Taking a trip to Havasupai for the first time is a special and truly unforgettable experience. The emails we get from guests after their first guided tour often say things like, “It was everything I’d hoped it would be,” or, “Before my hiking trip, I could never have imagined myself doing something like the Mooney Falls climb.” There is something unexpected in the existence of the pure blue creek deep at the bottom of the vast and arid canyon. It seems a paradise and a paradox all at the same time, a lush and nearly inaccessible oasis. Most visitors to Havasupai hike in on the 10+ mile Hualapai trail (see a video here!), some carry only a small day-pack and pack in the rest of their camping gear on pack horses as we do on our guided hiking tours to Havasupai. The canyon here is a land of contrasts, a remote wilderness where life depends on food and supplies are frequently flown in by helicopter, there's not a single car in the village and yet cell phones are not uncommon among the Supai people, even the deep blue of the sky and the creek stand out as contrasting colors against the red-orange rock walls in this part of the canyon. The Havasupai people who live there struggle to maintain an existence based in tradition, in the old ways, and in respectful veneration of their sacred lands. It’s hard to imagine that a place so different from our daily life can exist so close to “civilization.” When we hike into the canyon we surrender ourselves to the ebb and flow of natural cycles, ignoring our emails, falling asleep to the rush of the creek outside and the calls of wild burros and red-spotted toads.
Havasu Canyon is called the land of the blue-green waters, and the people that live there, the Havasupai, are the people of the blue-green waters. Havasu Creek has its headwaters in a spring in Cataract Canyon. From this source it flows down canyon, boring its way through the millions-of-years-old rock layers for which the Grand Canyon is famous. The creek has a unique beauty as a result of the plentiful calcium carbonate in the water. As Havasu Creek flows along, the calcium carbonate precipitates and clings to organic matter that is trapped along the banks, building travertine limestone formations out of ferns, logs, sticks and other debris. This build-up of travertine forms natural dams in the creek, creating beautiful deep blue pools and breathtaking terraces of waterfalls. The appearance of the creek and the canyon are ever changing, seasonal floods break travertine dams and carve away slices of rock from the cliff faces, destroying old waterfalls and building new. Hiking in Havasu Canyon is surprising and different from one year to the next, but there is a persistent magnificence in the changing landscape and the cycles of regeneration.
First time visitors may find themselves overwhelmed as they sink into relaxation, camped beneath the towering cottonwoods. Our stay is short, we are trespassing on a time and a place that is not our own, though we often wish it could be. Hiking into the canyon and visiting the waterfalls throughout are difficult tasks for some, but they are not mentally taxing, there is a simplistic and elemental sense of being when one is in the canyon. We camp beside the rushing creek and spend much of our time exposed to the open air, all the challenges of the day are physical – descending the cliff-ladder to the bottom of 200 ft tall Mooney Falls, weaving among the canyon grapevines on the hike to Beaver Falls, or swimming beneath the cascade of Havasu Falls. We find deeper relaxation in the simple physical pleasure of our taste buds remembering how truly delicious food is after a long tiring day, our bodies become nearly comatose in sleep while the wind outside whips the branches of the cottonwoods above. The physical challenges are constant, but at the same time they are not a matter of fitness but of muscle memory, of reminding our skin how it feels to bathe in a rushing stream and readjusting our ears to the sounds of birdsong in the morning.
Each person who visits Havasupai finds their own experience, on Arizona Outback Adventures’ guided hiking tours we strive to provide comfort with an appropriate degree of wilderness immersion. Some people opt to ride horses or fly in the helicopter out of the canyon, our guides work to adapt excursions to each individual’s fitness levels and interests, and high-quality expertly-prepared food is always available on our guided trips. When visiting Havasupai for the first time, it’s difficult to know what to expect, but one thing is for sure, the canyon will always surprise you.
Havasu Falls was recently called one of the best places to seek solitude (with a guide) by the NY Times. Featuring our partners Austin Lehman Adventures.
To learn more about our Havasupai guided tours Click Here !
