A full-access pass: Handicap Accessible ADA Hiking Trails in Phoenix

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • January 23, 2024
Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren (second from left) enjoys Phoenix adventure tour with a group of multi-generational guests.(TOP) Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren (second from left) enjoys Phoenix adventure tour with a group of multi-generational guests. (COVER) Laurel Darren shares a hug with a guest after an inspirational adventure in Phoenix.

Of the countless phone calls and emails I receive each day, there is one question I wish was posed to me more often by current and potential guests.

“I don’t want to sound dumb -- and this may seem crazy considering guided Phoenix hiking tours explore the real Wild West of the Sonoran Desert,” one caller said recently. “But are there Handicap Accessible ADA hiking trails in Phoenix?”

A big smile always crosses my face when I get this query – and I am all-too-happy to report – YES, there are handicap accessible hiking trails near me!

And best yet, that has allowed my little mom-and-pop specialty shop, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides, to accommodate over the years all sorts of guests regardless of their ages, abilities and physical challenges.

My company has had the privilege of providing our five-star rated guiding service to dozens upon dozens of guests using everything from wheelchairs and walkers to electronic scooters and strollers for their toddlers.

Wild Bunch was even entrusted by one local resort a few years back to take a legally blind couple on one of our guided Phoenix hiking tours – and not only ensure their safety, but we also helped paint the picture of the unforgettably beautiful Sonoran Desert in their imaginations.

The life-changing experience – for both us and those guests – still brings tears to my eyes as one of the most-memorable and rewarding Phoenix adventure tours ever.

Thinking of that moment always affirms I chose the correct career path – and inspires me every day to provide first-class experiences by reminding me of the importance of what the Wild Bunch does for visitors to the Valley of the Sun.

I am ever so thankful I live, work, and own a business in a caring community that has placed a priority on providing handicap accessible trails near me in the pure spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – a 1990 federal law that promotes diversity by helping ensure everyone has the same opportunities to access everything from employment to public facilities.

Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve alone offers nearly a half dozen ADA hiking trails at one site – as well as paths devoted to hand bikes -- and there are dozens more handicap trails near me scattered around the Phoenix area.

Kids of any age are welcome with their parents or guardians on Phoenix adventure tours. Here Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren shares a treat with the youngest guests she is guiding during a snack break.
Kids of any age are welcome with their parents or guardians on Phoenix adventure tours. Here Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren shares a treat with the youngest guests she is guiding during a snack break.

ADA compliant trails in Phoenix
The reason I wish more guests asked me about ADA accessible trails near me is because of the family and friends often left behind by the misconception that NO WAY are there totally flat and convenient-to-use trails like that in the desert.

Instead, the guests imagine there are only rocky climbs, hilly paths or natural dirt tracks – and so they bite their tongues and fail to ask the question to avoid any embarrassment.

And by doing that, they often penalize part of their family or travel party and prevent them from enjoying an unforgettable experience together.

I would be a rich woman by now if I had a dollar for the many guests learning about these handicap accessible hikes in real time on the trails.

I know when I moved to the Phoenix area from my Midwestern roots more than a decade ago now, I was amazed to discover ADA trails near me in the middle of the cactus-filled desert landscape.

From my many travels, though, I know the Phoenix area is way ahead of the curve nationally in progressive thinking such as offering wheelchair accessible trails for EVERYONE to enjoy from ages 2 months to 102 years old.

That means there is no need to strand the grandparents back at your resort for babysitting your toddlers. Together, the whole family can enjoy one of the Wild Bunch’s guided Phoenix hiking tours on handicap hiking trails near me.

Same for your buddy with the prosthetic leg because of a war wound.

Ditto for your friend who uses a wheelchair because of Cerebral Palsy or countless other reasons.

Unless they really want to, they don’t have to hang out by the pool sipping on Prickly Pear Margaritas waiting for you to return from your guided Phoenix hiking adventure.
Three generations of a family enjoys a trademark Phoenix sunset during an ADA handicap accessible hike with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.
Three generations of a family enjoy a trademark Phoenix sunset during an ADA handicap accessible hike with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

Handicap accessible hikes near me
As a certified provider of guided Phoenix hiking tours, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides has had the great honor of helping countless guests navigate the challenge of matching them to the perfect trail and adventure.

Among others, our completely customizable and totally private experiences have benefitted numerous multi-generational families or travel groups with special needs and assistive devices to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation photos with an iconic Saguaro Cactus.

So, in our detail-oriented booking process, we need to know as much information as you are comfortable in sharing about the skills and fitness levels of every guest.

Let us know if Grandpa Joe or Grandma Georgina is coming along -- and what their capabilities or limitations might be -- so we can better discuss trails to fit your needs and ways to make the goals for your adventure happen.

The more information you can offer is helpful as opposed to the element of surprise and a guide not anticipating someone in a wheelchair, for example.

I certainly do not want to make anyone feel different … or weird … or uncomfortable. But these are questions for all Wild Bunch guided Phoenix hiking tours to ensure the best possible experience for everybody:
  1. What is your skill level?
  2. What is your fitness level?
  3. What are you wanting to do?
I am in the business of showing you the way to fun – so help me by telling me any detail that can help in the planning of your adventure.
That is why you hire the Wild Bunch – to ensure you get the personal touch of a totally customizable experience.

You want feedback from an expert guide to say – “Oooh, you should do THIS instead of THAT.”

You want the logistics managed ahead of time to perfectly match the trail to your adventure group, whether it is just you, your nuclear family or extended family, or your work group or friends.

You also need to hear the unvarnished truth – “That could be really dangerous,” or maybe, “I am worried that won’t be a comfortable situation for you.”

I am never afraid to lose business – it is never about the bottom line for me.

It is all about the safety and the experience of my guests.

So, I will be honest and direct – and if it is going to be a better adventure for them, I am more than happy to recommend guests to other activities and companies.

For instance, if a Van Tour makes more sense, I will never hesitate to make that referral to one of our many business friends.

However, Wild Bunch is not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all bus tour like you might get at the big box Phoenix adventure tour companies.

Besides customizing your adventure, the experience is completely private to you and your family or travel party. Never will there be any “randos” included in your guided Phoenix hiking tours group – no Sam from Schenectady, his girlfriend Debbie from Detroit or the frat brothers on spring break from a Midwestern college.

Whether or not you are utilizing ADA hiking trails near me, the totally customizable experience from the Wild Bunch is for your eyes only.

We also hear sometimes – “We understand there are hiking hills handicapped accessible – but is it possible for you to put two guides out on our group, so our special needs members do the easier part of the trail while the others do a harder trail? Or is it possible for us to split up at some point so both groups get what they want or need?”

Quick answer? YES, unless we are short on staff the day or your request.

Wild Bunch does our absolute best to try and make every adventure the perfect experience – so I would rather have a conversation and explore the many options than having a guest wish later they would have asked a question to make their adventure even better.

I just want to ensure as many people get to experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert – especially those that might have felt that was impossible for them previously for one reason or another.


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.


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