Arizona Trail

Arizona Trail, mules at the Grand CanyonThe Arizona Trail started as the dream of Flagstaff hiker and schoolteacher, Dale Shewalter. While hiking in the Santa Rita Mountains in the early 1970s, Shewalter conceived the idea of a trail stretching across Arizona from Mexico to Utah. Since that time, hundreds of trail enthusiast have been inspired by this vision and have joined together to make the Arizona Trail a reality. The trail is intended to be a primitive, long distance trail that highlights the state's topographic, biologic, historic and cultural diversity. Learn more at the expanded website managed by the Arizona Trail Association External Link.

Current Status

Arizona Trail AssociationCurrently 94% of the trail is complete, with over 800 miles of diverse and scenic trails across Arizona, from Mexico to Utah. Volunteers are needed to help finish this legacy project, learn more about volunteering External Link.

The vision of the Arizona Trail includes:

  • Arizona TrailCreating a non-motorized, primitive trail connecting deserts, mountains, forests, wilderness, canyons, communities, and people;
  • Linking existing and new trail segments to form a continuous pathway south to north across the state;
  • Providing opportunities to experience and reflect upon Arizona's diverse cultural and natural heritage along the trail corridor;
  • Providing high quality recreational and educational experiences for Arizona's residents and visitors;
  • Promoting land stewardship in the development and use of the trail in a way that cultivates appreciation and protection of the State's natural resources;
  • Promoting multiple non-motorized trail use by hikers, equestrians, mountain bicyclists, and cross-country skiers on a shared trail or within a general trail corridor whenever appropriate and in keeping with local land management objectives;
  • Continuing the existing model public-private partnership to create and maintain a long-distance trail.

Share the TrailShare the Trail

Understanding shared-use trail etiquette can make hiking, biking, and riding trails more enjoyable for everyone. Learn some basic principles and tips for using shared-use trails. Learn more.

Characteristics of the Arizona Trail

Characteristics of the Arizona Trail
Life Zone Elevation Plants Geographic Region
Sonoran Desertscrub - Lower Colorado 100–3000' creosote, bursage, saltbush, mesquite, acacia Tortilla Mts. to Superstition Mts.
Sonoran Desertscrub - Arizona Upland 500–4500' paloverde, mesquite, bursage, jojoba, creosote, saguaro, ocotillo, cholla Oracle to Roosevelt Lake
Chihuahan Desertscrub 3200–5000' creosote, tarbush, acacia, ocotillo Cienega Creek to Rincon Valley
Great Basin Desertscrub 3000–6500' sagebrush, blackbrush, shadscale, mormon-tea Buckskin Mts. at Utah border 
Mountain Meadow Grassland 7500–10,000' grasses, wildflowers Kaibab Plateau
Desert Grassland 5000–7000' grama grasses, yucca, sotol, beargrass, mesquite, cholla Empire-Cienega, Redington Pass, Black Hills
Chaparral 4000–6000' oak, manzanita Superstition Mts. to Mazatzal Mts.
Oak-Pine Woodland 4000–7000' oak, pine, juniper, cypress Huachuca Mts. to Santa Rita Mts., Rincon & Catalina Mts.
Juniper-Pinyon Woodland 5500–7500' juniper, pinyon, sagebrush, cliffrose Hardscrabble Mesa, Coconino Rim, North Kaibab Plateau 
Montane Conifer Forest 6000–9500' pine, fir, oak, aspen Huachuca Mts., Catalina Mts, Highline Passage to Flagstaff, South Rim Grand Canyon, Central Kaibab Plateau
Spruce-Alpine Fir Forest 8500–11,500' spruce, fir, pine, aspen Kaibab Plateau, San Francisco Peaks
Alpine Tundra < 11,000' grasses, lichen, mosses San Francisco Peaks summit
Riparian Deciduous Woodland   cottonwood, willow, sycamore, walnut, ash, tamarisk Along streams, rivers, and washes


Partnership History

1985: Dale Shewalter walks the length of the state, visualizing a future route, and proposes the concept of the Arizona Trail to the State Parks Board.

1988: Dale Shewalter becomes the first Arizona Trail (Steward) Coordinator, under the Kaibab National Forest (funded by the Kaibab, Coronado, Tonto, and Coconino National Forests). The first segment of the Arizona Trail is dedicated: seven miles of the Kaibab Plateau Trail.

1993: An Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was signed to encourage coordination and communication among the Arizona Trail Partners. The IGA also established the Arizona Trail Steward position, which is now housed in Arizona State Parks. The Arizona Trail Steward is a temporary staff position funded by the primary Arizona Trail Partners.

1994: The Arizona Trail Association, the non-profit organization supporting the development of the Arizona Trail, was established.

1995: A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed, expanding the Arizona Trail partnerships to include all of the following partners:

  • Trail WorkersArizona State Parks
  • Arizona Trail Association
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • City of Flagstaff
  • National Park Service:
       Coronado National Memorial
       Grand Canyon National Park
       Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program
       Saguaro National Park
       Walnut Canyon National Monument
  • Trail WorkersPima County
  • Pinal County
  • U.S. Forest Service:
       Coronado National Forest
       Tonto National Forest
       Coconino National Forest
       Kaibab National Forest

Learn more at the expanded website External Link

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