What is the Arizona Trail?
The Arizona Trail (AZT) is a rugged and beautifully wild long-distance trail stretching from the borders of Mexico to Utah. Traversing 800 miles, it climbs up and over southern Arizona’s signature sky islands, weaves through extraordinary desert landscapes and mountains, and travels over Arizona’s high country, all before it passes through the iconic Grand Canyon. As a relatively new National Scenic Trail, it gets little attention compared to similar trails such as the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, but offers just as much of a challenge. The AZT travels through nine of Arizona’s eleven different biomes, making the landscape truly diverse over the distance. It’s an adventure unlike any other.
After failing to complete it in 2015, I went back in 2016. I started from scratch and successfully thru-hiked the trail in its entirety. Starting on March 9, I finished on the evening of May 1. A successful crowdfunding campaign was what helped get me there and complete the hike. Part of the campaign’s success was due to my willingness to donate photos taken from the trail back to the Arizona Trail Association. This was designed primarily to help them better protect the scenic resources along the trail.
Arizona Trail Resources
Thinking of hiking the trail? I’ve listed below some blog posts that I’ve written to help you get going in the right direction. Hopefully my experience helps you to get everything organized a little better than I did.
Also, if you’re as excited as I was about hiking and want to devour every bit of information about it, I managed to write a blog post every night about what I went through and my experiences on the trail. If you want to read it all, you can start with Day 1 here: Day 1: Mexico to Miller Peak Wilderness.
Each day is listed at the bottom of this page if you’d like to skip around.
My Arizona Trail Route
The Google Map below contains each day from my seven-week journey tracked through Arizona. Each alternating color represents one full day on the trail. A selection of favorite photos from the trail is also overlaid on the route exactly where GPS recorded the data for each photo.
Feel free to zoom in and study a section in more detail, and also open the map in a larger window if you want to explore more.
Arizona Trail Photo Galleries
As mentioned, I also lugged a camera along the entire trail. This was not only for personal enjoyment, but also for the Arizona Trail Association. Below are all of the galleries from Arizona that contain images from the Arizona Trail, starting at Mile 0 and heading north. Note that each link will bring you to that gallery on my photography site. Some galleries will also contain other images from previous outings to that particular area.
All Arizona Trail Blog Posts
Below are the blog posts that I wrote while on the trail, ordered by the day I wrote them along my journey (as well as my preparation and thoughts after the trail). I tried to keep as thorough of a log as I could about what I was experiencing, as well as what I was going through emotionally.
Preparing for the AZT, 2016 February 15, 2016 - In less than two weeks I'll be leaving for Arizona to thru-hike the Arizona Trail! The crowdfunding campaign was a great success. I was shooting to raise about $3000 to make sure I would have everything I would need to hike the trail without going over budget. In all, we ... AZT Mail Drops February 17, 2016 - One of the more minor reasons I wasn't able to complete the Arizona Trail in 2015 was a general lack of preparedness and a haphazard attitude for my overall organization on the trail. Likewise, I was also very dependent on friends in the area for help which didn't benefit either ... Final Preparations for the AZT March 7, 2016 - I'm only a couple of days away from getting on the Arizona Trail and I'm nearly done with all my preparations! Today I plan on meeting with a Nuun rep to grab an order of Nuun which will help keep me hydrated through the trek, add a few to mail ... Day 1: Mexico to Miller Peak Wilderness March 10, 2016 - Today went a little longer than expected and now I'm camping amongst some snow that's still hanging on from a storm that dropped several inches in the higher Huachuca Mountains the previous night. There's a wind that's fortunately not coming too low below the pine trees