Arizona Sonoran Desert National Monument Backpacking
An Epic Experience

Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Trip Code: AZSD

Duration: 3 Days

Distance: 30 mi/48 km

Fitness: 3
Comfort: 1
Solitude: 5

Origin: Phoenix, Arizona

Cost: $850/person

Trip Description:

The Arizona Sonoran Desert is perhaps the most iconic desert in North America.  It stands alone as the highest desert in North America, and the lushest desert in the world in terms of ecological diversity.  Located in the Basin and Range Geologic Province, it is also home to fascinating and important geologic features that hold the clues to the assembly of Arizona and the North American Continent over billions of years.  The Sonoran Desert National Monument contains everything that makes this desert so grand, and our Sonoran Desert National Monument Backpacking tour celebrates it all, from literal forests of the famous Saguaro Cactus, to rugged desert mountains, to outrageous desert sunsets and utter solitude.  The Sonoran Desert is truly a world-class destination for hiking and exploration, and if you're looking for the quintessential Sonoran Desert experience without crowds (or possibly even anyone but us), the Sonoran Desert National Monument is your jam!

  1. Sonoran Desert Mountains, Arizona Backpacking
  2. Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona Backpacking
  3. Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona Backpacking
  4. Sunrise in the Sonoran, Arizona, Backpacking
  5. Sonoran Desert Bajada, Arizona Backpacking
  6. Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona Backpacking
  7. The View, Sonoran Desert, Arizona Backpacking
  8. Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona Backpacking
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Trip Itinerary

Day 1:

The Sonoran Desert National Monument Backpacking tour begins on Maricopa Road, as we leave our shuttle and head into the Sonoran Desert and the North Maricopa Mountains.  The largely trailless wilderness gives us some excellent opportunities to explore and hike cross-country, which we will do in spades, traversing bajadas and Saguaro forests up and down rugged desert peaks, exploring the numeous small arroyos, caves, and rocky outcroppings that tell billion of years of geologic history.  We will make basecamp in the heart of the North Maricopa Mountains, and be sure to gain a summit to observe the setting sun.  If you've never seen a Sonoran Desert sunset, get ready, it is beyond outstanding.  We will then reture to camp and prepare for our excellent journey ahead.
Drive Time: 2 hours
Distance & Elevation: 8-10 miles, 700 foot ascent
Light Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 2 & 3:

Our second, and the first half of our third day is all about exploration.  Your geologist/guide will lead you around this outstanding desert wilderness, and we will observe the flora, fauna, history, and geology that make the Sonoran Desert a truly special place.  Our exploration here is made even better without the weight of our packs!
Distance & Elevation: 8-10 miles, 600 foot elevation gain/loss
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3:

Day 3 begins with exploration, then we will pack up camp after a leisurely lunch, heading back to our shuttle.  We will stop to celebrate our tremendous experience like a geologist; with cold beverages at a local watering hole!  Our shuttle will return you to Phoenix and bid adieu.
Distance & Elevation: 8-10 miles, 700 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.

What’s Included:
A professional, degreed, licensed and medically trained geologist/guide
All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your geologist/guide will prepare all trail meals)
All food, including a mix of fresh and pre-made backcountry meals
Roundtrip Transportation from your hotel in Phoenix to Sonoran Desert National Monument and all activities/attractions
Entrance fees, camping fees, and backcountry permits

Meals: what to expect
We provide all your meals from a light breakfast on day 1 through lunch the last day. Your geologist/guide will prepare a variety of meals on the trail that will fit the day's activity. Feel free to tell us about your food preferences, as we're more than happy to tailor the menu to your needs/desires. Some specialty diets may require an additional fee.

All meals will consist of one entree, prepared by your geologist/guide.  Fresh options will be limited, as backpacking typically requires lightweight, non-perishable foods.  There will be trail snacks that consist of nuts, fruits, chocolate, and other "gorp" style mixes.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee

What’s Not Included:
Transportation to/from Phoenix, Arizona
Lodging the night before/after the trip
Clothing, raingear, and footwear
Personal toiletries, sunscreen
Water bottles/hydration bladder
Headlamp or flashlight
Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)
*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?
Most backpacking trips in Sonoran Desert National Monument will accommodate 5 people plus one geologist/guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 8 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?
Children under 12 are generally not permitted on any of Blue Marble's scheduled trips.  This can be negotiable on private tours, please contact us to discuss this policy

How do I sign up?
In order to confirm a reservation , we require an initial deposit of $500 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.  Your deposit is payable over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. Checks by mail are fine as well, as are bank transfers ($35 transfer fee). Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Arizona time. 1-602-904-2536
Travel Logistics

Where does the trip begin/end?
This trip will begin/end in Phoenx, Arizona and you will need to spend the night prior to your trip’s scheduled departure in Phoenix. You will want to fly into either Mesa (1 hour drive) or Phoenix. Please visit our  Travel Resources  page for information on airports, shuttles/rental cars and recommended hotels.

Where do you meet our guides?
We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 4:30pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the host hotel in Phoenix. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation.  Most trips will depart between 5am and 6am.

*This meeting is not mandatory, but highly recommended, as we will depart early the next morning. If you are unable to attend, please let us know in advance so that we can make alternate arrangements.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?
We will provide all transportation to/from trailheads for the duration of the trip. We will pick you up at the host hotel in Phoenix and return you there at the trip’s conclusion. Guests staying at the host hotel can leave their cars at the hotel. These hotels will often store your luggage for you, as well. If not, we are happy to store extra luggage at a secure location for the duration of the trip. If you are staying at a different hotel, you will need to check with them as to whether you can leave your car there

What time will we get back on the last day?
Expect to be back in Phoenix by 6pm at the latest on the last day of the trip. Some trips will return earlier but we cannot make any guarantees. In general, it is recommended that you do not plan to fly home on the same day your trip finishes. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

Trip Dates

2017 Dates
January: 3-6
February: 1-3
March: 28-30
November: 15-17
December: 15-17

2018 Dates
January: 3-6
February: 1-3
March: 28-30
November: 15-17
December: 15-17

More dates to come soon…
Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!
Call 1-602-904-2536 or email us  for details.