Hiking under the moon and stars is a magical experience, and the Sonoran Conservancy of Fountain Hills is bringing you four of these magical hikes this Fall.

The Sonoran Conservancy has teamed up with Vicky Derksen and the Star Dudes for several First Quarter Moon hikes in the McDowell Mountain Preserve. The Preserve is a perfect place for these hikes as it gets you away from most of the residential lights in town.

Stargazing Hikes

The glow of hikers’ red flashlights heading up the Overlook Trail from the Adero Trailhead.

The hikes begin at the Adero Canyon Trailhead and go out just over half a mile to the end of the Overlook Trail and back. At stops along the way, Vicky uses a laser pointer to help hikers identify constellations, bright stars, and planets.

Vicky Derksen

Vicky Derksen leads the stargazing hikes.

“There is so much to love about the night sky by just using your naked eyes to look up,” said Vicky. “Finding constellations and planets gives the sky more meaning and helps us connect with nature over our heads better.”

You’ll hear her tell ancient cultural star stories from around the world and fascinating bits of information about the celestial objects overhead.

“I love learning about how different cultures viewed the night sky,” said Vicky. “Most cultures worldwide relied on the sky for timekeeping, navigation, and agriculture. They also had a deep spiritual connection to the sky. They used the stars to communicate their origin stories and moral stories. They relied on it to know when to plant and harvest crops and when to hold sacred ceremonies and festivals. The Polynesians used it to navigate thousands of miles around the Pacific Ocean from island to island without a single instrument.”

The Star Dudes will have telescopes set up in the parking lot for viewing at the end of the hike. The Star Dudes are a group of local amateur astronomers who offer telescope viewing at ADERO Scottsdale, Star Parties in Centennial Circle, the Town’s Picnic in the Park, the Dark Sky Festival, Astronomy on Tap, and other events in the community. The Star Dudes are Ted Blank, Scott Adams, Dave Perry, Tony Pistilli, and Vicky Derksen.

Stargazing Hikes

The Star Dudes set up telescopes in the parking lot for hikers to look at star clusters, galaxies, and planets.


“My favorite thing in the world,” said Vicky, “is letting someone look through the telescope at Saturn and its rings for the first time. Ninety percent of the time, I can predict their reaction: ‘Oh my god! Is that real?’ It’s an amazing feeling to give someone that experience.”

Vicky is the host of the Night Sky Tourist podcast. She’s the president of the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association and serves on the International Dark Sky Discovery Center board. She’s also the editor of Desert Vibe.


Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes.

Bring poles if needed.

Leave your white flashlights at home and only use a red flashlight to preserve everyone’s night vision.

Open to children 8 years old and older.

Please leave your pets at home.

Registration is required, and space is limited to 20 hikers per hike (see below)


  • October 1 at 7:00 pm
  • November 1 at 6:30 pm
  • December 2 at 6:30 pm
  • December 31 at 6:30 pm  New Year’s Eve in the Preserve!


To get more information about the stargazing hikes and other hikes and to register, visit scfh.org/events.