Pre-Trip Report: Arizona Trail

Dirt Cowboy

After two weeks of rest from completing my thruhike across Florida along the Florida Trail I was ready to conquer another state and trail. So many fellow hikers had been gushing to me about the Arizona Trail(AZT) with my hiking buddy Goose having done it twice already! The weather window for a spring NOBO hike lined up perfectly and I expected that with my trail legs I'd be able to finish the roughly 800mi(1280km) trail in roughly a month. I was most excited to be climbing mountains and getting to the bottom of the Grand Canyon along my journey. With roughly the same gear I crossed Florida with I was off to Arizona to hike once more.

I flew from Toronto to Tucson which was one of the closest international airports to the southern terminus of the trail along the USA-Mexican border. To actually get to the terminus there are a few options with shuttles running from Tucson to Sierra Vista. It's possible to plan an Uber from Sierra Vista to the Joe's Canyon Trailhead but I found an excellent local shuttle operator to take me there for 92USD. I highly recommend contacting Michael at Sierra Vista Shuttle LLC to get a ride. He waited for me despite my delayed arrival time, stopped by Walmart so I could resupply and drove me all the way to the visitor centre instead of just dropping me off in the city where I would then have to find another ride.

My plan is to go NOBO(NOrth BOund) along the trail using the maps I purchased on Far Out(formerly known as Gut Hooks). These maps include up to date information concerning water, campsites and closures or detours along the trail.

A bit of research online for a resupply strategy provided poor results. Most bloggers decided to resupply almost exclusively through mail drops. As an international traveller this is a difficult option for me because it requires I spend a day or two buying groceries in bulk and mailing them out. It not only restricts my food options into the future but puts me on a schedule of having to pick up these boxes. My preferred strategy is always to just resupply on the go. Luckily I found someone with my same style(seen below) and in the end I did a 100% in-town resupply:

This would be yet another ultralight style trip for me. I was initially a little bit hesitant considering that most information online says that there would be large distances where I'd be carrying a lot of water. To that end I just added an extra 1L bottle as well as a 2L water bladder than can be collapsed when I don't need it. With a lighter pack I end up doing bigger miles so I actually never ran into water issues and also was able to skip all the dirty sources that other hikers had to put up with. I still would recommend that hikers carry the capacity to carry water as trail conditions are variable and your mileage may vary.

Table of all items and weights

The first half of the trip was extremely hot with me sweating every night under my sleeping bag. In the second half the temperatures were in the low 30F(-1C) every night and even I got snowed on. Be sure to do your research and bring a sleep system that can handle the temperature variance that comes with being in the desert early in the year. That being said most nights are perfect for cowboy camping!

Bring sun protection:
There is almost no cover on many sections of the trail and the desert sun is relentless. Bring whatever works for you: hats, sun pants, sun cream, chap stick, sun gloves or whatever else you need to make sure you are not severely burned or get sun rash.

Bring at least 4L water capacity:
You know best how much water you need while hiking so use your best judgement. Just realize when the sun is at it's peak and you're climbing 1000ft(300m) of elevation your needs are going to change and you'll probably be grateful to have a little more to swig down. As a reference, with 25mi(40km) average days I found I never needed more than 3L but I'd 5L carry capacity nonetheless.

Stay in the Grand Canyon:
Can't stress this enough but make sure you just don't do rim to rim. Plan to take at least one day camping in the canyon, it's breathtaking. The best part is that permits for camping in the canyon and either rim are super easy for thruhikers to obtain as we don't have to put in for a reservation, we are given walk-up permits in the pre-season!

Landing in Tucson on March 16th 2022, being shuttled, hiking and then camping at the end of Joe's Canyon Trail I was ready to embark on this new ~800mi(1280km) adventure the following day.

Day by day journal of the trip:
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Questions? Comments? Contact me directly!