After you hike a 10-mile descent through Hualapai Canyon—past the Supai Village and breathtaking ancient geological formations—you arrive at Havasu Falls. Follow the sound of the water and you’ll find the falls, where rapids cascade 100 feet to a dazzlingly blue-green, travertine pool below. It’s one of the world's most remote and beautiful swimming holes, and Pygmy Guides’ backpacking guides, who are medically trained as wilderness first responders or wilderness EMTs, lead groups there regularly.
Havasu Falls is just one of many destinations that you can explore with Pygmy Guides, a company that was founded by people who have spent more than 10 years living in and exploring Grand Canyon National Park. They lead groups to hike below the rim to see ancient rock art, hidden fossils, and california condors, walking in the footsteps of horse thieves on the Tanner Trail or along routes on the Bright Angel Trail once tread by ancestral Pueblo peoples. At Dripping Springs, water drips from the roof of a sandstone alcove so you can dilute Gatorade that tastes too sweet.
Sightseers who prefer the comfort of a plush SUV can see the canyon's expansive vistas through high-powered telescopes during day tours. Each all-inclusive trip includes park fees and gourmet meals and is limited to small groups for comfort and convenience.
Since hosting their first class in 1989, Arizona Climbing and Adventure School's instructors have sent an estimated 37,000 students scurrying up the earth's craggy cliffs. Instead of learning climbing in an indoor facility, participants climb nature’s precipices outdoors upon the Southwest's cliffs and mountains. Adventurer and school director Mark Brontsema guides his students and fellow instructors by a philosophy that emphasizes self-reliance, goal setting, and teamwork. He now brings more than three decades to his post as school director, taking time from a busy schedule that includes writing gear reviews for the New York Times.
The school offers a large number of courses that target students of varying skill levels and reveal technique secrets in small groups of two to six students. Classes may focus on rappelling and anchors, guide services, and equipment-free bouldering, which relies solely on the climber's hands, feet, and retractable suction cups. Adventure courses include day trips and overnight climbing excursions, while special workshops address topics such as backpacking, being an ecologically responsible climber and hiker, and using GPS devices.
It’s an average day on the streets of Old Town Scottsdale, where cars and pedestrians amble along the scenic sites. Suddenly, a crazy-looking contraption emerges from an intersection with six passengers on either side pedaling in the open air. This vehicle, which is inspired by cycling apparatuses Europe, is Tour De Tavern’s pride and joy. Guided by an experienced driver, the passengers glide along at speeds of up to 8 miles per hour and take in the sites around them to the tunes coming from a built-in sound system with an iPod hook up. In addition to daily tours, the business caters to bachelor parties and corporate team-building events.
Nestled between the rocky foothills of Mount Lemmon and the banks of the San Pedro River, Cactus Ridge Ranch is a wilderness lover's paradise with bobcats and coyote bounding through the scrub brush and bountiful saguaro cacti keeping watch over the area. But guests rarely have time to whip out their binoculars, as they’re usually too busy mending fences and rounding up cattle. A real working cattle ranch, Cactus Ridge Ranch welcomes guests to partake in an authentic slice of cowboy life, to experience its learning opportunities and the joys of a hands-on way of life.
Each day, amateur ranch hands rise at dawn, saddle up, and spend the day shadowing ranchers and tending to the territory's 6,000 acres of land, sometimes riding and sometimes roping or learning ranching techniques. Each speck of dirt that collects on boots and clothes as the days progress is like a badge of honor, each moment of hard work rewarded with feelings of accomplishment and views of a sky full of stars at the end of each day. By clinic’s end, the average cowboy in training can proudly bridle a horse, mend a fence, and tell the difference between a horse and a centaur in disguise.
During their four-day stay, Cactus Ridge Ranch furnishes all guests with lodging and meals. At the end of camp, ranchers conduct an awards ceremony to honor the ablest ranch hands and present all guests with a certificate of completion that can then be folded into a cowboy hat.
Love’n The Kitchen’s experienced staff members and a rotating lineup of guest chefs, including a James Beard Award winner, take up to 50 students on gustatory journeys crafting three-course meals. Each class springboards off a theme, such as breakfast in bed, gluten-free dishes, and six-ingredient recipes, as up to 50 audience members look on, pick up tips, and ask the chefs questions. Students—who range from gourmands to kitchen-shy newbies—leave with the recipes from the class so that they can re-create the meals at home. The school also offers private and offsite classes, leading cooking parties in patrons’ homes, on outdoor kitchens, or during food-truck drag races.
The veteran athletes at Peregrine Expeditions nurture their already intimate relationships with Mother Nature during skiing and climbing excursions into the icy peaks of Mount Baker or jagged rock faces of Mount Erie. Backcountry skiing courses hone snow-skimming techniques, and intense skiing tours toe the border between the United States and Canada on two-day treks that embark each morning from a hut at base camp. Adrenaline junkies foray into Forbidden Peak for two or three days, conquering the ins and outs of navigating ice, performing mountaintop rescues, and backpacking in challenging conditions. Kid-specific expeditions tone tiny muscles and teach bird calls used to ask eagles the way to the nearest latrine as youngsters grouped by age engage in courses that span one to five days.