Red Rocks, Sedona

Flashlights and Starlight: Nighttime Tours and Hikes

By: Nora Burba Trulsson

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September 1, 2019

Arizona may be known for its sunny days, but the landscape really comes alive at night. Explore the Grand Canyon State after dark with the following tours, hikes and events.

About the author

Nora Burba Trulsson

Nora Burba Trulsson

Nora Burba Trulsson is a long-time Arizona resident and a freelance writer specializing in travel, food, lifestyle, architecture and design topics. Her articles have appeared in Sunset, Arizona Highways, Vegas Seven, Houzz.com, Valley Guide, Scottsdale Magazine, United Airlines Hemispheres, Westjet's Up!, Renovation Style, Beautiful Homes and other publications and websites. She can be reached through www.noraburbatrulsson.com.

Note: Night tours are offered year-round or seasonally, depending on the weather, so plan accordingly.

Wilderness adventures


Take in Sedona's world-famous scenery under the stars on a guided, two-mile, full-moon hike in Red Rock State Park. A little further south, and 40 miles east of Phoenix, things may feel a tad more spooky in Lost Dutchman State Park at the base of the Superstition Mountains.

The state parks' popular moonlight hikes happen monthly through fall, allowing participants the chance to enjoy sunset and moonrise from a perch in the park. Reservations are required for either hike. (Find more details about fees and pet policies at the links above.)

Near Tucson, Saguaro National Park offers occasional after-dark, guided programs ranging from a relatively easy three-mile night walk to a more challenging, seven-hour, eight-mile round-trip moonlight hike to Wasson Peak. Check the park's online calendar for upcoming walks.

 

Wheeled explorations


Roughly half an hour from Sedona, in Clarkdale, the Verde Canyon Railroad invites guests on Saturday Starlight Tours once a month from May through September. Hop aboard the restored, vintage train as it trundles 20 miles along a heritage railway into a canyon along the Verde River. You'll see sunset, stars and moonlit cliffs, preferably with a prickly pear margarita in hand.

For those who prefer their own two wheels, San Tan Mountain Regional Park south of Phoenix hosts a weekly "Night Shredders Mountain Biking" ride, where the starlit bumps and dips add extra adrenaline.

To spy wildlife under the stars, skip the daytime tour for one like Stellar Adventures' Stargazing Tours with Night Vision, which transports you to watering holes where using night-vision technology, you might see such animals as white-tailed deer, badgers, coyotes and javelina. (Note: night vision isn't offered October 1 – March 1 due to hibernation season.)

Water expeditions


For a serene evening float, board The Dolly Steamboat just east of Phoenix for a twilight or astronomy dinner cruise. The tours provide a perfect view of Canyon Lake's breathtaking sunsets and dark night skies.

The more adventurous can opt for Western Arizona Canoe and Kayak Outfitters' guided full-moon kayaking treks during summer and fall. Set off from their Lake Havasu City facility with your rental gear before you paddle 14 miles down the Colorado River through the famous Topock Gorge in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.

Museum tours


At the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, seasonally themed evenings add magic to the holidays. Over two days in October, the family-friendly "Strange Garden" appears, featuring carved pumpkin vignettes by the world-famous Villafane Studios and spooky lighting along the garden's looping paths. And, come December, those same paths will be lined with 8,000 flickering luminaria bags during the annual "Las Noches de Las Luminarias."

In Scottsdale, Taliesin West offers its "Night Lights" tour year-round—a perfect date night. This National Historic Landmark was architect Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home, and views of the expertly designed buildings are almost as stunning as those of the city lights below during this two-hour walkabout.

High in the Santa Catalina Mountains above Tucson, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter hosts its public astronomy program, SkyNights, year-round. At the observatory, SkyCenter's van shuttles you between a late-afternoon tour of a telescope dome, an outdoor sunset viewing, a lecture and dinner at the facility's learning center, before heading out to two large telescopes, where you'll spend the rest of the night viewing stars, planets, galaxies and more.

 

Additional resources

We didn't forget about the ghosts! Arizona's mining and Wild West past left quite a few ghosts behind and many of whom—if the stories are to be believed—still linger on in the towns and cities of their death. You can see for yourself if the legends are true on any one of these Ghost Tours of Arizona.

Moonlight Hiking on VisitPhoenix.com includes more evening hikes, tours and other adventures in the greater Phoenix area.

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