rising far above me, ... Day 2: Miller Peak Wilderness to Canelo Hills East March 10, 2016 - Today I got a late start because I was completely unprepared for the cold outside my tent. I procrastinated doing much other than just staying huddled in my sleeping bag. Finally the sun began to hit my campground and I was ready to start moving after a long and tiring ... Day 3: Canelo Hills East to Canelo Hills West March 11, 2016 - Last night I slept great tucked away in my sleeping bag. At the lower elevations now, it wasn't too cold and there was a faint but pleasant breeze so I even left the rain fly off to have the stars out above. I woke up at dawn this morning and ... Day 4: Canelo Hills West to Patagonia March 13, 2016 - I'm currently sitting outside my hotel room overlooking Patagonia, Arizona where I'm doing my best to get my electronics charged up. I fortunately packed my camera battery charger into my bounce box, so I should be good there, and I also threw in two extra AA batteries for the GPS ... Day 5: Patagonia to Temporal Gulch March 17, 2016 - Overall, I slept pretty well at my stay at the Stage Stop Inn. I can't say enough great things about this hotel though. Gerry is a huge help and seems genuinely happy to help out thru-hikers. If you're planning on doing the AZT, make sure a night there is in your ... Day 6: Santa Rita Mountains to Northern Foothills March 17, 2016 - Last night I heard something I haven't heard in a while: crickets. I don't remember hearing them at all in the Canelo Hills which would signify a horrible breakdown in the ecosystem. Nonetheless, they were a welcome addition to the environment as I watched the stars come out. This morning ... Day 7: Northern Foothills to Mulberry Canyon March 17, 2016 - So much for my relaxing day. While the day itself wasn't bad at all, I wound up going much farther than anticipated. I was shooting for about 15 miles or so today, but as soon as I was ready to start looking for camp, there was nothing to be found. ... Day 8: Mulberry Canyon to I-10 (nearly) March 17, 2016 - I woke up this morning to see a bunny rabbit bouncing around the imaginary perimeter of my campsite. I felt very refreshed after a good night's rest and was ready to have a mellow day. I started off down the trail after packing up camp, following it down and ultimately ... Day 9: I-10 (nearly) to La Selvilla Campground March 18, 2016 - Today was finally the relaxing day I had been looking for, though I'm now waiting for my turn at a water spigot being used by a threatening amount of bees. Prior to heading out I noticed a mule deer very close to my tent. It only took a very subtle ... Day 10: La Selvilla Campground to Grass Shack Campground March 19, 2016 - The climb up the south side of Mica Mountain was one of the more difficult parts of the trail that I remember from last year. In fact, it was one of the primary reasons I was toying with the idea of just picking up where I left off in 2015. ... Day 11: Grass Shack Campground to Reddington Road March 20, 2016 - Something definitely changed today. My body feels like it's starting to adapt to life on the trail. I woke up to a surprisingly pleasant morning. I had expected that at the elevation of the Grass Shack Campground that it'd be a bit chillier, but the air was pleasant and the ... Day 12: Redington Road to Sycamore Creek March 21, 2016 - Near this time last year, I was driving down from Summerhaven on the Santa Catalina Highway having just picked up the mail drop I sent there for my thru-hike, only to have abandoned it a couple of hours earlier. Near the base of the highway, heading out of the mountains ... Day 13: Sycamore Creek to Wilderness of Rocks March 22, 2016 - Today was one of the best days of the trip. It was also one of the most disastrous. Put simply, "adventure is out there!" From my campsite, I had a short walk up to a small crest of a saddle where a view of epic proportions opened up in front, ... Day 14: Wilderness of Rocks to Summerhaven March 23, 2016 - Sometimes you just need a break from the trail. In truth, I didn't, but my knee did. I actually got a bit antsy sitting around Summerhaven and was eager to get back on the trail. I woke up right around sunrise, giving my knee a good long rest. I popped ... Day 15: Summerhaven to Lower Oracle Ridge March 24, 2016 - I love having the freedom and