General Tour Info

Tour Basics

How large will our hiking group be?

We believe that when you make a commitment to take your vacation with Rubicon Outdoors, we’ve made a commitment to you to lead the tour. You become our guest. There is no minimum size, and our tours will never be cancelled due to low enrollment (even 1 person is enough), so you can plan your vacation confidently. If you’ve reserved, you’re going!  Our maximum group size is limited from 11-14 people, so groups are always cozy and intimate, and groups of 7-10 people are quite common for us. Small groups create a fun, flexible dynamic that’s just not possible with a larger number of people, so we strive to keep things small.

What kind of condition do I need to be in for one of these tours?

A good level of physical fitness is required to really enjoy hiking with us.  Everywhere we go there will be plenty of beautiful places to stop and rest, and many segments on our lodge-based tours can be made longer or shorter. With small groups, and 2 guides (tours of 8 or fewer may have only 1 guide), we can easily tailor our hikes to match the fitness level and desires of our hikers. Remember though, many of our tours take place in steep, mountainous terrain. Prior aerobic conditioning is very important and will greatly enhance your trip. Everybody enjoys their trip more if they arrive in shape.

Our lodge-based tours offer the most flexibility, with easy options to take a day or half a day off, or to do full day hikes that take 6-8 hours.

Our Grand Canyon backpacking tours are by far the most challenging and require a fairly high level of fitness.  Most days include a significant amount of elevation gain or loss, sometimes more than 4000 feet, and up to 10 miles of hiking.  On these tours we ask our clients to carry their own clothing, sleeping bag and pad, lunch, and personal dishes; pack weight is typically somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds. Our backpacking tours into Grand Canyon are also the most remote we offer, and the options for changing the itinerary part way through are very limited.  If you are not already in good condition, for your own happiness and safety, and for the smooth procession of the tour, you should start a program of walking and conditioning before joining the tour. Please ask if you have any questions regarding the appropriate tour for you.

How do I get ready?

When you sign up, you’ll receive a pre-trip packet with suggestions on what to bring and how to arrive at our meeting point.  If you have any questions, we are always available by email or phone to help with gear and getting to your tour.

In order to get in shape for the tour, try to start exercising regularly before you come. Get out on weekend hikes in the hills, start a diet, and hit the gym. The mountains and canyons are steep, and the better shape you’re in when you arrive, the more enjoyable your tour will be. Even a little bit of prior training helps a lot!

My spouse doesn't hike... is there anything for them to do?

Absolutely, although some tours are definitely better for non-hikers than others. Our lodge-based tours offer multiple activities and beautiful views for the non-hiker, and would be great choices if one person wants to hike while the other enjoys the mountain scenery at a slower pace. Our best option in this case is probably our Northern Arizona Highlights Tour, which features some of our favorite towns in the southwest.  They are certainly encouraged to join the group.

Non-hikers should also consider our self-guided tour options. We offer a few different self-guided itineraries, that are specifically designed as a way for clients to hike as little or as much as they like and go at their own pace without being bound to a group itinerary.  Check out our Self-guided tours page for more information.

What's included in the tour price?

Our guided tour prices are per person and include lodging, all breakfasts, all lunches, most dinners, baggage transport between inns (if applicable), ground transport during the tour, selected entrance fees, gratuities and taxes, and daily guided hikes.

The only things the tour price does not include are drinks with your dinners, personal items, extras charged to your room (like minibar or phone calls), tips for your guides, or insurance of any kind.

Our self-guided tours are also per person and include prepaid hotels, carefully written route descriptions, hiking maps with highlighted routes, a local support contact person, and lots of useful information that will help your trip run smoothly.

The self-guided tours do not include meals, beverages, or extras such as laundry, phone calls from the room, etc., or transportation during your tour. Exact details vary slightly from tour to tour, so see the individual tour descriptions for complete details.

Tour Travel

I'm traveling alone...can I book a single room?

The published prices are per person based on double occupancy. Singles are very welcome on our tours, and we do have a limited number of single rooms, available on a first-come basis, with a single supplement fee. If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room with another hiker, we will do everything we can to match you up with another traveller of the same sex. If that is not possible, however, the single supplement will apply. The single supplement is due with the balance of your tour. We can also accommodate families with children who wish to share a room.

I'd like to bring a group of friends... do you offer group discounts?

Group discounts are always a possibility, even with a group of just 5-6 people, for either our self-guided tours or our scheduled guided tours.  With a small group, you might also consider a private trip, which can be an affordable option with even a small group, and gives you ultimate flexibility in planning.  Please ask if you are coming with a group.

Can you help us get to our meeting point?

Although not included in the cost of our tour, we are happy to help make additional arrangements that may be necessary, such as finding the right airport shuttle, or flight suggestions.  If you have additional travel plans before or after your tour with us, we can help; please ask if you have questions about your particular situation and we can help you choose the right option for you!


