David Wei / Alamy
Jeff Ficker
January 07, 2015

You’ve probably been lured to Scottsdale by Arizona’s sweeping desert landscapes and warm, sunny days. It’s easy to kick back by the pool and simply enjoy the beauty of it all. But the best way to truly appreciate this unique locale is by experiencing it firsthand. That’s where the tours below come in. Rounding up the gear, routes, and background information is a daunting prospect. I happily surrender to the pros when it comes to exploring my own backyard. Their expertise and years of experience trump any Internet research or downloadable app. Plus, they offer great stories and a little encouragement when things get a little rough. Even at Taliesin West, a tour is essential. The docents are troves of Frank Lloyd Wright arcana, happily sharing minutia about the home and architect—as well as a little gossip about the intrigues of the midcentury commune. (But don’t tell them I told you.)

Eco-Tours with Arizona Outback Adventures

Arizona’s premier outdoor tour operator offers some of the best adventures in the state, including guided hiking and biking treks, and multiday adventures to the Grand Canyon and Superstition Mountains. For a different perspective of the desert, though, sign up for a rafting or kayaking tour of the Salt River.

Horseback Riding with Windwalker Expeditions

Blame it on Hollywood Westerns. There’s something about the desert that demands exploration from the back of a horse. Windwalker Expeditions can help you live out those Zane Grey fantasies with private, guided trail rides through the desert in Cave Creek. Beginners can even get lessons on the trail.  

Night Lights on the Desert Tour at Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter residence in Scottsdale is a masterpiece of desert design. For a more intimate look at the home and architectural school, reserve a spot on the two-hour Night Lights, which highlights Wright’s private living quarters, as well as complex’s offices, theater, cabaret and fire-breathing dragon sculpture.  

Off-Road with Desert Wolf Tours in New River

This is the next level in Jeep safaris. Desert Wolf uses military vehicles for guided tours of the desert. If you’re feeling adventurous, drive your own Tomkat, a golf cart-sized, off-road vehicle originally developed for the Israeli military. They’ll take you over rocky terrain and through desert washes. And be sure to ask about their evening tours. 

Rock Climbing with 360 Tours

Scottsdale’s mountains and massive rock formations attract climbers from the around the world. Experienced climbers (and beginners) will appreciate the expertise of 360’s guides, who will create a custom experience for all skill levels. The company takes care of park entry fees, climbing gear and safety equipment, water and snacks.  

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