the flexibility to camp early, waiting for the sun to set in anticipation of earth's shadow rising together with a full moon. Though it wasn't as cold as I expected it this morning, it was still pretty chilly. The breeze was even chillier. Being ... Day 16: Lower Oracle Ridge to Tiger Mine Trail March 25, 2016 - The day started off chilly with a colorful sunrise off to both the east and west, but I had very little time to stop and enjoy it. I was being picked up from the Tiger Mine Trailhead at 11am. That left me needing to hike about 11 miles in just ... Day 17: Tiger Mine Trail to Black Hills March 26, 2016 - My pack feels heavier. That could be because it's the first time since Colossal Cave that it's been fully loaded with food and water. Or it could also be the tripod I brought along after a zero day in Phoenix. The gorilla pod just wasn't cutting it, so I took ... Day 18: Black Hills to Ripsey Wash Area March 27, 2016 - Tonight, I find myself camped below the buzzing and zapping of massive power lines. Being unfamiliar with the area, I only knew I wanted to be near Ripsey Wash this morning, some 25-30 miles from camp this morning. It's one of the target areas for some good photography to prevent ... Day 19: Ripsey Wash Area to Gila River Trailhead March 28, 2016 - Today felt like a rough day. Not so much physically but more emotionally, a number of factors contributing to that. Firstly, I think I might have brought a bit of preparation stress to the trail with me after the zero day in Phoenix. Secondly, I brought a lightweight tripod to ... Day 20: Gila River Trailhead to Gila River Canyon March 30, 2016 - Days like yesterday will happen. Part of the challenge in completing something like this is being able to bounce back and not only keep going, but also remember why you're on the trail to begin with. The weather this morning had me thinking it could possibly rain. There were some ... Day 21: Gila River Canyon to Superior March 31, 2016 - Slow down. Relax more. Don't push it. After the last stretch, I'm going to remind myself of those more. The morning in this canyon was absolutely remarkable. The light breaking through the clouds and the jagged peaks created never-ending photographic possibilities. Golden light flooded the canyon for what seemed like ... Day 22: Superior to Whitford Canyon April 1, 2016 - Comfort is king. It's remarkable how just an extra half day of rest can make such an enormous difference. My feet were still hurting this morning, but I knew they'd have some relief with the extra time which would help. I got up and began my morning errands: breakfast at ... Day 23: Whitford Canyon to Reavis Pass April 2, 2016 - It's time I take my hydration a little more seriously. At least that's what my body insisted today through painful expression. The day started off chilly, in fact a little cold. I ate my breakfast and then opted to procrastinate longer than usual until the sun peeked over the horizon ... Day 24: Reavis Pass to Pinyon Mountain April 3, 2016 - It's funny how a day can start out so pleasant and laid back, and then turn into one of the most grueling days yet. As Gizmo remarked, this is probably a taste of what's to come from the Mazatzals as we begin to hike from the Basin and Range terrain ... Day 25: Pinyon Mountain to Eastern Four Peaks April 4, 2016 - A new load of food, and a load of new experiences along the trail. The painful steps of the previous section were beginning to feel like a distant memory, until they started coming back. The day started out with a fantastic sunrise coating the mountains in soft pastel lights, slowly ... Day 26: Eastern Four Peaks to Northern Four Peaks April 5, 2016 - Clean socks equals happy feet. Happy feet makes for happy hiking. That was my problem last night. My socks had gotten pretty dirty. Fortunately, despite climbing up the backside of the Four Peaks, I was still able to crank out a nearly 20 mile day thanks to my happy feet. ... Day 27: Northern Four Peaks to Sunflower April 6, 2016 - Funny how an easy day turns into a 20 mile day. I was looking forward to relaxing in the afternoon and doing some laundry, but I didn't have quite as much time as I was hoping thanks to an error in my assumptions about the trail. I was up and ... Day 28: Sunflower to Thicket Spring April 7, 2016 - Happy feet are high maintenance. Just when I