Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part I

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

This morning starts with a stop at my last national park in northern Arizona, Walnut Canyon National Monument. Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff. Most are near the Island Trail that rings a peninsula of rock that Walnut Creek bends around, connected to the north rim of a canyon by a narrow ridge of rock, giving the peninsula the appearance of an island. Each room, built under limestone ledges, might have housed a family. The ledges afforded protection from the elements – they kept the dwellings cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They were also easier to defend against invasion. Prior to building the cliff dwellings, the Sinagua lived and cultivated areas on the rim of the canyon. In a dry, semi-arid landscape – though not as harsh as some found further south – the communities relied on the intermittent flow of water in Walnut Creek for sustenance. It is not clear why the dwellings were abandoned around 1250, but suspected reasons include drought and relations with neighboring tribes. National Monument also protects natural resources, including 387 species of plants as well as marine fossils remaining from when the area was located under a sea. 

Starting in the 1880s, theft and looting became an issue at Walnut Canyon as construction of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad brought more people to the region. By 1915, alarm among local citizens led President Wilson to establish Walnut Canyon National Monument, first under the US Forest Service as part of Coconino National Forest, then the National Park Service starting in 1934. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built trails and buildings, stabilized the walls of various cliff dwellings, and led guided tours. Further expansions of the site in 1938 by President Roosevelt and 1994 by President Clinton added additional stretches of the canyon into the monument, bringing it to its current 3600 acres of protected resources.

Relive route for today
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View into Walnut Canyon
Walnut Canyon National Monument
View along Walnut Canyon
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings in Walnut Canyon
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Panorama of upper Walnut Canyon from hiking on the upper Island Trail
Walnut Canyon National Monument
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Cliff dwellings visible from hiking the Island Trail
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings hiking along the Island Trail
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings hiking along the Island Trail
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings hiking along the Island Trail
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings hiking along the Island Trail
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings hiking along the Island Trail
Walnut Canyon National Monument

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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

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.

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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.

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

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Four Peaks Passage to just south of Pigeon Spring. The terrain is incredibly precipitous – in places the trail seems to occupy the only level ground around. Fire impacts are present throughout as well, a legacy of the 1996 Lone Fire. Magnificent views of Roosevelt Lake, the southern Mazatzal foothills, and the Sierra Ancha across Tonto Basin.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Rim TrailIsland Trail
Type of hikeOut & backLoop
Trail SurfacePaved trailPaved Trail
Length (Mi)0.71
SeasonAll yearAll year. Stairs may get icy in winter. Snowy & icy conditions can lead to closure of the trail.
Major attributesGood view of variety of cliff dwelling structure remains throughout the central portion of Walnut Canyon. Rim-top pueblo.Loop trail providing close-up view of cliff dwellings in inner canyon
Potential Water SourcesWalnut Canyon Visitor CenterWalnut Canyon Visitor Center
TrailheadsVisitor CenterVisitor Center
Trailhead AccessVehicular (paved road)Vehicular (paved road)
WildernessNoNo
DifficultyEasyStrenuous. 185 feet descent into canyon at 7000’ elevation.
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Hiking/Backpacking campsites available along Arizona Trail on borders of parkHiking/Backpacking campsites available along Arizona Trail on borders of park
Ecosystems TraversedRocky Mountain Montane Conifer WoodlandRocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Accessible?YesNo
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Backpacking The Arizona Trail: East Rim Overlook to ≈MM 61.2 (AZT Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South)

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

Hiking south, the Arizona Trail reaches the East Rim Overlook – a beautiful spot with a bench and picnic table overlooking a portion of the eastern Grand Canyon, with additional trails leading out to further views – and I find I do indeed have service. I spread my solar panel out and hook up my batteries to charge given the open sky view here and charging opportunity, and make the call to the park for the interview.

After doing my interview and taking care of some other business, I’m backpacking south again. Continuing south, the trail passes through more aspen groves, rice meadows, and mixed conifer forest, the latter increasingly spruce-fir as the rolling Kaibab slowly rises in elevation. Each displays the forest in a different stage – the rice meadows, areas most recently disturbed by something, be it a fire, severe wind, etc; the aspens, one of the pioneer trees to move in thereafter; and the spruce-fir/mixed conifer forest, the least recently disturbed.

It’s been a rough last few days with the wind and overnight temps, so upon reaching Crystal Spring I take a detour to Meadows Edge and the North Rim Country Store through some USFS roads and more aspen groves that continue to shine, meeting Roger and another thruhiking friend and discuss strategy and escape from the wind for a period. I then return to the trail and put some more miles in. Another 18 or so mile day in total, although not as many of those were on the actual trail as I might like (a fair number were getting to and from the North Rim Country Store). Still, I’m fairly close to the border between the Kaibab National Forest and Grand Canyon National Park.

Regardless, I should be at the Grand Canyon North Rim tomorrow (about 15 miles away), Phantom Ranch Thursday, Grand Canyon South Rim on Friday, and on the trail to Flagstaff perhaps on Tuesday.

