Arizona Trail

“The Arizona National Scenic Trail stretches 800 miles across the entire length of the state to connect deserts, mountains, forests, canyons, wilderness, history, communities and people. This non-motorized trail showcases Arizona’s diverse vegetation, wildlife and scenery, as well as unique historic and cultural sites…. Starting at the U.S.-Mexico border, the path climbs and descends from one “sky island” mountain range to another, gaining and losing thousands of feet in elevation and traversing biomes ranging from desert to boreal forest. Continuing across the Sonoran Desert, the route crosses the Gila River, winds through the Superstition Mountains and the Mazatzal Wilderness on its way to the Mogollon Rim and majestic San Francisco Peaks. The trail north takes travelers across the Grand Canyon through billions of years of geology. Topping out on the North Rim, conifer forests dominate the Kaibab Plateau, eventually giving way to red bluffs dotted with sagebrush as the trail nears the Utah border on the edge of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.”

– Arizona Trail Association

The Arizona Trail was my first long hike and I began it with no backpacking experience at all. I was seeking adventure because, like many others, I had been inspired by someone else – no, not Cheryl Strayed, but Tim Cope, who spent three years travelling on horseback from Hungary to Mongolia and produced the fantastic documentary On the Trail of Genghis Khan.

How did I even learn about the AZT? Wikipedia, of course! I picked it out of a long list of trails due to three main reasons:

  1. It’s in the desert! Awesome, right? Probably not if you live in the desert, but pretty awesome for a Saskatchewanian (spellcheck is recoiling right now).
  2. Its length. Not too hot, not too cold – just right.
  3. I figured it would be relatively idiot-proof for a beginner backpacker, having no deep snow or fords or long periods of rain. I recoil from the thought of an embarrassing death just like spellcheck recoils from the word ‘Saskatchewanian’.

Eight years after my hike, the trail isn’t what it used to be. This is the refrain, I think, of all long-distance hikers who hiked a trail before it became popular and wax nostalgic for the solitude and need for self-dependence that one finds before traffic increases. However, the AZT is a stunning trail, and I highly recommend it to backpackers who are willing to carry water and not bathe in puddles!




Arizona Trail website, managed by the Arizona Trail Association:
Arizona Trail journals: