• Arizona's Sonoran Desert

    An exclusive MTS exploration of the Southwest’s lushest and most intriguing desert ecosystem

    Hike and tour your way through Arizona's Sonoran Desert with the experts at MTS! A great early spring and late fall destination, this gem of a trip is a great way to enjoy some of the most beautiful, sweeping vistas in our country and do some spring training in the desert to get ready for your summer adventures.

    best times to go: February - April, October - November

    departures: 7 scheduled datesview departures

    pricing: from $2,595 see detailed pricing

    The Continental U.S., Hawaii & Canada

Also great as a private trip. Call for details

An exclusive MTS exploration of the Southwest’s lushest and most intriguing desert ecosystem

There's no place quite like the deserts and mountains of the American Southwest. Where else in the U.S. can you go in February or March to see carpets of wildflowers and hike beautiful, sun-warmed trails (in shorts, no less!)? While most of the country lies firmly in winter's icy grip, this corner of Arizona really comes alive, making it the peak time of year to visit our lushest desert ecosystem. 

We've put together a star-studded itinerary that hits all the highlights of the region; the Superstiton Wilderness, decorated with rugged volcanic peaks; the Santa Catalina Mountains, with their waterfalls and migrating birds singing along rambling desert streams; and the Pusch Ridge Wilderness, famous for its craggy granite spires. And throughout the journey we'll be amid all the wonderous species that make up one of the most diverse ecosystems in the U.S., including—of course—the mighty and ever-present Saguaro cactus.


6 days moderate hiking


  • Traverse North America’s lushest desert on this MTS exclusive itinerary, and get up close and personal with that iconic giant of the Southwest—the saguaro cactus
  • Soak in six sunny days of hiking on moderate terrain with sweeping vistas at every turn
  • Get away from it all in an otherworldly landscape, without traveling too far from home
  • Learn about the plants, wildlife, and history of Arizona from our expert naturalist guides
  • See ancient petroglyphs, kayak down the Salt River, and visit the Sonoran Desert Museum, a world-class natural history museum

Duration: 6 days Start Location: Phoenix End Location: Phoenix

Download Detailed Itinerary
  • Arizona_s_sonoran_desert_feb
    Day 1 : Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

    Meet in the hotel lobby of the Holiday Inn Express in Scottsdale, Arizona by 8 a.m., ready to venture out of this fifth largest city in the country. In the spring there is water in Cave Creek, and in the desert water is magic! We take a great hike on the Spur Cross Loop Trail near Elephant Mountain, which begins by passing through a bosque of mesquite trees, where we may startle a few whiptail lizards and vermillion flycatchers along our way. Here, we'll take in amazing views of Tonto National Forest and the amazing landscape beyond. We'll stop for a refreshing lunch break before a short drive to our idyllic lodging for the next two nights. (5.5 miles hiking, 600 feet elevation gain and loss)

  • Arizona_s_sonoran_desert_feb
    Day 2 : McDowell Sonoran Preserve

    We'll head northeast toward the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the Tom's Thumb trailhead. This is a great climb into rambling granite boulders. At the summit we can take in the whole Valley of the Sun. In a few brief moments, we find ourselves away from the sounds of civilization, crossing over a cactus-laden hill into a wide ravine shadowed by towering giant saguaros. Enjoy your guide's descriptions of this amazingly diverse ecosystem. After a picnic lunch, we'll kick back in kayaks on 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. (4 miles hiking, 800 feet elevation gain and loss)

  • Asd_day04_123_sunset
    Day 3 : Pusch Ridge Wilderness

    It is only a couple of hours to drive from the Valley of the Sun to the Santa Catalina Mountains, leaving us plenty of time for a great afternoon hike. We start hiking in Catalina State Park and soon thereafter find ourselves in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. The elevations in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness range from 2,800 to 9,100 feet, making this one of the most precipitous areas in the southwest. In fact, if you were to hike the entire mountain it would be like taking a trip from Mexico to Canada.

    Later, unlace your hiking boots and enjoy the drive south to the vibrant town of Tucson. Rising above the city to heights surpassing 9,000 feet, the beautiful Santa Catalina Foothills serve as the backdrop for our home over the next three nights. In the evening you'll want to sit back and sip on a cocktail as the stars make their nightly debut in the vast desert sky!

