Scottsdale Boulders Resort Hike Review—Seeing Sonoran Desert in Rock Time

Scottsdale Boulders Resort & Spa offers hikes and other activities with Black Mountain Adventure Guides Review- discover the desert in "rock time"

Part of Boulders Resort & Spa Offering

Follow Rico Riley in a slow meander through the boulders that give this famous Hilton Resort their Boulders name and you sense his deep love for the land that the Hohokam tribe lived upon until roughly 1400 AD.

A one-time “suit” for a finance firm, as he puts it, Rico hails originally from Michigan City, Indiana. He came here years ago in hopes of becoming a professional triathlete. Life happened, and now this father of three, mountain climber and overall adventure specialist with Black Mountain Adventure is on call to guide Boulders’ guests on rock climbing adventures, hikes gentle to challenging, and more.

Going to the Boulders without taking advantage of these offerings would be a gross mistake. This was THE highlight of our stay.

Rico Riley —Black Mountain Adventures Guide

Rico lets you see the gorgeous Boulders Resort & Spa’s 1300 acre surrounds anew. You walk for a few hours. He regales you with his vast knowledge of the area’s history, biodiversity in flora and fauna and geology.

Rico Riley, Adventure Specialist with Black Mountain Adventures, often sports his EMT uniform when he leads hikes, assuring you that his dozen years as an EMT might come in handy in the event of an untoward meeting with a poisonous snake, for example Photo courtesy of Rico Riley

We asked many questions and his vast knowledge of the desert came back with an answer.

It might look like these are two different rocks, with one perilously poised on the other. Actually they are the same rock-- and ALL the rocks around were of a piece a billion or so years ago

You come to see this landscape in what mountain climber Rico refers to as “rock time”. You also get a glimpse into a few seconds ago, in geologic time, just before the Boulders Resort & Spa opened. We learned, for example, that the ever so soothing luxury spa we visited had to have its walls ripped open to let out the bobcat babies that had nestled there unnoticed during construction. We also get to see the shady places where hippies crashed and big-time parties were held, which also happened to be oases from desert heat for the ancient Hohokum.

Following Rico’s lead and patter, we begin to notice how the cacti tell us where we are—for example with the compass cacti (also called barrel cacti) consistently pointing southwest. Time your hike right, and you too can see the fading cacti blooms from the night before, each being the one-day-only bloom of the year.

And you also see human-made features on the landscape, such as this homage to female genitalia created by ancient native tribes
This suaro cactus bloom has just appeared the night before

Rock climber Rico is pointing out which rocks are firm granite good for piton insertion vs. those that are too weather worn to provide support. We learn that a billion years ago this mountainous land was underground and how later the wind, periodic freezes and scorching sun created the fabulous rock poetry around us.

Rico urges us to see the land in “rock time”, not human time. He lifts a curtain in our mind’s eye—we get it.

You don’t have to be a mountain climber

Note: For those of us who are anything but sure-footed, know that Rico not only lends a steadying arm, coaching to get past a tricky spot, and most importantly real-time adaptation to your comfort level. Fellow acrophobes might especially enjoy sitting in the shaded cave first used by the Hohokam as a kitchen to take it all in, while the more adventurous sally to higher peaks.

Those staying at The Boulders Resort & Spa can take advantage of a weekly interpretive hike offered to all guests, or schedule a personal rock climbing or other adventure with Rico Riley during their stay.

This shaded area was used by the Ancient Hohokam as a kitchen and later by hippies as a crash pad for parties. Rico says that he can still find pottery shards here from time to time

For more information about Rico Riley of Black Mountain Adventures and the various climbing, biking and hiking activities he leads, visit the Black Mountain Adventures website.

And, read our related story, “Scottsdale Boulders Resort and Spa Review —Re-charge Your Chi in the Desert.


All photos by Peter Kachergis, unless otherwise indicated.



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