Arizona Custom Adventure Tours

Arizona is a land of frontiers, of civilization co-mingling with wilderness on all sides, of contrasts and extremes. The biologic diversity of Arizona is so great that on the slopes of the San Francisco peaks outside Flagstaff the terrain and plant life resemble that of Alaska, yet no more than 50 miles to the south is the hottest and most tropical desert in the United States, the Sonoran.

There are no limits to your outdoor adventures in this beautiful southwestern state, from mountain biking in Sedona to exploring the sky islands of the Chiricahua or backpacking the mysterious Superstition Mountains outside Phoenix, there is a place to explore in every season.

Arizona is our backyard and we love to customize private trips to our favorite places across the state – visit Antelope Canyon, see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, ride to the summit of Tucson’s Mount Lemmon, or hike through the beautiful and lush creekbed in Aravaipa canyon.

Custom Arizona Tours Are About You

At Arizona Outback Adventures we’ve been designing adventure vacations for 20 years and custom itineraries are our specialty. All it takes is a phone call, and we do the rest. Don’t forget, all of our scheduled departures can be personalized to fit your personal vacation style!

Hike the Ballantine Trail

Meet your guides in Phoenix and venture into the Tonto National Forest. The third largest National Forest in the country it spreads over 3 million acres of valleys, rivers and mountains filled with incredibly diverse flora and fauna, topography and history. We head northeast towards the Mazatzal Mountains (pronounced ‘ma-ta-zal’ by locals) to the Ballantine Trailhead. In a few moments, we find ourselves well beyond the sounds of civilization, ascending over a cactus-laden hill into a wide ravine shadowed by towering Giant Saguaros and massive granite boulders. After a delicious lunch on the trail we head to our idyllic home for the next two nights, Saguaro Lake Ranch, resting on the quiet banks of the Salt River below the Bulldog Cliffs. Tonight we relax and enjoy a classic cowboy cookout under the stars!

  • Hiking: 3 miles/1300 feet
  • Lodging: Saguaro Lake Ranch

Hike the Bulldog Cliffs & Kayak the Lower Salt River

This morning, we shuttle by canoe to the base of the s 1000-foot Bulldog Cliffs. Our secluded trek begins through a bosque of mesquite trees before the trail slips into a gorgeous canyon replete with clear flowing springs and lush plant life before ascending to the steep, craggy summit. Amazing views of Tonto National Forest and beyond are a feast for the eyes. After our hike we lunch back at the ranch then kick back in kayaks to maneuver the beginner-friendly waters of the Lower Salt River. Keep your eyes open for wild horses, bald eagles and river otters as the cool water winds west towards the Valley of the Sun.

  • Hiking: 10 miles
  • Kayaking: 3 miles
  • Lodging: Saguaro Lake Ranch

Hike the Superstition Mountains and Transfer to Tucson

Awaken to a cup of fresh brewed coffee and hearty breakfast before we depart for the Peralta Trail in the Superstition Mountains. Apache folklore and geologic mysteries abound in the caves and canyons of these rocky desert mountains. Learn the legend of the Lost Dutchman and hear for yourself the call of the wild, luring explorers even today deeper and deeper in hopes of gold and hidden treasure. Enjoy lunch under a shady Cottonwood before climbing in the van to relax on the drive south to the vibrant, cultural town of Tucson. Rising a rapid vertical mile above the city to heights surpassing nine thousand feet, the beautiful Santa Catalina foothills serve as the backdrop for our home the next three nights. Tonight we stay at Hacienda del Sol, a colorful guest ranch where the famed John Wayne is known to have signed the guestbook a time or two.

  • Hiking: 4-8 miles
  • Lodging: Hacienda del Sol

Saguaro National Park & Sonoran Desert Museum

Wake up to Tucson’s gorgeous mountain backdrop! Today, we visit Saguaro National Park, set in both the Rincon and Tucson mountain ranges of the valley. Though a classic symbol of the American West and a staple in any desert-themed cartoon movie, the stately Saguaro cactus (pronounced ‘Sa-WAH-ro’) in fact only grows naturally in the Sonoran Desert (roughly 1.6 million individual saguaro plants grow in the park!). Walk amongst these giants on our hike today, which takes us past old mine tunnels and ancient petroglyphs and includes the option to summit the highest point of the Tucson Mountains at 4,687 feet, Wasson Peak. After lunch and a glass of Prickly Pear Iced Tea at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, spend the rest of the afternoon exploring this world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden featuring over 1,200 plants and animals such as the adorable though unforgivably poisonous Gila Monster. Tonight we feast at the world’s best Mexican restaurant on flautas and carne asada doused of course in an unforgivably hot sauce…

  • Hiking: 4-8 miles
  • Lodging: Hacienda del Sol

Sabino Canyon & Seven Falls

Today’s hike explores the beautiful Sabino Canyon, bring along water shoes and a bathing suit because today’s desert trek leads to water! After crossing Sabino Creek several times, the trail rises up the side of Bear Canyon, leveling off at Seven Falls. Take a dip and a relaxing lunch break on the smooth boulders beside this series of pools before our hike down through this beautiful riparian oasis. Before dinner experience the pride and joy of Arizona as we drive up Santa Catalina Highway to Windy Point for an unbeatable sunset.

