3-Day Arizona Mountain Bike Tour
What to Do Next
So you booked your trip. Now it’s time to get ready! Start here.
Finalize Your Reservation
It is a requirement that you finalize your reservation within one week of booking.
Read Your Confirmation Email
For instructions on how to complete the following:
- Complete Your Guest Profile: Your confirmation email contains a link to complete your profile. Here you will find questions about your travel arrangements, dietary restrictions, past experience, and medical conditions we should know about. Please complete it as early as possible.
- Sign the waiver: While completing the guest profile, find the link to sign your waiver for EACH GUEST.
Add to Your To-Do List
Once you’ve finished the checklist above, you’re ready to start preparing for the trip.
- Before booking flights check with AOA to make sure your trip is a confirmed departure. AOA is not responsible for cancellation fees on flights or other arrangements.
- Start training! (Details below)
- Book your pre- and post-trip travel (flights, rental car, etc).
- Book your pre- and post-trip hotel accommodations. Remember we have deals with a local hotel. See below
Prep for Departure
- Train! (see tips below)
- Give your friends and family the 24/7 AOA Emergency Mobile number: 480-387-5558
- Double-check this trip’s inclusions and the detailed packing list included on this page. Give us a call if you have questions.
Excited yet? We hope so!
We are available to answer any questions you have. Reach out to us any time. We want your entire experience with us to be easy, effortless, and memorable.
Pre-Trip Contact Info
For questions that may come up, please reach out to our Trip Support team.
- Email: email@example.com
- AOA Office: (480) 945-2881 ext. 4
- Casual clothing – see below
- Personal bike clothing (bike-specific shorts, gloves, etc)
- Mountain Bike (available to rent from AOA)
- Helmet (provided with AOA bike rental)
- Small daypack (15-25 liter recommended)
- Sleeping bag (available to rent from AOA)
- Sleeping pad (available to rent from AOA)
- Tent (available to rent from AOA)
- Closed-toed sneakers or bike-specific shoes
- Pedals if you ride clipped in (clipless pedals available from AOA with advance notice)
- Headlamp with extra batteries
- Luggage tags
- Medications + extra doses
- A few Ziploc bags (for trash, storage, etc.)
- TP kit (small supply of toilet paper, hand sanitizer)
- Sunscreen (50+ SPF)
- Sun hat, sunglasses
- Watch or some way to tell time
- Biodegradable soap/shampoo*
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Glasses, contacts, supplies
- Moisturizing lotion, lip balm w/ spf
- Tissues, WetWipes
- Insect repellent
- Ear plugs for light sleepers
- Water reservoir (70 oz recommended)
- Bike bottles
- Casual clothing for travel days
- Luggage locks
- Travel towel
- Small sheet (included in sleeping bag rental)
- Camera with extra batteries and memory
- Personal first aid/blister supplies
- Book or e-reader
Seasonal Riding Gear
- Arm warmers
- Leg/knee warmers
- Baselayer, vest, or light jacket
- Toe covers or booties
- Thermal gloves
- Skull cap or thermal headband
Other Stuff to Remember
- Photo ID and/or passport
- Airline tickets
- Hotel confirmations
- Credit cards and cash
- Travel insurance information
- Cash or check for optional guide gratuities
Packing Your Personal Clothing
It can be a challenge to pack for any vacation, particularly an adventure vacation that could be influenced by seasons, weather, activity level, and more. We have put together a great article to help guide you through the packing process.
Standard Clothing list
- Short Sleeve Shirt(s)/Tanks: Synthetic (non-cotton), comfy, lightweight; for hikings, sleeping, etc.
- Long Sleeve Shirt: comfy, loose-fitting, any material – extra layer for chillier evenings
- Shorts: Synthetic (non-cotton), quick drying, well-fitting shorts.
- Underwear: Synthetic (non-cotton) and comfy while hiking
- Socks: Synthetic (non-cotton) or thin wool blend, high or low rise, breathable, lightweight, extremely well-fitting, with arch support and padding if desired, 2-3 pairs for when not riding.
- Sun Hat: Light-colored, comfy, breathable, covers face and neck
- Rain Jacket: Hooded, compressible, wind and waterproof but breathable if possible
For Seasonal Trips (trips with an expected overnight low below 50℉ (10℃))
- Warm Jacket: Fleece or thin down jacket (nano puff) as your main insulating layer
- Pair of Pants: Comfy, well-fitting, lightweight, with built-in belt or belt loops.
