After a gorgeous Arizona sunset, there’s no reason to stop enjoying the desert. Check out the scenery in a different light by joining one of many guided night tours or hikes throughout the state, where you’ll learn about everything from photography and geology to scorpions and Sonoran hot dogs.
Here are just a few after-dark tours and hikes that are offered year-round or seasonally, depending on the weather, so plan accordingly.
Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photography Tours
Located in Northern Arizona’s Navajo Nation, Antelope Canyon is a series of slot canyons – geological wonders carved by nature into red-hued sandstone. It’s just as gorgeous at night with the stars peeping through above. Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours offers night tours year-round, where you’ll set up your camera and learn to paint with light. You don’t have to be a pro, but cell phone cameras won’t cut it. Bring your own DSLR camera and a tripod to this party.
Verde Canyon Railroad Saturday Night Starlight Rides
In the North Central Arizona town of Clarkdale, Verde Canyon Railroad offers Saturday night starlight rides once a month during the summer. The restored, vintage train trundles 20 miles along a heritage railway into a canyon along the Verde River. You’ll see the sunset, then stars and moonlit cliffs, preferably with a prickly pear margarita in hand. If a monsoon storm rolls in, all the better. Lightning adds drama to the skies.
Red Rock State Park Moonlight Hikes
Not far away, Sedona’s Red Rock State Park is one of several Arizona State Parks that offer activities by the light of the silvery moon. The park’s popular moonlight hikes happen monthly through early fall, allowing participants the chance to enjoy sunset and moonrise from an overlook. The moon is your flashlight as you return from the two-mile, naturalist-led expedition.
Desert Botanical Garden Flashlight Tours
When the summer sun sets over the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, docents organize flashlight tours along the garden’s looping paths. These family-friendly evenings let you move at your own pace and linger at strategically placed discovery stations along the way, where you can learn about scorpions, discover the difference between frogs and toads, see night-blooming cacti and more.
Taliesin West Night Lights Tour
In nearby Scottsdale, Taliesin West offers its “Night Lights” tour on Friday evenings year-round – a perfect date-night adventure. This National Historic Landmark was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architectural community where he experimented with new materials, forms and technologies. You’ll see Taliesin’s signature fire-breathing dragon, illuminated Wright-designed buildings and city lights below during the two-hour walkabout.
Explore Greater Phoenix Parks
Throughout Greater Phoenix, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation’s regional parks offer evening group events year-round. In Queen Creek, San Tan Mountain Regional Park has a monthly “Night Shredders” mountain biking ride, where the starlit bumps and dips add extra adrenaline. Across town, Lake Pleasant Regional Park in Peoria offers sunset and full-moon kayaking treks geared toward socializing and exploring secluded islands and coves. Other parks offer moonlight hikes that explore desert surroundings.
Tucson’s Night Rider Tour
Get to know downtown Tucson by the light of its neon signs when Tucson Bike Tours resumes its “Night Rider” pedals in September. The 11-mile, two-and-a-half-hour tour includes a loop through the University of Arizona’s campus, treks through neighborhoods and a history lesson at El Presidio, the city’s original fort. Fuel up at a food truck serving Sonoran hot dogs, a regional specialty.
Saguaro National Park Hikes
Saguaro National Park’s two districts flank Tucson’s east and west sides, protecting big swaths of the iconic cactus forest while offering loop drives and hiking trails to explore the park. You can also discover the park after dark with guided programs throughout the year, like an easy, one-mile night walk in the east district or the west district’s more challenging, eight-mile round-trip moonlight hike to Wasson Peak in the Tucson Mountains.
The Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter SkyNights
High in the Santa Catalina Mountains above Tucson, The Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter hosts its public astronomy program, SkyNights, year-round. Drive yourself up to the observatory, where its 9,000-plus-foot elevation gets you closer to the heavens above. The SkyCenter’s van shuttles you between a late-afternoon tour of one of the telescope domes, an outdoor sunset viewing, a lecture and dinner at the facility’s learning center, then back out to two large telescopes, where you’ll spend the rest of the night viewing stars, clusters, asteroids, planets, galaxies and more.
Topock Gorge and Mesquite Bay Kayak Tours
Along Arizona’s West Coast, WACKO (Western Arizona Canoe and Kayak Outfitters) offers monthly, guided full-moon kayaking treks during summer and early fall. You’ll meet at their Lake Havasu City facility, then hop a shuttle with your rental gear to do a 14-mile paddle down the Colorado River and through the famous gorge, which is located in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. The seven-mile option starts at Castle Rock, goes through some caves and heads south to Mesquite Bay.