Swimming in Havasu Creek
The Pack Horses and Mules carrying gear into Havasupai
Hiking the Hualapai Trail to Havasupai
New Navajo Falls, Rock Falls, and waterfall terraces in Havasupai
It's been a while since our last guide profile, so it is certainly time we get one up here for the month of May. Why are we doing guide profiles? Because our guides are AWESOME! Read about it a bit more in depth here.
If you missed it, check out the April profile of Josh.
A word about being an outdoor adventure guide: Outdoor guides are a singular group of individuals for whom the outdoor lifestyle is quite literally the air they breathe. The best and most experienced outdoor guides are a valuable asset to a company like Arizona Outback Adventures. It's extremely rewarding for us to hear that our guests had a great time with our guides on their trip. Our guides work hard to continually learn new things and to share their passion for the outdoors with each guest on our guided adventure trips.
So without further adieu, the guide for the month of May...
Hailing from Mesa, Arizona, Chris is one of the rare few who can say they are native to this great state.
29 (For about 7 more weeks!)
Guiding qualifications (certifications or sheer expertise)
Wilderness First Responder,
4 years working as an EMT,
12 years teaching outdoor survival and primitive living skills for the public, military, and ASU.
12 years professional guiding experience in backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking etc...
Primary Guide Function: Single-Day Tours or Multi-Day
Chris spends most of his time as a multi-day guide, leading guided hiking trips across the Southwest. He has worked for a number of outfitters and is one of the best hiking guides you'll encounter on a guided hiking tour.
Favorite trip/location to guide, why?
"Havasupai is by far my favorite place to be, but it’s hard to beat the emotions that come with guiding people Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon. Many people have had going to the bottom of the canyon on their bucket list for decades and are incredibly emotional when they get to the top of the South Rim. I really enjoy being a part of that."
Chris grew up adventuring with his mom who was a SCUBA and ski instructor. He started rock climbing at age 12 and has climbed all over the country ever since.
"Backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and trail running have been a huge part of my whole life."
Awesome thing Chris has done
Get Married!!!! (The lovely Mrs. Megan Anderson is another of our incredible guides)
Gear item Chris couldn’t live without
A Shemagh; It’s a middle eastern scarf that has 1001 uses in the backcountry.
My life is split in half between Chaco sandals, and La Sportiva Wildcat ultralight trail runners.
Favorite food while adventuring
Honey stingers all natural energy chews
Favorite food anytime
Biggest fear in the outdoors
"Being alone...i’m not really a solitary kind of person"
Longest period of time in the field
4 months teaching outdoor survival and primitive skills to kids
Best piece of advice for any outdoor adventure
"If you can learn to recognize and accept the fact that you don’t have to be 100% comfortable to be happy, you’ll always be happy in your adventures"
Staying Clean in the Outdoors
There is nothing quite like the feeling of a good cleansing shower after a long active day in the warm sun. After spending the day hiking or biking and you're tired, sweaty, and dusty, it may seem like there's enough dirt under your fingernails to fill all of Grand Canyon. A nice sudsy shower is the closest to imaginable thing to nirvana. But sometimes out on the trail showers are not an option and we must be satisfied in blissfully putting our weary feet up after a long day. As soon as you start to relax, it is easy to forget that you're covered in dirt, grime, and a film of dried salt-sweat. Our travel companions might remind us of it the next day, if their sense of smell isn’t warped by their own ripening odor.
Hygiene can be a problem when out adventuring and for many a casual outdoor enthusiast, it can be a deterrent from participating in a multi-day outdoor trip. Even without showers, there are a lot of ways to counteract the effects of dirt and sweat build-up while without access to modern amenities on your active vacation. Don’t let it keep you from enjoying your experience.
Here are some great tips and tricks for maintaining good personal hygiene while in the outdoors, brought to you by Outside Magazine.
1. Bring a Washcloth
2. Wear Deodorant
3. Use Baking Soda as Dry Shampoo
4. Deodorize your shoes
5. Hand-wash your clothes
Find the article here at Outsideonline.com!