thought I had them all figured out, I now discover that they're not getting enough air to dry out properly. This has caused the muscles to become quite sore, making hiking once again a bit difficult. Fortunately it's only on one foot, ... Day 29: Thicket Spring to Chilson Camp April 8, 2016 - When I first moved to Phoenix late in 2004, I was still very new to photography. I was also very new to the southwest. I was eager to explore the area, but in seeing everything with completely fresh eyes, I wasn't making much progress beyond the city limits. That was ... Day 30: Chilson Camp to Brush Springs April 9, 2016 - A 20 mile day would put me at LF Ranch a day early, and it would also reduce the newfound stress around my food supply. While I added in a few extra things since I knew I'd want to eat more, I neglected to factor in that I'd also want ... Day 31: Brush Springs to LF Ranch April 10, 2016 - A six mile day is an easy day. A six mile day on half of a liter of water is a bit more challenging. I got camp packed up as more storm clouds began to consume the clear morning sky. I wasn't too keen on backtracking up the trail for ... Day 32: LF Ranch to Pine April 11, 2016 - It was Pine or bust. I needed to go 25 miles since I didn't have enough food to camp for another night. On top of that, it'd be mostly uphill onto large open mesas. And then there were the thunderstorms that were predicted for the day. To be safe, I ... Day 33: Zero Day in Pine April 12, 2016 - The zero day was a reluctant decision, but it was a hugely beneficial one. This morning I woke up in my room at the Beeline Guest House and got to work charging more devices and then patching the holes in my sleeping pad since I now had a nice big ... Day 34: Pine to Washington Park April 13, 2016 - After a long but very enjoyable zero day in Pine, I was ecstatic to be back on the trail. The weather felt great and everything throughout the day felt phenomenal. Noah and I both woke up surprised to find frost on each of our tents. We were relieved we had ... Day 35: Washington Park to Blue Ridge April 14, 2016 - While zeroing in Pine, several of us were having a great social hangout at Sidewinder's where E Bunny and Sweep both mentioned the merits of slowing down and not being in such a rush to finish the trail, something I've always preached about hiking in general. And yet, on the ... Day 36: Blue Ridge to Somewhere on the Rim April 15, 2016 - Even an uneventful day on the Arizona Trail is still an incredible day by any standards. There were no critters in the meadow this morning as I had hoped. It was pretty, but nothing to keep me from moving ahead. Heading down the trail it was an extremely pleasant morning ... Day 37: Somewhere on the Rim to Mormon Lake April 16, 2016 - After such an uneventful day yesterday (which is still an awesome day on the AZT), today brought a little action back onto the trail, also partly because I still can't seem to bring enough food on the trail. There was a much chillier wind this morning that persisted throughout the ... Day 38: Mormon Lake to Upper Lake Mary April 17, 2016 - I heard it as I was falling asleep last night in the Mormon Lake Campground. Hundreds of tiny little collisions on my rain fly as if someone were constantly throwing a bunch of feathers at my tent. It was snowing, and I could feel a bit of it sneaking into ... Day 39: Upper Lake Mary to Flagstaff April 18, 2016 - I had reached the point where I was hoping to see something that would break up the pleasant monotony of the forests. Though the hiking was easier and the days cooler, I missed the grand views and overlooks that invited a needed rest for weary feet. Due to the mid-20s ... Day 40: Flagstaff to Somewhere Between Walnut Canyon and I-40 April 19, 2016 - Yesterday I took a zero day as planned. Cydney had her first hostel experience and then we went for breakfast at the highly recommended MartAnne's, and it exceeded expectations. We made a run down to Phoenix where I was able to make a few adjustments, such as bringing my hiking ... Day 41: I-40 to Snow Bowl Road April 20, 2016 - There's definitely been a different mood about the trail that I've been feeling, and I don't like it. I can't tell if I've just grown tired of the monotony of the forest, or if I've just let myself become preoccupied with overly distracting thoughts, but