Explore how your dollars support the Arizona Trail
Every donation to the Arizona Trail Association supports our mission to protect, maintain, enhance, promote and sustain the Arizona Trail Association as a unique encounter with the land, and the vision for a continuous non-motorized path from Mexico to Utah that connects deserts, mountains, canyons, forests, communities and people.
The ATA is always engaging with public land managers to ensure the Arizona Trail and its corridor is considered whenever any project is being proposed (forest thinning, special events, travel management plans, etc.). In addition, the ATA communicates with project proponents whose activities may negatively impact the trail to ensure proper mitigates measures result in no net loss to trail values. The ATA’s Executive Director and Board Members work tirelessly to protect the trail so future generations can hike, run, bike and ride on the Arizona Trail. Finally, we communicate any negative impacts to the trail to our community and beyond through social media, eNews, and our public media contacts.
Trail Building & Maintenance
At the core of the mission of the Arizona Trail Association is building, maintaining and enhancing the 800-mile Arizona Trail. The majority of our financial resources support our Trail Operations Program, including maintenance as well as enhancements.
The ATA’s Trail Director, Assistant Trail Director and full-time Program Director scout new trails, compile maintenance reports, organize volunteer efforts and coordinate support from land managers to maintain the AZT from the most active areas to the most remote regions of the 800-mile AZT, a volunteer Trail Director
Funds are used to pay conservation corps to conduct necessary improvements and maintenance projects that are beyond the ability of our volunteer corps. Funds employ young people (18-29) to work on the AZT for up to 8 days at a time in the field.
Projects that are too challenging to accomplish with hand tools are relegated to heavy equipment operators. The ATA regularly contracts a mini-excavator operator that specializes in trail construction and maintenance to do the heavy lifting. This includes new trail construction and some trail maintenance projects. Hand crews and/or volunteers do the finish work.
Volunteers are what makes the AZT the amazing resource it is! While their labor is free, the ATA uses its financial resources to support volunteer work events through the rental of port-o-potties, purchasing of lunches, transportation of volunteers to remote locations, and special awards to recognize outstanding volunteers. In addition, the ATA maintains a robust insurance policy to protect the organization and its volunteers from liability and provides medical reimbursement if a volunteer is injured while working on the Arizona Trail.
Tools & Tool Trailers
With thousands of volunteers participating in the maintenance of the AZT each year, the ATA spends a lot of resources on repairing and replacing trail tools (McLeods, shovels, saws, rakes, picks, etc.), gloves, hardhats, safety glasses and other tools our volunteers need to keep the AZT open and accessible for all. We also need funding for the maintenance of our five tool trailers that are constantly traveling all over the state of Arizona to support trail maintenance events. We make these tool trailers available to other groups conducting trail projects, too.
For over a quarter century, the ATA has coordinated efforts to improve the accessibility and safety of the AZT for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and other non-motorized trail users. Read about recent accomplishments in our Event Reports.
Existing trailheads, parking areas, and access points were adopted as the Arizona Trail was designated and built across the state of Arizona. However, numerous locations have been identified as needing trailheads for public access. The ATA uses Trail Operations Program funding to purchase land, secure rights-of-way, and build trailhead facilities.
Springs Restoration & Water Source Development
The ATA is actively involved in restoring natural water sources that have been damaged, neglected or negatively impacted by wildfires, livestock, etc. The ATA is also working with land managers statewide to supplement natural water sources along the driest segments of the trail through the installation of rainwater catchment systems, bear boxes for caching water, and other infrastructure to improve safety for trail users and reliable water sources for wildlife.
A portion of the Arizona Trail follows dirt roads between Mexico and Utah. The ATA is committed to building singletrack to preserve the trail experience, minimize motorized interactions, and provide a safer wild and primitive experience for all. Costs associated with environmental studies and trail construction are astronomical, but creating an 800-mile trail is important to the organization’s mission and vision.
To protect the trail from motorized abuse, contain livestock within appropriate areas, and to accommodate the needs of all trail users, the ATA has been fabricating and installing heavy-duty steel gates along the trail. The ATA has installed dozens of gates with the help of volunteers. Dozens more locations still exist where these gates are needed. Some of the benefits of these gates are that they’re virtually indestructible, feature the AZT emblem, are easy to open and close, are wide enough to accommodate full-loaded packstock, untreated steel rusts and blends with the landscape.
