View Full Version : AZT Planning Info

01-29-2018, 16:19
This topic is designed to set a base line of information for hikers planning on an AZT thru hike. I see a need for this as there are so many posts asking basic info. Some of this is available through the links below and some is hard to find due to a very sparse volume of topics on the AZT on Whiteblaze or anywhere else.

The Arizona Trail

Main AZT trail site: http://www.aztrail.org/passages/passages.php
There is a lot of stuff for hikers here and links to related hiking info like GPS data, water, resupply, etc. To get everything you have to join and that is $20-35.

Length - 788.7 miles (2017)
This changes as the trail is adjusted all the time as one sees on the other big trails. Also depending on whether one uses the resupply route or the main route at Flagstaff (almost everyone takes the shorter resupply route through town). There is also a Catalina Mountain bypass outside of Tuscon which is considered an official part of the trail - this is seldom used except by those hiking in the middle of winter.

End points:
Mexican border at the Coronado National Monument about 93 miles south of Tuscon by paved and dirt (4 miles car capable) road. There is nothing there except a parking area and lots of US Border guards. You will need a ride coming or going from there. Shuttles are available - see shuttle info below. There is no water here. No camping here. I don't know about hitching into or out of here as the Border Patrol might not go for that. But other than that it is a straightforward route but it would be awkward from say Tuscon as about 5 different rides would be needed most likely due to all the different roads traveled and the 93 mile distance.

Utah border - about 45 miles west of Page, AZ or 35 miles east of Kanab, UT on route 89, then 10 miles south on a normally 4x4 forest service road to the parking area at the AZ/Utah border. There is nothing here either and shuttles are required coming or going. See shuttle info below. There is no water here. There is a camp ground here. I have never seen anyone trying to hitch into or out of the TH but I think hitching out would work as there is a lot of traffic from hikers coming and going and you would have a 50% chance who ever picked you up was going to either Kanab or Page. Hitching from the highway back to town might be sketchy as you are out in the middle of nowhere and that scares folks. Hitching in would be sketchy unless you know where the dirt road starts. There is no sign and you could easily drive right by it.

Shuttle link: http://www.aztrail.org/shuttles.html

Hiking seasons: Spring or Fall
Summer (late May to early Sept): Just NO do not do this. The desert here is very dangerous in the summer and only the most experienced desert hikers should even consider it and there are areas of the AZT where no one hikes in the deep heat period. In mid-summer in the low desert one would expect to see temps in the shade of 115 deg (120 happens every couple of years) and there is no shade so make it 10-15 degrees above shade temperature when in the sun. A great many of the water sources are not present this time of the year as well. In direct sun at 100deg shade temperatures expect to consume 1 liter per hour at a minimum. Just do not do this. AZ SAR and GCNP rangers pick up about 15-20 dead hikers each year somewhere in AZ due to lack of water and too much heat.
Winter (Dec-Feb): North of the Grand Canyon anytime after approx 1 Nov it is possible to get conditions with deep snow and very cold temperatures. By 1 Dec it is common to have permanent snow and by 1 Jan to into April the snow can be 5 feet deep. From the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the Mogollon Rim south about 210 miles expect permanent snow all of Jan and Feb with the possibility of serious snow from 1 Dec to 1 Apr. Also at the top of the Sky Islands (the high desert mountains) in the Mazatazal Wilderness, the Superstition's, the Catalina's, the Rincon's, the Santa Rita's and the Huachuca Mountains in the winter there is often deep snow. It is certainly possible to travel the AZT in winter if you are a good winter traveler. At different times you would need cross-country skis, snowshoes, crampons, ice axe, winter gear and lots of experience. Resupplies would be more complicated, but water would be much easier.
Spring (1 Mar to late May): Spring hikers hike NORTH (hiking sobo in the spring is only for experienced and fast desert hikers). I have started nobo on the 1st of March and still hit snow in the Huachuca's, the Rincon's, and the Catalina's some 180 miles up trail. It is best to start as early as the weather allows as the switch from cold to (family blog)ing hot happens fast in AZ. You want to be finished at the Utah border no later than 1 June (mid-May is more ideal) or you stand a good chance of getting cooked in the Grand Canyon. Even starting this early there is a high chance that you will experience very hot temperatures as you hit the low desert near Phoenix and when you hit the river at the bottom of the Grand Canyon the temperature is going to be pretty close to what the temperature is that day in Phoenix. If it is late May that could easily be 100+ in the shade.
Spring SOBO If you really want to do this it is not likely you can start before 1 Apr and maybe not for some time after that due to deep snow north of the Grand Canyon. It is not uncommon to have 5 feet of snow there on 1 Apr and significant snow has occurred there well into May. So this late start will put you in the desert south of the Mazatazal's from 1 May to mid-May if you are a normal speed hiker. In this country at that time of the year it will very frequently be very hot and the water sources will be disappearing. It gets very dangerous if you are out there and end up hitting a heat wave of 105 deg in the shade (120 in the sun or more) and you have to do a 25 mile water carry. If you don't have experience doing these kinds of hikes please stay home.
Fall (1 Sept to 1 Dec): Fall hikers hike SOUTH (hiking nobo in the fall is difficult due to both high heat and snow/cold). Dates are approximate as sometimes climate conditions override the dates. Sometimes it is too hot to start 1 Sept and you need to wait for a couple of weeks or a month. I have started sobo early Sept to early Oct. Oct was much nicer. When I started 1 Sept (and it was not a really hot year) it was right at 100 deg at the Colorado River at noon when I got there and one is looking at a 4500 ft climb with no water till the top - 5 1/2 liters was gone when I got to the top. Fall stretches out in AZ and you have a lot more time to meander down to old Mexico. This is the ideal time of year to hike the AZT with the exception that water will be more scarce than in the Spring.
Fall NOBO's. The heat tends to diminish last in the desert and the southern part of the state of course and one would not really want to start any earlier than 1 Oct. You will still see serious heat most likely and if you are slow or the snows come early to the north that can easily present you with big issues. If you get a heavy snow north of the Grand Canyon in early Dec it is not going to go away. You might have 50 miles of walking through snow - or not. It is just hard to tell what you are going to get. It will be cold at night.

