Whether you’re looking for an energizing desert hike, a thrilling off-road tour, or wicked single tracks that will put your bike handling skills to the test, Scottsdale’s Sonoran Desert answers your call for excitement and adventure with options that are as varied as the landscape itself. Add in year-round sunny weather and it’s easy to see why outdoor activities are a way of life in Scottsdale!
Scottsdale’s Sonoran Desert foothills are ideal for mountain biking. For beginners, our adventure outfitters provide all-inclusive, guided experiences that include transportation, how-to and safety briefings, and interpretive information about the desert’s geology, flora and fauna. If you prefer to hit the tracks on your own, select outfitters will deliver rental bikes, helmets and accessories right to your resort.
Tour time: Guided tours from 4 hours to a full day are available.
Climb aboard an open-air Jeep or well-muscled Hummer for an off-road tour of the Sonoran Desert. Expert interpretive guides provide insight into the desert’s ecosystem, as well as the area’s colorful history. Options include ecotours, night-vision tours, and combination adventures that add in activities like river rafting, hot air ballooning or horseback riding.
Tour time: 4 hours
Put yourself in the driver’s seat on a guided tour in a Tomcar or C2 vehicle. These exciting off-road treks let you take the wheel as you and your guide navigate rugged desert trails, sandy washes and rocky creek beds. The cars are fully automatic, comfortable and easy to drive.
Tour time: 4 hours
River Rafting & Water Sports
River rafting, tubing and kayaking are great ways to explore Scottsdale’s pristine rivers and lakes. The calm waters of the Verde or Lower Salt rivers are ideal for wildlife watching from a raft, kayak or inner tube, while the Upper Salt’s seasonal class III and IV rapids provide plenty of whitewater thrills.
Tour Time: Guided tours from 4 hours to multi-day are available.
Lace up your hiking boots and get up-close and personal with the Sonoran Desert! From scenic strolls to serious workouts Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve boasts more than 200 miles of shared-use trails for beginners and seasoned trekkers alike. Other popular hiking destinations include Camelback Mountain, Pinnacle Peak and McDowell Mountain Regional Park.
You’ll find your perfect climb in the Sonoran Desert! Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is home to more than 200 named climbs with a wide range of difficulty ratings on formations like Tom’s Thumb, Sven Slab and Granite Ballroom. Beginners will love the personalized instruction and encouragement from Scottsdale’s experienced climbing guides.
Tour time: Guided climbs from 4 hours to a full day are available.
Saddle up and get a taste of the Old West on a horseback riding excursion. You’ll experience the beauty of Sonoran Desert plants and cacti, see curious critters and, on some rides, cross pristine desert streams. Scottsdale’s experienced outfitters have a knack for matching people with horses, so rest assured that you’ll have the perfect companion for your cowboy-style adventure. Some stables also provide cookouts, hay-wagon rides and other activities.
Tour time: Guided rides from 2 hours to full day are available
For the most expansive scenic views of the Sonoran Desert, take to the skies! Seasonal sunrise and sunset hot-air balloon flights offer a serene experience as you float quietly over rolling desert terrain, at times low enough to see desert creatures scurrying about below. Air tours to destinations like Sedona and the Grand Canyon are also great ways to enjoy Arizona from the air.