on one of the romantic sundown Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch.
With an old west landscape as a backdrop, a couple pauses for a picture in front of a colorful Arizona sunset on one of the
romantic sundown Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch.

Walking on sunshine: Phoenix hiking tours
When choosing between a dawn or dusk adventure, most guests prefer the latter – and who can blame them? Most people love sleeping in when they can, especially when they are on vacation.

A sunset experience does tend to offer cooler temperatures – and you do get to bring home the adventure with the big prize of the sunset right in front of you.

Of the two, there also is no better view than the end-of-day big finish.

The Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours at sunset also are a great start to a night out in Old Town Scottsdale, for instance.

Sundown tours also are perfect for couples – especially those marking an anniversary, birthday, or special milestone -- with a delightfully romantic sunset awaiting as our gift to you.

A 90-minute to 2-hour sunset adventure also is a great way to try and squeeze in everything you want to do when arriving in Phoenix early in the day – especially if you have a short stay or weekend getaway.

Please beware, though – those same-day arrival bookings are non-refundable if your flight is late or cancelled – which unfortunately happens too often these supply chain-challenged days.

Like any good business in the travel industry, the Wild Bunch has a 48-hour cancellation policy as discussed in this Blog (read).

Same as a hotel, if you call to cancel 48 hours before your adventure? You are completely refunded.

But inside that 48-hour window? You are charged in full even if you are unable to make your booked date because your guide and time slot already has been reserved – which has caused us to pass on other potential guests.

The best we can do is attempt to take you out on another day -- but understand that is never a failsafe because of our advance scheduling and your limited window of opportunity.

Another key fact to be aware of -- Arizona does not follow daylight savings time, so there is no time change each November.

So, while the meeting time does fluctuate depending on the time of our sunset, that time never gets earlier than 5:20 p.m. in the year’s shortest days each December.

So, when booking a sundown adventure, guests need to be ready to meet their guide at the trailhead sometime between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. for the next couple of months.

A warning for the uninitiated: Traffic later in the day in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area does pose a challenge in getting to places on time. In other words, make sure to give yourself an extra half-hour either coming or going.

By comparison, traffic before sunrise is much more manageable -- and thus much easier on arrival times.

For either a sunrise or sunset, guests need to be aware we do not ride or hike in the dark for safety reasons -- so our sundown option ends in the twilight.

The City of Scottsdale also observes that a large chunk of wildlife is crepuscular – meaning their activity is primarily in the twilight of dawn and dusk.

Rabbits, deer, and some songbirds are examples of animals operating mainly in those dimly lit hours to help avoid predators. By contrast, bats are an example of naturally nocturnal animals (which are most active at night) while humans are defined as diurnal animals (who are naturally active during the daylight).

To help protect the natural environment of the crepuscular critters that call the desert home, Scottsdale does not want anybody in their parks after sunset -- and they actually close the gates at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve for this reason.

In the City of Phoenix, Camelback Mountain closes at sunset for another good reason -- because it is much too dangerous to hike that demon in the dark. One bad step could lead to a fatal fall.

However, Phoenix will allow you to hike or bike at night in many of the city’s other parks – which also happen to be much flatter.

As a company, though, Wild Bunch Desert Guides does not offer night rides or hikes because our insurance company does not allow that for obvious liability reasons. 

Even if you use lamps to illuminate your way, Phoenix adventure tours still are safest during the daylight.

Anything after dark also misses the highlight of every day here – the one-of-a-kind wonder of the vibrant Arizona sun colorfully crashing down on a picturesque horizon.

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.


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