Water sources:
AZT water report here: http://www.aztrail.org/watersources/AZT_WaterSources.pdf

The water report is not updated with any where near the frequency one might find on the PCT for instance and you MUST check the date of the post as some are years old. Where it says a source is a 1 or 2 just assume they are dry.
If it is quite warm or hot it gets dangerous as your water consumption in higher altitudes and/or high heat goes up fast. ALWAYS carry extra water when it is going to be sweating weather. NEVER plan on arriving at a water source with your water used up. NEVER. Plan on having at least 1 liter reserve - suck it up and carry the weight.
In AZ we have a monsoon season where it starts raining after the long spring/summer dry spell we get every year. It seldom rains in AZ between 1 May and mid- Jul so every thing really dries out in the heat and many of the waters sources go dry. If it has been a very wet monsoon (July/Aug) then some of the water sources which are 2's will have some water 'sometimes' but 1's rarely. It is best to not ever depend on a water source which is not a 3 or 4. On fall hikes I have had situations where 3 water sources in a row were dry and ended up doing a 30 mile water carry. People run out of water all the time on this trail due to bad planning - and sometimes just because you sweat out. If the year leading up to the monsoon has been very dry (this year 17/18 for instance) it gets worse. In the spring the water situation is much better as we have had the monsoons plus the rain and snow over winter to recharge the water sources (if we have had snow that is). In an average year if you leave towards the early part of the season there is 'most likely' water in all the 2's and many of the 1's. If it has been a real wet year like 16/17 then there is water in lots of unusual places. In a really dry year sometimes the 3's are not all there.
There are a number of places where there are water cache's filled by trail angels or where you can cache your own water (listed in the Water Report). DO NOT depend on these as they are frequently empty and there are times when folks arrive where they have cached water and it is gone.
If you plan properly there is no need to cache water at all. You just will have to suck it up and carry a LOT occasionally. You might need to hike very early and very late to avoid the hot time of the day also.
No one should go out on this trail without the capacity to carry at least 6 liters of water should heat conditions dictate it (counting my Sawyer bladders I have the ability to carry 8 1/2 though I have never carried that much - I have carried 6 1/2). Even with my experience and preparations I have run out of water 2 times due to too many water sources being dry. One time I fought bad leg cramps and wooseyness for a couple of hours dragging into a water source - I was desperate. I drank 4 liters before I needed to pee. If I had carried 1 more liter when I had last filled up (this was the day I carried 6 1/2) I would have been much safer. Error on the side of swimming in the stuff. On the Hayduke Trail which overlaps with part of the AZT I have heard about hikers carrying 10 liters. Just do what the situation demands and don't whine about the weight.