At AOA, our guided outdoor tours vary in the amenities available to guests. All lodge-based trips provide washrooms and showers and most other guided tours include access to water sources. Guided backpacking trips offer the least access to running water; depending on the location of the trip, you may have the chance to bathe in a creek, lake, or river.
Guided Havasupai trips
- most bathing is done in Havasu creek with biodegradable soap/shampoo.
Sonoran Desert Singletrack (guided mountain biking tour)
- shower facilities available
Grand Canyon hiking tours (guided Rim to Rim hike & guided hike from the South Rim)
- showers available in the lodges on both North and South Rim and at Phantom Ranch in the canyon.
Custom Guided Adventures
- Most custom adventure tours can be tailored based on your wishes.
Natural Showers in Havasu Canyon - a great place to get clean on your guided hiking trip.
Mountain Biking 101
Moving to the desert was a big change for me, it took a lot of adjustment at first, but it also has been exactly the kind of exhilarating adventurous change I had anticipated. The Sonoran desert of Arizona offers the perfect climate for winter biking, and many people are drawn here by the promise of perfect mountain biking trails and long challenging road cycling routes. I’ve always been a casual biker, but had never before put pedals to a dirt trail on a mountain bike. The first time that I did, I immediately loved it. As a person who often finds individual sports boring, mountain biking surprised me in the dynamism of the trail, the need to always be alert and to shift gears and attention to anticipate changing terrain. Perhaps I have an unfair advantage, being surrounded by the avid riders that make up our excellent team of outdoor guides, but I am learning quickly and constantly compiling lists of tips, tricks, and things to remember to make me a better rider. I am certainly not yet an expert, but I have pushed myself to do better and try more difficult and technical trails like the competition loops at McDowell Mountain Regional Park where AOA runs its guided mountain biking tours.
So here it is, from a beginner herself, Mountain Biking 101
1. Know your Bike – find one that fits
Working in a company with a large bike fleet and a team of talented bike mechanics has really helped me on this one. The way I see it, learning the specs and the technical info is all well and good, but it’s important to find a bike that feels good on the trail.
- What size bike do you need? If one doesn’t feel quite right, go up or down a size and see if that works better.
- Learn the difference between a 26 inch wheel and a 29er. Listen to other peoples’ opinions on the two, but try them out and make up your own mind which you prefer.
- Front suspension or full suspension mountain bike? There are pros and cons to each. Hardtails (front suspension only) are typically lighter than full suspension bikes, this coupled with more efficient transfer of pedal power to the rear wheel make them good climbers. On the other hand, Full suspension bikes provide a more comfortable ride on technical and downhill lengths.
2. Have a plan & be prepared.
- Wear bike shorts, you’ll be glad you did. (And don't be afraid to put that weird chamois butter in your shorts, nobody wants chafing!)
- Carry a map and know what to expect on the trail, the technical aspects, how long it is, whether it intersects other trails, etc.
- Pack what you need to have a successful and fun ride: A spare tube, tire levers, and a hand pump in case you need to change a flat. Water, very very important when riding in the desert, plan for a bike bottle/hour. Sunscreen, sunglasses. Cell phone. Energy bar or energy gel. A first aid kit – you’ll be glad you have it after that first big fall.
3. Keep your head up
Just like driving a car, watch the trail out ahead of you, not right in front of your wheel. That way you see the turn or gravel or rock before you get to it and are able to move intuitively as it comes along.
4. Shift frequently – before you need to!
When you see an incline coming, shift down in before you get there so that as your momentum carries you up you will be able to continue pedaling with ease.
5. Stay back on your seat
This is most important when going downhill. On a decline, keep your hips/rear raised up over the seat but pointing back far behind you and those knees are light to absorb shock.
6. When not pedaling, keep your feet level.
Your feet should not be one up one down as you might while coasting along a road. As the AOA staff will tell you on a guided mountain bike ride, keep your feet at 9 and 3 like hands on a steering wheel. This will help you to avoid catching your foot on a rock or in the dirt as you go uphill.
