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Are REI Adventures Worth It? I Went to Sedona to Find Out.

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Whether you don’t like to hike or travel solo, can’t convince anyone from your friends or family group to join you on an exploratory hiking trip, or you simply like the camaraderie and all-inclusive pre-planned schedule group trips offer, a fully guided group trip may be for you. And if you love the otdoors, chances are you’ve heard about REI Adventures trips, which are packed with hiking, camping, lodges, and plenty of other outdoorsy fun. But are REI Adventures worth it (or any group hiking trip, for that matter)? I recently joined REI on their Sedona, Arizona luxury hiking trip to see what these sorts of experiences are all about and who is sure to enjoy them (and who probably won’t).

Rock formations in Sedona, Arizona.

Now, I’ve been on group hiking trips before, namely an organized backpacking trip in Colorado with the brand Fjallraven for their annual Classic and a hike-centric guided group trip in Portugal with Exodus Travels, but those felt different. The Fjallraven Classic was an organized multi-day backpacking trip where you could still enjoy some alone time and do your own thing, and trips like those offered by Exodus are more travel-focused with an occasional emphasis on hiking.

But REI Adventure trips, whether you opt for multi-day guided backpacking trips or more luxurious hotel-based day-hiking trips, are something else altogether. Sure, travel is still involved, but spending time stretching your legs in the outdoors is more than just a feature, it’s the focus. Here’s what the experience was like so you can decide if REI Adventures trips are worth it.

Rock structures in Sedona on an REI Adventures Trip.

What to Expect on an REI Adventures Group Hiking Trip

First things first: what should you even expect on a group hiking trip? At REI, you’ll be part of a fairly small group. The exact number of participants varies from trip to trip, but 4-12 is a good number to anticipate.

You can also choose a trip based on your ideal activity level, with options ranging from easy activity (2) to strenuous activity (5). Prices range from $1,100-$8,000+ depending on whether you’ll be camping, staying at luxury lodges, how many days the trip is, and more.

Hikers on a trail near large rock structures in Sedona on an REI Adventures Trip.

Sedona is 4 full days, has an activity level of 2 (which still requires you can hike for several hours at a time) and costs $2,499 for members ($2,749 for non-members). Read more about REI memberships at the end, or check them out here. They’re not cheap trips, to be certain, but you could pay $300 per night or more just to stay in the same room at the same hotel I did, which is $900 without even factoring in food, transportation, and park entrance fees.

Whereas on an REI Adventures hiking trip, almost everything is included, from food to lodging to activities to park entrance fees (just not your airfare to get to the departure destination). And many trips, including the one in Sedona, are available as co-ed trips AND women-only trips, which is great. Could you plan a trip yourself, eat at budget restaurants, stay in budget lodging or camp, and spend less? Sure you could. But part of what you’re paying for is to be taken care of and have someone else handle all the logistics.

For every trip you’ll get to see an itinerary and details about where you’ll stay before you book, then be provided with updates and even training recommendations din a series of emails before your trip so you know what to pack, when to arrive, how to ensure your legs are ready, and more. REI will definitely keep you informed leading up to your trip and handle all the details (other than your travel plans) so you can relax and know everything is taken care of. Bonus: They accommodate dietary restrictions, so if you’re vegan like we are, you’ll still eat well.

Impressive rock structures in Sedona.
Impressive rock structures in Sedona.

Arizona Hiking Sedona Women’s Adventure – Lodge Based: What the Trip Is Like

Upon arriving (you’ll fly or drive to the Phoenix airport then head to Scottsdale to meet with the rest of the attendees and two guides), you’ll be whisked away by an REI 15-passenger van, complete with a trailer for all your luggage, to head toward Sedona. There you’ll start with a hike in the stunning red rock desert before checking into a comfy hotel (we stayed at the lovely upscale Sky Rock Sedona) and enjoying dinner at a local restaurant.

Montezuma Castle National Monument in Sedona, Arizona.
Montezuma Castle National Monument in Sedona, Arizona.

The rest of the trip is more of the same: Hiking around places like Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and the Munds Wagon Trail, explore Tuzigoot National Monument and Montezuma Castle National Monument, hear mini history and geology lessons from your guides, explore the quirky mining town of Jerome, and dine at local restaurants every night.

