I always liked Arizona quite a bit. I love the heat, the dry and the desert-like country. Ever since I was in Flagstaff to visit Gran Canyon NP after finishing my Pacific Crest Trail hike in 2017, I have wanted to return. On a road trip, I crossed the state by Amtrak on one of my cross country trips by train.
The Arizona Trail has been on my list for a while. However, I had other trails to prioritise over that „desert path“.
After a two-year wait, my partner eventually started hiking the Continental Divide Trail. Initially, we planned hiking the trail together in 2020, but the pandemic forced to postponed and my current job does not allow on being out there for 5-6 months at a time. So, I accompanied him to the southern terminus of the CDT in New Mexico and bid him farewell. Very, very bitter-sweet for me. However, I hopped on a Greyhound bus and made my way to Phoenix in Arizona to meet up with a friend (and great hiking buddy from the PCT) to hit the Arizona Trail for a few days.
What is the Arizona Trail? It is a roughly 800-mile-long trail that runs the entire length of the state of Arizona from the Mexican border in the south to the border of Utah in the north. On its way, it connects various mountain ranges and therefore goes over the backbone of the state. It is one of the 11 National Scenic Trails in the US and covers different types of country – from low desert to high mountains – and you can come across different kinds of animals. Rattlesnakes are a common sight, as well as deer and even elk (and a lot of cattle). The trail was established in 2009 and sees a growing number of hikers ever since. Hiking the trail is the most common way. However, many sections can be mountain-biked and are also open to equestrians.
Undoubtedly, two highlights of the trail are the Saguaro National Park close to Tucson in the south and the Grand Canyon National Park close to the border of Utah.
With almost no preparation at all and after a 90-minute-Uber ride, we hit the trail at Roosevelt Dam, about to head south into Superstition Wilderness. I downloaded the trail map and trail information on „Farout“ (probably the most commonly used trail app among long-distance hikers in the US), packed my tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, food for three days, and most importantly, my new gravity water filtration system.
Arizona is hot! Temperatures in the 90s (somewhat well into 30 degrees celsius), super dry air, cacti, cow paddies, and water from cow troughs on the next 45 miles were waiting for us. The Superstition Mountains in the wilderness with the same name are awe-inspiring! Panoramic views with no distraction, however, brown and green colors dominate. But, the immediate environment on the trail revealed the beauty of the desert: the first cacti started blooming in purple and pink, multi-colored lizards were whizzing before my feet, manzanitas showed off their green leaves, and tiny yellow flowers stretched their petals towards the sun. Yes, barely any shade made every break under a cottonwood tree more worthwhile; every sight of a water-filled cow trough made us beam (and obviously brought my water filter to use).
It was a wonderful time on the trail and these three days eased my pain of not being with my partner on the CDT a bit, and it eased my longing for another long-distance hike, at least for now. It was also great to meet and catch up with a good friend, re-fresh some memories, add new ones and enjoy being out there on a trail in the wild again, without any cell reception, and only with this linear movement that hiking is.