Arizona Trail mileage sign hiking southbound – 59 miles to Utah, 743 to Mexico
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
East Rim Overlook panorama, looking east over Grand Canyon toward the Navajo Nation, backpacking southbound on the Arizona Trail across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
East Rim Overlook panorama, looking east over Grand Canyon toward the Navajo Nation, hiking southbound on the Arizona Trail across the Kaibab Plateau. Navajo Mountain in Utah is visible on the horizon, with the Vermilion Cliffs at left
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through aspens and mixed conifers climbing away from the East Rim Overlook, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through aspens and mixed conifers climbing away from the East Rim Overlook, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through aspens and mixed conifers south of the East Rim Overlook, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through aspens and mixed conifers south of the East Rim Overlook, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through aspens and mixed conifers south of the East Rim Overlook, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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The Arizona Trail passes through aspens and mixed conifers south of the East Rim Overlook, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through aspens and mixed conifers south of the East Rim Overlook, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through aspens and mixed conifers south of the East Rim Overlook, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Panorama of an aspen meadow seen hiking southbound along the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens and mixed conifers, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens and mixed conifers, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens and mixed conifers, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens and mixed conifers, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens and mixed conifers, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens and mixed conifers, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens and mixed conifers, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens in fall foliage and mixed conifers, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens in fall foliage and mixed conifers, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens in fall foliage and mixed conifers, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens in fall foliage and mixed conifers, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through meadows lined by aspens in fall foliage and mixed conifers, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail passes through towering aspen groves in fall foliage and mixed conifers, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Magnificent aspen foliage along forest roads adjacent to the Arizona Trail, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Magnificent aspen foliage along forest roads adjacent to the Arizona Trail, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Magnificent aspen foliage along forest roads adjacent to the Arizona Trail, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Magnificent aspen foliage along forest roads adjacent to the Arizona Trail, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Magnificent aspen foliage along forest roads adjacent to the Arizona Trail, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Magnificent lichen on trees adjacent to the Arizona Trail, a clear sign of air quality, backpacking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Magnificent aspen foliage along forest roads adjacent to the Arizona Trail, hiking southbound across the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest

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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 47: 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.

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Fossil Springs Wilderness – Waterfall Trail

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.

Fossil Springs Wilderness – Fossil Springs Trail

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. The Wilderness has 11,550 acres with 30 species of trees and shrubs and over 100 species of birds. Fossil Creek itself is one of two Wild & Scenic Rivers in Arizona as well, designated by Congress in 2009 after the Fossil Springs Dam was decommissioned by Arizona in 2005. Fossil Springs, the source of the creek, release 30 million gallons of water per day, incredibly prolific for its location in Arizona.

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Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Trail SurfaceDirt trail
Length (Mi)24.3
SeasonSpring-fall. No vehicular access to this section December-mid May. Feet of snow in winter.
Potential Water SourcesCrane Lake (mi 46.5 SOBO, 742.2 NOBO)
Little Pleasant Valley Tank (mi 48.8 SOBO, 739.9 NOBO)
Wildlife Drinker (mi 56.5 SOBO, 732.2 NOBO)
Dog Lake (mi 56.6 SOBO, 732.1 NOBO)
North Canyon Spring (mi 58.9 SOBO, 729.8 NOBO)
Crystal Spring (mi 59.5 SOBO, 729.2 NOBO)
Sourdough Well (mi 62.1 SOBO, 726.6 NOBO)
Upper North Canyon Creek (mi 63.9 SOBO, 724.9 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Telephone Hill
South: Grand Canyon National Park boundary
Trailhead AccessNorth: Vehicular access via FR 241 off AZ-67
South: Foot access only
WildernessNo, but it can feel like it. Most hikers in the area stick to the national park. Or are passing through to reach routes in the national park.
Possible resupply pointsNorth Rim Country Store & Meadow’s Edge
Accessed via FR 216 at AZT MM 54.6 S/734.1 N
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Various
Ecosystems TraversedGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Logistical details – sources include personal experience, Guthook Guides, ATA Guidebook
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Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer WoodlandGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
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



* 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* 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
* 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 SucculentsN/APrickly pear, occasionally
AquaticsN/A* Bulrush
* Buttercups
* Rushes
* Sedges
* Water plantains
Passage 40 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail: Upper Tater Canyon to East Rim Overlook (AZT Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South)

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

I’m on the trail early, hiking south toward the northern boundary of Grand Canyon National Park. As I noted in an earlier entry, one of the perils of combining being a seasonal ranger and thruhiking in the offseason (or shoulder seasons) is that one must make oneself available for interviews in sometimes inconvenient times or places. I owe a park a return call at some point today. Based on the tip I received from a nobo hiker yesterday, I hope to have service at the East Rim Overlook about 2 miles south of my campsite last night. Hiking south, the trail passes through even more glorious aspens as well as beautiful subalpine conifer forest on its way to the overlook . Logistics and ecological details follow the photos.

Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine)
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine)
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine)
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine)
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine)
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine)
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand beside the trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT, aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside the trail & rice grass meadows
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking the AZT, aspens in fall colors tower above the trail
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall foliage tower above the AZT as the trail crosses the southern Kaibab Plateau through mixed conifers and aspen groves, hiking southbound
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall foliage tower among mixed conifers above the AZT as the trail crosses the southern Kaibab Plateau, backpacking southbound
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall foliage stand beside the AZT as the trail crosses the southern Kaibab Plateau through mixed conifers and aspen groves, hiking southbound
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall foliage tower above the AZT as the trail crosses the southern Kaibab Plateau through mixed conifers and aspen groves, backpacking southbound
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspens in fall foliage tower above the AZT as the trail crosses the southern Kaibab Plateau through mixed conifers and aspen groves, hiking southbound
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall foliage stand beside the AZT as the trail crosses the southern Kaibab Plateau through mixed conifers and aspen groves, hiking southbound
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall foliage tower above the AZT as the trail crosses the southern Kaibab Plateau through mixed conifers and aspen groves, backpacking southbound
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall foliage tower above the AZT among mixed conifers as the trail crosses the southern Kaibab Plateau hiking southbound
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall foliage tower above the AZT among mixed conifers as the trail crosses the southern Kaibab Plateau, backpacking southbound
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Pine Ridge to FR 194 (Passage 26, Whiterock Mesa)

I finally get off around 11:30 & run into Matt and a female friend near East Tank. I’m glad for the company and we walk together for a while. The road condition is terrible – lots of loose basalt – and the going is slow. I finally reach the split to Strawberry and encounter them again, and their friend who picked them up flags me down and brings me a beer. Some more trail magic! I think my biggest challenges are becoming the pack weight and the solitude. I head for a short side trip to Fossil Creek.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Pine to Pine Ridge (Passage 25, Whiterock Mesa)

The trail first rolls through the pines and passes Pine Creek (dry) and Bradshaw Tank on its way to the top of Hardscrabble Mesa, which provides an excellent overlook of Oak Spring Canyon, the highlight of the passage, before dropping to the bottom. Like on the Highline, foliage still lingers in the warmer Canyon. I also spot some cool geology in what appears to be dikes in some of the rocks.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 41, Part II – Highline Trail (Passage 27, Highline)

Having filled up on water and eaten lunch, the trail ascends from Webber Creek and the Geronimo Trailhead toward Milk Ranch Point, jutting out from the Mogollon Rim. This is a much more consistently wooded & shaded stretch that appears to have been spared by the Dude Fire of 1990 and February Fire (2006). It also seems to be wetter here – there are still touches of green in the ferns as the trail ascends. Gamble oaks, maple and ponderosa dominate the trail through this stretch, and the light filtering through the canopy and the leaves is magical.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 40-41 – Highline Trail (Passage 27, Highline)

The trail continues to roll across the eroded foothills of the Mogollon Rim, the impressive and distinctive southern boundary of the Colorado Plateau, where the elevation jumps around 4000 ft in elevation. The Highline continues to define itself as a diverse landscape where the species of the desert below and the pine forests above mingle.

The Mazatzal Mountains – the next major hurdle once I make it to Pine – loom in the distance as well, and ironwood line the more open stretches of path across the Highline, where the Dude Fire burned the forest in 1990.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Highline Trail, Part II (Passage 27, Highline)

The Arizona Trail continues west toward Pine, curving around parts of the Mogollon Rim that reach out, and segments that sit farther back, rolling across the eroded foothills beneath the parapets that’s tower overhead. The diverse plants continue to amaze. How often do you find blue spruce growing next to agave cactus!

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Clear Creek to Mogollon Rim (Passage 28, Blue Ridge)

The trail crossed Blue Ridge and dipped across the steep valley of East Clear Creek, dry at the crossing. I was told that there may be water in one direction near the crossing but didn’t need it and therefore didn’t check. Climbing out the other side, the northern aspect of the slope is apparent – while ponderosas covered the southern slope opposite, the northern one featured Douglas fir and blue spruce. Obviously the different sides show different microclimates depending on the sun aspect, the temperature and moisture levels on each side given the orientation and angle of the slope. The trail rises back to the ponderosa forests on the Mogollon Plateau and traverses them, the site of my first human sighting in 3 days, then reaches General Springs Canyon. Dipping into General Springs Canyon, silence and quiet take hold. I passed a nice campsite near the end of GSC, but the pools nearby were still frozen at the end of the day, suggesting it would get colder in the canyon overnight (and that solar exposure during the day was limited) than on the Rim, so I continued forward to the rim itself. Lights can be seen in the distance, but I’m not sure which town. Likely Pine or Strawberry. Tomorrow begins the descent off the rim at long last.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 38 – Blue Ridge Ranger Station to Mogollon Rim (Passage 28, Blue Ridge)

Managed to push through the entire Blue Ridge Passage today, one of my best days on the trail. I left the Blue Ridge Ranger Station this morning and headed south for the Rim. Saw a herd of elk near the Blue Ridge Campground and Elk Tank while climbing Blue Ridge itself. The trail also passed through an active prescribed burn, though it was low intensity so probably not considered a public hazard at this point. I’m familiar with them anyway, having worked as a PIO (public informations officer) on one over the summer at Grand Canyon. The trail crossed Blue Ridge and dipped across the steep valley of East Clear Creek, dry at the crossing.

Arizona Trail, Day 36 – Passage 29 (Happy Jack)

The low last night was projected to be 12º, the coldest night yet on the trail, and I would say that may well have been accurate. Fortunately I came prepared for such conditions. Today I will be one of the first to walk the full new Happy Jack passage routing south of Shuff Tank.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail – Mormon Lake to Shuff Tank (Day 34; Passages 29 & 28, Mormon Lake & Happy Jack)

It’s brutally cold this morning, notably because of the strong wind that whips across the clearing to the west. Not setting up the tent last night was a mistake. I ultimately fill up for the last time at Navajo Spring and run into a few dayhikers who have completed over 300 miles of the trail themselves. Two of them are the Grouper and the Oracle. I continue south, aiming for Gooseberry Springs TH and Passage 29, Happy Jack.

