• Freeman Road Trailhead to the Gila River


  • 28.1 miles

Southern Trailhead: Freeman Road Trailhead


From Mammoth, drive north on Hwy 77 to the town of Dudleyville. Turn left (west) on Dudleyville Road to the center of the community and locate San Pedro Road. Head west on San Pedro Road, where the road soon turns to dirt. Cross the San Pedro River * (usually dry or very shallow) and then turn north at intersection and follow road north along the river (Camino Rio) for 0.5 mile. Turn left (west) on Freeman Road. Cross railroad tracks and continue for 12 miles to the trailhead.

*San Pedro River can experience heavy flows during wet times of the year and may become impassable. Use caution and assess conditions before attempting to drive across the river. If this route is unsafe, you can approach from Freeman Road from Hwy 79 and/or Willow Springs Ranch Road from Hwy 77, which leads to Freeman Road.

Northern Access Point: Kelvin-Riverside Bridge


From the town of Superior, take AZ 177 south for 15.2 miles (MP 152.1) and turn south onto Florence-Kelvin Highway (next to RR crossing) for 1.2 miles through the community of Kelvin and cross the Kelvin Bridge. Passage 15 approaches the bridge from below the rock outcrop along the Gila River and ends at the south end of the old bridge. Parking is limited here since the new bridge was completed in 2018. Ample parking is available at the Florence-Kelvin Trailhead ~1.5 miles further west on the Florence-Kelvin Highway. Another option is the BLM trailhead at the end of Centurion Road (one-half mile into the passage northbound). Either location provides easy access to the Arizona Trail .

From Florence, drive 1.5 miles south on AZ 79 and turn left (east) on the dirt Florence-Kelvin Highway. Continue 31 miles to the town of Kelvin and a historic bridge over the Gila River.

From the town of Hayden/Winkleman, drive northwest on AZ 177 about 16 miles then south (left) toward Kelvin. Continue 1.2 miles to the bridge.

Trail Route Description

Passage 15 rolls across a remote section of the Sonoran Desert up to the foothills of the Tortilla Mountains, and then down to the Gila River. This section is hot, dry, and exposed but with a unique, rugged beauty that is synonymous with the desert. 


It features moderate miles along single and doubletrack trails through rolling desert terrain. The trail crosses sandy washes and several ranch roads, and passes large boulder piles and unique rock formations. It features mesquite trees, ocotillo, and cholla cacti, while spring wildflowers, such as yellow brittlebush, desert globemallow, and the magenta petals of the strawberry hedgehog cactus, line the trail and color the hillsides. 

The trail descends through Ripsey Wash and its forest of swollen saguaros, and then ascends into the foothills of the Tortilla Mountains. The toughest part of this section is the ascent up the “Big Hill,” a two-mile exposed climb with a series of switchbacks that leads to a scenic ridgeline with expansive views.  The scenery remains impressive as the trail continues across the ridge and eventually descends towards the Gila River.


  • Moderate



Water sources are very limited along this passage. Plan to bring your own water. All man made waters tanks and sources can only be used with the consent of the owner.


  • All water along this passage should be purified prior to use.
  • Although this passage crosses State Trust Land, a permit is not required as long as you are on or near the Arizona Trail.
  • Please respect all livestock operations in this area. Close all gates along the trail.
  • For a bit of local history, download the January 1931 Arizona Historical Review from http://hdl.handle.net/10150/623320 and see “The Escape of the Apache Kid” by Mertice Bruce Knox, page 77.


  • Map of Passage 15
  • USGS Topographic Maps: Black Mountain, Crozier Peak, Kearny and Grayback.
  • BLM Information Center maps.

For more information

Current Passage Info

1,500-Gallon Rainwater Collector Installed on Arid Section of Arizona Trail

The Trek (May 12023) by Rachel Shoemaker The Arizona Trail Association recently installed a 1,500-gallon Remote Rainwater Collector along an arid segment of trail in Passage 15 in Pinal County.  The installation of this collector, which was completed on April 6, is a welcome addition that will bring much-needed relief to hikers on this 28.1-mile dry stretch of trail. The unit, which is the second collector to have been installed along the AZT, is located north of the Freeman Road Trailhead on ancestral O’odham and Western Apache land. It comprises a 420-square-foot steel apron, which collects and stores rainfall in a steel-paneled tank. Winter rains will fill the tank for hikers to use in the spring (March-April), and summer storms will replenish water levels for hikers who choose to hike in the fall season (October-November). The collector provides a safer option for hikers, who have historically had to rely on water filtered from cattle tanks. According to the ATA, because the water never receives direct sunlight, algae isn’t able to grow. While fencing is in place to prevent livestock from accessing the unit, cattle and wildlife will be able to access any excess water that flows into the trough. Note: As with all water sources,...
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Rainwater Collector Installed Along Arid Segment of Arizona Trail in Pinal County

Rainwater Collector Installed Along Arid Segment of Arizona Trail in Pinal County

On April 6, Arizona Trail Association staff and volunteers completed installation of a Remote Rainwater Collector along a particularly arid segment of trail on Passage 15 in Pinal County. This unit is located north of the Freeman Road Trailhead on the ancestral lands of the O’odham and Western Apache, and holds 1,500 gallons of water. This is the second remote collector the ATA has developed in an effort to provide a reliable source of water in areas that have been particularly challenging for long-distance trail users who often rely on water filtered from earthen cattle tanks. Like all sources along the AZT, water from this unit must be purified through mechanical, chemical, ultraviolet, boiling, or other treatment methods before consumption. The 420-square-foot steel apron catches rain as it falls from the sky, and is stored within a poly tank that is protected on all sides by steel panels. Arizona’s rainy seasons are opposite the most popular thru-hiking and riding seasons, so the tank will fill with winter rains to be used in the springtime; and summer storms replenish the tank for use in the autumn months. Because the water never receives direct sunlight, algae will not grow. Water is accessible...
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The Wild, Wild West

BACKPACKER Magazine (May/June 2019) by Ryan Wichelns We talk about solitude like its last bastions are disappearing. But there's a place where isolation still rules and evidence of the last travelers is erased before the next ones arrive. You just have to head west to the vast wilds held by the Bureau of Land Management. There are few permits, fewer fees, and next to no people. It's all the solitude you can handle--and sometimes just a little more. For 800 miles, the Arizona Trail charges across its namesake, serving up equal parts desert glory and mountain grandeur. Within that, the BLM manages 45 lonely, dust-caked miles just east of Phoenix that pack in all the splendor but none of the crowds. And, according to the trailhead register, there's an average of just five visitors a day. Echo-o-o-o-o-o-o! To read the rest of the article, click here.
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