If You Don’t Have Time for a Long Thru-Hike, the Arizona Trail Is a Perfect—and Spectacular—Shorter Trek

Outside (November 13, 2022) by Grayson Haver Currin

In less than 800 miles, the Arizona Trail offers a steady string of stunning landscapes, uncanny animals, and changing circumstances. If your time is limited, it’s the national scenic trail to try.

The most commonplace question about long-distance hiking is also the most complicated to answer: How do you find the resources—the time, the money, the petcare, the childcare—to walk into the woods and away from the rest of your life for four months or more?

Put simply, after more than 7,000 miles and more than a cumulative year spent sleeping on trail since 2019, it has required rearranging everything, from work schedules and career ambitions to the decision to live in a van when my wife, Tina, and I aren’t in a tent. But I know that’s a privilege of circumstance and commitment, not at all possible for most people, especially in our withering economic circumstances. Five days is a hopeful vacation. Five months? That’s a fantasy.

But is six weeks—a sabbatical or close to it—more viable? Can you set aside your responsibilities to hike for that long? If so, here is my zealous endorsement of the Arizona Trail, not the shortest or longest or most famous of the United States’ many national scenic trails, but the one that packs the most variety into less than 800 miles. As I write this, I sit 160 miles from its southern endpoint at the Arizona-Mexico border, but I’ve already started to imagine when I might return to this narrow strip of charmed land and perhaps bring a newcomer with me. I’ve got ten reasons I think you should consider it for your own debut, too, and five tips to help you along the way.

First, some caveats: This trail is difficult, and it will force you to search for water in a completely new way, sometimes toting it from pungent cow ponds for 20 miles at a clip. You will fall and cut yourself and curse, too, but that’s a thru-hike. And Tina dislikes this trail—actually, hate is only barely too strong a word—for many of the very reasons with which I champion it below. Hey, hike your own hike, you know?


To read the complete article online, including the author’s trail-tested tips on making the most out of your thru-hike, visit here.