Arizona Trail, Day 33 – Mormon Lake Zero

It’s cold and raw after the rain the night before. I walk about 3 miles up the road to Double Springs and then use the AZT to get back to my prior campsite to grab the sleeping pad, then retrace my steps again. Did it hail up here?

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Arizona Trail, Day 31 – Anderson Mesa to Double Springs (Passages 30, Anderson Mesa & 29, Mormon Lake)

There is a lot of cool railroad history west of Lake Mary Road, the trail follows an old logging railroad grade for much of the route and in places the ties are still visible. Very cool. The forest turns into a dense mixed conifer and I have a chance encounter with a mountain biker named Chris who recently moved here from Idaho. We talk about the trail ahead and some I’m looking at doing in Idaho.

Arizona Trail, Day 30 – Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 and 30, Walnut Canyon and Mormon Lake)

The trail reaches Lowell Observatory’s Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI). The NPOI measures precise relative positions of stars in the sky for the Naval Observatory to use as reference when determining geographic positions of locations on both Earth and in space, as well as for use in timekeeping. Over four football fields long, it uses a six-mirror array directing multiple light beams from a star to a single point, enhancing image detail and separating stars that are so close that even the largest conventional telescopes cannot separate them visually. Near the NPOI is an excellent view of Upper Lake Mary in the valley of Walnut Creek below, after which the trail continues across Anderson Mesa.

After reaching Horse Lake, I make camp for the night. The sky is black as coal and the night is filled with coyotes howling.

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Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Trail SurfaceDirt trail
Length (Mi)24.3
SeasonSpring-fall. No vehicular access to this section December-mid May. Feet of snow in winter.
Potential Water SourcesCrane Lake (mi 46.5 SOBO, 742.2 NOBO)
Little Pleasant Valley Tank (mi 48.8 SOBO, 739.9 NOBO)
Wildlife Drinker (mi 56.5 SOBO, 732.2 NOBO)
Dog Lake (mi 56.6 SOBO, 732.1 NOBO)
North Canyon Spring (mi 58.9 SOBO, 729.8 NOBO)
Crystal Spring (mi 59.5 SOBO, 729.2 NOBO)
Sourdough Well (mi 62.1 SOBO, 726.6 NOBO)
Upper North Canyon Creek (mi 63.9 SOBO, 724.9 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Telephone Hill
South: Grand Canyon National Park boundary
Trailhead AccessNorth: Vehicular access via FR 241 off AZ-67
South: Foot access only
WildernessNo, but it can feel like it. Most hikers in the area stick to the national park. Or are passing through to reach routes in the national park.
Possible resupply pointsNorth Rim Country Store & Meadow’s Edge
Accessed via FR 216 at AZT MM 54.6 S/734.1 N
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Various
Ecosystems TraversedGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Logistical details – sources include personal experience, Guthook Guides, ATA Guidebook
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Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer WoodlandGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
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



* 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* 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
* 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 SucculentsN/APrickly pear, occasionally
AquaticsN/A* Bulrush
* Buttercups
* Rushes
* Sedges
* Water plantains
Passage 40 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Pleasant Valley to Upper Tater Canyon (Passage 40, South Kaibab Plateau)

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

Toward the end of the day there is a second encounter with another thruhiker, this time with Eric, the hiker that I encountered several days ago when he was headed northbound (nobo) to Utah; he’s now headed southbound (sobo). Hiking together for a stretch, Eric and I come to a golden tree tunnel of aspens where the trail bends away from the road, then descends into Upper Tater Canyon. He’s moving faster so he presses on. It’s nearing sunset, but I can feel the breeze start to pick up and come up the valley. I have no desire to repeat last night, so exhausted as I am, I push through an extra few miles to reach cover. The trail crosses Upper Tater and ascends a ridge on the east side as it heads toward the east rim of the Kaibab Plateau. I spot a relatively flat camp spot beside the trail with some trees that can act as a wind fence and call it a day after about 17-18 miles just shy of the East Rim overlook where I hope to have service for my interview.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, descending into Pleasant Valley
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage passed hiking along the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Panoramic aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Panoramic aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Panoramic aspen foliage seen hiking along the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage among mixed conifers along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage among mixed conifers along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Golden tunnel of aspens along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspens along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Golden tunnel of aspens along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Golden aspens along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Panoramic aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail,
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage among mixed conifers along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen foliage along the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Evening in Upper Tater Canyon on the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Evening in Upper Tater Canyon on the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Evening in Upper Tater Canyon on the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Evening in Upper Tater Canyon on the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspen grove in Upper Tater Canyon on the Arizona Trail
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Evening in Upper Tater Canyon on the Arizona Trail
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspens and mixed conifer lining the Arizona Trail climbing out of Upper Tater Canyon
Hiking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens and mixed conifer lining the Arizona Trail climbing out of Upper Tater Canyon
Backpacking AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Day 12 route

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 29 – Flagstaff to Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 & 33, Flagstaff & Walnut Canyon)

Welcome back to Aspen’s Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail from Utah to Mexico. After doing a full resupply yesterday to get me through to Pine, where my next box has been shipped, and replacing some gear, including a new pair of boots and new sleeping pad, today started with breakfast with Oscar at Tourist Home, … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 29 – Flagstaff to Anderson Mesa (Passages 31 & 33, Flagstaff & Walnut Canyon)

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Arizona Trail Thruhike, Day 26: Passage 31 (Walnut Canyon), Part 2 (Arizona/Utah Day 33)

The ponderosas are dense throughout, and their reddish bark glows in the light that filters through the green needles. The gambel oaks continue to impress along the route as well, adding splashes of yellow, red, and orange to the green ponderosa woodlands. The trail crosses two spur trails leading to overlooks with more magnificent views of the canyon.

