The Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) – one state, 800 miles and 100,000 feet of elevation gain – is a continuous footpath from Mexico to Utah moving through diverse landscapes that link deserts, “sky islands,” canyons, forests as well as two national parks, Saguaro and Grand Canyon.
This spring, I’ll walk the Arizona Trail, 800 diverse miles of desert, canyons and “sky islands.”
Mahler’s music evokes emotions ranging from joy to anger to peace to alarm to ecstasy to despair.
Richard (Mr. Blissful Hiker) makes updates from home as Blissful flies, shuttles and hitchhikes to the start.
My upcoming six-week hike of the Arizona Trail shares a lot with the season of Lent.
The start requires about two miles steeply down to the border followed by thousands of feet into a sky island.
The first full day is hard core, climbing up and over Miller Peak, then steeply down past interesting water sources.
The trail winds up and down all day with spectacular views of mountain ranges in all directions.
The last miles reveal ten tents and many more ups and downs to Patagonia and a ‘nero.’
A rest in Patagonia sets me up for a huge climb over a pass and a perfect camp spot.
The Los Colinas section past Kentucky Camp is lovely rolling grassland and one trail magician.
It’s a long hot day through the Sonoran Desert with trail angeling the entire way.
After “Magic Camp” the trail enters Saguaro National Park and a huge climb.
It’s a relentless climb to beautiful Manning Camp and even harder down to the desert.
A surprise up tires me before heading into some of the most spectacular scenery yet.
It’s an enormous ascent to Summerhaven through a magical stone forest.
Oracle Ridge is an absolute slog up and down rock-filled hills but ends with a trail angel.
I skip the low desert in the interest of time and move onto the mountains where the wildflowers are abundant.
It’s a tough up and down hike through the Superstition Mountains shared with new friends.
The final day in the Superstitions is very hard on steep, loose rock but with astounding views.
It’s a steep flower-laden climb to Four Peaks and a spectacular balcony walk.
A road walk leads to beautiful Boulder Canyon and sleeping with frogs.
Sleeping on the grass is a bad idea and I puncture my mattress, but serendipity leads to a replacement.
I begin the Mazatzals on a gorgeous day, ‘cruisey’ and beautiful as I try to push through before snow.
The trail winds around deep canyons to stay high with snow, wildflowers, gnats, gorgeous water and a stunning sunset.
The views are huge and unspoiled, so remote and almost overwhelming.
It’s mostly easy trail but filled with hard-to-walk-on rocks all the way to a shortcut and a ‘zero.’
The storm cleared the air and I walk under the colorful rim on red rock with big clouds overhead.
The trail is rocky and steep to the rim right into deep snow drifts then mud.
It’s a long slog through sticky mud but ends in a surprise.
Mud, snow, a beer before 10 am and a wrong turn make for a fun hiking day.
It’s a long day but the trail gets easier and drier with only a glimpse of views.
I walk into Flagstaff with bed bug infested gear, but help is not forthcoming. Still, I manage.
Sam drives me past Mount Humphreys to Babbitt Lake and it’s an easy day through ranchland to a perfect camp spot.
Another long day up and down through ponderosa and dust with the first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.
Hiking into the canyon on the Kaibab Trail is one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
The trail is an engineering marvel taking me steeply up through red cliffs all alone to the North Rim.
As the wind builds into a sandstorm, I finish the Arizona Trail at the border under the brooding Vermillion Cliffs.
I’m using my time on the Arizona Trail in late winter as a setting for Advent talks I’ll give in the coming weeks.
On a muddy section of the Arizona Trail, I learned that joy is a choice.
On the Arizona Trail, I learned about love as a gift in the form of the desert bloom.