Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail: Grand Canyon National Park Boundary to Lindbergh Hill (Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim)

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

Day 7 on the AZT, and day 14 since departing Lee’s Ferry and crossing through Utah to get to this point.

The North Rim lookout is located near the highest point on the entire Arizona Trail. A historical geographic marker still bearing the Forest Service name (the tower was moved to its current location inside the park in the 1930s) is beside the tower, along with a historic lookout register sign. This particular tower is also notable for a particularly famous lookout – Edward Abbey once staffed it for four years from the late 60s into the 70s. The historic guide to using the “FireFinder” system is still present in the room at the top of the lookout.

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North Rim Lookout geographic marker
Grand Canyon National Park
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FireFinder instruction guide, originally from Six Rivers National Forest
North Rim lookout tower
Grand Canyon National Park
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Osbourne FireFinder system
North Rim Lookout Tower
Grand Canyon National Park

Climbing to the top of the lookout, one can see the Ikes Fire actively burning to the west. Through the haze, the shadow of Mt Trumbull and other peaks in Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument can be seen.

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West view from North Rim Lookout Tower
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

To the south lies the San Francisco volcanic field, topped by the majestic San Francisco Peaks rising above. I’ll go into it in more detail as I approach them, but for now I’ll note that were it not for the canyon, the Peaks would be the most famous geological feature in Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point, stands at 12,633 feet. The Arizona Trail will reach and wrap directly around their flank on the journey south. The city of Flagstaff lies immediately beyond, at the foot of the mountain on the south side. Through the trees one can make out the rim of the canyon, but the dominant view in the foreground is the aspen foliage mixed with spruce/fir and ponderosa forest. Grand Canyon National Park fills the foreground with aspen foliage mixed with spruce/fir and ponderosa forest. Heading back down the road, I head west on the AZT to the park entrance.

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San Francisco Volcanic Field from the North Rim Lookout Tower. From left to right, O’Leary Peak, the San Francisco Peaks (Humphreys Peak highest), Kendrick Peak, and Red Mountain in Coconino National Forest
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
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East-South view from North Rim Lookout Tower
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
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Aspen meadow below the North Rim Lookout Tower
Grand Canyon National Park
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South/Southwest view from North Rim Lookout Tower
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The trail descends down the old road that led to the fire lookout until it reaches AZ-67 at the North Rim Entrance Station.

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Aspens seen backpacking along Lookout Road east of the North Rim Entrance Station
Arizona Trail Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park

I check in with the ranger there, who asks if I need anything, but I’m good for now. There was water available for hikers near the station. After some slight confusion about the route leaving that area, I pick up the trail again (purist that I am, after retracing some steps, admittedly) and follow it south.

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Aspens, hiking on Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park
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Aspen tunnels, backpacking on the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
Grand Canyon North Rim (AZT Passage 39)
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Arizona Trail, hiking north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park
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Arizona Trail, backpacking view north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park
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Arizona Trail, hiking view north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park
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Aspens on the Arizona Trail, backpacking view north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park
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Arizona Trail, hiking view north of Lindbergh Hill
Arizona Trail Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park
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Arizona Trail, backpacking view north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park
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Hiking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon
North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park
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Hiking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon
North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park
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Hiking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park
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Hiking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park
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Hiking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail north of Lindbergh Hill
AZT Passage 39, Grand Canyon North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park
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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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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 51: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23), Part II

Disruptive event today, an F-16 that flew over while I was packing. It flew extremely low and around a mountain – possibly North Peak – and made me think very seriously about why that would be allowed over a designated wilderness area. Still, I manage to knock out a few miles to Chilson Spring before dark, with spectacular views of Deadman’s Canyon, the Verde Valley, and the western Mazatzal foothills along the way. The mountains are jagged and rugged and the trail traces steep slopes nearly the whole way across precipitous terrain.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50, Part II: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23)

It’s here. The Mazatzal Divide represents the heart of the longest stretch of the Arizona Trail within a designated wilderness area. To that end, a reminder on the meaning of wilderness. Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, wilderness is “an area where man is but a visitor and does not remain.” Consequently, motorized access as … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50, Part II: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50: Red Hills, Part II/II