Resupply data is found here: http://www.aztrail.org/resupply/AZT_Resupply.pdf
Resupply on the AZT is much more challenging than on most trails. There just are not a lot of points right on the trail and many of the ones nearby are in places where getting a ride is often awkward. To make this trail work reasonably well you need to be able to hike 20 mile days if required. If you can do 25 then it is not a big deal. Below are the only resupply points I recommend, but ymmv and use the data book to understand your other options and how much up and down and how far apart the water sources are to find your sweet spots. Unfortunately some of the times when you need to carry lots of food are also when you need to carry lots of water.
Going from North to South:
Utah: Start with 4-5 days of food depending on your condition (100 miles to South Rim - 80 miles to North Rim) and don't forget that it is 5500 ft down to the river and 4500 ft back up.
Jacob Lake (2 miles on highway hitching is poor) has a good restaurant and small convenience store
GCNP North Rim has several restaurants (2 miles) (IF you have not arrived when it is closed 15 Oct-15 May)
GCNP South Rim (5 mile free bus ride from TH to store and campground) Everything. (110 miles to Flagstaff)
Tusayan (1/2 mile) restaurants only (6 miles from South Rim)
Flagstaff (on trail if on resupply route) Everything
Mormon Lake (1 mile) small store and restaurants
Pine (1 mile) BEER! Oh I mean everything
Now it starts getting hard as there is no easy resupply from Pine for 115 miles
Roosevelt Lake Marina (1/2 mile) There is a small restaurant and a small convenience store here (sketchy but survivable). They WILL accept resupply packages (call them).
RT 60 Superior (5 miles) Everything. You kind of need to go here if you are not really fast. If fast get your resupply box at Roosevelt Lake and go all the way to Oracle (140 miles)
Oracle (2.2 miles from Hwy 77) Everything. Buy supplies to reach Colossal Cave and grab supplements in Summerhaven.
Summerhaven (on trail) Restaurants and small store. (21 miles from Oracle)
Colossal Cave (approx 1/2 mile) Resupply Box only but you want to do this. (67 miles past Summerhaven)
Patagonia (on trail) Everything (66 miles from Colossal Cave)

The AZT is similar in some ways to the PCT from Mexico to Kennedy Meadows in that one goes through desert then up high then back down and so on. But it is much harder. It can be just as hot as the bad days in the Mojave and below freezing. You will not see many other hikers (I have gone 200 miles sometimes and only seen 1-2 other hikers). It is remote in areas and you are out of cell service range a lot. The big food and water carries mean that your average load will be higher than the PCT and way higher than the AT. I would guess that your average food/water load over the whole hike will be about 11 lbs. But there are times (like if you are sobo from Tusayan and it is hot) you will have maybe 20+ lbs of food/water. Expect a few load outs from towns or water sources where you will hit 35 lbs of total pack weight (assuming you are down in the 10-13 lb base weight). If you are a slow hiker 10-15 miles per day who is not ultra light this trail is going to eat you up as loads would have to jump to account for the extra food and water you would need to carry. Do not show up out of shape. That being said there is a lot of dirt/rock forest service road or old ranch/mining road miles on the AZT. Don't kick the cactus in your trail runners and watch out for the 2 dozen different types of thorn bushes.
Rocks: The AZT has terrible rocks all up and down the trail. Much worse than the AT. There are many miles of seas of small sharp loose rocks. There are lots of places to slip, trip, fall and hurt your feet. This brings up the issue of what shoes you want to wear. Even Anish has said she should have worn the much beefier training weight trail runners and not the really light ones. If you take off in Lone Peaks you are asking for foot problems. I wear the Altra Olympus which are only suitable if you have conditioned and tough feet. If you are wearing either Altra shoe expect to be into your 3rd pair when you finish the trail. If you don't want your feet to hurt at all then wear an actual hiking shoe with a hard sole and not trail runners.
Creatures: There is not much wildlife along the AZT compared to other trails. It is AZ after all and there are few animals in the desert. There are rattlesnakes but compared to the PCT where you see a lot of them not so many here. I have yet to see a bear in AZ though there are some..somewhere. There are a few mountain lions (I have seen one). There are Gila Monsters down by Phoenix (I have seen a lot) in the desert (stay the (family blog) away from them like they were a rattlesnake). There are a few buffalo in the North but I have never seen one. There are a fair number of elk in the north and I have seen lots of them. There are few insects to bother you but if you hit skeeters when they are out in the forests up north you better have bug spray and shake your shoes out in the morning as you do not want to meet a scorpion (I have been bitten by one of the really poisonous ones and it will ruin your day and then some - I did not get full feeling back for 3 weeks).

Scenery: There are some areas which are kind of plain but in general the AZT has great scenery. The Grand Canyon is to die for and the mountain views in the south are amazing. And the desert is something else - some love it and some hate it. From the southern top of the Catalina's you can see Mexico and stuff you walked over 170 trail miles back, and from the north side you can see stuff over 100 miles away that you are going to walk over.

