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

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.

View into Walnut Canyon within 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 the upper Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings visible from the Island Trail in Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings along the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings along the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings along the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings along the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument
Cliff dwellings visible from the Island Trail in Walnut Canyon National Monument

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

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

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 views disappear until after Upper Lockwood Tank. From there it gets marginally better with nice views of the Peaks returning, but with a full moon I choose to hike a few extra hours at night to cut down on tomorrow’s distance on this passage. I meet Coyote, another sobo thru-hiker, on the trail twice today, first just after breakfast and again and he tells me about seeing some coyotes and a mountain lion fight over an elk that he saw that morning. Very cool wildlife encounter, maybe I’ll get to see something like that?

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The Arizona Trail heads through the pinyon-juniper forest of the Coconino Plateau
AZT Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch
Kaibab National Forest
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The Arizona Trail heads through the pinyon-juniper forest of the Coconino Plateau
AZT Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch
Kaibab National Forest
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The San Francisco Peaks rise above the pinyon-juniper woodland of the Coconino Plateau
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
Kaibab National Forest
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The San Francisco Peaks rise above the pinyon-juniper woodland of the Coconino Plateau
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
Kaibab National Forest
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Juniper beside the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
Kaibab National Forest
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The Arizona Trail exits the Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail Passage 35, Babbitt Ranch.
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Entering Babbitt Ranch after exiting the Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)

Water along this stretch of trail is pretty limited. There was a cache at Moqui Stage Station and a tank that is open to hikers to use at Tub Ranch. Other than that, its hot, dry, and exposed. The only access point passed today was Moqui Stage Station off FR-301 at the start.

Section Details:

Water SourcesMoqui Stage Station (potential caches, no natural source)
Tub Ranch water tank
TrailheadMoqui Stage Station (accessed via FR-301 in the Kaibab National Forest)
Section details for today’s stretch of trail as hiked
Length24.5 miles
Water SourcesMoqui Stage Station (potential caches, no natural source)
Tub Ranch water tank
Cedar Ranch (supply box)
TrailheadMoqui Stage Station (accessed via FR-301 in the Kaibab National Forest)
Cedar Ranch
Full passage details
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The Arizona Trail passes through rabbitbrush meadows heading south
AZT Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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The San Francisco Peaks and San Francisco Volcanic Field rise out of the Colorado Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass meadows. Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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The San Francisco Peaks rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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Hills of the San Francisco Volcanic Field rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows. Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch).
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The San Francisco Peaks and the hills and mountains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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The San Francisco Peaks and the hills and mountains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch).
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The San Francisco Peaks (center) and the hills and mountains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, such as Kendrick Peak (right), rise out of the Coconino Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch).
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The AZT curves towards the San Francisco Peaks (left) and the eastern hills and mountains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, such as Kendrick Peak (center), rise out of the Colorado Plateau among pinyon-juniper woods and rice grass/rabbitbrush meadows.
Arizona Trail Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch).
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Full Moon Hiking
Arizona Trail, Passage 35 (Babbitt Ranch)
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Arizona Trail, Day 49: Whiterock Mesa

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.

Arizona Trail, Passage 25: Whiterock Mesa, Part 2

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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Arizona Trail, Day 46 – Passage 26 (Hardscrabble 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.

Arizona Trail, Day 45 – 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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Arizona Trail, Day 17: Passage 36, Coconino Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 23)

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

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 back across the Plateau, the ecosystem starts to shift. Junipers start to appear. The trail passes Russell Tank, one of the many wildlife tanks maintained by the state to provide water to wildlife. It’s the first time on the hike that I’ve had to filter water out of a tank, and the tank is low after the dry summer, but there is enough to pull but the water is decent quality, so I set up my Sawyer and get a few liters to get me to the Babbitt Ranch passage. One disturbing thing happens, though. As I step in the mud on the edge of the tank to suck some water into my filter bag, I feel a tug on the sole of my right hiking boot. Looking down, I see the sole of my boot start to separate from the body.

It’s going to be a race to Flagstaff now. Hopefully I can get there and get a new pair before my sole comes off.

After filtering the water of organisms and sediment (this IS Arizona, after all, one can’t be picky, but the Sawyer works great for filtering all that out), I’m heading south again. The ecotone is definitely getting into gear now. The pines start to thin out; more rice grass appears between them. Pinyon pines appear, joining the juniper that had appeared earlier. Moving farther from the rim, the ecosystem change is finalized. The ponderosas disappear completely, becoming replaced by pinyon pines and juniper spaced by rice grass meadows. Humphreys Peak and the San Francisco Peaks appear above the treeline. In a few days, I will be at their foot.

