Important Information For Thru-Hikers and Riders For Spring 2022
If your thru-hike or thru-ride is scheduled for Spring of ‘22, you picked a prime time! With decent winter precipitation and mild temperatures, chances are this Spring could be an epic wildflower year with fresh flowing streams and pleasant weather. But no promises. The one thing you can be sure of is the adventure of a lifetime. The Arizona Trail Association (ATA) invites you to experience the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) on foot, mountain bike or horseback along 800 scenic and diverse miles between Mexico and Utah. This letter is specifically intended for those attempting a thru-hike or thru-ride in the Spring of 2022, but the information applies to anyone recreating on the Arizona Trail this year.
The Arizona Trail is your trail, and it’s our collective responsibility to care for the trail and all the associated resources (water, wildlife, scenery, natural quiet) that make the AZT unique. And as members of the thru community, it’s also an opportunity to help care for each other and those we encounter along the way.
With more people working remotely, unemployed, or reprioritizing their lives, we anticipate record numbers of northbound thrus on the AZT this season, in addition to the ever-growing number of day trippers and weekend warriors who are section hiking and riding the AZT. Expect especially increased volumes of people near towns and trailheads. There will still be plenty of opportunities for solitude – a defining feature of the AZT – but be prepared to see more folks on the trail when you’re out there.
With increased use comes potential impacts to the fragile natural resources that make the AZT experience so special. Please take extra care to recreate responsibly, leave no trace, protect water resources, and don’t leave a mess for anyone else to clean up. Instead, think about how your actions on the trail will benefit the next thru that comes along, or better yet – future generations of thrus. Help us keep the AZT WILD!
If there’s one rule to follow while thru-hiking or riding the AZT, it’s to BE KIND. People head into the great outdoors to escape conflict and strife, so let’s please work together to increase the peace whenever interacting with others on the trail and within gateway communities. Remember that you represent the trail and all its users, so please be kind. No one user group is more important than another; we’re all part of the same Arizona Trail Family.
By now, you’re probably familiar with COVID protocols. These all apply to life on the trail, and especially within gateway communities where you will be resupplying. We believe the AZT is one of the safest places on Earth to be during the pandemic, but frequent hand washing, maintaining distance, and wearing a mask whenever interacting with others is vital in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Everything from traveling to and from Arizona; sharing a ride to or from a trailhead; closing a steel gate; pouring water from a gallon jug in a public water cache; opening a resupply package; eating inside a restaurant; asking someone to take your photo…they all have their risks that didn’t exist before COVID-19. Please be extremely cautious and don’t underestimate your ability to spread the virus, even if you’re not showing any symptoms.
There will be times where you will need to carry a day’s worth of water between reliable sources, and those sources may be of questionable quality. The good news is that Arizona has experienced a decent winter season, so most natural water sources that have been historically reliable should be there for you this year, too. But along the AZT it’s wise to never walk past any water source, no matter how manky and unappealing, until you know how far your next source is. Sometimes the water will smell too foul to drink, so bring tablets or electrolyte powder to help mask the funk and replace important minerals you’ll lose from long days on the trail.
Fortunately, the FarOut AZT app makes finding water a little bit easier. You can look ahead at water source icons to see what the source is, and recent comments on its quantity and quality. Please leave your own notes within the app for others, too, since the most reliable source of up-to-date information is other trail users. Whenever you have a strong cell phone signal, refresh the data within app to download the most recent comments. Throughout Arizona, Verizon Wireless provides the most reliable service, although only 68% of the trail is within the range of most cellular telephones.
While planning your trip, please use the AZT Water Report online to target water sources, plot the distance between water sources, and have a backup plan if you miss a source or it’s dry when you arrive. This website links directly to the FarOut AZT app, so recent comments left by trail users will appear here.
If you tap into cached water, please don’t drink bottles with others’ names on them. Instead, drink from bottles labeled “AZT” or “public” or something similar. Also, please remember that it’s your responsibility to carry out the empties. There is no trash service along the AZT, so if you drink from the cup of kindness (a gallon left by a trail angel) please crush the bottle and carry it out with you.
You’ll find metal bear boxes strategically placed along the trail. These are near trailheads and plotted on the FarOut app. These boxes are specifically for caching water and nothing else. Please don’t put food or anything else in there. This is essentially littering and compromises our agreements with land managers who have conditionally allowed them for the purposes of caching water only. Please don’t think you’re doing someone else a favor by leaving your unwanted Ramen or extra batteries. Leave No Trace ethics absolutely apply to these boxes. If you’re looking for a good home for your unwanted food or gear, pass them off to a Trail Angel so they can offer them to other thru-hikers.
