Sonoran Desert Stars – Hike, Camp, MTB, Repeat | Under 35

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4-16
Difficulty
3

Starting from

$999

for REI Members

$1,099 for non-members

Departures

Oct 2019-Dec 2019

Ditch the winter blahs and explore the Sonoran Desert on this energizing 4-day escape of mountains, trails and sunshine.

Welcome to the land of wild mustangs and wide-open horizons. Where your boss can’t find you and your morning wakeup alarm is French-press coffee. Brewed fresh. Sounds amazing, right? Join us for a beautifully refreshing Arizona adventure. Designed for travelers aged 18–35, but open to anyone over 18 who's drawn to this travel style. Think: adventure, flavor, flex time, repeat, all while immersed in the sunny, spectacular landscapes of the Sonoran Desert. You’ll do most things together, but you’ll have free time and lots of choices along the way too. Hammock-fest or nice long hike? Pub dinner or fancy-schmancy? Your call.

Every day, our expert guides reveal something new. Hike amongst strange, towering saguaro. Ride part of the Pemberton Loop Trail, surrounded by distant desert mountain ranges. Scope out the foodie scene in Old Town Scottsdale. Add an optional float trip down the Salt River, basking in cool waters and watching for neat critters. Drift off each night in our private desert camp under a jaw-droppingly starry sky. Yes please.

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Trip highlights

  • Hike, mountain bike and follow your bliss in the beautiful Sonoran Desert
  • Stay in a private desert camp, have adventures led by friendly pro guides
  • Try Dutch oven cooking with a hands-on backcountry cooking class
  • Take an optional float trip down the Salt River to swim and look for wildlife
  • Meet new friends and explore the American Southwest for four sunny, happy days

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Trip members should be comfortable hiking up to 8 miles and riding a mountain bike for up to 25 miles (3-5 hours). A primary activity will be scheduled for each day with some days offering a choice of multiple activities as described in the itinerary.

We ride on purpose-built and natural singletrack bike trails that can be very narrow at times. The trails contain golf ball to bowling ball-sized rocks as well as roots and sandy sections. The trail surface may be dry and sandy or muddy, depending on weather conditions, and we may encounter some water crossings.

  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Rafting

What's Included

Professional guide leadership; all meals as noted in the daily itinerary; transfers as noted on the daily itinerary; standard hardtail mountain bikes for entirety of trip; bike helmets; tent; sleeping pad; group cooking and camping gear; all park fees and permits; group first-aid kit; snacks, water, soft drinks.

Accommodations

Camping, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Al Fresco Dinner & Sunset Hike in a Sonoran Sanctuary

Our trip begins in Scottsdale, Arizona. We meet our adventure companions at our host hotel in Old Town Scottsdale at 1pm, and after a quick welcome briefing we set out by private van for our campsite nestled in gorgeous McDowell Mountain Regional Park. As we leave the city behind, towering saguaro cactus begin to dot the landscape and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert fills our view. Our guide, not just an excellent host and backcountry chef, but also a skilled hiking and mountain biking guide, is waiting to greet us. Surrounded by colorful desert flora, we set up camp and pitch our tents before enjoying al fresco appetizers and a delicious dinner. We have time in the early evening to play around on our mountain bikes before beginning our first hike, the setting sun adding a palette of radiant colors to the desert landscape. Back at camp tonight, we enjoy each other’s company and bask in the glow of a flickering campfire beneath a canopy of brilliant stars. Dinner included.

Hiking: 7 miles, elevation gain/loss: 473'; Transfer: 1 hour

Pinch-me moment: Taking in the desert wilderness scenery, especially just before sunset. You’ll see why photographers call it "the golden hour."

Day 2

Epic Mountain Biking & Night Out in Old Town Scottsdale

At sunrise, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee fills the air, followed by a hearty breakfast. After fueling up, we make our first tracks in McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Our morning mountain bike ride (directly from camp) encompasses a portion of the fantastic Pemberton Loop Trail. Bordered by Tonto National Forest to the east and the McDowell Mountains to the west, the park allows for unobstructed views into several nearby mountain ranges. After a picnic lunch at a scenic trail-stop, we head back out to cover the remainder of the loop and possibly some spur trails before rolling over some super smooth, compacted downhill to finish off the day. Back at camp we can take refreshing showers before jumping in our van and heading into iconic Old Town Scottsdale for a fun night out. Check out some of the lively local pubs or have dinner in one of Scottsdale’s many excellent restaurants before jumping on our shuttle and returning to our tranquil camp for a good night’s sleep in our comfy, oversized tents. Breakfast and lunch included.