The day ends at the ruins of Moqui Stage Station, one of the stops on the original stagecoach route that took early tourists from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon. Stone ruins and an interpretive sign mark the site today – the main one being what could have been perhaps a water tank for horses at one point.

Setting up camp, I get a spectacular view of the full moon rising through the umbra (the shadow of the Earth) and the Belt of Venus. Just gorgeous to sit and watch that happen…with no one for miles around.

(Post will be updated with my Relieve video for today.)

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Dwarf mistletoe impacts along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Dwarf mistletoe impacts to young ponderosa pines along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail tracing the Coconino Rim
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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View off the Coconino Rim from the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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View through the pines off the Coconino Rim along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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View through the pines off the Coconino Rim along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail through the ponderosa pines on the Coconino Rim
AZT Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Junipers starting to appear along the Arizona Trail, first sign of another ecosystem shift
AZT, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Juniper berries, Arizona Trail, Kaibab National Forest
(Note: Juniper “berries” are not true berries, but rather a type of cone with merged, fleshy scales, making it appear like a berry.)
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Downed trees are a major challenge on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail through pinelands, about 9 miles from the Kaibab National Forest border at Moqui Stage Station
AZT, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Unfortunately a photo cannot do enough to communicate the smell of walking through this particular landscape.
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Gambel oaks in fall foliage
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Gambel oaks in fall foliage
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Russell Tank
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
One of the first water sources along the trail that actually had water. Filled up here for the trek south.
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Russell Tank
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
One of the first water sources along the trail that actually had water. Filled up here for the trek south.
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Gambel oaks along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
7 miles from Moqui Stage Station, 12 from the forest boundary.
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Healthy, well-spaced ponderosas along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Healthy, well-spaced ponderosas along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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First glimpse of the San Francisco Peaks over the pines as the Arizona Trail emerges into rice grass meadows bordering the Coconino Rim
AZT Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest

San Francisco Peaks behind over the treeline.
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Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Pines and junipers among rice grass
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
Pines getting more spread out, transitioning to more junipers moving away from the rim.
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Arizona Trail running through junipers among rice grass
AZT Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail running through junipers among rice grass
AZT Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Pinyon pine
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Ecosystem transition to pinyon-juniper scrubland. San Francisco Peaks on horizon
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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San Francisco Peaks above pinyon-juniper scrubland.
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Sunset Juniper
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Remains of Moqui Stage Station
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Remains of Moqui Stage Station
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Sunset from Moqui Stage Station
Arizona Trail Passage 36 (Coconino Rim), Moqui Stage Station
Kaibab National Forest
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Full moon rising through the shadow of the earth (blue) and into the Belt of Venus (pink) above the pinyons and junipers of the Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 36 (Coconino Rim)

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Arizona Trail, Day 43, Part III – Passage 27 (Highline)

The Arizona Trail following the Highline continues its route around Milk Ranch Point, passing some artifacts – perhaps ranching or mining related, as many seem to be in Arizona. Magnificent views to the south are common, with the Mazatzal Mountains an ever-increasing sight to the southeast.

Arizona Trail, Day 43, Part II – 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.

Arizona Trail, Day 42-43, Part I – 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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Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline), Part 3

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!

Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline), Part 2

Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline), Part 2

Magnificent views of the Mogollon Rim and one of the most ecologically diverse stretches of trail to date, this entry covers from the Washington Park Trailhead across the Highline National Recreation Trail.

Arizona Trail, Day 41 – Passage 27 (Highline)

It’s another chilly morning, camped directly on the Mogollon Rim. I’ll be dropping several thousand feet today to the base of the Rim, completing the long traverse of the Coconino National Forest and entering the Tonto National Forest with views that are nothing short of spectacular.

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Arizona Trail, Day 40 – 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 39 – Passage 28 (Blue Ridge), Part 2

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.

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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Arizona Trail, Day 35 – Passage 29 (Happy Jack)

It is brutally cold this morning, making it hard to even move much before 11. I believe it was around 20 at 9:00. Packing is a slow process in these temperatures. But, I pick up a few things that might make future packings faster in these temperatures, like doing most of it inside the tent at first and having a solid plan in advance to minimize time spent debating with oneself in the cold. Once packed, I head east along the forest road until coming to a trail crossing. There is a problem; the trail crosses on both sides. Clearly I missed a turnoff in the twilight yesterday evening. In both my purist nature and out of curiosity to see just where I made a wrong turn, I take the trail to the right, and it winds through the ponderosas back to Shuff Tank. It is clearly new, so this must be part of the new reroute, which has gone around the road stretch that I walked to get to the junction earlier. Instead of following the road on the north side of the tank, the trail now follows a singletrack around the west and south sides of the tank, then crosses the road on the east.