Guthook AZT App: Get this and put it on your smart phone. It is excellent. Now I have hiked out here a lot and know my way around. I carry the Guthook app and a compass. I do not carry the AZT maps anymore. They are available and they are nice. I used to carry them but never looked at them after awhile since I know where I am and have the phone app. I would consider at least some map sections if you are new out here though.
Map link: http://www.aztrail.org/passages/passages.php
Guthook Android link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.highsierraattitude.arizonatrail&hl=en
Guthook Apple users link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/guthook-guides/id605447532?mt=8

I am not the big expert here and I am sure others who have knowledge of the trail could add good input (or even correct things they don't think I have right) and I encourage them to add posts.

For those asking questions it would be best to start a new topic I think.

01-30-2018, 18:06

Excellent document. You've hit everything bang-on. This should be a FAQ/wiki for the Arizona forum.

A couple of comments which you might consider adding:

1) When hiking NOBO, that first day is a butt-kicker. Many of us live in colder climates and suddenly you arrive in a place where it's 75-degrees, which is a bit of a shock to the system. On top of that, your pack weight is relatively heavy because you are leaving with probably four days of food and possibly four litres of water. And then, to make matters worse, you start off with a 3,000 foot climb. It's a pretty stiff welcome to the trail!

2) On the subject of re-supply, when I popped down to Mormon Lake dreaming to get a burger and beer, the store/restaurant was close that day. April is not their main time of year, so it wouldn't hurt to check their days/hours of operations before taking the (1 mile-ish?) trail downhill, because I can tell you from experience that it sucks to turn around and go back up the hill without even getting a burger!

I think that there's a convenience store in Tusayan because I think I bought a pint of ice cream and a root beer there. Maybe somebody else can confirm.

I would add that the trail isn't too far from the town of Vail, but there's very little in town outside of restaurants and a Walgreens. It's possible to resupply, but it was pretty shaky.

3) Everything that you said about the rocks and roughness is definitely true. I wore trail runners for my NOBO and had a replacement pair sent to Pine. I usually get 500-ish miles from a pair of trail runners, but on the AZT the soles were damned thin after 400 miles due to the rough trail.

4) It might be worth noting that it's dead easy to find campsites. There were only a few occasions where the brush was too thick or there were too many stones which forced me to walk an extra mile or two to find flattish, open ground. Leave your hammock at home!

5) Cell service is intermittent in the desert, so don't plan to send a text home every evening.

6) I printed and carried the excellent paper maps and the databook from the AZ Trail Association as well as Fred Gaudet's invaluable water report. In addition to the printed material, I had maps stored on my phone that I could use with my phone's GPS capability. The trail is reasonably easy to follow, but I did get "lost" on a couple of occasions which cost me a few penalty miles. I would offer the opinion that the middle of the desert is not a place where you'd want to be lost, so give some thought to having some back-up to the Guthook app in case your phone dies (if your hiking buddy has a phone with the app, that might be adequate back-up, or perhaps print the paper maps).

7) The scenery is generally quite good. Additionally, I would recommend that people cowboy camp for at least a few of the nights during their hike (choose nights when you're pretty sure it won't rain and there's no wind). The night sky is outstanding. There's no light pollution, so you can see stars which you might never have seen in your life. I miss sleeping in the desert.

8) I began a NOBO hike in mid-March and woke up to ice in my water bottle and in puddles on a couple of occasions, so bring a sleeping bag that is appropriate. If you find that you are cold at 4am or 5am, you can take comfort in the fact that it'll warm up pretty quickly when the sun rises.

Again, Wyoming, outstanding work.

01-30-2018, 18:25
9) Fuel for alcohol stoves is as scarce as hens' teeth. Southern Arizona is warm and dry, so they don't need to worry about moisture or ice in their car's gas lines, so you won't generally find HEET in the gas stations. If you scour around, you might find denatured alcohol at a hardware store, but most the re-supply towns are so small that they don't even have a hardware store.

01-31-2018, 17:23

Very excellent additions!!

I don't carry a stove so I never thought about that.

Re: the sleeping bag. Spring NOBO expect to hit freezing a few times. One of the factors with the high elevation desert, normally no clouds and low humidity is that when the sun goes down the temperature can drop like a rock. My normal bag is a 15 Deg Marmot.

01-31-2018, 17:24

Gear would be a good addition to the above I think. So here is a sample of what I am going to carry when I start NOBO in 4 weeks (approx 1 Mar). This would also be suitable for a Fall SOBO hike.