How about our plane tickets and our extra time in the Southwest?

The tour price does not include the cost of air travel to the Southwest.  For your return flight, plan to depart the day after your tour ends, to allow for travel time to the airport. Most people will need to spend a night in their departure city when the tour ends and fly home the next day. If you would like help with this night, we have great choices for hotels in Phoenix, Prescott, or St. George. Ask about adding a final night when you’re signing up. The hotels we’ve chosen are some of the best we’ve found in these cities. They’re well-run, affordable, and in great locations. We book these last nights with breakfast only. They’re not guided, and you’ll be able to explore on your own for dinner before flying home.

We are also happy to help with pre- and post-tour plans. Although the Southwest is our specialty, we have years of experience with other destinations nearby as well, and can research and arrange independent travel for you.  We can book hotels and help come up with an overall plan that makes the most sense for your travels.

If you would like help with airline tickets, please contact Yves or Monika Leuenberger of Avenues of the World Travel. Originally from Switzerland, and now based in Flagstaff, Yves and Monika are knowledgeable, helpful travel specialists with years of European experience. Tell them your itinerary with Rubicon Outdoors. They are familiar with our tours and can help you find the right flight, or book travel to other parts of the U.S. that you would like to visit during your vacation.
(928) 556.0853
(800) 230.3322
[email protected]

What if our dates don't match, or we don't want a group trip?

The majority of our tours are privately arranged tours, with or without a guide. If you wish to take one of our existing tours as a self-guided option or build a customized tour to the Southwest, give us a call or email to discuss your options. We can work with you individually to create a trip uniquely suited to your needs, from simple inns to 5-star comfort, hiking tours to scenic train tours. If you like to go at your own pace or can’t join a scheduled tour, this may be for you.

Our self-guided tours are both flexible and affordable. Self-guided versions of our scheduled guided tours generally cost about 2/3 the price of a guided tour. We include maps, prepaid hotel reservations (with breakfast and dinner), daily route descriptions, a suggested packing list, and other tips and suggestions to make your trip run smoothly. Basically everything you need, without groups or a guide! You’ll find much more info on our Self-guided tours page.

You may also want to consider a private guided tour. We can arrange a guide and a customized itinerary for your group for ultimate flexibility in your itinerary and departure date. For groups of just 5 or more, prices are very similar to our regular guided tours, and private guides can be arranged for just one or two people as well. Please see our Private Guided tours page and contact us if you have a group and are interested in hiring a private guide.

If you prefer to join one of our guided group tours, but can’t quite make the full tour dates, please email or call to ask about options. For most of our tours, it’s quite possible to do partial trips, joining partway or leaving early, and we’re happy to work with you to find an experience that fits your schedule.

What to Expect

What will our accommodations be like?

After hiking and exploring all day, our inns are more than just a place to sleep, they are an integral part of the experience and are often among the highlights of our trip. We look for comfortable rooms, spectacular settings, friendly service, and a cozy and authentic atmosphere. The inns we’ve selected are generally small and family-run, and they all feel good to come home to after an exerting day of hiking. Our inns set high standards for themselves, and everywhere we stop you will find utmost cleanliness and comfort. Rubicon tours are marked by excellent accommodations at reasonable prices, and you’ll agree the intimacy and ambiance of these inns adds immeasurably to the quality of our tours. Our inns are listed on the detailed tour itineraries, and we invite you to compare with other options.

What about our meals?

You’ll be exercising all day, pleasantly tired, and ravenously hungry! So we’ll treat ourselves to some fabulous meals. Our meals are carefully prepared, beautifully presented, and wonderfully satisfying. We love to dine at places that offer the best local specialties the region has to offer. Our hotels and guides are also very aware of food allergies and sensitivities, and there are typically lots of options for people who are vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose intolerant, or have nut or other allergies.  Please ask if you have questions about your situation, and be sure to let us know when you sign up so we can make arrangements for you.

With just a few exceptions (noted on the tour itineraries), all meals are included in the price of our guided hiking tours. Normally we will leave one night free for you to explore on your own. We’ll start with a rich continental breakfast each morning at our inn, and finish with a feast in our hotel or a local restaurant every night. For lunch we like to get creative. Your guides prepare a picnic lunch each day, and we take a lot of pride in our hearty picnics, making lunch something to look forward to as well!

What will the weather be like?

We get this question a lot, and in short, the weather in this part of the southwest is more varied than many travelling from other parts of the country might guess.  Although we often get a good solid dose of it, it’s not all Saguaro cactus, sand, and blistering sun.  Here, the weather varies a lot by altitude and season and can (and does) change rapidly throughout the day.

The climate in Northern Arizona and the American Southwest is generally quite favorable for hiking, backpacking, and climbing for much of the year. Spring and fall are particularly nice times to visit this area because of the mild temperatures and relatively dry weather. Winters here are cold but not oppressively so, are often sunny, and can make for ideal conditions to be active outdoors. The summers here are quite hot; high temperatures can sometimes reach upwards of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t very conducive to intense outdoor activity. Due to this added risk, we generally do not offer our Grand Canyon backpacking tours during the summer months; although, it is often still quite feasible to do our lodge-based trips that include shorter day hikes or climbing days during this season.