- Tip: get convertible pants that can roll or zip into shorts/capris and lighten your packing
- Pair of Thermals: Light to mid-weight long underwear bottoms as a base layer or for sleeping
- Hat/Gloves: Synthetic (non-cotton) or wool for cooler evening and mornings only
These questions and answers have been gathered through many years of feedback from guests and their guides. If there is any question you have that is not answered here, please contact us so we can help.
Q: Can I meet the group somewhere other than the host hotel to start my trip?
A: In order to provide the best experience to all guests and stay on schedule, we cannot offer any alternative pick-up locations for this itinerary.
Q: What are my airport shuttle options if I am not staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Old Town Scottsdale?
A: There are several options in and around Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Most hotels provide an airport shuttle for free or a small fee. If yours does not, getting a taxi or car service at the airport is simple – just go outside to the public transportation curb. Please understand that we will only be picking up at the advertised locations so if you choose to stay elsewhere you will be responsible for getting yourself to the pick-up location.
Q: When should I arrive and when should I plan to depart?
A: We recommend arriving the day before your itinerary is set to begin (“Day 0”) and departing the day after it ends. If you must depart on the final day you’re with us, we ask that you not book your flight home any earlier than 2 hours after the latest projected return time (for domestic; 3 hours for international flights). Remember that you may be tired after your adventure vacation. For this reason, as well as the fact that return times are dependent upon hiking/cycling speed and other factors outside our control, AOA highly recommends booking your return flight for the day after your itinerary is scheduled to end. AOA cannot be responsible for additional expenses incurred for missed flights.
Q: What is the Host Hotel?
A: This trip departs from the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Old Town Scottsdale:
- 3131 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
- Phone: 480.675.7665
AOA guests receive special rates (based on availability) at the Holiday Inn Express. These rates vary throughout the year and are subject to blackout dates (mostly in March due to high demand in Baseball Spring Training season). Since pre- and post-trip lodging is not included with your itinerary, we recommend you reserve rooms well in advance.
- Airport shuttle (call hotel upon arrival to arrange) – $15pp, 7:00am – 10:00pm. You can utilize this service at the end of your trip, even if you are not staying there that night.
- Complimentary hot breakfast (Mon – Fri 6:00am – 9:30am and Sat – Sun 7:00am – 10:00am)
- Complimentary Manager’s Reception with beer and wine included (5:00pm – 7:00pm nightly)
- Complimentary parking for trip duration. Notify the hotel if you plan to take advantage of this service.
- Check-in is 4:00pm. Check-out is 12:00pm. Late check-out is available upon request.
TO RECEIVE THESE RATES AT THE HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS:
BY PHONE – call the hotel using the phone number listed above and ask for the “Arizona Outback Adventures” rate.
***Travelling for a special occasion? We have special guest rates at the Four Seasons Resort – Scottsdale at Troon North. Rates range from $399 (summer Deluxe Casita rate) to $1435 (winter/spring Kiva King Suite rate) per night, exclusive of 13.92% tax and resort fee; subject to availability. Contact AOA to arrange these reservations for you. Unfortunately, AOA can only provide pick-up or drop-off at this location on private or custom tours.
Q: What kind of bike is best for this trip?
A: You will need a mountain bike for this trip. If you don’t wish to bring your own bike, you can rent one from AOA’s bike rental fleet. The trails in this part of the Sonoran Desert are primarily flowing trails geared towards cross-country mountain biking. You will not require a bike with a large amount of suspension travel and both front-suspension (hardtail) and full-suspension bikes are suitable.
Q: Am I required to bring cycling-specific shoes?
A: You are only required to have close-toed shoes for this mountain bike trip. These can be tennis shoes, hiking shoes, or something in between, as long as they can be worn throughout the day comfortably.
Many of our riders prefer to ride with mountain bike-specific shoes. These have features such as a rigid sole to allow for better power transfer, a lack of laces to avoid getting these caught in your bike chain, or breathable or waterproof uppers to protect against weather conditions. Just remember, cycling shoes are not hiking shoes so make sure to bring both.
If you are bringing cycling shoes with cleats, please also bring your pedals. Our bikes come with flat pedals and we have a limited supply of certain clipless brands.
Q: Do I need to bring my own pedals?
A: AOA provides flat pedals on all of AOA’s rental bikes. If you are bringing your own bike or wish to use a specific type of clipless pedal on one of AOA’s rental mountain bikes, we require advance notice.
Q: What type of sleeping bag should I bring?
