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AS ONE OF ONLY 11 NATIONAL SCENIC TRAILS IN THE UNITED STATES, THE ARIZONA TRAIL IS A WORTHY TREK FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO EXPLORE ARIZONA FROM WHERE IT BORDERS MEXICO, NEAR SIERRA VISTA, ALL THE WAY NORTH TO THE UTAH BORDER, NEAR KANAB. ARIZONA HAS A WIDE VARIETY OF TERRAIN AND THE ARIZONA TRAIL IS THE ULTIMATE WAY TO EXPERIENCE IT.
One man’s passion for hiking in Arizona led to the creation of The Arizona Trail. Dale Shewalter, a schoolteacher from Flagstaff, conceived the idea to develop a non-motorized trail running vertically through the center of Arizona in 1985 when he was 35 years old. He initially walked and marked a segment of the trail by himself, but soon gained the support of land management agencies, hiking and equestrian organizations, and several other helpful individuals. The Arizona Trail Association erected a sign as a tribute to him after he passed away in 2010. The trail highlights the diversity in Arizona’s geology as it traverses through rugged, cactus-studded desert, forests, canyons, and snow-capped peaks.
Saddle up your horse, lace up your hiking boots, or inflate the tires of your mountain bike before you venture out on The Arizona Trail. Motorized vehicles are prohibited, so you will surely enjoy the peace and quiet and natural beauty along your journey.
The Trail is divided into 43 passages ranging from 8 to 33 miles long. Passage one is at the southern tip of the trail in the Huachuca Mountains at the Arizona/Mexico border. The trail meanders north from there through Saguaro National Park, the Catalina Mountains, Tonto National Forest, Mormon Lake, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon. There are fishing opportunities where the trail crosses Roosevelt Lake, Mormon Lake, and creeks along the route.
For the true adventurer, camping under the stars is the best bet. Although, whether you simply need to stock up on supplies or want a soft bed for the night, there are stops along the trail. Patagonia has lodging and a few restaurants if you have a sudden craving for pizza or Mexican food. Summerhaven, at the top of the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, has cabins for rent and a few dining options. LF Ranch, in Payson, is a working cattle ranch where you can hitch your horse, stay the night, and refill your water. Arizona Trail’s website has an interactive map and other resources with all the information necessary for a great adventure.
Permits are not required along most of Arizona Trail if you are passing through. Camping along the trail requires a permit in certain areas such as Saguaro National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, for example, but is generally allowed on most forest service land and on Bureau of Land Management land.
Open daily, year-round.
Entrance Fee: Free
Donations are encouraged to help build, maintain, promote, and sustain the Arizona Trail. Trail enthusiasts can also join the Arizona Trail Association—a non-profit organization dedicated to continuing the legacy so future generations can enjoy it. There are many levels of membership ranging from $20 to $1,000.
Arizona Trail Association
534 N. Stone Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85705