7. Don’t Tailgate
An extremely important tip. You don’t know what the person in front of you is going to do. If they unexpectedly slow down or take a fall, you want a couple of bikelengths of space to react so you don't crash into them.
8. Always be in control
Mountain Biking should be fun, and it’s far more likely to be if you are comfortable with the trail and feeling good during the ride. If your body starts to feel shaky and weak, if your bike is moving in ways you don’t understand and can’t handle, or if the trail simply appears frightening and you are out of your comfort zone, stop and reassess. If you feel that you are forcing the ride you are much likely to take a fall and injure yourself.
9. Respect your fellow riders
Practice good trail etiquette and be polite. Let other people you encounter know that you are there; bikers, hikers, and horseback riders. Be careful when rounding corners and listen for people who may be out of sight.
10. Be confident
Do stay in your comfort zone, but also don’t be afraid to attempt something a bit challenging. It may be far easier than you expect. Confidence in movement will make your ride easier.
Our guided mountain bike tours in Scottsdale and the greater Phoenix area are designed for every level of rider, with comprehensive safety speeches and experienced guides to help you along the way – or to challenge the more experienced rider and show you the best singletrack experience. In each case, we provide the support to help take your desert mountain bike ride and turn it into a rewarding and fun experience.
My own mountain biking skills are certainly far from excellent, but I find that with each ride I’m able to take on a little bit more challenge as long as I keep the basics in mind. Never take the safety aspect for granted. Ride consciously and keep in mind the movement of your body with the bike. One only my 4th or 5th ride I started to get overconfident and it resulted in quite a tumble over the front of my handlebars. My weight was too far forward and I was getting tired and losing control. It was a good lesson, and we learn from each fall we take.
There are a lot of great resources for new riders who want to learn more about the sport but are intimidated by the gear, the trails, or the more experienced riders. Check out a forum like forums.mtbr.com to read what others have to say about the sport and ask questions, stop into your local bike shop for advice about bikes and gear, find a local meetup or hire a guide to show you some of the trails in the area and familiarize you with the appropriate technique. It’s been said a million times, but there are no stupid questions. Mountain biking is a wonderfully fun sport, but it can also be dangerous if you’re not well informed and smart about riding.
If you’re interested in learning more about mountain bikes or a guided mountain bike tour in McDowell Mountain Regional Park, submit a contact form or give us a call at 1-866-455-1601.
Arizona’s Salt River
There are certain iconic places or things that represent Arizona the world over. I’m sure you can come up with a short list of them yourself without much prompting. At the top of this list you would probably place the Giant Saguaro Cactus, The Grand Canyon, and the fierce and mighty Colorado River. The Colorado River is one of the most well-known rivers in the world, it runs through six states on its journey to the sea, supplying power and water to millions of people along the way, but it is not the only river giving life to the beautiful desert state of Arizona. There are many tributaries to the Colorado, and and each tributary river is itself fed by creeks and washes, together creating a web of water that feeds the desert. The Salt River is arguably one of the most important rivers in Arizona, because of the part it plays in supplying power and drinking water to the state's largest metropolitan area. As a visitor to Phoenix you might never know that there is a river running through the city, much of the riverbed here is dry, but its presence is constantly affecting the inhabitants of the Valley of the Sun, and the many people who visit each year.
Wild at its source
Phoenix is a sprawling metropolis inhabited by over 4 million people, a population that exists in a delicate symbiosis with the natural environment. Arizona’s Salt River flows out of the White Mountains where it is born in the confluence of the Black River and the White River. From its origin the Salt is powerful, flowing through Salt River Canyon at an average flow of between 800 and 10,000 cubic feet/second and generating rapids classified as III-difficult and IV-very difficult on the international scale of river difficulty. Rafting the upper Salt River is popular among intrepid outdoor enthusiasts. The Salt River is the largest tributary of the Gila River and once upon a time its waters flowed all the way into the Colorado at the confluence of the Colorado and the Gila near Yuma, Arizona.