  • Hiking: 4-8 miles
  • Lodging: Hacienda del Sol

Romero Canyon & Hohokam Ruins

Today we explore Romero Canyon, a gem of the Catalina Mountains’s and guide favorite in the Southwest! Birds and breezes serve as the soundtrack to our hike along the ridge, over the saddle, through this peaceful grassland. After an exciting visit to Hohokam ruins we will climb back in the van and return to Phoenix by evening.

  • Hiking: 10 miles
  • Lodging: On your own

It is not often in life that you have experiences that truly change you. I want to thank all of you for sharing and providing me with the perfect opportunity.Valerie

Drive from Scottsdale to Southern Arizona

We begin our journey in the lobby of our Scottsdale hotel this morning where our AOA guide is waiting for us. From here, we’ll climb aboard the AOA vehicle and head south, learning about the history of Arizona settlements-turned-metropoles, including Tucson, our final destination today. We hike to the top of Picacho Peak and do lunch in the park. After passing pecan orchards and monuments to desert erosion such as Picacho Peak, we arrive at beautiful Catalina State Park just as the sun begins to touch the horizon. We’ll don our hiking shoes and make our way to the Romero Ruins, an ancient Hohokam village dating back to 500 A.D. Or, if preferred, we can get in a short warm-up ride on the bikes around the park. Tonight we set up camp. Our oversized tents, ultra-comfortable sleeping pads, and complete camp kitchen will create a home away from home for you to begin your adventures from. Have a hot shower while your guide prepares appetizers and a restaurant-quality dinner to be enjoyed beneath the stars of the Sonoran Desert.

  • Hiking: 4 miles
  • Lodging: Catalina State Park Campground

Bike through and explore Saguaro National Park

After a hearty breakfast in camp, we will get fit to our AOA-provided road bikes and hit the road. Riding straight from the campsite, we enjoy the gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community of Tucson, making our way around the city’s edges via “The Loop”, a motor-free path with more than 100 miles to explore. Our guide will be on hand as a SAG support to direct us through a few turns and provide flat repair, water refill, and all the snacks you could hope for. On our route, we’ll see plenty of Saguaro Cactus, the universal symbol of the southwest, many of which tower over 5 stories high and live to be several hundred years old. Their numbers and density increase as we near Saguaro National Park where 140 square miles of stunning Sonoran Desert views await. Nestled at the park’s heart is the little-known but much-loved Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. We will enjoy lunch at the Ocotillo Café within the museum, then have a chance to explore this part-museum, part-zoo area favorite. At 12:15, make sure to be at the Warden Oasis Theater for a live animal presentation featuring venomous reptiles! This afternoon we return to our campground for rest and relaxation before dinner and another night spent under the stars.

  • Biking: 70 miles; +2300 feet with options to shorten riding distance with SAG support, or add a 38-mile out-and-back to Biosphere
  • Lodging: Catalina State Park Campground

Explore Romero Pools, Montezuma’s Castle, and head to the Grand Canyon

We’ll rise early to begin packing up camp while our guide prepares a delicious hot breakfast. Before hitting the road, we’ll hike to Romero Pools. See how even a small watershed can create a whole new environment among the arid desert; Romero Pools invites countless animals to enjoy its year-round water source beneath the shade of leafy cottonwood trees. This hike will require some basic scrambling, but the reward is well worth it. We’ll have a chance to shower before departing around 11:00 am. En route north, we’ll stop in at AOA’s home base in Scottsdale, where lunch awaits. Next, we visit Montezuma’s Castle National Monument, home to one of the largest and best preserved prehistoric cliff dwellings in North America. We’ll tour the park before heading north, taking us from the low-elevation cactus and desert landscapes to the high-elevation pine-covered plateau of the Grand Canyon. We’ll arrive after dark, able to enjoy the stars of this nationally recognized Dark Sky Park, but with the canyon’s inner gorge lit only by a first quarter moon. After getting checked into the lodge, our guide will leave us to enjoy a family dinner before a well-earned night of sleep.

