How to Train for the Arizona Trail

Mesquite Trees Below Rocky Hill

Rule #1: Do not start the trail without any training. The Arizona Trail thru-hike will test you in ways you never anticipated, so your physical condition should be the least of your worries. Without proper training, you will succumb to injuries, as well as the possibility of not reaching water sources or food quickly enough. It’s important to get that …

National Trail to San Juan Lookout

Cholla Cactus and Mountains

Distance: 1.7 miles (one way) Difficulty: Easy Best time of year: Fall, Winter, Spring Last hiked: 2016 March At the western end of the South Mountains is the San Juan Lookout. It can be accessed via the road system or a short hike along the National Trail. At the western end of the trail, it peters out into a widening …

Kiwanis Trail to Ranger Trail Loop

Barrel Cactus in Desert Mountains

Distance: 4.6 miles Difficulty: Moderate Best time of year: Fall, Winter, Spring Last hiked: 2016 March The Kiwanis Trail has a fair amount of sentimental value for me. Aside from a single road trip just before I moved out west for the first time in 2004, the Kiwanis Trail in South Mountain Park was the first trail I ever went …

Mormon to Geronimo Trail Loop

Geronimo Trail

Distance: 6 miles (loop) Difficulty: Moderate Best time of year: Fall, Winter, Spring Last hiked: 2016 February From the urban confines of Phoenix, the South Mountains don’t look terribly impressive, nor even very inviting. A hike into the mountains, however, reveals a fascinating desert environment with surprising seclusion from the constant roar of city noise. As the country’s largest urban …

Two Bit Peak

Scottsdale from Phoenix Mountains

Distance: 1.5 miles (one way) Difficulty: Strenuous Best time of year: Fall, Winter, Spring Last hiked: 2016 March Two Bit Peak, formerly known as Peak 2429, is a rugged and adventurous scramble up to outstanding views of the northern Phoenix area. Views stretch out in all directions, rivaled only by nearby Piestawa Peak and Camelback Mountain. The best part is, …

Day 29: Thicket Spring to Chilson Camp

Horseshoe Lake in Desert Valley

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 when I connected with another photography enthusiast who offered to …

Day 28: Sunflower to Thicket Spring

Oak Forest Covering Mountains

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, and I also know what to do about it. Airing …

Day 27: Northern Four Peaks to Sunflower

Sunset in Arizona Mountains

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 on the trail by 7am, a bit earlier than in …

Day 26: Eastern Four Peaks to Northern Four Peaks

The Four Peaks

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. I started hiking after doing my morning routine and the …

Day 25: Pinyon Mountain to Eastern Four Peaks

Dawn over Desert Mountains

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 intensifying into a stronger orange, then yellow, then a warm …

Day 24: Reavis Pass to Pinyon Mountain

Juniper Trees and Cactus

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 into the transitional terrain. The day started out chilly on …

Day 23: Whitford Canyon to Reavis Pass

Storm Clouds over Desert Mountains

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 for a bit of warmth. I began up the remainder …

Day 22: Superior to Whitford Canyon

Geologic Upthrust

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 Los Hermanos (great pancakes and hashbrowns, among many other things), …

Day 21: Gila River Canyon to Superior

Picketpost Mountain and Saguaro Cactus

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 a much longer time than the average morning. Despite constantly …

Day 19: Ripsey Wash Area to Gila River Trailhead

Sunrise over Sonoran Desert

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 the trail with me, which, given everything I was able …