The Arizona Trail, mile-for-mile, might be the prettiest long trail. My original plan was to start my thru-hike of the Arizona Trail on March 20th, 2020. I anticipated I would be finished with the trail around April 20th. Of course, COVID messed that all up, and I ended up re-hiking the Colorado Trail in 2020 instead.
I managed to jump on the Arizona Trail at the end of March, 2023, and had a 32-day thru-hike of the trail. The trail is truly amazing, and I strongly recommend it! My complete travel itinerary and resupplies can be found here.
Trail Closures in the Grand Canyon
In 2023, a 7-mile stretch of the Arizona Trail was closed through the Grand Canyon. This is because Arizona had an exceptionally high snow year. The snow created rock slides that knocked out large sections of the North Kaibab trail through the park.
Closing the park created barriers for thru-hikers. There is only one well-maintained trail that hikers can use to travel from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim. Many hikers decided to end their trip at the South Rim of the Canyon. Instead, I was able to piece together a semi-technical route through the Grand Canyon. I led a small group of 3 other individuals on a 3-day, 15-mile semi-technical route, that allowed us to travel from the South Rim to the North Rim with a continuous footpath. Details on the alternate route we took can be found below.
What Gear Did I Take?
I made a few key changes to my gear for this trip compared to others:
- Solar Panel for charging
- ULA Photon Backpack
Having had some decent experience with solar panels on the Colorado Trail in 2020, and the Continental Divide Trail in 2021, I decided to try a solar panel for the AZT. My setup with solar was not quite ideal, and I ended up damaging the solar panel and charging cables less than 100 miles in. The setup did not work out quite as planned, but I think it shows great promise. I intend to optimize the setup a little bit more, as I think solar setups might be lighter and better for hiking in the American West than larger power banks.
The other big change was the ULA Photon Backpack that I had custom made. I really dislike the backpack, and would prefer to go back to my old Granite Gear Crown 2 38L pack. My main issue with the ULA pack is that the side pockets are poorly designed for being able to access water, and that the hipbelt pockets are poorly designed, requiring two hands to re-zip them. The y-strap and other features of the pack are also just not great. As such, I would give the ULA Photon a 1-star review, given that I paid ~$400 to have it custom made.
A detailed list of my backpacking gear for the AZT can be found below.
What’s the Arizona Trail Like?
The Arizona Trail is pretty spectacular. This short video I made captures some of the joy that can be found on trail.
Slide show containing my best photographs can be found here (158 MB).
Listserv Updates From the Trail
I’ve captured and documented the trail in a handful of short emails I send out to my listserv. If you would like to be added to my listserv, please send me an email and let me know!
Details on an Alternative Route through the Grand Canyon
On May 1st Hobbit Troop (me and the three other hikers I was with) completed a continuous, north-bound thru-hike of the Arizona Trail without breaking the law. We used a semi-technical, backcountry route from Bright Angel Campground to the North Rim.
Trail Start Dates:
- Twister – 3/26 (36 days)
- Tangent – 3/29 (33 days)
- Short Stix – 3/30 (32 days)
- Peaches – 3/30 (32 days)
We used a modified George Steck route to make it through the Canyon. We modified his Phantom Canyon/Crystal Canyon loop route to reduce exposure risks (eg. 40+ foot falls), and to reduce our reliance on more technical gear (e.g. harnesses). In other words, we cut-out the red wall climb, and opted instead to contour clockwise around Isis temple, and continue up the trinity creek drainage toward the top of red wall. We do not believe that most thru-hikers have the technical skills, experience, or are adequately equipped to safely traverse the route that we did.
I have created some waypoints to help guide would-be route followers. There are GPX recordings that can be found on Hike Arizona to get you from Utah Flats up to the Isis-Shiva Saddle that is above Red Wall to avoid the technical climb. The route from the top of Red Wall to the Shiva Saddle can be hard to follow, and can lead to a lot of potentially fatal risks. As such, we are not posting a GPX file of this route. We instead encourage buying or downloading a copy of George Steck’s Grand Canyon Loops book, and using his route notes to find safe passage to the North Rim.
For anyone that is looking at semi-technical routes through the Canyon
- There is absolutely no water flowing except at confirmed sources from recent trip reports. The North Rim has melted out, so you cannot expect seasonal flow at this time.
- Travel through the Canyon is extremely slow. It took us three days to traverse ~15 miles. Assume the pace of any route may be under 0.5 miles per hour, and plan water accordingly.
- If using a well-defined route, the main hazards are dehydration, rock fall, and bushwhacking (yucca impalement). Fall exposure risks can rapidly increase if you lose a route, which is very easy to do.
- Route information that can be found online can be very contradictory and result in potentially fatal errors
- I cannot stress enough how janky the rock is (fuck you Supai Group). Rock fall poses a serious fatality risk to anyone hiking beneath you in your group. There is very little good rock to use for climbing and scrambling, so be very careful with any rock features and holds that you might consider using.
- We were only able to complete our route due to extreme luck. We checked-in with search and rescue to discuss water options when our group was down to very little water. We had a very pleasant conversation with them, but did not rely on them for assistance. As we were turning back to night hike 6 hours to our last reliable water source, we found damp soil, dug a large hole, and were able to miraculously filter 20+ liters of mud over 4 hours.
- Had we not been lucky with our mud hole, we would have needed to each pack out over 2 gallons of water from Phantom Creek for our route to be successful.