    (4-6 miles hiking, 600 feet elevation gain and loss)

  • Arizona_s_sonoran_desert_feb
    Day 4 : Saguaro National Park and the Sonoran Desert Museum

    Wake up to Tucson’s gorgeous mountain backdrop. The city is almost completely surrounded by these geologic marvels and “sky islands,” amazing biomes that are essentially high-elevation forests surrounded by the a sea of dramatic lowland desert. Today, we get to experience part of this ecosystem in Saguaro National Park, which lies in a valley between the Rincon and Tucson mountain ranges. A classic symbol of the American West and a staple in any desert-themed movie, the stately saguaro cactus (pronounced ‘Sa-WAH-ro’) grows naturally only in the Sonoran Desert (roughly 1.6 million individual saguaros grow in the national park alone). Walk among these giants on our hike today, which takes us past old mining tunnels, ancient petroglyphs, and an optional hike to summit the highest point of the Tucson Mountains, Wasson Peak (4,687'). Lunch will be at the Sonoran Desert Museum. Refreshed from our break, we'll spend the rest of the afternoon exploring this world-renowned natural history museum, zoo, and botanical garden, which features over 1,200 plants and animals such as the adorable—though unforgivably poisonous—gila monster. (3.5-7 miles hiking, 1100 feet elevation gain and loss)

  • Asd_day05_123_sevenfalls
    Day 5 : Sabino Canyon and Seven Falls

    Bring along water shoes and a bathing suit because today’s desert hike eventually leads to rejuvenating Seven Falls! After crossing Sabino Creek our 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 a 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. (5 miles hiking, 650 feet elevation gain and loss)

  • Asd_day06_bgstk_superstitio
    Day 6 : Superstition Mountains Wilderness

    Awaken for a hearty breakfast before we depart for the Peralta Trail in the Superstition Mountains. Apache folklore runs along the trails and streambeds, and through the caves and canyons of these rocky desert mountains. Learn the legend of the Lost Dutchman, and listen for the call of the wild once lured explorers with hopes of gold and hidden treasure. Enjoy your lunch in the warmth of the sun, or the shade of a Cottonwood tree, as your guide shares stories and natural history of the area before we hike back to the trailhead.

    From here we return to the Phoenix Airport where you can depart on early evening flight—or you can stay on and enjoy more of the desert sunshine! (5 miles hiking, 1200 feet elevation gain and loss)

Download Detailed Itinerary

DATES: Best time to go: February - April, October - November Departures: Nov 9 - 14, 2014 Dec 7 - 12, 2014 Feb 22 - 27, 2015 Mar 15 - 20, 2015 Apr 5 - 10, 2015 Nov 8 - 13, 2015 Dec 6 - 11, 2015


2014 & 2015 Prices
$2,595 (8-12 members)
$2,795 (5-7 members)

$550 single supplement

Rates quoted are per person, based on sharing double accommodations.

If you prefer single accommodations, you must pay the Single Supplement Fee. If you’re traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we’ll try our best to find you a roommate. If that’s not possible, we will only charge you half of the single supplement.

  • Cave Creek Tumbleweed Hotel
    Cave Creek, AZ

    Cave Creek’s Tumbleweed hotel was established in 1968 by local Cave Creekers who wanted to continue the tradition of Cave Creek’s small town hospitality. The Tumbleweed Hotel is Cave Creek’s only main street hotel and continues to be part of the fabric of the town  by maintaining its Western style decor.

  • Westward Look Resort
    Tucson, AZ

    It’s tranquil, yet mesmerizing. Private, yet wide open. A distinctive Tucson hotel where historic charm and modern luxury unite. Welcome to Westward Look Resort…Tucson’s first and finest resort.

    Built in the early 1900s, our 80-acre, certified green resort is flawlessly set at the base of the striking Santa Catalina Mountains. A favorite Tucson hotel and vacation destination, Westward Look offers visitors of all ages the joy of getting close to nature with on-site hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. Views of the mountains and city below abound, creating a true sense of serenity.

Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.

Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.

photo credits: ©John Baston, MTS Photo File


Itinerary for Arizona's Sonoran Desert

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Activity Ratings


Many activities are optional and involve fairly easy travel. Trips may include short hikes of two to three hours or optional walks at low elevations. Includes less demanding sea kayaking and river rafting trips with Class I-II rapids.


More active trips involving hiking over moderate terrain, usually - but not always - with vehicle support and at elevations less than 10,000 feet, or trips with long hiking days, multiple sea kayaking days, wilderness camping, or other invigorating activity. On many trips, you can elect to skip a day's activity, depending on logistics. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips and river rafting trips with Class III rapids.


Hiking and trekking over steeper or more rugged terrain or where elevations may exceed 10,000 feet - often several days in a row. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips (4-5 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.

Ultimate Challenge!

Our most demanding trips: trekking over steep, rugged terrain at high elevations (no vehicle support) or with substantial altitude gains and losses; trips to remote, extreme wilderness; mountaineering trips. Includes our most demanding sea kayaking (5-7 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.


Departure Dates

Nov 9 - 14, 2014 Dec 7 - 12, 2014 Feb 22 - 27, 2015 Mar 15 - 20, 2015 Apr 5 - 10, 2015 Nov 8 - 13, 2015 Dec 6 - 11, 2015

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Emeryville, California 94608

Toll Free:1-888-831-7526