The Salt River Project
In the last 100 years the power of the great Salt River has been harnessed for the benefit of those 4 million+ residents of the Valley of the Sun through a series of dams that generate power for municipal and industrial use and divert water for irrigation. The system is managed by the Salt River Project and the river’s course is protected by the Tonto National Forest. In addition to providing water for the region’s human population, it also is a basic need for the richly diverse native flora and fauna, and popular for outdoor recreation such as bird-watching, inner-tubing, kayaking, and river rafting. Below the Stewart Mountain Dam, the Salt River converges with the Verde River and continues at a leisurely pace onwards toward the Phoenix area. The river here is where Arizona Outback Adventures operates our calm-water guided rafting and guided kayaking tours.
River ecosystems are known as riparian zones and in the deserts of the Southwest they are home to plant and animal life that many people don’t often associate with a desert landscape. Floating down the lower Salt River on a guided rafting trip, it is common for our groups to encounter a variety of birds including bald eagle and other hawks, to spot beaver lodges, and to catch a glimpse of the spirited wild horses that call the area home. Although the Salt River’s flow has been altered by the dams that have been built, the Salt River Project and the Tonto National Forest together manage to preserve a delicate ecosystem.
Rafting and Kayaking on the Salt River
Rafting and kayaking on the Salt River are popular recreational activities, many people are attracted to the river simply by the promise of a refreshing swim, but they would be amiss not to stop and appreciate the diverse wildlife that calls the Salt home. Education is an integral part of both our rafting and kayaking adventures, having a guide along to share details or stories about the river’s plants and animals makes the view all that more interesting. Our guides know all the best places to stop along the way for swimming or snacking, helping each of our tour guests to get to know the river and have an unforgettable and unique adventure experience.
The Endangered Salt River
As the human population grows in the deserts of the Southwest, more questions are raised as to how it will impact the natural environment. The Southwest is our backyard, and we are ferociously protective of the beautiful places we love to play in, we know that the best way to protect the outdoors is to educate others. Our tours are all designed to teach guests about the geology, weather, plants and animals of a place, so that each person has the opportunity to deepen their adventure experience. Although there may be pressure on the environment, the Salt River continues to support a healthy natural environment while providing for the human population of the area and is a source of recreation and education for many people, including the thousands who join us ever year on our guided kayaking tours and guided rafting trips.
Oh to be pedaling along on two wheels... speeding along stunning singletrack, racing riskily down winding ridgeline roads, cruising carelessly next to calm canals...
AOA’s bike rental shop is the largest in Arizona and boy do we love our bikes. REI creates some great infographics and I felt the need to share this one with the bike lovers among us. I don’t know that any of the AOA peeps are riding Tall Bikes on the weekend, but there are some oddballs among us so I can’t rule it out entirely. From our perspective, I think that there are not nearly enough questions leading to Mountain Bike, which is probably where a lot of the AOA teams' and fans' hearts really lie.
Joing AOA on our guided bike tours, we offer single-day and multi-day guided mountain bike tours, single-day guided road cycling or guided tours along neighborhood bike paths throughout Scottsdale.
Want to ride alone? We have the bike for you - maps and helmets always included, racks and other gear is available as well.
The best of the best
On the blog last week I talked a bit about what AOA’s intentions are with maintaining and regularly updating this blog. The AOA vision, and the chief goal we strive for with every guided outdoor trip we offer and every bike we rent, is to provide our guests with the “pinnacle of adventure experiences.” One of the most important ways to achieve this is by consistently providing the best service to each of our trip guests and bike customers.
We have excellent guides who work hard to make our guided tours in Arizona and around the Southwest an incredible experience. Frequently we get requests for one guide or another or guests returning year after year and wanting to take a different guided tour with the same guide. For many of our guides, their reputation precedes them. In this day and age of the internet, it’s easy to google someone and find out all about them, so we might as well contribute to the library of information floating around about out there and provide you with some guide highlights of our own.
The first ever guide profile…
Josh is originally from the great state of Texas but having moved around as a child he doesn’t call any one place his hometown. These days he lives in Arizona.