Mountain Biking: Up to 25 miles, elevation gain/loss: 830’

Pinch-me moment: The picnic. Warm sun, full tummy, mountain scenery, zero stress.

Day 3

Dutch Oven Cooking Class & Adventurer's Choice: Hike, Bike, Hammock or Float

Slip out of your sleeping bag, shake off last night’s celebrations, and get ready for another action-packed day. After breakfast, we each decide how we want to spend our morning. Those wanting to explore the Lower Salt River have the option (for an additional cost) to depart for a scenic float trip on this Class I river known for its lush riparian scenery and wildlife. Experienced guides steer our inflatable rafts downstream searching for bald eagles, great blue heron, beaver, and even herds of wild mustangs! A trip down the river also provides opportunities for swimming, a cooling treat in the midst of our desert escapade. Those who prefer to stay back at camp can enjoy an independent morning hike among the saguaro, follow our guide on another epic mountain bike ride, or just relax in a hammock and relish the Arizona sunshine. In mid-afternoon, we rendezvous back at camp and gather as a group for a Dutch oven cooking class, followed by a celebratory dinner and campfire. In the distance, as the desert nightlife begins to stir, we may hear the song of the coyote, a permanent resident of this beautiful park. All meals included.

Activity options: Mountain Biking: Up to 21 miles, elevation gain: 975’; Hiking: Go as far as you'd like!; Salt River scenic float (additional cost): Half-day

Pinch-me moment: Maybe your chosen adventure. Or maybe, simply, the magic of the desert night. Crickets, campfire, coyotes laughing in a distant valley, and more stars than you can count.

Day 4

Summit Picnic, Valley View Hiking & Farewell to the Desert

Our last morning starts early so we can make the most of our time in the desert. Breakfast, showers, pack up camp. Then we set out on Tom’s Thumb Trail, one of the best hikes in the preserve. The climb to the peak requires a sustained ascent up numerous switchbacks, with sweeping views of the Phoenix valley at the top. Laughter and lunch at the summit, then a leisurely descent and drive back to Scottsdale. Arriving at our hotel by 3:30pm, we say farewell to our guides and newfound friends. If departing Phoenix this evening, please do not schedule a flight before 6pm. Breakfast and lunch included.

Hiking: 4 miles, elevation gain/loss: 1,250’; Transfer: 1 hour

Pinch-me moment: Reaching the summit of Tom’s Thumb Trail and its strange namesake formation… then snapping a selfie or three in front of it because Instagram. (No judgment! We’re all for inspiring people to get outside.)

Sonoran Desert Stars – Hike, Camp, MTB, Repeat | Under 35 Departures 2019

Gear list

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

Bicycles

If you are not bringing a shoe and pedal system (optional), you will need a shoe designed for cycling or cross training to be used with the provided flat pedals. Consider these features: lightweight, closed toe, designed with stiffer soles to provide more efficient energy transfer as you pedal. Stiff soles protect your feet while riding and support the full length of your foot to reduce cramping and fatigue. If you bring your own saddle, please bring only the seat and not the seat post. Seat posts are not universal and may not fit the bike you'll be riding. You are welcome to bring a gel seat cover for use on the provided saddle.

What to pack

Packed by REI

  • All Group Cooking Gear
  • Cycling Helmet
  • Group First Aid Kit
  • Mountain Bike (Front Suspension)
  • Saddle Bag with Tool Kit
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Tents(s)

Packed by you (Required)

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Travel Documents

  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1-800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (1-800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice, which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

Adventure Expert

Joe G.

Travel with us to the Valley of the Sun where the best parts of desert living collide. By day we hike and mountain bike through the most biodiverse and lush desert on Earth, while at night we kick back and enjoy the lively pubs and clubs of vibrant Old Town Scottsdale.