This Hot Air Balloon Ride In Arizona Is A Bucket List Experience You Need To Try (PHOTOS)

It was worth the 3 a.m. wake-up call. 🏜️

​Person beside hot air balloons. Right: Hot air balloons in Arizona.

Person beside hot air balloons. Right: Hot air balloons in Arizona.

This Review article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

A hot air balloon ride in Arizona was at the top of my list when I visited Phoenix for the first time.

Jumping into a basket with an open flame in it, that then takes you up to 3,000 feet in the air, doesn't exactly sound like a smart idea, but it does sound fun. On my trip to the city I was determined to do the once-in-a-lifetime experience. I mean, going for a hot air balloon ride in the desert just sounded too magical to pass up.

So, I booked a sunrise hot air balloon ride to take with my best friend — who I was travelling with — and crossed my fingers that my fear of heights would somehow disappear in a week.

Hot air balloons in Arizona.Hot air balloons in Arizona.Morgan Leet | Narcity

Unfortunately, when my 3 a.m. alarm went off the morning of the ride, I was still terrified and seriously doubting my decision. After paying $175 USD though, there was no way I was going to back out.

The setup

The most nerve-wracking part of the whole experience was walking around the desert at dawn, watching them blow up the hot air balloon.

Arizona desert.Arizona desert.Morgan Leet | Narcity

Don't get me wrong, it was absolutely beautiful seeing a field of hot air balloons, each floating up into the air one at a time, all while the sun rose. It was also terrifying thinking that in just a few moments I would be carried away in this wild mode of transportation.

Hot air balloons in Arizona.Hot air balloons in Arizona.Morgan Leet | Narcity

My friend and I looked at each other with seriously skeptical expressions, clearly both thinking: "Why are we doing this again?"

The hot air balloon being blown up.The hot air balloon being blown up.Morgan Leet | Narcity

Before we knew it though our guide was calling us over, and we were jumping into the basket.

The hot air balloon taking off.The hot air balloon taking off.Morgan Leet | Narcity

The ride

The hot flame slowly lifted our balloon off the dusty ground, and away we went. The higher we got, the harder it was to look down — but that was okay because I couldn't take my eyes off the incredible view in front of me.

Other colourful balloons popped up around us, and with the desert below and the mountains as a backdrop — it was breathtaking.

The view from our hot air balloon.The view from our hot air balloon.Morgan Leet | Narcity

The sun was quickly coming up over the mountains, turning the sky a bright blue. It was the perfect time of day to go, because of the beautiful lighting and the fact that it wasn't too hot yet.

Arizona desert. Arizona desert. Morgan Leet | Narcity

The entire time I could feel the heat of the fire above me, and it was a reminder that the only thing holding us up was the little flame. As bizarre as it was though, once we were high up in the air I felt calm.

Hot air balloon ride. Hot air balloon ride. Morgan Leet | Narcity

It was unbelievably peaceful so high up in the air, and I could take in the unique landscape around me.

The stunning view of Arizona. The stunning view of Arizona. Morgan Leet | Narcity

At some points, our guide took us low to the ground, and we got to see wild donkeys, cows, and even pigs.

Arizona. Arizona. Morgan Leet | Narcity

We breezed past cacti and lakes — and then went so high that when I looked down my palms started sweating.

The landing

After about an hour in the air, it was time to land.

Honestly, I never really considered what the landing on a hot air balloon ride would be like, which made it extra terrifying. If you're like me, you probably expect it to be a gentle touchdown — and you would be very wrong.

It's not exactly easy to steer and massive balloon powered by hot air, so we started our descent pretty quickly and even took out a bush.

As we landed we had to grab a handle and brace ourselves, before hitting the ground. Our basket had a super bumping landing and even started to tip over as the ground crew tried to get the balloon deflated.

The deflated hot air balloon.The deflated hot air balloon.Morgan Leet | Narcity

It was a heart-pounding experience, to say the least, but we all made it out safely.

Our guide even poured us some mimosas at the end to toast the magical ride — despite the fact that it was 6:30 a.m.

A mimosa. A mimosa. Morgan Leet | Narcity

All in all, it was an unreal experience. Because I was so scared, it made it even more rewarding in the end. I challenged myself and got to have one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

Morgan Leet
Morgan Leet is a Senior Editor for Narcity Media based in Vancouver, B.C.