Guides prepare lunches and help coordinate breakfast, and in periods of rest between activities, you can swim in the hotel pool, relax in the sun, enjoy the company of fellow travelers, and more. It’s a full four days, to be sure, and you’ll never have the chance to get bored, but there is also downtime so it doesn’t feel like you’re being run ragged. And it never felt like anything was rushed. Just an enjoyably full schedule.

A woman hikes over rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Hiking with the group in Sedona.

Who Group Hiking Trips are For

Wondering if group hiking trips are for you? If you’ll enjoy yourself? There are a few ways to know.

First of all, if you don’t enjoy the sort of detailed planning and logistics required to travel and explore multiple places in one go, have to deal with renting a car, booking stays, researching what to do and where to eat, and would rather someone else just line it all up for you so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy experiences like these. Nearly all the hard work and planning is done for you!

Group trips are also a hit with those who don’t like to travel solo, but would still like to travel. Gregarious folks who like to make new friends (it’s not uncommon for attendees to go on future REI trips together, guides told us) and enjoy company on trails and at mealtimes. Even if you’re not traveling solo, they can be a fun way to stay active and enjoy the company of others. After all, you’ll be spending most of your time together. There’s usually a super lively atmosphere on these sorts of things and bonds are formed fast when you’re sweating and struggling on trails together, eating outdoors and enjoying epic scenery.

A hiking trail among the rocks in Sedona.
A hiking trail among the rocks in Sedona.

They’re also a great way to learn about and familiarize yourself with a region. You’ll likely learn more about local ecology and quirky facts (like how to locate one of Sedona’s famous vortexes) when on a trip with a guide, but also see a good chunk of the area, which might inspire future trips to return and explore more.

And because price is always a factor when it comes to these experiences, it’s important to note that they’re not rock-bottom budget trips. On the contrary, they’ll appeal more to those with a bit more disposable income or those willing to save for a unique experience.

A room at Sky Rock Sedona.
A room at Sky Rock Sedona.

Who Group Hiking Trips are NOT For

That said, group trips like these aren’t for everyone. For example, if you adore having time to pop in and explore local shops or galleries in places you visit, taking your time chatting with locals or artists, or exploring more than the designated points on a map like I do, you might find trips like these frustrating. You won’t have much time to do any of this nor your own mode of transportation to get around and explore solo.

Likewise, photographers and videographers or those who might be hyper-focused on identifying plants or rocks may not find they have the time they want to stop and take as many photos or examine desert foliage as they might like. Your guides won’t rush you, and there will certainly be time to stop and ask questions and take photos, just maybe not as much as you usually would.

A trail of hikers in Sedona on an REI Adventures guided hiking trip.
A trail of hikers on the REI Adventures trip in Sedona.

And this might go without saying, but if you tend to be more of an introvert, you may not love how much time you’ll be spending with others. There may not be enough time for you to recharge in between activities. The same goes for if you prefer quiet, reverent hikes. The nature of a group hike is that there’s chatter, a lively atmosphere, and plenty of stories swapped, questions asked, and information shared. If you like to sit and meditate outdoors or are looking for more of a nature-therapy inspired hike, this won’t likely fit the bill.

They’re also not for those on a tight budget or people who, like me, get a weird thrill out of stretching every dollar and saving as much as you can on every aspect of a trip as opposed to enjoying a taste of the finer things from start to finish. If that’s the case, you may not find the price tag of REI Adventures worth it unless you’re willing to loosen the purse stings and live it up a little.

Being silly on a hike in Sedona on an REI Adventures guided hiking trip.
Being silly on a hike in Sedona on an REI Adventures guided hiking trip.

Bottom Line: Are REI Adventures worth it?

The answer to that question depends entirely on you. But If you think a group hiking trip might be up your alley, the options REI offers, which range from this Sedona trip to epic Backpacking in Yosemite to lodge-based hikes in Alaska to POC trips in Virginia in partnership with Outdoor Afro, are an excellent option. Not least of all because REI promotes sustainability (they’re Certified Climate Neutral), inclusion, and responsible stewardship (read more about that here).

Keep in mind that REI members get a pretty significant discount on trips. And since a lifetime membership only costs $30, I think you’ll find it’s worth it to sign up (most trips are at least $100 cheaper for members). Especially since members get perks like access to used gear from Re/Supply, extra sales and discounts throughout the year, and early access to specific in-demand items. I almost guarantee it’ll be worth the investment, even if you find group trips aren’t your cup of tea, so check it out and sign up here.

Then head outside and wander on. Maybe with REI Adventures.