Arizona Trail, Day 34 – Passage 30 (Mormon Lake), Day 3

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 32 – Double Springs to Mormon Lake (Passage 30, Mormon Lake)

Heading south the trail passes an overlook of the ridges and of Mormon Lake itself, Arizona’s largest natural lake. It’s low (it often dries up under drought conditions to become Mormon Meadow) but the spring was wet enough that it hasn’t disappeared. It’s so windy that I’m almost blown off the overlook and my glasses ARE blown off (thankfully I catch them before they fall).

Arizona Trail, Day 31 – Anderson Mesa to Double Springs (Passages 30, 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.

Coronavirus and National Parks: All COVID-19 Impacts and Park Reopenings

Another period of big updates across the National Park System.

Here we will look at the status of all 500+ national parks and affiliates, see which have changed status or will soon, and look at the details of what is or is not currently available at each park.

Disclaimer: please observe all CDC recommendations for the safety of staff and visitors alike. They are there to help and serve you, please do them the courtesy of helping keep them safe.

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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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Arizona Trail, Day 15: Passage 37, Grand Canyon South Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Days 21)

Unfortunately, I feel like the past few days off have broken my rhythm in terms of mileage. I spent last night with some friends on the South Rim before returning to camp for the night. Unfortunately, it seems I left my wallet at Maswik when I stopped there for dinner. So I’m up early, and head back to pick up my wallet at Maswick. I also grab some more cold weather gear at the Market before returning to the trail. I push through about 6 miles on the day across the Coconino Plateau, through more limestone ridges, 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. Tonight is going to be a cold one; I set up the tent for the frst time on the trip to combat that. All clothes and electronics are in my sleeping bag tonight. The forecast is for the temperature to go down to 16ºF tonight, but unlike the Kaibab there’s no wind, so here’s hoping it’s a bit more manageable. Fingers crossed.

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AZT sign, showing 113 miles to Utah, 688 to Mexico
Arizona Trail, Passage 37 (Grand Canyon South Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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The AZT reenters the ponderosa forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 37 (Grand Canyon South Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Gambel oaks amid ponderosa pines
Arizona Trail, Passage 37 (Grand Canyon South Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Gambel oaks in fall foliage amid ponderosa pines and rice grass
Arizona Trail, Passage 37 (Grand Canyon South Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Gambel oaks in fall foliage amid ponderosa pines and rice grass
Arizona Trail, Passage 37 (Grand Canyon South Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Gambel oaks in fall foliage amid ponderosa pines and rice grass
Arizona Trail, Passage 37 (Grand Canyon South Rim)
Kaibab National Forest
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Gambel oaks in fall foliage amid ponderosa pines and rice grass
Arizona Trail, Passage 37 (Grand Canyon South Rim)
Kaibab National Forest

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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.

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The Arizona Trail Day 9 – Passage 39, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 16)

Grand Canyon’s formations on the north side of the Inner Gorge around Bright Angel Canyon, as viewed from Tipoff on the South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park. In the Inner Gorge, the Silver and Black Bridges can be seen, along with the mouth of Bright Angel Canyon and the creek delta, and Phantom Ranch. Formations such as Zoroaster’s Temple tower above.

Took a rare opportunity to sleep in a bit this morning. I’m familiar with the hike out from Phantom Ranch to the South Rim, even along the steeper South Kaibab Trail, so I’m relatively confident in even getting a slower start and still making it out by early evening. (Note – If I had not spent 6 months working here and accustomed to hiking here, I would not do this, so for those of you who may be considering hiking at Grand Canyon, please allow yourself plenty of time to hike out to the South Rim – ideally twice the amount of time that it took you to reach the bottom if you start from the South Rim, or about the same amount of time it took you to reach Phantom from the North Rim.). I get some breakfast at Phantom Ranch, the famous lodging within the Canyon designed by Mary Colter for the Fred Harvey Company and built at the bottom of Bright Angel Canyon just up from its junction with the Colorado River. Originally named Roosevelt Camp, Colter had the name changed to Phantom Ranch. All building materials other than rock (a prominent one, unsurprisingly) had to be hauled down by mule. Today, it is one of only two places in the United States where mail is still mailed by mule (and the cancellation stamps at the canteen proudly say so).

Around 11, I’m hiking out. The South Kaibab Trail turns east along the Colorado River from the mouth of Bright Angel Creek and passes Bright Angel Pueblo. The pueblo is 900-1000 years old, and was visited by John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Colorado River expedition, the first successful non-native attempt to raft the entire Grand Canyon.