29 years young
N/A (I think this means he’s in the market for a really good one)
Guiding qualifications (certifications or sheer expertise)
- WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certified
- Swift Water Rescue Technician
- Leave No Trace Master Educator
- NOLS Outdoor Educator grad (National Outdoor Leadership School)
- PADI certified underwater diver
- REI Adventures 2011 Top Guide award winner
Primary Guide Function: Single-Day Tours or Multi-Day trips
You’re most likely to see Josh on a multi-day trip but he does a bit of everything including the occasional single-day tour. Josh is also an integral part of our in-office team and spends much of his time working with guests to coordinate the best adventure vacation for each group.
Favorite trip/location to guide, why?
Grand Canyon Rim to Rim guided hiking trip
(although he says it’s difficult to call it a “favorite,” because he loves them all)
Why: Josh says, “I love to see guests’ expressions when they stand on the South Rim and look back at the North Rim and realize what they’ve accomplished.” Josh also says he loves the social aspect of hanging out at Phantom Ranch and thinking about the awesome history of the place.
Grew up camping with his many brothers, and was always involved in active outdoor sports.
Awesome thing Josh has done
2 day sea kayak trip in the Abel Tasman Sea in New Zealand and in 2012 Josh completed his first Ironman triathlon.
Gear item Josh couldn’t live without
Patagucci (Patagonia) trail runners
Favorite food while adventuring
Favorite food anytime
Biggest fear in the outdoors
Longest period of time in the field
31 days in Arizona’s Kofa Wildlife Refuge with NOLS
Best piece of advice for any outdoor adventure
“Take time to find comfort and joy in the small details – whether on a big Grand Canyon expedition or a simple nature walk down the street”
The photo above was taken recently after Josh was persuaded by Lucas, AOA's current intern, to get in touch with his inner cowboy and do a little bullriding at the Buffalo Chip Saloon in Cave Creek Arizona.
What does blogging have to do with guided adventure tours?
One of the primary purposes in keeping a blog here at Arizona Outback Adventures is to provide our guests, friends, and the general public a bit of insight into AOA. Our formal website exists for the function of telling interested travelers and casual internet browsers about our services, but with a blog we can supplement that a bit and try to give a more thorough picture of what we are all about, how guided adventure travel works, what goes into creating an authentic outdoor adventure vacation, and who are the outdoor enthusiasts behind our guided adventure tours. Our primary objective is always to provide exceptional service to every guest on our guided trips and every customer who comes in to rent a bike. We want to show you who we are, to surpass mere “transaction” and to cultivate unforgettable experiences.
Learn about the guides who work our tours
Many people who travel with us on our multi-day guided adventure tours develop a strong relationship with their trip guides and we are always delighted to hear reviews by past guests. A lot of our guests arrive for their guided trip and announce that they have already “googled” their guides and found out all about them! When we take reservations for guided single-day tours in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area, we frequently get people requesting one guide or another by name, saying that they heard from a friend or hotel concierge to “ask for Gary, he is the best mountain bike guide.” This is a common occurrence and it’s certainly not limited only to Gary. Many of our guests remember their guides and come back years after they took a tour and say they’d like to go hiking with Josh again because they had so much fun with him on their guided Havasupai tour 5 years ago.
Follow our new monthly feature - guide profiles
It is always really wonderful for us to see a request like that come through, and it makes us proud that our guides are so well remembered by guests on a tour. We work hard to develop a strong and competent team of exceptional outdoor guides and we’d like to showcase them a bit by featuring a guide on our blog once a month, beginning next week, Tuesday April 16.
What would you like to know about your favorite guide? Have any fun stories to share? Share your questions and stories in the comments below or on our facebook page.
AOA guides take adventuring seriously...
Jumping off waterfalls should only be done safely and carefully when you know exactly the right spot. Our guides are experts.
The love to ride and know all the best mountain biking trails and road cycling routes in Scottsdale and Phoenix, not to mention many other places around the Southwest.
Our guides are awesome cooks and prepare delicious food to fuel our guests on guided multi-day adventure tours.
