Here are a few thought about the Arizona Trail. It is a beautiful trail. If you have the time and ability, you should go hike it.
For northbounds, early March seems like a good time to start (though be sure to check the weather and ground conditions). We encountered trace amounts of snow in the Huachucas and the Rincon Mountains. More importantly, the heat in the Sonoran Desert was bearable and many seasonal water sources still held water. We were able to skip some nastier stock tanks because there was often water at creeks or springs.
We actually hiked through some of the Sonoran Desert in a heat wave. It was fine. I think we took a siesta twice, once for sickness and once coming out of town. Definitely err on the side of caution for water carries, especially as you learn how much water your body needs in different hiking conditions, and never rely on water caches.
The Mazatzals were nasty and annoying but by no means impossible to get through. We heard about it some work parties being organized to do some maintenance there, so perhaps it will get better.
Once you climb the Mongollon Rim, the temperature shifts. You stay more or less at high elevation for the rest of the hike and it feels colder. We had some cold nights and eventually snow going into Flagstaff. It can also be very windy up in the plateau.
The side trip up Mt Humphreys is awesome. We did not climb it while on the trail due to the weather, but returned after we finished the trail and had a clear sunny day. The views from the top are excellent and it’s a fun climb.
The last 200 miles of the trail are very dry and what water sources are here can be nasty. Most “tanks” up here are man-made ponds built to collect water for livestock. The majority of seasonal ones were dry.
The Grand Canyon is amazing. We noticed at the Backcountry Permit office that they didn’t mention Cottonwood Campground, 15 miles from the rim, at all to permit-seekers. If you haven’t reserved your site before you get to the canyon and have your trail legs, there may be spots available there for you.
The water we found on the North Kaibab was mostly snow melt or stagnant ponds. It was dry from Jacob Lake north to the state line.
When you get to Stateline Campground, continue out to the road to find the Arizona-Utah border sign. There were a good number of cars at the Wire Pass trailhead parking lot, where we hitched a ride to Page.
Towns along the AZT were hiker-friendly, even when they weren’t familiar with the trail.
Patagonia’s Velvet Elvis has the best salads and pizza.
Oracle’s Chalet Motel is total heaven for hikers. Marnie and Jim will pick you up and he trailhead, help you get around town, and let you do your laundry. They’ll also drop you off at the trail in the morning.
Pine’s THAT Brewery & Pub is wonderful. Good beer, tasty food. They reserve a cabin for hikers and, even though it was already booked so we weren’t staying, they brought us clean towels so we could take a shower there.
There are a few people who we met along the trail who really helped us out.
We are so thankful to Steve Chaffee for his help getting to the southern terminus. And for going above and beyond helping us send a package out. Steve, thanks for getting our Arizona Trail thru-hike off to an excellent start. And thanks for the 800-miler sticker!
We also have a special place in our heart for Baloo and Jan of Flagstaff. The day after we met Baloo on the trail, he sent us an email offering us shelter from the cold, wet weather. He and his wife Jan opened their home to us and fed us delcious food. We took our only zero of the trail there, and boy was it perfect. Baloo and Jan, we hope you’ll come and visit us on our farm someday!
And big thanks to the Arizona Trail Association for all the good work they do protecting and maintaining the trail. We are AZTA members, and you should be too!