The Kaibab Bridge from the South Kaibab Trail near Bright Angel Pueblo, Grand Canyon National Park
Bright Angel Pueblo, Grand Canyon National Park

From the Pueblo, the trail reaches the Kaibab Bridge, or Black Bridge, over the Colorado River. A 440 ft suspension bridge, it is the crossing for all mule trips from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch, and along with the Silver Bridge downstream (visible from the Kaibab Bridge) it is one of only two crossings between the Navajo Bridge at Lee’s Ferry and Hoover Dam. The construction materials for the bridge were carried down the newly constructed South Kaibab Trail in 1928, with 42 Havasupai tribesmen carrying each 1 ton, 550 ft suspension cables down the trail. The materials weighed 122 tons in total. It is a major civil engineering landmark.

Downstream view from the north side of the Kaibab Bridge over the Colorado River. The Boat Beach and Bright Angel Creek delta are visible in the center of the image. Walls of black Vishnu Schist with pink Zoroaster granite intrusions rise over 1000 ft above the river.
The Kaibab Bridge over the Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park
Downstream view from the Kaibab Bridge over the Colorado River. The Boat Beach and Bright Angel Creek delta are visible in the center of the image. Walls of black Vishnu Schist with pink Zoroaster granite intrusions rise over 1000 ft above the river.
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Downstream view from the Kaibab Bridge over the Colorado River. The Boat Beach and Bright Angel Creek delta are visible in the center of the image. Walls of black Vishnu Schist with pink Zoroaster granite intrusions rise over 1000 ft above the river.
Upstream view from the Kaibab Bridge over the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park, showing the cableway system that predated the bridge.
View across the Kaibab Bridge to the south side of the river, Grand Canyon National Park

Visible from the Kaibab Bridge are the Silver Bridge downstream, which the Bright Angel Trail uses to cross the river, as well as the cableway next to the bridge. The Black Bridge is the fourth crossing of the Colorado at the location. The first was a ferry, but this was extremely perilous. The second was the cableway, a 6×10 ft steel cage to carry passengers (mules and people) across the river. Theodore Roosevelt used it on a 1913 visit to then-Grand Canyon National Monument. A successor suspension bridge opened in 1920, to be succeeded by the Kaibab Bridge in 1928.

The river itself, unlike when I departed from Lee’s Ferry, is a deep brown today due to rain upstream. At such times, the river takes on its natural brown color, which in fact was what led to its name – “Rio Colorado,” meaning “colored river” or “red river” in Spanish. It’s refreshing to see it as it was seen for all of history before the construction of Glen Canyon Dam in the 1960s.

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. Below the rim, one passes through the riparian zone along the river, the Lower Sonoran Desert, Upper Sonoran Desert. The North Rim features ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests, and the South Rim ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper forest.

Passing through a brief tunnel on the south bank, the trail quickly ascends around 1500 ft to The Tipoff on the edge of the Tonto Platform, 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. The trail crosses the Tonto Platform and begins to climb toward Skeleton Point, through sections of the South Kaibab with colorful names such as the “Red & Whites,” and with outstanding views of the formations and scale of the canyon.

Downstream view of the Inner Canyon including the Colorado River and Bright Angel Creek delta, Grand Canyon National Park. The Silver Bridge is visible downstream.
View of the Kaibab Bridge from the South Kaibab Trail climbing out of the Inner Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park
River trip launching on the Colorado River from the Boat Beach on the Bright Angel Creek Delta near Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon National Park
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River trip launching on the Colorado River from the Boat Beach on the Bright Angel Creek Delta near Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon National Park
Downstream view of the Colorado River, Inner Gorge, Bright Angel Creek delta, Bright Angel Campground, Phantom Ranch, and the Silver Bridge over the Colorado. Grand Canyon National Park.
Zoroaster Temple (the sawtooth ridge) peeks above the lip of the Inner Gorge from the South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
River trip continuing downstream on the Colorado River in the Inner Gorge, as viewed from Tipoff on the South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
Zoroaster Temple viewed from Tipoff on the South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon’s formations on the north side of the Inner Gorge around Bright Angel Canyon, as viewed from Tipoff on the South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park. In the Inner Gorge, the Silver and Black Bridges can be seen, along with the mouth of Bright Angel Canyon and the creek delta, and Phantom Ranch. Formations such as Zoroaster’s Temple tower above.
North panorama centered on Zoroaster’s Temple from the South Kaibab Trail crossing the Tonto Platform, Grand Canyon National Park
Zoroaster Temple from the South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
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And then everything changes.