A: You will be expected to arrive to the first day of your trip with a proper sleeping bag. Your sleeping bag should be small, lightweight, and packable and be rated to a temperature rating equal to the lowest forecasted overnight low or better. Sleeping bags are available to rent from AOA.
Q: Should I bring a pillow or sheet for my camping trip?
A: Many guests enjoy the comfort of a small sheet (in addition to a sleeping bag) for camping, especially if your trip is visiting warm climates. AOA does HIGHLY recommend that all guests bring or rent sleeping bags for every trip, no matter the forecast, in case it gets chilly at night; your guide will not have extras. If you plan to bring a pillow, make sure it is very small. Travel pillows and inflatable pillows are good options, although we suggest just bringing a pillow case and filling with your clothing each night.
Q: Do I need water bottles or does AOA provide them?
A: AOA will provide disposable and/or flexible cycling water bottles that fit the water bottle cages on our bikes. Aid stations will be provided on most rides with water, electrolytes, and snacks. Please help us be eco-friendly by refilling and reusing any water bottles provided to you. If you’d like to bring your own bottles, or a hydration reservoir, we recommend capacity for 1 to 2 liters (32 to 70 ounces).
Q: Should I bring a water reservoir/bladder system versus bottles?
A: AOA highly recommends a water reservoir system like Camelback or Platypus. These systems allow you to carry your water in a bladder inside your backpack, making it easily accessible via a hands-free hose that comes over your shoulder. These tend to keep people better hydrated as you are not required to stop, open your backpack, or get assistance in retrieving your water bottle every time you want a drink.
Q: Do I need to bring cash?
A: Yes. While credit cards are accepted at most of the places we’re going, you never know when cash may be needed.
Q: Where can I leave extra luggage while riding?
A: Extra items that you don’t need while cycling can be left in the AOA van and/or trailer for easy access at support stations. Items not needed for the entire day can be left at camp or brought in the van for more security. Extra luggage not needed on trip can be left in the van or trailer. Please note that these areas are not climate controlled. A better option may be to leave your extra luggage with the bell desk at your hotel.
Q: What clothing will I really need?
A: Every individual has varying tolerances when it comes to temperatures. To help you prepare for your adventure, we’ve provided a packing list where we’ve strived to indicate seasonal and recommended items. These recommendations come from our experienced guides as well as from guests post-trip. If you are unsure about an item of clothing after checking the weather forecast, bring it. You can always leave extra layers in your suitcase. Many guests bring too many clothes, we suggest making an honest assessment of what you need and don’t need. Many adventurers wear the same clothes for more than one day. That being said, we highly recommend never skimping on underwear, socks, or bibs/cycling shorts! An extra clean set is small, lightweight, and much-appreciated reward after being active all day.
Q: What if it rains/storms?
A: Inclement weather is all part of going on an adventure vacation in the great outdoors. Nature is uncontrollable, so we cannot guarantee, nor can any guiding company in their right minds, excellent weather for your trip. If it rains, we’ll put on our rain jackets and pack covers (both required pieces of gear) and keep hiking. Lightning is the only weather that could keep us off the trail. Our guides are trained to assess these situations safety and make decisions about taking shelter or carrying on.
Q: How do I prepare for the weather and elements I will most likely encounter on my trip?
A: We ask that you arrive to the start of your trip already prepared for the weather and elements we are likely to encounter. To do this, we suggest checking the forecast often as your trip approaches.
CHECKING THE WEATHER FOR THIS TRIP
Use the following locations when checking the weather forecast.
We prefer weather.gov for accuracy.
- Days 1-3: Scottsdale, AZ
Accommodations, Hygiene, and First Aid
Q: What will be my responsibilities on this tour?
A: While your tour is fully guided, part of the fun of adventure travel is learning how to be independent in the outdoors. At times (and when applicable) you may be asked to set up or take down your tent, inflate your sleeping pad, carry your gear or manageable amounts of group gear, wash your dishes, or adjust your pace to accommodate other group members, safety, or permit regulations. If you are uncomfortable with any of these, please consult with your AOA contact pre-trip or with your guide on tour. Additionally, AOA expects that all guests choose an itinerary appropriate for their individual needs and provides detailed information for every guest to allow them to do so.
Q: What type of support does AOA provide?
A: The rides will have full nutritional and mechanical support. A variety of snacks and sports nutrition products will be available during the rides as well as a mechanic to assist with any bike issues. Navigation aids will also be available as hard copies of maps and cue sheets and turn-by-turn directions via a mobile app. Contact Trip Support for more details.
