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Monday, October 26, 2015


Arizona National Scenic Trail
Start of the Arizona Trail at the U.S.-Mexico border

If you're reading this, you might be a hiker who has been motivated to take a good long trek by recent movies like Wild and A Walk in the Woods . While these inspiring films romanticize long distance hiking, it's important to do your homework and manage your expectations before hitting the trail.
Here in the Southwest, the obvious draw for a marathon hike is the 817-mile Arizona Trail.
Like many people with a day job whose long-term plans include hiking the entire route from Mexico to Utah, I've been chipping away at the miles in opportunistic grabs and passage-long chunks.
Turns out, this bit-by-bit style is the way most hikers approach the Arizona Trail. Sirena Dufault, AZT Gateway Community Liaison says," You don't have to hike the entire AZT to enjoy it. It's a "choose your own adventure", where you decide how much of a challenge is comfortable for you. Hikers who have completed the trail range from age 19 to folks in their 70s. Some have done it in 21 days while others section hike it for a decade or more." Shawn Redfield, AZT Trail Director concurs. "A through- hike is nothing more than a bunch of section hikes done in series with resupply breaks in between. Preparation is critical, though. There is a small portion of hikers who are not prepared and as the popularity of long distance hiking grows, fueled by recent movies based on it, this translates into hikers who become a danger to themselves and the people who will come to help them."
Redfield adds that research and conditioning for a though-hike can take months and that it's vital to understand the AZT's special challenges of water scarcity, heat, elevation change and remote terrain where rescue is not an option. (Become a member of the of AZT Association to get access to tons of current trail information, water data and opportunities to speak with others who have conquered the route:

On October 24th, I stood at the U.S.-Mexico border where a simple sign denotes the beginning of the AZT. It took me 12 years to get there. Having hiked parts of Passage 1 from Montezuma Pass, through Miller Peak Wilderness (with a side trip to the 9,466' peak) and on to Parker Canyon Lake, this last mile was one of several blaring holes on my progress map. Prior attempts had been rained out, burned out or thwarted by schedule conflicts, so I vowed to bite the bullet and hike rain-or-shine to bridge this gap by the end of 2015. Rather than starting at the traditional Montezuma Pass trailhead, I chose to approach from the Coronado National Monument Visitor Center by hiking 2.4 miles on the Joe's Canyon Trail then 1-mile south on Yaqui Ridge Trail (AZT) to the border. This exceptional trek begins with a 1,400 foot ascent up a rugged drainage to Smuggler's Ridge, a knife-edge saddle with see-forever views overlooking the Mexican State of Sonora. The final mile makes a 600 foot decent to a border monument that marks the beginning (or end) of Arizona's most epic journey. Next up in my gap-plugging adventure: the Mazatzal Divide.
LENGTH: 6.8 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 5,006' - 6,493'
From Tucson, travel south on Interstate 10 to State Route 90 Exit 302 and go 25 miles south to Sierra Vista. Connect with State Route 92 and continue 16 miles to S. Coronado Memorial Drive and follow it 4.7 miles (road becomes E. Montezuma Canyon Road) to the Coronado National Memorial Visitor Center (open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). Trail begins a few yards up the road beyond the center. Parking is free. Restrooms.
Coronado National Memorial:

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