Arizona Hiking Tucson & Sonoran Desert – Lodge Based

Trip Length4 Days
Group Size4-12
Activity level
Starting from
$1,989 for REI Members
$2,169 for non-members
DeparturesOct 2023-Dec 2024

Enjoy a warm 4-day winter getaway in one of southern Arizona’s most dramatic landscapes: the Sonoran Desert.

There is something magical about the way the scenery unfolds in the Sonoran Desert. Giant Saguaro cacti are framed against a blue, cloudless backdrop. The sky is dotted with birds of prey soaring in search of their next meal. Bright flowers burst impossibly from the parched earth. When night falls, the scene becomes entirely still—a level of quiet that can only be felt in the desert.

This adventure explores it all, including visits to Saguaro National Park, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Each of these places is a protected wilderness area, offering opportunities to learn more about the flora, fauna, history, and geology that comprise this desert ecosystem. Get the perspective of locals living modern day life on the Arizona-Mexico Border. Enjoy daily hikes among desert landscapes and lounge on polished granite next to a clear, spring-fed waterfall. Cap each evening off in the relaxing comfort of our well-appointed hotel accommodations, feeling tired but exhilarated from the day’s adventures.

We hike at a relaxed pace to dramatic viewpoints that offer spectacular panoramas of the surrounding desert and mountains.

Trip Highlights

  • Enjoy a 4-day escape to Arizona’s spectacular and diverse Sonoran Desert
  • Hike to beautiful waterfalls and visit the acclaimed Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  • Hike in Saguaro National Park, a landscape dotted with this iconic giant cactus
  • Discover the beauty of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the Mexican border
  • Visit the historic town of Ajo, Arizona and its beautifully-preserved town square


This trip is rated Easy Active [2]. Participants should enjoy hiking and feel comfortable hiking 2-6 miles with elevation gains/losses of up to 1,000' for multiple days in succession. To maximize your enjoyment of the trip and to avoid sore muscles, we suggest beginning a regular exercise regimen at least 2-3 months prior to departure. Recommended exercises include hiking, jogging, cycling and/or swimming.

  • Hiking

What's Included

Three nights hotel lodging; all meals from lunch on Day 1 through lunch on Day 4; guides; roundtrip transportation from/to Scottsdale; all national park, museum and national monument entrance fees and permits.


Hotel: 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Arizona Hiking Tucson & Sonoran Desert – Lodge Based
Day 1

Meet in Scottsdale and head south to Sabino Canyon. Hike to Seven Falls

Our trip begins today in Scottsdale, Arizona. Meet your guides and fellow travelers at our host hotel conveniently located in vibrant Old Town Scottsdale. A brief orientation ensures we're all prepared before we load into our private van and set out for Sabino Canyon and our first hike to Seven Falls. Taking a tram to the Bear Canyon trailhead, we ascend a series of switchbacks and make several small creek crossings en route to the seven-tiered waterfall that provides our first glimpse of the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. The skyline above the falls is punctuated by jagged cliffs and ridgelines making this spot a photographic favorite. After returning to the trailhead, we hop back in our vehicle and transfer to Tucson where we enjoy our first dinner and spend the night in a comfortable hotel. Lunch and dinner included.

Transfer time: 3 hours; Hiking: 5 miles with 900’ elevation gain/loss

Day 2

Hike in Saguaro National Park; visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

After breakfast, we head to Saguaro National Park to see one of the most iconic symbols of the American Southwest up close. Found in only a small portion of the U.S., the giant saguaro cactus is well-represented across the park's 91,000 acres. Our hike's hilltop summit offers great views of the park's famous bajadas (lower mountain slopes where cactus grows more densely). Next up is the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, recognized throughout the world as a model for innovative presentation and interpretation of native plants and animals. We take time to explore the museum and have lunch before traveling to the historic town of Ajo. Our home for the next two nights will be the lovely Sonoran Desert Inn. At dinner this evening, we’re joined by a member of the nearby Tohono O’odham tribe who shares her insights on the culture and history of the town and her people. All meals included.

Transfer time: 3.5 hours; Hiking: 3-4 miles with 150’ elevation gain/loss

Day 3

Explore Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and soak in view from Childs Mountain

We drive south towards the Mexican border for our morning hike in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. While the incredible namesake columnar cactus may be the main attraction, the soaring cliffs and expansive views into Mexico add to the allure of this protected wilderness. In addition, the vast 330,000-acre monument is home to an extraordinary collection of regional flora and fauna. Our hike leads us up dirt trails to a dramatic viewpoint that offers spectacular panoramas of the surrounding desert and mountains. Next, we take a short drive to the Mexican border. We’re joined by an interpretive ranger who shares the history and secrets of this fascinating ecosystem while we picnic just feet from the border. This afternoon, we head into the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, whose focus is on protection of the endangered Sonoran pronghorn. This evening we reflect on our day and enjoy the landscape from atop Childs Mountain, 1,500 feet above the desert floor with views stretching over 100 miles. All meals included.

Transfer time: 2 hours; Hiking: 3.5 miles with 1,100’ of elevation gain/loss

Day 4

Hike in the volcanic Crater Range before returning to Phoenix

We say goodbye to the lovely little town of Ajo this morning and begin our drive north to Phoenix. Along our route lies the Crater Range, approximately ten miles of volcanic upheaval that’s left behind a rugged landscape filled with the eroded remains of ancient lava flows, layers of tuff and volcanic breccia. Many traces of prehistoric human habitation can be found in the area and evidence suggests the range may have been a significant hunting ground for bighorn sheep and mule deer. We set out on our final hike through these unique, jagged formations, basking in the desert sunshine and watching for the many species of lizards that call the range home. After our hike, we enjoy a picnic lunch in the desert before completing the last leg of our drive to Phoenix. We plan to arrive back in Phoenix by 3:30pm. Please do not schedule any departing flights before 6pm. Breakfast and lunch included.

Transfer time: 2.5 hours; Hiking: 3.5 miles with minimal elevation gain/loss

Itinerary map for Arizona Hiking Tucson & Sonoran Desert – Lodge Based

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

Already booked this trip? Sign into your online traveler profile for a more detailed list of what you'll need.

REI members can shop for gently used gear online or at most REI stores. Members can also trade in pre-loved used gear online or at any REI store in exchange for REI gift card credit. Check out Re/Supply at REI to learn more.

What to pack

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.