Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Schultz Pass (Passage 32, Elden Mountain)

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

Welcome back to Aspen’s Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail from Utah to Mexico. I want to note that this hike was completed before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, but it has left me with quite a bit of time in quarantine to write up my experiences on the trail.

Oscar gives me a ride to Macy’s for breakfast and run into some section hikers. We reminisce about some days on the trail, they have 40 miles to go. Then it is off to Schultz Pass to get back on the trail. My shin is feeling much better after the zero yesterday. I Uber up to the trailhead and pack up my tent here, talking with more section hikers heading north to Kelly Tank, then hike south along the trail. As usual, the ponderosa forest smells amazing, and I have to stop and smell the vanilla-butterscotch aroma that the bark puts out.

The Arizona Trail wraps past golden oaks and aspens through Schultz Pass and innumerable drainages. Expansive views of the San Francisco Peaks from the south are incredible, including Agassiz and Fremont Peaks. On the east end of the Pass, the trail opens out to areas potentially impacted by the 2010 Schultz Fire, which burned the area north of the AZT and east of Schultz Peak (fourth highest point in Arizona) and 1977 Radio Fire, which torched the east and south faces of Elden Mountain.

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The Arizona Trail ascends through the ponderosas on the lower slopes of the San Francisco Peaks, hiking eastbound in Schultz Pass.
AZT Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
Golden ferns from a dry summer mix with ponderosa pines, backpacking the Arizona Trail in Schultz Pass
AZT Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
The San Francisco Peaks from hiking the Arizona Trail in Schultz Pass. Burn piles left from the Museum Fire are in the foreground, while aspens color the lower slopes. Agassiz Peak is on the left, Fremont Peak on the far right.
AZT Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
Backpacking the Arizona Trail through ponderosa forest and rice grass meadows in Schultz Pass.
AZT Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail past aspens and ponderosa among rice grass in Schultz Pass.
AZT Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
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Backpacking through aspens along the Arizona Trail in Schultz Pass.
AZT Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
Deer Hill or Schultz Peak rises above the ponderosas and aspens, hiking east on the Arizona Trail in Schultz Pass
AZT Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
Deer Hill or Schultz Peak rises above the ponderosas and aspens in Schultz Pass. Impacts of the 2010 Schultz Fire clearly visible.
Arizona Trail Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
Aspens add a splash of beautiful color to backpacking through the burn scar of the 2010 Schultz or 1977 Radio Fires
Arizona Trail Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
Aspens add a splash of beautiful color to hiking through the burn scar of the 2010 Schultz or 1977 Radio Fires.
Arizona Trail Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest
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Deer Hill or Schultz Peak from the Arizona Trail in Schultz Pass. Impacts of the 2010 Schultz Fire clearly visible.
AZT Passage 32 (Elden Mountain)
Coconino National Forest

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To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

When many individuals are first looking at getting into thruhiking, they face one crucial decision after trail selection – to section hike, or thruhike. Each has different advantages and challenges, and may be better suited for one trail than another. Today, we’re going to discuss these. First, we need to define each. For our purposes, … Continue reading To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

National Park Quest: Tonto National Monument

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 Amazing Arizona Trail – Inspiration Point to Roosevelt Cemetery (Passages 20 & 19, Four Peaks to Superstition Mountains)

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.

Arizona Trail Backpacking Logistics – AZT Gateway Communities: Tonto Basin

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.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Four Peaks South (Passage 20)

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 32 (Elden Mountain)
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack
Length (Mi)13.7
SeasonSpring-Fall. Snow can be significant in winter.
Potential Water SourcesSchultz Tank (590.3 NOBO, 198.5 SOBO)
Little Elden Horse camp (587.8 NOBO, 200.9 SOBO)
Flagstaff East (583.7 NOBO, 205 SOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Schultz Pass
South: I-40
Trailhead AccessNorth: Vehicular access via gravel road
South: Foot/bike access. Vehicular access to Painted Canyon or Walnut Canyon near south terminus of passage.
WildernessNo
Possible resupply pointsFlagstaff
East Flagstaff
ATA-Rated DifficultyModerate (south end is easier)
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Best on east side of Schultz Pass, outside of Painted Canyon. Can also easily use Flagstaff as a base and shuttle in and out of town.
Ecosystems TraversedRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Major Features of InterestSchultz Pass
Painted Canyon
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Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Common Trees/Shrubs* Ponderosa Pine
* Southwestern white pine
* Subalpine fir
* White fir
* Rocky Mountain maple
* Bigtooth maple
* Grey alder
* Red birch
* Red osier dogwood
* Cliffbush
* Mallow ninebark
* New Mexican locust
* huckleberry
* bilberries



Common herbaceous plants* fringed brome
* Geyer’s sedge/elk sedge
* Ross’ sedge
* Bronze sedge/dry land sedge/hillside sedge/hay sedge/Fernald’s hay sedge
* screwleaf muhly
* bluebunch wheatgrass
* Spruce-fir fleabane
* wild strawberry/Virginia strawberry
* Small-flowered woodrush
* mountain sweet Cicely
* bittercress ragwort
* western meadow-rue
* Fendler’s meadow-rue
Common succulents
Passage 32 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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