Second day hiking through the Red Hills toward the Mazatzal Mountains. Earning their name through the red rock colors, the Hills also provide hikers with wildflowers and diverse vegetation, in addition to showing the scars of recent wildfires and spectacular views of the range north toward the Mogollon Rim.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 49: Whiterock Mesa, Part III

Departing Polk Spring, the trail continues to provide magnificent views of the northern Mazatzal Mountains and the neighboring Red Hills as it descends to the East Verde River. The trail will pass through both mountain ranges – first the Red Hills, then the Mazatzals. The origin of the name “Mazatzal” is unclear, though one possible meaning is a Nahuatl term meaning “place of the deer.” The Mazatzal Wilderness, which the trail will remain within now until just shy of Strawberry in the central Mazatzals, is about 390 square miles in size. It was one of the original Wilderness Areas designated upon the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail – FR 194 to Pine Spring (Passage 45, Whiterock Mesa)

I got started around 10, heading down Passage 25 toward the East Verde River.
I hike through a gate and enter the Mazatzal Wilderness. Following cairns, the surface alternates between the basalt and more dirt – like walking through a wash. As the trail skirts the rim briefly, a magnificent view of the Mazatzal Mountains and Red Hills opens up to the hiker, then the trail experiences yet another spectacular sunset as it and the backpacker fall off the Mesa to Polk Spring near the East Verde River.

Pink ribbons spread across the bluish/purple sky at sunset

Fossil Springs Wilderness – FR 708

Take a virtual hike through the Fossil Creek Wilderness! Fossil Creek Wilderness is one of the most spectacular areas in Arizona – so much so that permits are required from April 1-October 1. From the Fossil Creek Bridge trailhead, FR 708 begins to climb the wall of Fossil Canyon. A short distance up, the road is gated. Just on the other side is the trailhead for the Waterfall Trail, one of the most popular spots in the wilderness.

Passage 39 (Grand Canyon North Rim)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)12
SeasonSpring-fall. No vehicular access to this section December-mid May. Feet of snow in winter.
Potential Water SourcesNorth Rim entrance station (66.5 SOBO, 722.2 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Grand Canyon National Park boundary
South: North Kaibab Trailhead, Grand Canyon North Rim
Trailhead AccessNorth: Dirt forest roads in vicinity
South: Vehicular access (paved road, developed trailhead)
WildernessNo, but it can feel like it, especially the northern half.
Possible resupply pointsGrand Canyon North Rim village
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy to moderate
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Unless road is closed, camping only permitted in designated spots within park. Hiker-biker sites are available at the North Rim Campground for reduced rates.
Ecosystems TraversedGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Permits Required?Yes for camping, not for hiking
HighlightsNorth Rim lookout tower
Aspen foliage in fall
Grand Canyon North Rim
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Great Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest/Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Forest
Common Trees/Shrubs* Corkbark fir
* Gambel oak
* Quaking aspen
* White fir
* Blue spruce
* Engelmann spruce
* Buckwheats
* Currants
* Dwarf juniper
* Elderberry
* Fendler’s ceanothus
* Greenleaf Manzanita
* New Mexican locust
* Perry’s rabbitbrush
* Raspberry
* smooth sumac
* Snowberry
Common herbaceous plants* Bracken Fern
* Buckwheats
* Cinquefoils
* Columbines
* Fleabane daisies
* Geraniums
* goldeneye
* Goldenrods
* Groundsels
* Hairy golden aster
* Indian paintbrush
* Lotus
* Lupines
* Meadow-rue
* Parry’s bellflower
* Peavine
* Penstemons
* Puccoon
* Pussytoes
* Thistles
* Western & white prairie asters
* Wild strawberry
* Wormwood
* Yarrow
* Yellow hawkweed
Common succulentsPrickly pear, occasionally
Aquatic* Bulrush
* Buttercups
* Rushes
* Sedges
* Water plantains
Passage 23 & 22 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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