What is the Arizona Trail?
The Arizona Trail is an 800+ mile recreation trail from Mexico to Utah that
connects mountain ranges, canyons, deserts, forests, wilderness areas, historic
sites, trail systems, points of interest, communities, and people. It serves
dayhikers, backpackers, equestrians, mountain bicyclists, trail runners, nature
enthusiasts, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and mule and llama packers.
The trail can also be described in two other ways; for its features, and for
the experience it provides.
The many different features on and near the Arizona Trail allow it to showcase
many of the state’s greatest attributes, and contributed to its congressional
and presidential designation as a National Scenic Trail. The features of the
Arizona Trail are diverse including historic sites, diverse natural features
and geologic wonders, quaint communities, and large remote wilderness areas.
Prehistoric and historic sites dot the entire trail. These sites include the
mining history at Kentucky Camp, the cliff dwellings at Tonto and Walnut Canyon
National Monuments, the historic Roosevelt Dam, 1900 tourism era structures and
trails of Grand Canyon National Park, the former railroad town of Patagonia,
the former logging railroads near Mormon Lake, and the early U. S. Forest Service
history of General Springs Cabin.
Notable natural features also include the diverse life zones and elevation
changes throughout the state allowing a diversity of vegetation and wildlife.
Some describe these various life zones as similar from going from Mexico to
Canada, and are especially evident in southern Arizona’s sky islands. These
features include geologic wonders such as Grand Canyon National Park, Colossal
Cave, and the White Canyon area.
These features include small quaint communities along the trail such as
Patagonia, Summerhaven, Oracle, Pine, and Mormon Lake Village, where time seems
to stand still. And away from the communities are the large designated wilderness
areas set aside for future generations, such as Miller Peak, Mt Wrightson, Rincon
Mountain, Pusch Ridge, Superstition, Four Peaks, and Mazatzal Wildernesses.
The experience for the user of the Arizona Trail is quite diverse as well. Many
people have now completed the entire Arizona Trail, either on foot, horse/mule, or
bike. These adventurous individuals have completed it all at once, or
passage-by-passage, and describe it as an experience of a lifetime. Some complete
the trail from south to north, and others from north to south, all typically
choosing spring or fall as the best time. Desert heat makes the summers too
dangerous, and winter snow pack makes many areas almost impassable. All who
complete portions or the entire trail do their homework; researching passages and
access points, caching food and water, researching maps, guidebooks, and GPS
coordinates, researching water sources and communities along the trail, honing
their route finding abilities, following itineraries, and many keep journals and
photographic records of their journeys to share their once-in-a-lifetime-experience.
The trail challenges individuals, yet the sense of accomplishment is unmatched.
Even for the day user, the Arizona Trail provides an opportunity to experience
a sampling of a trail that captures everything that Arizona is about . . . . history,
nature exploration, a place void of development and the fast-paced lifestyle,
socialization with other trail users, and fitness. Since the Arizona Trail is
mostly located on large tracts of federal public lands far from urbanized areas,
and areas that are unchanged from when Arizona became a territory in 1863, its
remoteness will always be evident.
We hope you enjoy your experience along the Arizona Trail.