Navigational and educational signs are important to the Arizona Trail experience. The ATA is constantly replacing and upgrading signs along the trail to help trail users navigate through road/trail intersections and to learn more about the natural and cultural resources found on/near the trail.
In addition to water, one of the most precious resources in the southern and central regions of the Arizona Trail is shade. Along the most sun-baked portions of the AZT, the ATA has built natural shade ramada structures at trailheads and public access points, using all-natural materials (mesquite beams, ocotillo wands, saguaro ribs, etc.). Multiple locations have been identified as ideal places for shade ramadas. These are built with volunteers, usually youth from nearby communities. This helps teach traditional building techniques and builds strong connections between local communities and future stewards of the Arizona Trail.
Though the Arizona Trail Association as established in 1994, its notary is relatively recent. It was recognized by the State in 2006, designated a National Scenic Trail in 2009, and completed in 2011. The ATA works had to build to Arizona Trail community in many ways.
The Arizona Trail Association designs and distributes hundreds of thousands of free brochures, maps, Jr Explorer Handbooks, stickers and other resources including the aztrail.org website, GIS and water source data. We also produce guidebooks, and other public resources to celebrate the Arizona Trail and encourage its enjoyment. We wrangle staff and volunteers to conduct public outreach at events throughout the year.
The ATA also works with partners statewide to host presentations on Arizona Trail related topics to build interest and support for the AZT. The ATA reaches out regularly to media partners to cover various aspects of the trail, the interesting people who use it, challenges the trail is currently facing, and much more. We also organize and support special events (trail running, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, etc.) to engage new supporters and promote the trail as a shared-use resource.
The ATA coordinates various community events that engage people from across the globe on and around the Arizona Trail including AZT in a Day, AZ Trail Day – Flagstaff, our Annual Meeting, endurance races, and volunteer vacations.
The ATA maintains a variety of engaging programs that help to ensure the trail is cared for now and for future generations.
Seeds of Stewardship Program Coordinators engage approximately 1,000 students from diverse backgrounds in free, repeated, educational excursions and stewardship events each year. Nearly 70% of youth in our programs come from low-income families or minority backgrounds. We provide gear, educational materials, transportation, healthy snacks and leadership completely free to all youth in our programs, eliminating barriers to the outdoors. Serving as an outdoor classroom, the Arizona Trail is a wondrous resource where students learn district-approved lessons hands-on in a supportive, outdoor environment, and gain the skills and confidence they need to be future stewards of the land.
While young women learn skills in mountain biking, snow sports and trail building from an all-female team of coaches, they absorb lessons in mindfulness, teamwork, and determination that will prepare them for life’s bigger challenges. All expenses, including mountain bikes, transportation, healthy snacks and leadership, are provided at no cost to participants. Read more on our dedicated web page.
The ATA has developed a veterans’ trail crew to give veterans opportunities to learn valuable job skills, challenge themselves physically and mentally, and participate in meaningful work outdoors with immediately visible results. We also partner with conservation corps that provide employment for young veterans. These programs provide healthy opportunities to connect with other veterans while working hard on challenging projects where the impacts are tangible and the contributions are rewarding beyond words.
Gateway Community Program
Partnerships with small businesses and organizations in proximity to the Arizona Trail allow us to promote valuable goods and services to trail users, encouraging rural economic development for the small towns located near the trail. We provide resources like maps, community kiosks, signs and other promotional materials are provided so local businesses and communities can harness the economic benefits of a National Scenic Trail in their backyard.
Trail Skills Institute
In collaboration with American Conservation Experience, the Arizona Trail Association empowers participants at all levels of experience with valuable skills to be effective stewards and trail volunteers. Visit the web page for more information.
The Arizona Trail is an important resource for wildlife as well as humans. Many significant rare mammals have been documented on the Arizona Trail, including jaguar, ocelot, and grey wolf. The ATA has undertaken a five-year wildlife documentation effort using wildlife cameras along the AZT to show the occurrence of animals, how the human-wildlife interaction impacts wildlife populations, and how non-motorized recreation trails support wildlife corridors.