Bike Rental or Guided Outdoor Tour?
Most people who travel with us on our multi-day guided adventure tours make their travel plans via phone and email conversations and may never step foot inside the Arizona Outback Adventures office in Scottsdale, AZ. The bulk of people who walk through our doors on a daily basis are customers who are coming in to rent our bikes. When these customers come into AOA, their sole objective is to rent a bike, they may have been recommended to us based only on looking for a bike and not have any idea that we operate all-inclusive outdoor adventure tours to some of the most amazing places in the American West.
In the last month we made a lot of improvements to our lobby area in an effort to enhance the customer experience for everyone stepping through our doors – both to encourage those who are renting bikes from us to linger and learn about all the many other things we offer, and to create a space that’s welcoming and informative to people who might stop in looking for information about our tours while planning their vacation activities. We also have more and more customers coming to our office for our guided single-day tours which we operate locally in Scottsdale and around the greater Phoenix area.
Taking your bike rental experience to a whole new level – Map Center
We’ve always had maps on offer for our bike rental customers, but we’ve expanded our selection to create a more comprehensive offering of the best bike routes in Scottsdale and the greater valley. Now the maps are on display and labeled so that visitors waiting in the lobby can browse through them on their own if they choose
A Better Visitor Experience
We moved the front desk out of the main lobby area and into the office space immediately behind it. The glass window ensures that whoever is working at the desk is still able to see visitors come in and prevents the space from feeling like a separate room entirely. We've added a comfortable sofa so there is a place for people to sit and rest after they've been out on a tour or a bike ride. We also have snacks and drinks for sale so you can take something along on your bike ride just in case you get hungry.
Get your own AOA Outdoor Gear
For some time we’ve had a limited amount of AOA gear available for purchase out of our shop. Lately, we more and more frequently have customers on our guided single-day tours asking our guides about their hat or water bottle with our logo on it, or the blue AOA jerseys our bike tour guides wear. Now you can browse all of our merchandise and leave at the end of the day with an awesome memento of your sweet bike ride, guided hiking tour, or awesome day of rafting or kayaking on the Salt River. Even better, pick something up for your friends at home and tell them to stop on by when they’re in town!
Learn About our All-inclusive Guided Tours
Although we love our bike rental customers and our awesome bike rental fleet is the largest in Arizona, the largest part of our business really is our guided adventure tours. We are extremely happy to be able to showcase a bit about our guided tours in the Southwest through the new design of our lobby. There are beautiful photos of our guided Havasupai hiking tours, guided cycling trips, adventure tours to Bryce and Zion National Parks, guided backpacking trips in the Superstition Mountains, and mountain biking in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Designing and operating incredible adventure vacations across the American West is what we do best and we are happy to be able to share that with each person who walks through our door.
Relax and Chat with AOA staff
One of the best parts of all this is all the extra space allows the AOA staff to comfortably mingle with visitors in the lobby and make sure that everyone is being taken care of and getting the best customer service. We love talking to people about the awesome trails they’ve been riding, the trail they hiked yesterday or the odd-looking creature that scurried across their trail (what was that thing anyways?!), and answering questions about our guided hiking, biking and backpacking trips around the Southwest.
Featured Location – Superstition Mountains Wilderness Area, Arizona
What’s in a name?
Arizona’s mysterious Superstition Mountains were a place of intrigue and legend long before German immigrant Jacob Waltz revealed the location of a hidden vein of gold while on his deathbed in 1891. The name is said to come from the native Yavapai people; one story claims that there is a hole to the underworld located in the Superstitions, from which terrible winds emerge and bring raging dust storms (dust storms are not particularly common in the Superstitions). After Jacob Waltz told of his secret discovery deep within the mountains, many people flocked to the wilderness in the hope of finding the elusive mother lode, known as the lost Dutchman goldmine. All have been unsuccessful, and many people have perished in pursuit of the hidden riches. The stories about the Superstition Wilderness area have deepened its allure for many, but it is the rich natural diversity and awe-inspiring landscape that draws outdoor enthusiasts.