Fresh New Trail
You’ll get to experience some new segments of trail that have been recently built, and we appreciate you helping to pack down the dirt with boots, tires and hooves. All new portions of the AZT are on the FarOut app, Passages maps, and other resources the Arizona Trail Association produces. They’ll also be signed on the ground. Alder Ridge (Passage 25) and Babbitt Ranch (Passage 35) are just a few. We continue working on the Temporal Gulch Reroute near the town of Patagonia, but that isn’t quite open for business yet. So it’s best to stick to the paved and dirt roads currently designated at AZT for now. We should have that 32-mile trail construction project finished by summer of 2023. I guess that means you’ll have to come back to experience it, right?
Closures and Detours
Currently, there’s only one major reroute along the AZT: along Passage 42 north of Jacob Lake and Hwy 89A. Due to the Mangum Fire of 2019, it’s no longer safe to hike or ride along the AZT. Instead, follow the signed detour along forest roads. Our goal is to have a new trail segment built by Autumn of 2022, but for now please stick to the forest roads.
Forest thinning projects are planned for portions of the AZT near Flagstaff, and any detours or closures will be well marked along the trail and also added to the FarOut app.
As always, please check the Current Closures page as well as the FarOut AZT app for the latest.
Summer of 2021 saw epic storms blast across the state, and many inches of rain fell on recently burned areas. Portions of the trail have been blown out from these erosion events, and much of the trail experienced overgrowth unlike anyone has ever seen before. So be prepared for some haggard sections where route finding may be challenging, and thorny vegetation that will feel like it’s clawing at you nearly every step of the way.
If you encounter trail conditions that need attention, please let us know! Our trail stewards love a call to action, so tell us where the problem is and we’ll turn our volunteers and/or conservation corps loose to fix it. The best way to report trail conditions is through this online form. Or just email us notes, photos, GPS coordinates (or AZT mile using the FarOut app) after you’re finished. You are the eyes and boots on the ground, and we’d love to hear from you.
Hiking with A Purpose
If you’re interested in helping maintain the AZT as you hike along, check out our Remote Trail Maintenance Task Force. We mail you a hand tool of your choice, gloves, and proper brushing instructions. Then, you can help with trail maintenance as you hike or ride along.
In addition to the Remote Trail Maintenance Task Force, we welcome you to register with our volunteer program and come out for a trail work experience for a day, weekend or full week! These volunteer opportunities help us maintain the trail we all love, and they expand our trail community and provide lasting connections with other trail lovers.
Recreating on Ancestral Lands
We acknowledge that every foot of the Arizona National Scenic Trail is on the ancestral lands of Indigenous people, and are grateful for the opportunity to be stewards of the trail that traverses and connects these lands. When you’re out on the AZT, we invite you to connect with the natural and cultural landscape that makes Arizona so special.
Arizona has been inhabited by Indigenous people for over 10,000 years. Today, the Grand Canyon State is home to the Ak-Chin Indian Community (Ak-Chin O’odham); Cocopah Indian Tribe (Kwapa); Colorado River Indian Tribes (Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi and Navajo); Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation (Abaaja); Fort Mojave Tribe (Pipa Aha Macav); Gila River Indian Community (Akimel O’odham); Havasupai Tribe (Havasuw `Baaja); Hopi Tribe (Hopi); Hualapai Tribe (Hualapai); Kaibab-Paiute Tribe (Kai’vi’vits); Navajo Nation (Diné); Pascua Yaqui Tribe (Yoeme); Pueblo of Zuni (A:shiwi); Quechan Tribe (Quechan); Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (Onk Akimel O’odham and Xalychidom Piipaash); San Carlos Apache Tribe (Ndé); San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe (Kwaiantikowkets); Tohono O’odham Nation (Tohono O’odham); Tonto Apache Tribe (Te-go-suk); White Mountain Apache Tribe (N’dee); Yavapai-Apache Nation (Wipuhk’a’bah and Dil’zhe’e); and Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe (Wipuhk’a’bah).
Once you complete the entire AZT, we’ve got the world’s greatest completion award for you – a copper belt buckle! Just fill out the Completion Survey online and we’ll mail you a buckle and add you to the esteemed list of Trail Finishers. The information you provide within the survey is important in helping us fulfill our mission, and to ensure a positive AZT experience for others in the future.
On behalf of all the staff, board of directors, trail stewards, members, donors, volunteers, business partners, gateway communities and the numerous clubs, groups and organizations who work together to protect, maintain, enhance, promote and sustain the Arizona Trail as a unique encounter with the land – may the AZT provide all you seek, and a whole lot more.