I came around a corner below Skeleton Point, just below the Red & Whites to find someone sitting in the middle of the trail. Upon my asking if they were OK, they said no, they thought they had broken their ankle. When I asked why they thought that, they said that “I tried to stand up, and it just flops to the side.” Yes, that’s a break. I say that I can splint it, but other than that we’d have to get more help down to get her out. But I ask if they want me to use my new inReach to contact GRCA SAR and get it, which they accept. I hit the SOS button on my inReach, and a hiker behind me helps splint it using their poles and cord that I carried while I ran to Tipoff to call GRCA SAR directly. Unfortunately it was too windy for a helicopter medivac at that time, so we had to wait about 2-3 hours for a medic to reach us on the trail. We got a firm splint on the ankle and lucked out – eventually they did get a helicopter window and managed to land and take the individual down a slope to where they had landed. Ended up hiking out with the husband of the individual in question; we topped around around 9-10. I have to say, given the wind we experienced on the upper South Kaibab, I’m shocked the helicopter managed to reach us at all. The backup plan was apparently to have them spend the night near Tipoff and launch in the morning.

So glad that I opted to carry an inReach for this trip, now. I didn’t expect it to pay off so soon, but, of course, that is the nature of an emergency.

Departure of the medevac that I assisted with.

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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.

Arizona Trail: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 4

Wrapping up at Walnut Canyon National Monument. After wrapping up the fantastic Island Trail, the Rim Trail yields some great sites as well, including an unexcavated site and several pueblos. The views of the canyon itself are pretty amazing too.

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.

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Arizona Trail, Day 26: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 2

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.

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)

Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain, Part 2 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 31)

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. Hiking on, the trail skirts Little Elden Mountain. Views of Elden Mountain open up, and I hike across 89 through a tunnel, entering the Painted Canyon Preserve. Sunset clouds glow in the sky as I hike south.

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The Arizona Trail, Day 8: Passage 38, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon, Part 1 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Day 15)

Grabbed a few things at the general store on the North Rim of Grand Canyon today, then packed up camp. The park has a number of special sites at the campground, available first-come, first-served, to those who hike or bike into the park. I then proceed over to the Backcountry Information Center, and get put on another thruhiker’s permit for Bright Angel Campground at the bottom, near the Colorado River. My pack weighs in at 46 pounds, not overly light but lighter than it has been. Obviously some of my efforts to cut weight before crossing the canyon paid off. After a side trip to see the aspens in Thompson Canyon, as recommended by the LE ranger that I spoke to yesterday, I head into the canyon.

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Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
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Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona

This is the only part of the Arizona Trail that I have solid familiarity with, having hiked from the South Rim to the North Rim and back in May. If there’s anything I know, it’s to expect the unexpected. In May I ran into rain, hail, and snow between Cottonwood and the North Rim as elevations changed. I was also delayed heading back to the South Rim the following day by several hours due to a torrential rainstorm that blew through. Fortunately, none of that materializes today. It’s still going to be warm at the bottom, but not as warm as it would have been had I started right when my season ended, and the warmth is a welcome change from the Kaibab cold of the past few nights. The trail starts 8297 ft of elevation and drops to the Colorado River at 2480 ft.

The route heads down the legendary North Kaibab Trail, past the Coconino Overlook, where I have a long conversation with a park PSAR volunteer hoping to do the trail themselves in the spring, to the Supai Tunnel, around which the grade peaks at 25%, one of the steepest on the entire AZT. Fortunately, I’m going down. By this point, I have descended through the Kaibab Limestone, Toroweap Formation, Coconino Sandstone, and into the Supai Group.

View down Roaring Springs Canyon from Coconino Overlook. Komo Point at junction of Roaring Springs and Bright Angel Canyons. South Rim can be seen in right-center, with San Francisco Peaks above. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from Coconino Overlook. Komo Point at junction of Roaring Springs and Bright Angel Canyons. South Rim can be seen in right-center, with San Francisco Peaks above. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
North Rim layering above the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38. Kaibab Formation at top, sloping Toroweap, Coconino Cliffs, and sloping Hermit Shale lead down to the Supai Group.
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View through the Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from the Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Redwall Bridge visible in shade, lower right of image.
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from the Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Redwall Bridge visible in shade, lower right of image.
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from the Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Redwall Bridge visible on lower right-center of image in shade.