Q: Will my AOA guide(s) be carrying a first aid kit?
A: All guides carry a basic first aid kit for emergencies. Your guides do not carry prescription medications. When preparing for your trip please be aware that hospital facilities may be a long way away, that a doctor may not always be available, and that evacuation can be prolonged, difficult and expensive.
Q: What is the AOA Basecamp like?
A: Our basecamp is located inside McDowell Mountain Regional Park surrounded by the Sonoran Desert and nearly endless trails. The group sites are partially developed sites with picnic tables, drinking water, fire pits, and large sites that allow us to spread out but keep our vehicle conveniently close. Set-up and take-down of basecamp is easy with assistance from our guides. The AOA kitchen is fully equipped to allow our guides to prepare healthy, fresh meals. Guests will be provided with all dishware and utensils needed for meals.
Q: What are restroom facilities like throughout the trip?
A: You will have access to modern restroom facilities at the campground(s). Primitive, yet functional toilets are scattered throughout all the parks we visit, mostly at trailheads. Once on the trail proper, proper restrooms become rare. Coin-operated pay Showers are available within walking distance or a short shuttle drive from camp. Towels & soap are not provided.
Q: What are restroom facilities like?
A: Once in camp we have access to a primitive toilet and in some locations along the trail as well. Sometimes toilet paper is provided but it’s best to bring your own as it can run out depending on trail traffic.
Q: What about feminine hygiene products?
A: These should be brought in a Ziploc bag. Please bring extra Ziploc bags for disposal after use and consider putting duct tape on the outside of the bag for privacy. Remember, your guides, whether male or female, have spent many days with groups in the backcountry. They have certainly heard your questions before and will always be helpful and mindful of your privacy. Plus they may have extra supplies should you need any.
Q: Is there electricity?
A: Everything you bring should be battery-powered as there is no form of electricity available. Please remember to bring enough batteries for the entire trip. Don’t forget to put your cell phone on “airplane mode” if you’re using it as a camera, e-reader, or music player during the trip.
Trails and Terrain
What can I expect from the trails in the McDowell Mountains?
A: We’ll be on well-maintained trails that range from smooth, sandy desert soil to rocky climbs. Elevation change is moderate on most days, with some noticeable climbs for those
interested in challenging themselves. The main trail surface is decomposed granite. Many of the trails we’ll ride are purpose-built for mountain biking or multi-use. Each day, your guide will talk with the group before heading out on the trail to ensure the day’s route is a good fit for you.
Mileages vary and are always adjustable with the help of our guides and vehicles. Guests generally travel at a group pace of 7 to 10 mph, but have the ability to rest on demand or push themselves to achieve a goal, knowing that the guides are nearby to assist in any way needed.
Getting in Touch
Q: How can someone contact me during my trip?
A: In case of emergency and you need to be reached, please give your friends and family the AOA Emergency Number: 480-387-5558. Someone will be available 24 / 7 / 365. Our office will set into motion whatever means are necessary to get the message delivered to our guest(s). Due to the unique backcountry setting of our tours, this process could take upwards of two hours to be delivered, or sometimes have to wait until the following day. Know that we will make every effort to speed this process.
Q: Am I required to tip my guide(s)?
A: You are not required to tip, however it is customary in the guided tour industry in the U.S. AOA prides itself on our outstanding crew and our attitude regarding customer service. The guides expect to meet and even exceed all your expectations. They appreciate gratuities for a job well done and always divide them equally. If you would like to thank your guide, the standard gratuity is 10 – 15% of the trip price. Often groups will pool their gratuity and present it to the guide(s) at the end of the trip. These are only suggestions. Tipping is at your discretion.
We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance.
This comprehensive travel protection can provide for trip cancellation or interruption, travel delays, loss of baggage or travel documents, baggage delay, medical expenses and emergency assistance. Many health insurance policies don’t apply when traveling outside your coverage area and may not cover an emergency evacuation which can be prolonged, difficult, and costly. We recommend AIG Travel Guard.
Scottsdale, Arizona (Images of America)
Just a century ago, the now-tony tourist destination of Scottsdale was a tiny farming village in the pristine desert east of Phoenix. Named for its 1888 homesteaders―U.S. Army chaplain Winfield Scott and his wife, Helen―Scottsdale remained a farming and ranching community through World War II. After the war, businesses and families flocked to Scottsdale for its climate and unlimited opportunities―creating a place they branded “The West’s Most Western Town.”
