When summertime temperatures soar, most animals in the Sonoran Desert go nocturnal. Catch a glimpse of this secret world by donning night-vision goggles with Desert Storm Hummer Tours (480/922-0020, www.dshummer.com , $125 adult, $100 child). Guides explain how plants and animals adapt to the extreme conditions of the desert and even lead kids in a safer-than-it-sounds scorpion hunt using UV lights that cause stinging insects to glow yellow.
Stellar Adventures (877/878-3552, stellaradventures.com) offers a variety of ways to get out in the desert and get dirty, from ATV rentals ($150 per rental) and Blazer tours ($95 adult, $75 child) of mining ghost towns and ancient Native American ruins to “advanced” Hummer tours ($165) that show off the rock-hopping, wall-climbing, hole-busting capabilities of the military vehicles.
For the next step in Jeep safaris, try driving your own Tomkat off-road vehicle with Desert Wolf Tours (877/613-9653, desertwolftours.com, $165). A cross between an ATV and a baby Hummer, the golf cart-sized vehicles were originally developed for the Israeli Defense Forces, but they’ll take you over rocky roads and through desert washes on a guided tour that brings new meaning to the word convoy.