Arizona Trail, Day 26: Passage 31 – Walnut Canyon (Arizona/Utah Day 33)

The trail crosses FR 303, Old Walnut Canyon Road, and heads west toward Flagstaff. Rolling in and out of drainages, It traces the rim of Walnut Canyon in places, and veers away into the woods in others. Heading west, the forest transitions back to the ponderosas, rolling up and down through drainages. The ponderosas are dense throughout, and their reddish bark glows in the light that filters through the green needles. The gambel oaks continue to impress along the route as well, adding splashes of yellow, red, and orange to the green ponderosa woodlands. The trail crosses two spur trails leading to overlooks with more magnificent views of the canyon. Both well worth the minor extra mileage and time.

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Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 4

This morning starts with a stop at my last national park in northern Arizona, Walnut Canyon National Monument. Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 3

This morning starts with a stop at my last national park in northern Arizona, Walnut Canyon National Monument. Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part II

Walnut Canyon National Monument, one of 420 national parks in the National Park System, protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

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Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part I

Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff.

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Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain, Part 3 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 31)

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. Exiting the shadow of Elden Mountain, I … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain, Part 3 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 31)

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

The Arizona Trail wraps past golden oaks and aspens through Schultz Pass and innumerable drainages, then opens out to areas potentially impacted by the 1977 Radio Fire. Views of Elden Mountain open up, and I hike across US-89 through a tunnel, entering the Painted Canyon Preserve. Sunset clouds glow in the sky as I continue hiking south.

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Arizona Trail, Day 23: Flagstaff Zero (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 30)

Today is going to be a busy off day. I start it with a stop at Macy’s European Coffeehouse, an awesome breakfast place in downtown Flagstaff. They make particularly great waffles, but given the hiker hunger that all thruhikers suffer from, I add a smoothie and a breakfast sandwich for good measure today. I always make a point to stop here when I’m in Flag.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail: Dry Lake Hills to Flagstaff (Passage 33, Flagstaff)

The trail crosses to the flanks of Elden Mountain and continues to drop down toward Flagstaff. It crosses the Coconino National Forest border onto McMillan Mesa and into Buffalo Park, managed by Flagstaff. A wide rice grass meadow composes much of the park, crisscrossed with wide paths providing magnificent views of the San Francisco Peaks. Just magnificent, especially seen now in the late afternoon.

Arizona Trail, Day 22: Flagstaff, Part 2 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 28)

The gambel oaks are glorious with the light passing through the leaves, and the views of Elden Mountain – the other side of which was “apocalyptically burned” in the 1970s Radio Fire, according to my AZT guidebook – are spectacular. Mule deer graze among the rice grass and trees. The gambel oaks continue to look incredible. It’s amazing how as I progress south I seem to be seeing the progression of the foliage across different tree species as well as within the species. Makes for an ever changing and spectacular color display.

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Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Trail SurfaceDirt trail
Length (Mi)24.3
SeasonSpring-fall. No vehicular access to this section December-mid May. Feet of snow in winter.
Potential Water SourcesCrane Lake (mi 46.5 SOBO, 742.2 NOBO)
Little Pleasant Valley Tank (mi 48.8 SOBO, 739.9 NOBO)
Wildlife Drinker (mi 56.5 SOBO, 732.2 NOBO)
Dog Lake (mi 56.6 SOBO, 732.1 NOBO)
North Canyon Spring (mi 58.9 SOBO, 729.8 NOBO)
Crystal Spring (mi 59.5 SOBO, 729.2 NOBO)
Sourdough Well (mi 62.1 SOBO, 726.6 NOBO)
Upper North Canyon Creek (mi 63.9 SOBO, 724.9 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Telephone Hill
South: Grand Canyon National Park boundary
Trailhead AccessNorth: Vehicular access via FR 241 off AZ-67
South: Foot access only
WildernessNo, but it can feel like it. Most hikers in the area stick to the national park. Or are passing through to reach routes in the national park.
Possible resupply pointsNorth Rim Country Store & Meadow’s Edge
Accessed via FR 216 at AZT MM 54.6 S/734.1 N
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Various
Ecosystems TraversedGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
Logistical details – sources include personal experience, Guthook Guides, ATA Guidebook
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Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer WoodlandGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
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



* 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* 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
* 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 SucculentsN/APrickly pear, occasionally
AquaticsN/A* Bulrush
* Buttercups
* Rushes
* Sedges
* Water plantains
Passage 40 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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Backpacking The Amazing Arizona Trail, Day 5: Little Round Valley to Pleasant Valley (AZT Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South)

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

Hiking south on the Arizona Trail, the Kaibab Plateau rolls across the ridges and valleys and the trail continues to pass dark ponderosa interspersed with – and sometimes dominated by, in fire-impacted areas – magnificent aspens.