The People’s Preserve: How Scottsdale Created the McDowell Sonoran Preserve
This book chronicles the history of creating the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Creating, expanding and enjoying the preserve has been a communitywide, grass-roots movement since day one. Its core has been a partnership among citizen groups, city of Scottsdale elected officials and professional staff, outdoor enthusiasts, state and federal elected officials and agencies’ staffs, voters and everyone who’s paid a sales tax in Scottsdale since 1995. In the face of what seemed insurmountable odds and costs, they came together to make the dream come true.
A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert (Second Edition)
Steven J. Phillips, Patricia W. Comus, Mark A. Dimmitt, & Linda M. Brewer (Editors)
The landscape of the Sonoran Desert Region varies dramatically from parched desert lowlands to semiarid tropical forests and frigid subalpine meadows. Covering southeastern most California, much of southern and central Arizona, most of Baja California, and much of the state of Sonora, Mexico, it is home to an extraordinary variety of plants and animals. A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert takes readers deep into its vast expanse, looking closely at the relationships of plants and animals with the land and people, through time and across landscapes.
Historic Scottsdale is a significant new hardcover, “coffee table” style illustrated history book
published by Historical Publishing Network in partnership with the local McDowell Sonoran Land
Trust, as a unique, land-based view of the city’s past as we enter the new century.
Training for Your Adventure Vacation
How to Prepare for your Trip
We recommend beginning training no later than 2 months to departure.
Begin slowly to avoid injury, eventually working up to 3 – 5 days/week. Our bodies are amazing; they adapt to the exact stresses we place on them repetitively. The most effective way to prepare for your adventure is to mimic the activities you will be doing on your trip. If you cannot hike/ride terrain and mileage equal to your tour’s Challenge Rating due to your location, expect to be a bit sore.
Include hills (downhill too!) in your training.
Our routes encounter large amounts of elevation change. If you live in a flat region, use a sports stadium, stair climber, tall building, parking garage, or treadmill as alternatives. It is also important to train with a weighted backpack that is similar to the weight you will be carrying on your adventure.
Although we take numerous breaks during our excursions, you should be confident you can hike 10 miles (16 km) in under 5 hours. You should spend most of your time training at a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) rating between 3 and 5, with small amounts at a 6 and 7 (see table below).
Rate of Perceived Exertion
Use this to help guide your training for your adventure vacation.
|RPE||Breathing||% of Maximum Heart Rate*||Example|
|0-1||Resting breathing rate very light.||50-60%||Sitting, standing, lying down, walking.|
|2-3||Light but comfortable, able to hold a conversation.||60-70%||Casual bike riding on a flat surface (think beach cruisers on vacation), easy jogging.|
|4-5||Moderate breathing becoming noticeable. Not able to speak in full sentences.||70-80%||Running or riding at a moderate, sustainable pace.|
|6-7||Breathing hard, starting to become uncomfortable. Only able to speak a few words at a time.||80-90%||Riding or running at a “comfortably hard” effort. Working hard but it’s tolerable.|
|8-9||Deep and forceful breathing. Effort is uncomfortable and not sustainable for long periods of time.||90-100%||Riding or running up a steep incline at a hard effort. Muscles are working hard and burning.|
|10||Maximum exertion. Only sustainable for short periods of time.||Sprinting.|
Other Things to Consider
Hydration: Expect to consume 3 to 6 liters of water per day during your trip (one liter is 32 ounces). While you don’t need that volume of fluids at home, your trip will place large demands on your body in the form of physical exertion and environmental factors including a dry climate, high elevations, and potential heat. Sports drinks should be used as a supplement to water as electrolytes do play an important role in hydration, but should not replace water.
Key areas of Focus: A strong core, hips, and lower body are essential to avoiding injury. Look for exercises that engage multiple muscle groups, and perform them multiple times throughout the week if you are injury prone.
Break in those kicks: Please do not show up to your adventure vacation with brand new boots out of the box. Whatever footwear you decide on, wear them everywhere: in varying temperatures, terrain, and times of day. Blisters, whether you think you’ll get them or not, can ruin a trip. While our guides take pride in their professional level of foot care, trust us when we say you’d rather avoid needing their skills.
Adventure isn’t 100% comfortable: We know you’re here for a challenge, but nobody wants to suffer. Our guides understand this delicate balance. You do your part by training; we’ll make sure you enjoy amazing destinations!