The trail continues to descend. It enters the Redwall Limestone and drops through a series of switchbacks to the Redwall Bridge before beginning a more gradual traverse through the layer, a stretch where the trail was literally blasted out of the cliff, almost forming a half-tunnel. The trail continues through the Muav Limestone to Roaring Springs at the border with the Bright Angel Shale, the source of all of the drinking water for Grand Canyon National Park. The water from the springs is pumped to the North Rim and flows by gravity to Indian Gardens on the South Rim before being pumped to the rim itself from there. Entering Bright Angel Canyon, it passes through a segment of trail that was literally blown out of the side of the cliff by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the terrain was so rugged, forming a kind of half-tunnel above the trail in the side of the cliff.

View back toward Supai Tunnel from North Kaibab Trail descending into Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from north side of Redwall Bridge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from Redwall Bridge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Upcanyon view of Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park. Redwall Bridge in lower center. NK Trailhead is located in pine forest on upper left.
North Rim from North Kaibab Trail in Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park
Upcanyon view of Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park. Redwall Bridge in lower center. NK Trailhead is located in pine forest on upper left.
Roaring Springs, viewed from the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

View down & across Roaring Springs Canyon from North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Uncle Jim Point at upper left. Rim in distance is in Bright Angel Canyon.
North Kaibab Trail in Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. This section of trail, one of the most rugged and remote on the developed Corridor between the North and South Rims, was blown out of the cliff by the CCC in the 1930s.
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Arizona Trail, Day 24: Elden Mountain (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 30)

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.

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.

Arizona Trail, Day 22: Flagstaff, Part 3 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 28)

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.

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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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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.

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)

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

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

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Arizona Trail, Day 15: Passage 37, Grand Canyon South Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Days 21)

Unfortunately, I feel like the past few days off have broken my rhythm in terms of mileage. I spent last night with some friends on the South Rim before returning to camp for the night. Unfortunately, it seems I left my wallet at Maswik when I stopped there for dinner. So I’m up early, and … Continue reading Arizona Trail, Day 15: Passage 37, Grand Canyon South Rim (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Days 21)

The Arizona Trail Day 9 – Passage 39, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 16)

the trail reaches the Kaibab Bridge, or Black Bridge, over the Colorado River. A 440 ft suspension bridge, it is the crossing for all mule trips from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch, and along with the Silver Bridge downstream (visible from the Kaibab Bridge) it is one of only two crossings between the Navajo Bridge at Lee’s Ferry and Hoover Dam.

The river itself, unlike when I departed from Lee’s Ferry, is a deep brown today due to rain upstream. At such times, the river takes on its natural brown color, which in fact was what led to its name – “Rio Colorado,” meaning “colored river” or “red river” in Spanish. It’s refreshing to see it as it was seen for all of history before the construction of Glen Canyon Dam in the 1960s. 

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. Below the rim, one passes through the riparian zone along the river, the Lower Sonoran Desert, Upper Sonoran Desert. The North Rim features ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests, and the South Rim ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper forest.

Passing through a brief tunnel on the south bank, the trail quickly ascends around 1500 ft to The Tipoff on the edge of the Tonto Platform, 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. The trail crosses the Tonto Platform and begins to climb toward Skeleton Point, through sections of the South Kaibab with colorful names such as the “Red & Whites,” and with outstanding views of the formations and scale of the canyon.

The Arizona Trail, Day 8: Passage 38, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon, Part 1 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Day 15)

Grabbed a few things at the general store on the North Rim of Grand Canyon today, then packed up camp. The park has a number of special sites at the campground, available first-come, first-served, to those who hike or bike into the park. I then proceed over to the Backcountry Information Center, and get put … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 8: Passage 38, Grand Canyon Inner Canyon, Part 1 (Trans-Arizona/Utah Day 15)

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The Arizona Trail, Day 7, Part II: Passage 39, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Part I (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 14)

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

The Arizona Trail, Day 6: Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South, Part I

I’m on the trail early. 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 … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 6: Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South, Part I

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Grabbed a few things at the general store on the North Rim of Grand Canyon today, then packed up camp. The park has a number of special sites at the campground, available first-come, first-served, to those who hike or bike into the park. I then proceed over to the Backcountry Information Center, and get put on another thruhiker’s permit for Bright Angel Campground at the bottom, near the Colorado River. My pack weighs in at 46 pounds, not overly light but lighter than it has been. Obviously some of my efforts to cut weight before crossing the canyon paid off. After a side trip to see the aspens in Thompson Canyon, as recommended by the LE ranger that I spoke to yesterday, I head into the canyon.

Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
Aspens in Thompson Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from Coconino Overlook. Komo Point at junction of Roaring Springs and Bright Angel Canyons. South Rim can be seen in right-center, with San Francisco Peaks above. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from Coconino Overlook. Komo Point at junction of Roaring Springs and Bright Angel Canyons. South Rim can be seen in right-center, with San Francisco Peaks above. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
North Rim layering above the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38. Kaibab Formation at top, sloping Toroweap, Coconino Cliffs, and sloping Hermit Shale lead down to the Supai Group.
View through the Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from the Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Redwall Bridge visible in shade, lower right of image.
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from the Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Redwall Bridge visible in shade, lower right of image.
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from the Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Redwall Bridge visible on lower right-center of image in shade.
View back toward Supai Tunnel from North Kaibab Trail descending into Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from north side of Redwall Bridge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
View down Roaring Springs Canyon from Redwall Bridge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
North Rim from North Kaibab Trail in Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park
Upcanyon view of Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park. Redwall Bridge in lower center. NK Trailhead is located in pine forest on upper left.
Upcanyon view of Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park. Redwall Bridge in lower center. NK Trailhead is located in pine forest on upper left.
View down & across Roaring Springs Canyon from North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Uncle Jim Point at upper left. Rim in distance is in Bright Angel Canyon.
North Kaibab Trail in Roaring Springs Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. This section of trail, one of the most rugged and remote on the developed Corridor between the North and South Rims, was blown out of the cliff by the CCC in the 1930s.
Komo Point on the North Rim rises above the junction of Roaring Springs Canyon and Bright Angel Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, AZT Passage 38.
Roaring Springs, viewed from the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Tarantula on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Tarantula on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Tarantula on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Tarantula on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Tarantula on the North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Bright Angel Creek from the North Kaibab Trail in upper Bright Angel Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Arizona Trail Passage 38.
Bright Angel Creek from the North Kaibab Trail in upper Bright Angel Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Arizona Trail Passage 38.
Cascade waterfall on Bright Angel Creek from the North Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Arizona Trail Passage 38.
View toward the junction of Bright Angel Canyon (center) and Roaring Springs Canyon (left). Komo Point to right; Uncle Jim Point on upper left. View from North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
View down Bright Angel Canyon, North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
Remnant transcanyon telephone line built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
North Rim in Bright Angel Canyon from North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
North Rim in Bright Angel Canyon from North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
North Rim in Bright Angel Canyon from North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
Crescent moon above rim of Bright Angel Canyon, North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38
Bright Angel Canyon from North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
Bright Angel Canyon from North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
Bright Angel Canyon from North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.
Yes, there is still water in the desert.
Ribbon Falls, Bright Angel Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Trail Passage 38.

The Arizona Trail, Day 7: 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

Another cold morning. There are icicles in my water and some food has frozen. I’m on the trail around 7:30, in the vicinity of the highest point on the entire Arizona Trail. Setting out and hiking southward, the trail winds through meadows and past more aspen groves mixed with spruce/fir forest before crossing the unmarked highpoint of both the Kaibab and trail just before reaching the Grand Canyon National Park boundary.

This entire stretch falls within the boreal forest, between 8200-9200 ft in elevation. Accumulating 26 inches of precipitation per year, including an average of 10-12 feet of snow, and dominated by aspen and conifers such as Engelmann spruce & Douglas fir, the boreal forest on the North Rim has cool temperatures even in high summer, is the subject of extreme storms, and in named for Boreas, the North Wind.

Passage 40
Trail SurfacePrimarily dirt singletrack; some USFS roads
Length20.7 miles
SeasonAll year but road access closed November-May. Non motorized access only during that time.
Potential Water SourcesSourdough Well
Crystal Spring
Public caches
TrailheadsGrand Canyon National Park/Kaibab NF boundary (south)
Telephone Hill (north)
Various USFS road connections (midpoint), including FR 610
ATA- Rated DifficultyEasy to Moderate
Ecosystems traversedBoreal Forest
Logistical details
Hiking southbound on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall backpacking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Fall hiking on the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest

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The Arizona Trail, Day 5, Part III: South Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part II

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 The Arizona Trail, Day 5, Part III: South Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part II

The Arizona Trail, Day 5, Part II: Southern Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40)

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 dominate the remainder of the route, rolling across hills hiking south toward Little Round Valley.