Why Hike in the Superstitions
Hiking in the Superstition Mountains is possible as a single-day activity but accessing the more unique and remote places within the Wilderness Area is easier accomplished as a well-planned overnight. Backpacking in the Superstition Mountains is one of our favorite guided backpacking trips to operate. We can design your desert backpacking escape as a quick overnight or a longer and more strenuous expedition. Check out the example itinerary on our Custom Tours page. The Sonoran desert of Arizona is our personal stomping grounds and we love to share it with our visitors from far and wide. When you need an escape from stress, work, or the incessant buzzing of your phone and the upward count of unread emails in your inbox, a quick weekend backpacking getaway to the desert is the perfect remedy. From November to April the temperatures hover between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and only rarely dip below freezing on the coldest of January nights. After a (relatively) wet winter like the one we’ve just had, spring in the Superstitions is a picture-perfect tranquil oasis filled with sparkling pools of water warmed by the desert sun, wildflowers bursting with color, and a plethora of creatures emerging from hibernation. Taking a quick dip in the Superstitions’ hidden swimming holes really is the best way to refresh and clean up while out in the backcountry.
Backpacking Hazards in the Desert
Backpacking in the desert offers stunning views of rocky landscapes and towering saguaro cactus, but it also presents unique challenges and dangers that many people fail to anticipate. Jacob Waltz’s tale of gold in the Superstition Mountains still draws treasure hunters to the region and frequently generates thrilling news stories of missing persons and elaborate rescues. This past winter some lost hikers out on a trail were given poor directions by another hiker and ended up wandering late into the night in the midst of an Arizona cold snap; expecting characteristic Arizona warmth they were traveling unprepared. The other hiker was herself lost when she misdirected the group and was found only days later. It turned out it was not the first time she had been lost in the Superstitions, both times her objective was to find the Lost Dutchman Mine. The natural environment itself can also present some significant hazards, the Superstitions are home to mountain lions, bobcats, javelina, Gila Monsters, and rattlesnakes, in a dry year there may be limited access to reliable water sources and in a wet year there can be flash floods or poorly maintained trails. Our role as an adventure tour outfitter is to ensure that the beauty and wonder of the environment create lasting memories of your backpacking trip and that all potential mishaps are expertly avoided. At AOA, our guides are well-trained, Wilderness First Responder certified, and extremely knowledgeable about each region in which they operate a trip, in the Superstition Mountains Wilderness they have the advantage in that they are showing off their own backyard!
March of this year was bursting with greenery and wildflowers and the landscape is only starting to “brown up” as the mercury rises towards 90 F. This means lizards and rattlesnake encounters are common during the warmest part of the day when they come out to catch the sun. Everyone can avoid problems with even the most dangerous reptiles by keeping careful watch not to poke into nooks and crannies or actively harass the wildlife; even Gila Monsters, large venomous lizards that many people often fear, are harmless when left unmolested. On a recent weekend backpacking trip in the Superstitions, the group had eight individual Gila Monster encounters. By following the expert advice of one of our long-time guides they were able to observe these incredible creatures from a safe distance and nab some awesome photos. The rocky terrain has been softened by a thick carpet of fuzzy green grass in the wake of winter rains, canyon walls are dotted with wild poppies, lupine, and brittlebush flowers, as the weather continues to warm the cactus start to bloom, first the prickly pear and barrel cactus and soon the famed giant Saguaro cactus itself.
Benefits of a guided trip
Our goal is always to create an unforgettable experience for all of our guests and when it comes to a guided backpacking tour in a place as fascinating as the Superstitions, working with Arizona Outback Adventures makes it possible to appreciate the highlights of your trip without getting bogged down in the details of planning. When you’re thinking about your next backpacking escape, look no further than AOA’s guided Superstition Mountains backpacking trip, we’ll lead you to the best hidden canyons, show you our favorite places for jumping into clear warm swimming holes, and teach you all about the secrets of this mysterious desert wilderness.
Spring Pools in the Superstition Mountains
Wildflowers seen along the trail - March 2013