Z-pack Arcblast 55L (modified by me but essentially the same pack)
15 Deg Marmot down bag or a 10 deg down quilt
Big Agnes fast fly setup from a FlyCreek (this is a rainfly, footprint and poles - no tent and I cowboy camp every night there is no clouds)
Neolight air mattress
air pillow (love that thing :)
zpack food bag (the food bag goes in the tent with me for nighttime snacks - no animals bother you in AZ) + a handful of zips for the food I take
knit hat or down hoodie
puffy without a hood
super light base layer top and bottom
rain pants
rain jacket
fleece gloves with a pair of large exam gloves to go over if walking in freezing or cold rain conditions
sleeping socks (average thickness and normal length)
2 pair of walking socks (ultra light wool - smartwool)
altra olympus or Hoka Stinson ATA 4 (will actually use up both pair and might be in a third by the end)
Nike 9inch running shorts with pockets
North face wicking t shirt
tiny first aid kit (with the single package wet wipes for bio and a zip for the used ones I carry out)
tiny repair kit for tent, pack, air mattress etc(Luko Tape, cuben fiber patches, air mattress glue, needle and some dental floss for sewing)
2 very small light knives
plastic spoon
titanium cup
Sawyer filter with a 2 L bag and a 1 L bag (the tiny Sawyer filter is NOT suitable for the AZT imho as some of the water sources can be very muddy)
4 each 1 L Smartwater bottles
2 each 700ml Smartwater bottles
Smart phone with Guthook Ap and BackCountry Navigator on it
Backup 3000mah backup bat for phone
charging cable and plug for phone
SPOT Gen 3
4 each AAA Lithium spare batts for either headlamp or SPOT as needed
Leki hiking poles
Mountain climbing watch with compass, barometer and altimeter solar powered and satellite calibrated
a piece of an old zpad to sit on (I have a sensitive butt and there are a lot of sharp rocks out here)
OR sun/bug hat with zip on sides (looks like a French Foreign Legion hat)

01-31-2018, 17:28
I should say all of the gear is optimized for lightness and I am about 12 lbs base or a lb less if I take the quilt vice the mummy. It is the damn electronics which eat me up lol. I am not counting what I wear on a normal day or my poles in base weight of course, just the pack and contents.

02-23-2018, 14:26
Ok here is some great info for all of you.

Below will be a link to the AZT journal (very limited entries) of Lint who is the only triple Triple Crowner I know of.

One big take away from this journal (and which is matched by Anish's info on the AZT) is that the AZT rocks REALLY SUCK and they will eat up your shoes and hurt your feet.

Lint wore Altra Superiors to start, destroyed them (and ended up hurting his feet - possible stress fracture), switched to his normal Lone Peaks, and was on his 2nd pair of Lone Peaks when he finished. Anish also had foot issues and indicated she should have, but didn't, use three pair of shoes.

IN my opinion Lone Peaks and similar shoes are 'unsuitable' for the AZT. The Altra Olympus is much better but it is still marginal. The Saloman Odyssey Pro is similar in weight to the Altras but has a much harder sole and would be a better choice. But you 'really' need foot protection on this trail. When two of the very best hikers there are both have foot issues on this trial it should be taken seriously.

Lint has a great picture of one of our typical stock tanks which often have to be used for getting water. And, yup, filter or not the water still tastes like cow poop.

Anyway. Enjoy.


03-01-2018, 17:32
From WTX2WY in another thread we have some great beta on the possible resupply at Kearny.

If you are planning on stopping in Kearny for resupply the Old Time Pizza restaurant is very hiker friendly. Will deliver pizza to the trail, pick up hikers who need a ride to town, etc. Owners are great people. The husband is section hiking the AZT over several years.

Their ph number is 520-363-5523

This is great info. When you hit the Gila river bridge you could call for your pizza, then walk up the road a tenth of mile to the spigot on the road maintenance building for your water and wait there for delivery.

03-30-2018, 03:38

Recent (3/9/2018) article about Kearny and the AZT. (and the pizza delivery)

Looks like they may be doing a reroute on Section 15 if the local mine ends up purchasing land including the current trail for expansion, should not affect 2018 hikers.

03-30-2018, 17:25
TU all for assembling all that in one Sticky.

No issues completing the AZT in three sections using Altra Olympus. If work allows going back to the AZT in the fall for a SOBO. I used two different new pr...mostly because I had them stocked up.

I've walked or got a hitch out several times at the northern termius. If one can put off ending the hike tempted by the town vortex easy enough to tack on a Buckskin Gulch or Paria River south or The Wave onto a AT hike.

Border Patrol stopped us going to the southern terminus.

03-31-2018, 11:13

This link is broken. I'm generally using your resupply recommendations.

The Guthook app is now an in-app purchase in Guthook. It has limited resupply info.

Any resupply links would be helpful.