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The Arizona Trail, Day 4: Central Kaibab Plateau, Part III (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 11)

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. I ultimately ran out of light in the burn … Continue reading The Arizona Trail, Day 4: Central Kaibab Plateau, Part III (Trans-Arizona/Utah Hike Day 11)

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

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The Arizona Trail, Day 2: Buckskin Mountain to Kaibab Plateau North (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 The Arizona Trail, Day 2: Buckskin Mountain to Kaibab Plateau North (Arizona/Utah Day 9)

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”

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

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

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Arizona Trail Approach Day 6: Paría Canyon and Buckskin Gulch (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

I’m running low on battery in these canyons with extremely limited solar power to recharge. The day starts with a flight of bats flying down the canyon. After that exciting start, I decide to hike up to Slide Rock and then turn around and hit Buckskin Gulch. Just past the confluence of Paría Canyon and … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 6: Paría Canyon and Buckskin Gulch (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Arizona Trail Approach Day 7: Buckskin Gulch, Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

After several hours spent trying to fill water bags and talking with a friendly BLM ranger, as well as a farewell encounter with Philip and Raj, I head up Buckskin Gulch. After dragging my pack over the boulder jam – a much more difficult undertaking than yesterday without the pack – I start up canyon … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 7: Buckskin Gulch, Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

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

Arizona Trail Approach Day 3: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Slow start this morning. The spring that I reached yesterday, the first on the trail, is little more than a trickle, and I have a lot of water to fill. It marks the border between the Chinle Formation and the Wingate Sandstone. As I begin to wind my way further up Paria Canyon, deeper and … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 3: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

What is Wilderness?

As I enter the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, I think that it’s important to take a moment to discuss the concept of wilderness.

The 1964 Wilderness Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, states “a wilderness in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.“ It was signed on September 3rd, 1964 and gives Congress the authority to create wilderness areas within public lands where things that are associated with manmade civilization – such as mechanized transportation, developed campgrounds, etc. – are prohibited and the area is allowed to remain in as natural a state as possible.

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The Arizona Trail, Day 6: Passage 40, Kaibab Plateau South, 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

I’m on the trail early. 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 on its way to the overlook.

Passage 40: Kaibab Plateau South
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack, occasionally doubletrack
Length (Mi)20.7
Elevation Change (ft)TBD
SeasonSpring-fall; winter brings feet of snow
Potential Water SourcesCrane Lake
Unnamed tank/lake
Little Pleasant Valley Tank
TrailheadsNorth: Telephone Hill (north) at FR 241
South: Grand Canyon National Park/Kaibab National Forest boundary
ATA-Rated DifficultyEasy to Moderate
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while hiking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens in fall colors stand among mixed conifers (spruce, fir, ponderosa pine) beside rice grass meadows while backpacking the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest

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Arizona Trail Approach Day 2: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Today was an absolutely exhilarating day. I climbed around countless rapids and waterfalls heading up Paria Canyon further into the wilderness area in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The soil around here can be cryptobiotic – essentially, living – so I stayed in the stream whenever possible to avoid damaging living soil. The canyon has started … Continue reading Arizona Trail Approach Day 2: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

South Rim to Lee’s Ferry

First day description, traveling from the South Rim of Grand Canyon to Marble Canyon and Lee’s Ferry in preparation for beginning the southbound trek to Mexico.

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Prologue: The Arizona Trail

I finally bit the bullet on a thruhike. Since I arrived at Grand Canyon National Park in March, I have been considering thruhiking the Arizona Trail across the state. For those who don’t know, the Arizona Trail is an 800 mile long hiking trail across Arizona. It starts at the Utah state line, skirts Buckskin … Continue reading Prologue: The Arizona Trail

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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The Arizona Trail, Day 5, Part III: South Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40), Part II

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 descend 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.

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

The Arizona Trail, Day 5, Part II: Southern Kaibab Plateau (Passage 40)

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.

Passage 40
Trail SurfaceDirt singletrack, primarily
Length20.7 mi
Elevation Change (ft)1916 up, 2016 down
SeasonAll year, best spring-fall. Road access closed November-May. Non motorized access only during that time. Winter brings feet of snow.
Potential Water SourcesUnreliable tanks; public caches.
Crane Lake
Unnamed tank/lake
Little Pleasant Valley Tank
TrailheadsTelephone Hill (north)
Various USFS road connections (midpoint)
Grand Canyon National Park/Kaibab NF boundary (south)
ATA Rated DifficultyEasy to Moderate
Logistical details
Relive Video, Part II
Arizona Trail, Crane Lake
AZT, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens beside AZT near Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens at Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Aspens & Pines cover rolling hills beside the AZT & AZ-67
AZT, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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AZT near Crane Lake, Passage 40
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
AZT south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
AZT reentering woods south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking past aspens on AZT south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking past aspens along the AZT south of Crane Lake
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through conifers & aspen forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens and conifer forest on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Hiking through meadows, aspens & pines
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking past meadows, aspens & pines
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through aspens along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Hiking through aspens along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through aspens along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
Hiking through aspens along the AZT
Arizona Trail, Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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Backpacking through aspens on the Arizona Trail
AZT Passage 40
Kaibab National Forest
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