Typical highs in spring and fall might hover around the mid-upper 70’s and are quite pleasant times to get outdoors.  Late summer and early fall here is monsoon season, where tropical-feeling afternoon thunderstorms can be common.  Because of the dry climate, no matter how hot it gets evenings are almost always significantly cooler and comfortable for sleeping.  Winter daytime highs are generally much colder, but can fluctuate quite a bit from anywhere near freezing up into the 60’s.

We usually encourage folks to be prepared for a little bit of everything depending on which tour and the time of year you sign up for.  We like to adhere to the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just improper clothing:  feel free to contact us with any questions or check out our What to pack page for more information.



How can I be sure the tour group will be there when I arrive?

This is a question we were asked a lot during our first few years. It’s less common now, but is still a question on many people’s minds. We are happy to provide email addresses of past travelers who can tell you about their experiences with Rubicon Outdoors. We can also provide contact information for our hotels, so you can confirm our relationship with them.

Paying by credit card is another good way to protect yourself against fraud, and should give you assurance that you’re dealing with a merchant that has a professional relationship with their merchant bank with strict oversight and accountability. In addition, there are many reasons to consider trip cancellation and travel insurance, and the policy we’ve linked to below also covers you in the event of financial default of the tour operator or airline, provided you sign up within 15 days of booking your trip. Always confirm what is covered and what isn’t before buying your policy.

And keep in mind that our tours have no minimum size. If you sign up for the trip, we will guide it. For some reason (we’re not sure why), this is unusual in our industry, resulting in many people needing to make frantic backup plans when their tour is cancelled at the last minute. This will never happen with a Rubicon Outdoors tour.

Deposits and Cancellations

How much of a deposit do you require?

A deposit of $500 per person is required to make your reservation, and will be applied toward your trip cost. Deposits can be paid by check or credit card. Full payment is due 90 days before the start of your tour, and can be paid by check or credit card. If final payment is not received by the due date, we reserve the right to treat your reservation as cancelled.

After your deposit is received, you will be sent a confirmation of your reservation along with a letter stating your remaining balance and due date. You will also receive a pre-trip packet with detailed information on the trip, directions for joining the tour, suggested clothing and equipment, and other tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

Reserve your spot as soon as you’re ready to commit to the trip, as space is limited to 11-14 depending on your specific tour.

Can the tour price change?

The published prices at the time you sign up are guaranteed for this year, regardless of enrollment, so lock up your trip early and you don’t need to worry about prices changing. Group discounts and reduced prices for children are available. We also offer a 10% discount to clients who return in subsequent years, or on the second of two tours taken within one season.

At Rubicon Outdoors, we are committed to offering first-class tours at reasonable prices. We do a lot of things behind the scenes to keep costs down – we keep our staff minimal, design our own brochures, use our own pictures, and answer our own phone, among many other things. What we will never do is skimp on the tours themselves, or on your experience. The result is a combination of quality and price that we believe is unmatched in the U.S.

Is there a refund if I need to cancel?

Cancellations must be received in writing (mail, email, or fax), and are subject to the following fees per person.

  • More than 90 days before departure – $200
  • 61-90 days before departure – $500
  • 31-60 days before departure – 50% of tour cost
  • 0-30 days before departure – 100% of tour cost

Cancelling a trip is no fun, and it’s also very expensive. Many of our clients have to cancel each year for various and unpredictable reasons. To protect yourself in the event that you have to cancel, trip cancellation and travel insurance is highly recommended. While we always try to be fair to our clients who can’t come, we make substantial commitments (to hotels and guides, and by turning people away from sold-out tours) that can’t always be reversed at the last minute. And of course you’ll have flights and pre and post-trip plans to account for also. So don’t forget this important part of your tour.

For US and Canadian residents, I suggest you compare Travel Guard plans and choose among Basic, Silver, Gold or Platinum coverage. Travel Guard has worked well for our tour members for years, and is not that expensive – generally between 3-9% of your tour cost, depending on your age, the cost of your trip, and what kind of plan you get. It’s best to buy insurance within 15 days of your initial deposit, which gives you more comprehensive coverage, and the option to buy “cancel for any reason” coverage.

If you are forced to cancel a trip, you can talk to us about rescheduling, or carrying over a portion of your tour cost to a future tour and we’ll do what we can to help. But every year we have clients who regret that they didn’t get insurance, while nobody ever regrets that they did.

How do I sign up?

You can find easy directions on our Sign Up page.  We have an online reservation form, or you can print the forms and mail or fax them to us.  We accept personal checks, bank transfers or credit cards (Visa/MC/AmEx) for both deposits and tour balances.