Relive Video, Part II
Backpacking the Arizona Trail south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking past aspens on the Arizona Trail south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through Arizona Trail aspens south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail, Little Round Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking through Arizona Trail aspens south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail hiking through aspens & conifers, Little Round Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens & conifers line the Arizona Trail backpacking in Little Round Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail climbing out of Little Round Valley
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the Arizona Trail past aspens in fall foliage
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Hiking the Arizona Trail past aspens in fall foliage, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the Arizona Trail past aspens in fall foliage
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail through aspens in fall foliage
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
A large pond – a rare source of water at the end of a dry summer – sits beside conifer-covered hills backpacking through the rolling southern section of the Kaibab Plateau
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Wild turkeys run across the Arizona Trail on the southern Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Mixed conifer forest and golden rice grass meadows on the southern Kaibab Plateau, seen backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking past blue spruce, signifying higher elevations
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail through mixed conifer forest on the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the Arizona Trail through mixed conifer forest
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail through mixed conifer forest
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking past mixed confer forest bordering meadows along the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the Arizona Trail entering mixed conifer forest
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking past aspens among mixed conifer trees on the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking past aspens among conifer trees on the Arizona Trail atop the Kaibab Plateau
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
The Arizona Trail backpacker descends into Pleasant Valley, toward aspens and conifers in fall foliage
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspens and conifers wait around the bend as the Arizona Trail hiker descends into Pleasant Valley
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens and conifers cover the hillsides of the rolling southern Kaibab Plateau on Passage 40 of the Arizona Trail. AZ-67 is on the extreme right in the main portion of Pleasant Valley
AZT Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South
Kaibab National Forest

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Arizona Trail, Day 21, Part 2: Heart of the San Francisco Peaks (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 27)

The Arizona Trail continues through massive groves of mature aspen and across rice grass meadows below the San Francisco Peaks. Contouring around below Humphreys and Agassiz Peaks, the two highest in Arizona, the view of the Peaks themselves and the western San Francisco Volcanic Field, over to Kendrick Peak and Bill Williams Mountain near Williams, is wide-open and magnificent.

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Arizona Trail, Day 21: Heart of the San Francisco Peaks (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 27)

As the trail ascends again to traverse the mountain flank, the ponderosas transition further to aspens and mixed conifer forest again. These seem to be slightly past peak in places, but many are still quite magnificent. The trail passes through mature forest and rice grass meadows as it contours along the lower slopes of the mountains below Humphreys and Agassiz Peaks, the two highest peaks in Arizona. The weather is perfect, and the aspen leaves glow in the high elevation light. I’ll let some of their beauty again speak for themselves here, before continuing on in the next entry.

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Arizona Trail, Day 18: Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 24)

Well, I’ve officially found my least favorite part of the trail so far. The first 5 miles today from Moqui Stage Station to the border of the Kaibab National Forest are nice…and then the views disappear and a long roadwalk down a valley begins where one crosses into the Babbit Ranch Passage (Passage 35). The … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 18: Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 24)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 17: Passage 36, Coconino Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 23)m

Today began with a continuation of the southward trek along the Coconino Rim. The rolling hike along the rim of the Coconino Plateau passes through a combination of ponderosas and, through the trees, views off the plateau toward the Navajo Nation. As the trail rises slowly back to the top of the rim and heads … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 17: Passage 36, Coconino Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 23)m

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 15: Passage 37, Grand Canyon South Rim

Hiking across more limestone ridges on the Coconino Plateau past rice grass meadows, scrub, and pines with gambel oaks. The trail ultimately passes through an area that seems the subject of a recent prescribed burn shortly before I call it for the night. The oaks aren’t quite the aspens but they are putting on a good show as well.

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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Bright Angel Campground (Colorado River) to South Rim (Passage 39, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon)

In stark contrast to the North Rim at around 8800 ft, the Colorado at Phantom is only around 2500 ft, or around the same elevation as Phoenix, so the weather it experiences is more akin to Central Arizona valleys than it is the rims of the Canyon. A hike through Grand Canyon crosses between 5-8 ecosystems, depending of where the precise boundaries are drawn, and can be like hiking from Mexico to Canada from an ecological perspective. Crossing the Colorado the trail quickly ascends around 1500 ft to the rim of the Inner Canyon. During this climb, I am treated to some great views of river trips launching again after having lunch at Phantom Ranch.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Ribbon Falls to Bright Angel Campground (Passage 38, Grand Canyon National Park Inner Canyon)

It’s getting dark when I rejoin the trail, so I’ll supplement this stretch with some photos from May. The trail enters the Box for the final several miles to Bright Angel Campground. This narrow section of the canyon is carved out of the Vishnu Schist, some of the oldest rock visible in the world (about … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Ribbon Falls to Bright Angel Campground (Passage 38, Grand Canyon National Park Inner Canyon)

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

The Arizona Trail almost directly parallels AZ-67, rolling through the hills beside. It crosses the road and follows an old corridor down the west side past Thompson Canyon to the Widforss Trailhead past more magnificent aspen foliage, then on to the North Rim of Grand Canyon. Also covering the logistics and ecology of the passage.

Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail: Upper Tater Canyon to East Rim Overlook (AZT Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South)

I’m on the trail early, hiking south toward the northern boundary of Grand Canyon National Park. As I noted in an earlier entry, one of the perils of combining being a seasonal ranger and thruhiking in the offseason (or shoulder seasons) is that one must make oneself available for interviews in sometimes inconvenient times or places. I owe a park a return call at some point today. Based on the tip I received from a nobo hiker yesterday, I hope to have service at the East Rim Overlook about 2 miles south of my campsite last night. Hiking south, the trail passes through even more glorious aspens as well as beautiful subalpine conifer forest on its way to the overlook . Logistics and ecological details follow the photos.

