Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 1 (AZ/UT Day 8, Part 4)

Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail

The Dragoos give me a lift from Wire Pass to the Arizona Trail Northern trailhead at Stateline Campground in Coyote Valley. Much appreciated!

The starting point of the Arizona Trail is well marked by several monuments and a large BLM sign. On one of the monuments sits a plaque inscribed with a poem about the trail written by Dale Shewater, the “Father of the Arizona Trail.”

In the land of Arizona
Through desert heat or snow
Winds a trail for folks to follow
From Utah to Old Mexico

It’s the Arizona Trail
A pathway through the great Southwest
A diverse track through wood and stone
Your spirit it will test

Oh, sure you’ll sweat and blister
You’ll feel the miles every day
You’ll shiver at the loneliness
Your feet and seat will pay

But you’ll see moonlight on the borderlands
You’ll see stars on the Mogollon
You’ll feel the warmth of winter sun
And be thrilled straight through to bone

The aches and pains will fade away
You’ll feel renewed and whole
You’ll never be the same again
With Arizona in your soul

Along the Arizona Trail
A reverence and peace you’ll know
Through deserts, canyons, and mountains
From Utah to Old Mexico

“The Arizona Trail,” Dale R. Shewalter, “Father of the Arizona Trail”
Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail
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Judging by everything I’ve heard about the trail and know about the area, it seems an extremely fitting description of the trail and it’s experience. It’s time to put the literature to the test.

We take the obligatory starting point photos, and I head out. I make it about 5 miles onto the start of the AZT, where I encounter some section hikers and camp near Buckskin Mountain. The sunset is spectacular as remnants of a tropical storm coalesce above Coyote Buttes to the west. Unfortunately my phone died coming out of the canyons so I didn’t capture a picture, but I am sure it won’t be my last or only spectacular sunset on the AZT. I get sprinkled on a little overnight but manage to stay dry for the most part. The true long trek to Mexico has at long last begun. The slot canyons were incredible, gorgeous, amazing – pick any superlative you want. But they are done, and the remainder of the Arizona Trail proper now awaits.

Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail
Coyote Buttes from the trail hiking up Buckskin Mountain from Coyote Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Coyote Buttes from the trail backpacking up Buckskin Mountain from Coyote Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Coyote Buttes from the trail hiking up Buckskin Mountain from Coyote Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
PJ (pinyon-juniper) scrubland is the dominant landscape on Buckskin Mountain, a dramatic shift from the alternately bare and green riparian corridor of the slot canyons in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Hiking through PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
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Backpacking through blackbush and PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
Hiking through blackbush & PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
Looking back on Coyote Buttes and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, seen backpacking the Arizona Trail ascending Buckskin Mountain across Coyote Valley.
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Hiking through blackbush and PJ scrub on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 43, Buckskin Mountain
A rather macabre sight…
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
As an open grazing area, one must always be careful of livestock when passing through this stretch of the AZT, as well as other stretches on USFS or BLM land.
Arizona Trail, Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)

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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Pine Mountain (Passage 21), FR 422 to Pigeon Spring Trailhead

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain)
Trail SurfaceDirt
Length (Mi)10.8
SeasonMarch-November. Lower elevations hot in summer with little shade.
Potential Water SourcesSeasonal tank (mi 4.1 SOBO/784.6 NOBO)
Seasonal tank (mi 10.6 SOBO/778.1 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Utah border at Coyote Valley (mi 0 SOBO/788.7 NOBO)
South: Winter Road Trailhead (mi 10.6 SOBO/778.1 NOBO)
Trailhead AccessVehicular access to all trailheads
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsNone
DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Best near summit of Buckskin Mountain, after initial climb out of Coyote Valley/just before final descent into Coyote Valley. Developed campsite at Utah state line in Coyote Valley.
ThreatsHeat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

Hyponatremia – “drunk on water.” To avoid, ensure adequate salt & electrolyte intake and ensure you eat as well as drink water. Symptoms are almost identical to dehydration, but drinking more makes it worse. Prevention is by far the best solution.

Dehydration
Permits Required? No
Cell service?Limited
Ecosystems traversedGreat Basin Conifer Woodland
Sources: Personal experience, Guthook Guides & ATA Guide to the Arizona Trail. Note that due to wildfire, Passage 43 is currently closed to access by the Bureau of Land Management.
Great Basin Conifer Woodland
Common Trees/Shrubs* Big sagebrush
* Fernbush
* Fremont barberry
* Gambel oak
* Hopbush
* Mormon tea
* Rabbitbrush
* Serviceberry
* Stansbury cliffrose
* Junipers
* Piñon pine
Common herbaceous plants* Cutleaf
* Phacelia
* Wild onions
* Buckwheats
* Bladderpods
* Evening primrose
* Penstemons
* Sego-lily
* Grasses such as muttongrass & squirreltail
* Groundsel
* Indian paintbrush
* Locoweed
* Phlox
* Pinque rubberweed
* Sedges, such as clustered field sedge & western sedge
* Wild cabbage (unusual, thick stemmed)
Common succulents* Banana & Bailey’s yucca
* Beehive cactus
* Claret cup hedgehog cacti
* Prickly pear cacti
* Whipple cholla
Passage 23 & 22 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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