I'm simply not feeling the ... Day 42: Snow Bowl Road to Somewhere Amongst Cinder Cones April 21, 2016 - Every now and then, I feel as though a thru-hiker deserves to feel a little sluggish and grumpy, the former causing the latter. Such was the case this morning after Gizmo and I had a fantastic breakfast by trail angel Hannah. I suppose though that this was just the culmination ... Day 43: Cinder Cones to Babbitt Ranch April 22, 2016 - There's a section of the Arizona Trail that's become infamous for its lengthy dirt road walking. It's through this stretch that water is scarce and interesting features even less so. Having not looked much into that particular area, and with few photos of it, I didn't really know what to ... Day 44: Babbitt Ranch to Coconino Rim April 24, 2016 - The Coconino Rim was just over 20 miles away. I had visions of this area being ripe with campsites all along the rim overlooking the eastern edge of the Kaibab Plateau below, as well as the Grand Canyon carving its way toward the area. Surely there had to be one ... Day 45: Coconino Rim to Tusayan April 25, 2016 - My feet were beginning to complain again, particularly the left, which has had trouble adjusting to life on the trail. It's about a half size smaller than my right foot, the latter of which is doing quite well. Lefty however, has been getting too cooped up lately in two socks, ... Day 46: Tusayan to Grand Canyon South Rim April 26, 2016 - On paper, it doesn't look like much of a day, but in actuality, I didn't have much of a chance to sit down and relax at all. I had the idea of relaxing in my head as soon as I got up, so I was slow to get moving in ... Day 47: Grand Canyon South Rim to Phantom Ranch April 27, 2016 - Though putting last night's plan into action this morning was technically successful, there were a few glitches. First, the only reason getting up at 4am was a better option than sleeping in was because the hole(s) in my sleeping pad are still eluding me. As a result, getting up seemed ... Day 48: Phantom Ranch to Grand Canyon North Rim April 28, 2016 - I slept better last night than I've slept in a long time, and that includes the motel stay in Tusayan which was quite comfortable. I was going to need the rest too. I underestimated the climb out of the canyon (the Grand Canyon, no less), and got completely lost once ... Day 49: Grand Canyon North Rim to Jacob Lake April 29, 2016 - My plan for this last remaining stretch of the Arizona Trail was to take it slow and easy. There was one 20 mile day in there, but with hardly any elevation gain anywhere for the remainder of the trail, it would be pretty easy. Except I forgot to account for ... Day 50: Jacob Lake to North of Grand Canyon National Park April 30, 2016 - The plan was to hitchhike back to where I left the trail and pick up where I left off. This wound up being much more difficult than I expected it to be, or even than it needed to be. I was up early and well rested and so I said ... Day 51: North of the Grand Canyon to Jacob Lake (again) May 1, 2016 - I thought I was ready for today, but the weather once again threw me a major curveball that would require some pretty amazing trail magic to overcome. I knew today would be rough. The forecast had called for a lot of rain pretty much all day, so when I woke ... Day 52: Jacob Lake to Stateline Campground May 3, 2016 - The plan (which as we've learned means nothing) was to head out from Jacob Lake, then find a scenic spot to camp several miles before the Stateline Campground to get some final views before completing the Arizona Trail. I woke up and was excited to see sunlight coming in through ... How to Successfully Thru-Hike the Arizona Trail May 16, 2016 - The Arizona Trail (AZT) is a rugged, challenging 800+ mile thru-hike that stretches from the border of Mexico to the border of Utah, and is riddled with challenges such as extreme heat, freezing temperatures, snow, blowing sand, lack of water, consistent elevation change, and many stinging and poisonous critters. It ... Essential Gear for the Arizona Trail December 29, 2016 - Now that I've finally finished adding photos from the Arizona Trail to my website, I can now focus on other tasks. One such task is this blog post, a list of gear that I found invaluable and/or highly useful on the trail. Note that some links may be affiliate links, ...