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Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Trail SurfaceDirt trail
Length (Mi)24.3
SeasonSpring-fall. No vehicular access to this section December-mid May. Feet of snow in winter.
Potential Water SourcesCrane Lake (mi 46.5 SOBO, 742.2 NOBO)
Little Pleasant Valley Tank (mi 48.8 SOBO, 739.9 NOBO)
Wildlife Drinker (mi 56.5 SOBO, 732.2 NOBO)
Dog Lake (mi 56.6 SOBO, 732.1 NOBO)
North Canyon Spring (mi 58.9 SOBO, 729.8 NOBO)
Crystal Spring (mi 59.5 SOBO, 729.2 NOBO)
Sourdough Well (mi 62.1 SOBO, 726.6 NOBO)
Upper North Canyon Creek (mi 63.9 SOBO, 724.9 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Telephone Hill
South: Grand Canyon National Park boundary
Trailhead AccessNorth: Vehicular access via FR 241 off AZ-67
South: Foot access only
WildernessNo, but it can feel like it. Most hikers in the area stick to the national park. Or are passing through to reach routes in the national park.
Possible resupply pointsNorth Rim Country Store & Meadow’s Edge
Accessed via FR 216 at AZT MM 54.6 S/734.1 N
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Various
Ecosystems TraversedGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
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Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer WoodlandGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
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



* 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* 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
* 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 SucculentsN/APrickly pear, occasionally
AquaticsN/A* Bulrush
* Buttercups
* Rushes
* Sedges
* Water plantains
Passage 40 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail, Day 5: Telephone Hill to Little Round Valley (Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South)

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

Hiking south on Passage 40, the backpacker crosses Telephone Hill, where the pines and aspens offer a respite from the Kaibab winds. Dropping down the back side, the trail passes Crane Lake and proceeds south through a meadow before gradually ascending into aspens and pines once again. Aspens and conifer covered hills dominate the remainder of the route, rolling across hills hiking south toward Little Round Valley.

Relive Video, Part II
Hiking past Crane Lake on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens beside trail near Crane Lake, backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens at Crane Lake, hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens & Pines cover rolling hills beside the AZT & AZ-67, backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking the AZT near Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking the AZT south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Reentering woods south of Crane Lake, backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking past aspens on AZT south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking past aspens along the AZT south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through aspens and mixed conifers on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through aspens and mixed conifers on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through aspens and mixed conifers on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through conifers & aspen forest
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens and conifer forest on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Hiking through meadows, aspens & pines
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking past meadows, aspens & pines
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens and mixed conifers on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking panorama through aspens and mixed conifers along the AZT
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking panorama through aspens and mixed conifers on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Hiking panorama through aspens and mixed conifers on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens and mixed conifers on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through aspens and mixed conifers along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens and mixed conifers on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking through aspens and mixed conifers on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Pleasant Valley to Upper Tater Canyon (Passage 40, South Kaibab Plateau)

Toward the end of the day there is a second encounter with another thruhiker, this time with Eric, the hiker that I encountered several days ago when he was headed northbound (nobo) to Utah; he’s now headed southbound (sobo). Hiking together for a stretch, Eric and I come to a golden tree tunnel of aspens … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Pleasant Valley to Upper Tater Canyon (Passage 40, South Kaibab Plateau)

Backpacking The Amazing Arizona Trail, Day 5: Little Round Valley to Pleasant Valley (AZT Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South)

Hiking south on the Arizona Trail, the Kaibab Plateau rolls across the ridges and valleys and the trail continues to pass dark ponderosa interspersed with – and sometimes dominated by, in fire-impacted areas – magnificent aspens. Featuring loads of photos, logistics regarding the passage, and the diverse ecology of the passage.

Backpacking The Arizona Trail: MM 39 to Telephone Hill (AZT Passage 41, Central Kaibab Plateau, & 40, Kaibab Plateau South)

The North Rim tried to kill me last night. I woke up at 2:45 with a frozen left big toe. I pulled my shell layer into my bag in an effort to stay warm and managed to do so. I got up around six when the sun breaks over and headed south across the burn area. The wind was brutal, continuing to blow me sideways on the trail in places.

Trail logistics and amazing landscapes of aspen groves in addition to today’s journal entry & ecology for the flagship trail of the third most diverse state in the country.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 4: MM 37.2 to MM 39 (AZT Passage 41, Central Kaibab Plateau)

The trail continues through the burn scar of the 2006 Warm Fire, In between looking around at the aspens in the prior two posts, a crack opens in the tree line to the west. The first southbound view of Grand Canyon opens up in the distance. Plus, logistics and ecology of the central Kaibab Plateau for those interested in following in these footsteps or learning more detail.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail: FR 205B to MM 37.2 (AZT Passage 41, Central Kaibab Plateau)

Continuing through the aspen groves and ponderosa forest of the central Kaibab Plateau. It’s slow going, as the aspens in their splendor are very distracting. The day continues through ponderosa groves and then enters the burn scar left by the 2006 Warm Fire. Entering the burn scar, the wind picks up substantially, and even without … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail: FR 205B to MM 37.2 (AZT Passage 41, Central Kaibab Plateau)