  • Hiking: 6 miles
  • Loding: Bright Angel Lodge (booked on own)

Hike the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail

Arise to a sunlit canyon in the historic Bright Angel Lodge. Enjoy breakfast or a stroll along the rim before meeting your guide at the nearby Lookout Studio. Check out the spectacular view and begin to learn about the immense forces it took to carve this canyon hundreds of millions of years ago. Walk along the Rim Trail to neighboring Kolb Studio and learn of the adventurous Kolb Brothers and their role in exploring the vast reaches of this 277-mile long canyon. Next, we’ll board one of the park’s eco-friendly shuttle buses to South Kaibab Trailhead. Our guide will provide us with traction devices that attach to any boot before we begin hiking down the most scenic trail in the canyon. Meandering switchbacks lead us out of the shadow of the South Rim to our first sweeping view of the canyon, aptly named Ooh-Ahh Point! We’ll delve deeper into the canyon, basing our mileage on our desires and the weather, before turning around and climbing back to the rim. Turnaround points include Ooh-Ahh at 0.9 mile, Cedar Ridge at 1.5 mile, Skeleton Point at 3 miles, or the Tip-off at 4.5 miles (one-way). No matter how far we hike, staggeringly beautiful views in 360-degree panorama are ours for the taking.

  • Hiking: 1.8-9 miles
  • Lodging: Bright Angel Lodge (booked on own)

Explore Northern Arizona & Return to Scottsdale

This morning, we’ll have the opportunity to catch a famous Grand Canyon sunrise. Afterward, we’ll enjoy breakfast on the rim before beginning our drive back to Scottsdale. On our way out of the park, we’ll make a stop at the famous Desert View Watchtower. Designed to exactly mimic the grandeur of a Hopi kiva and watchtower, this structure was designed by female architect Mary Jane Coulter at the turn of the century, when western tourism was just finding its feet. We can climb to the top of the Watchtower, as well as learn more about the Hopi Indians who still make their home near here today. Next we’ll explore the nearby Tusayan ruins, an interpretive museum surrounding what is left of the ancient civilization that made the Grand Canyon their home before the Hopi ever arrived. After driving through the Navajo Indian Reservation on our way back toward Phoenix, we’ll take a detour to experience more culture in the form of the Wupatki National Monument. Here we can get hands-on and explore the many rooms of a stone dwelling built by ancient Puebloans. We top our day off with a short hike through Sunset Crater National Monument, where a 900-year-old volcano invites us to walk among a dry lava flow! We’ll return to Phoenix early this evening and say goodbye until our next adventure together!

  • Hiking:1-3 miles
  • Lodging: On your own

Frequently Asked Questions

How does planning a custom trip work?

On each adventure trip that we lead, our goal is always to provide the most memorable and personal experience for each of our guests. One way to do this is by creating a custom trip or tailoring an existing itinerary to suit your travel style. It’s simpler than you think.

Step 1: Call us!

Give us a general outline of your adventure vision, including your group size, the time of year or exact dates, the location(s) you’d like to travel, activities that interest you, and any special requests.

Step 2: We create your personalized itinerary and estimate of costs.

Keep in mind that it is a “custom trip proposal” and you may change, modify, add, or subtract anything you wish until it suits you and your budget perfectly.

Step 3: Hit the trail!

…or singletrack, or river, or sit on your chosen lodge’s veranda with a perfectly chilled beverage, learn all about the flora, fauna and geology – let our world-class guides help you create a life-long memory.

Request a custom proposal

Can we reserve and customize one of your regularly scheduled dates exclusively for us?

Yes! As long as there are no other customers booked on that date – it is yours and we can modify it to suit you.

Is there a minimum or maximum amount of people for each trip?

We can accommodate groups ranging in size from 2-60 people.

Is it more expensive to do a private or custom trip?

Not necessarily – there is no additional charge for a custom or private trip. However, pricing varies greatly and is always dependent on a number of factors such as group size, activities selected, accommodations preferred, special requests, and trip duration – all of which are under your control and at your discretion.

Can we alter one of the example itineraries or standard trips you offer?

Yes, absolutely! The itineraries listed here are only intended to inspire you and show you what is possible. We will propose your own trip just for you! All of our trips can be extended, shortened, combined or modified however you wish.

Can you do a trip in a location that you don’t talk about on your website?

As long as we have expertise in the area you have in mind – no problem. Even if we don’t we likely can work with one of our partners to create just the experience you have in mind. Want to join your favorite AOA guide rafting in Chile? We have just the trip for you…

Request a Custom Tour Proposal