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 3: Northern and Central Kaibab Plateau (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 10)

Continuing across the northern Kaibab today and onto the central (Passage 41). I encounter my first AZT hiker, Eric, to whom I give a great recommendation for Vermilion Cliffs – anyone who read my entries for the first week of this trek surely knows why. I also encounter some friends from Grand Canyon who were … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 3: Northern and Central Kaibab Plateau (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 10)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Buckskin Mountain to Kaibab Plateau North (AZT Day 2, Passages 43 & 42; Arizona/Utah Day 9)

Another early start. I make it off Passage 43 (Buckskin Mountain) by mid morning and break into the northern Kaibab Plateau (Passage 42). The land shifts from BLM land at the start and enters the Kaibab National Forest south of the Passage boundary. I’m having some issues charging given the intermittent shade cast by the … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail: Buckskin Mountain to Kaibab Plateau North (AZT Day 2, Passages 43 & 42; Arizona/Utah Day 9)

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

“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”

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Backpacking Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness – Buckskin Gulch to the Arizona Trail (AZT Approach Day 8, Part 1)

Broke camp early in Buckskin Gulch this morning and headed out. I make better time than I expect, and encounter the Dragoos from Oklahoma about 1.5 mi from Wire Pass. I’m surprised that I’m that close to the Pass, since I hadn’t expected to make it for several miles. We have breakfast together and hike … Continue reading Backpacking Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness – Buckskin Gulch to the Arizona Trail (AZT Approach Day 8, Part 1)

Backpacking Buckskin Gulch, Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, AZT Approach Day 7)

I begin backpacking up Buckskin Gulch. After dragging my pack over the boulder jam – a much more difficult undertaking than yesterday without the pack – I start upcanyon (see photos). It’s an incredible journey that photos will tell better than words, heading westbound through the canyon and gazing up at the narrow strips of sky, icing light and rare deeper light penetrations. No quicksand, which can form here at this time of year but has not this year with how dry it has been. There are places where you can reach out and touch both sides of the canyon at once.

Plus, logistics for the hike through the entire wilderness area.

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Backpacking Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Arizona Trail Approach Day 5, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Dawn finds me encamped at Big Springs. I get another slow start than I’d like, this time due to weather. Expecting potential rain and knowing about remnants of Tropical Storm Lorena in area, and in relatively safe spot with gear prepped for rain, I opt to wait. Flash floods are the top weather-related killer in … Continue reading Backpacking Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Arizona Trail Approach Day 5, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

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Passage 40 (Kaibab Plateau South)
Trail SurfaceDirt trail
Length (Mi)24.3
SeasonSpring-fall. No vehicular access to this section December-mid May. Feet of snow in winter.
Potential Water SourcesCrane Lake (mi 46.5 SOBO, 742.2 NOBO)
Little Pleasant Valley Tank (mi 48.8 SOBO, 739.9 NOBO)
Wildlife Drinker (mi 56.5 SOBO, 732.2 NOBO)
Dog Lake (mi 56.6 SOBO, 732.1 NOBO)
North Canyon Spring (mi 58.9 SOBO, 729.8 NOBO)
Crystal Spring (mi 59.5 SOBO, 729.2 NOBO)
Sourdough Well (mi 62.1 SOBO, 726.6 NOBO)
Upper North Canyon Creek (mi 63.9 SOBO, 724.9 NOBO)
TrailheadsNorth: Telephone Hill
South: Grand Canyon National Park boundary
Trailhead AccessNorth: Vehicular access via FR 241 off AZ-67
South: Foot access only
WildernessNo, but it can feel like it. Most hikers in the area stick to the national park. Or are passing through to reach routes in the national park.
Possible resupply pointsNorth Rim Country Store & Meadow’s Edge
Accessed via FR 216 at AZT MM 54.6 S/734.1 N
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Various
Ecosystems TraversedGreat Basin Subalpine Conifer Forest
Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Woodland
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Great Basin Subalpine 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 40 Ecology (source: Arizona Trail Association AZT Guide & NatureServe). Only California and Texas are more diverse ecologically than Arizona.
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Backpacking The Arizona Trail: MM 39 to Telephone Hill (AZT Passage 41, Central Kaibab Plateau, & 40, Kaibab Plateau South)

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

The North Rim tried to kill me last night. I woke up at 2:45 with a frozen left big toe. I pulled my shell layer into my bag in an effort to stay warm and managed to do so. I got up around six when the sun breaks over and headed south across the burn area. The wind was brutal, continuing to blow me sideways on the trail in places. More magnificent aspen groves commenced amid the rolling plateau as the Arizona Trail heads southbound once again toward Telephone Hill. This entire stretch was impacted by the Warm Fire in 2006, leaving little shelter but allowing for the widespread aspen growth, as aspens are one of the first trees to recolonize a disturbed area after a fire. Telephone Hill provides a great vantage point over Arizona-67 reaching south through the hills and valleys of the southern Kaibab toward the North Rim of Grand Canyon, and its intact pine forest provides a welcome break from the wind that has been incessant since last night.

Logistics and ecology for the passage can be found after today’s photos.

Relive video for today (Passage 40)
Hiking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
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Hiking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through fall aspens in Warm Fire burn scar
Arizona Trail, Passage 41 (Central Kaibab Plateau)
Kaibab National Forest