Thanks to the support of the Arizona State Committee on Trails (ASCOT) and volunteers, we’re bringing even more premier trails to the system for everyone to enjoy! Since the inception of this program in 2017, we have received many nominations for Arizona Premier Trails System (APTS) status, and currently nine have been voted into the system. Land managers/Interested Parties, click here to submit an application for a deserving trail.
Designation: Scenic Trail
Location: 50 miles south of Tucson near Benson, Ariz.
The man-made concrete trails within Kartchner Caverns are located inside a hill of Escabrosa limestone formed nearly 300 million years ago! Kartchner's trails meander through thousands of spectacular speleothems,stalagmites and stalactites; many still growing after 50 thousand years or longer! Adding to the mystyque of the caverns, draperies that resemble bacon and formations similar in appearance to a melted strawberry sundae are all within view from the trail.
A paved one mile trail system traverses Kartchner's three main rooms to complete the circuit. Well trained, very informative park rangers and volunteers lead visitors through the underground labyrinth while educating them of area geology, biology, and hydrology. Throughout the tour, the story of the two young men that discovered the caverns is discussed in detail, this always creates quite a conversation amongst the group. USA Today Reader's Choice has designated Kartchner Caverns the "Best Cave in the U.S." and the "Best Arizona Attraction," and most visitors of the park wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, soon planning their next visit. The wheelchair accessible trails ensure that persons of all abilities have the option to discover the depths of Kartchner's beauty.
For additional information, visit: azstateparks.com/kartchner/
Designation: Nationally Designated Trail
Location: North of Tucson, Ariz. near Marana, Ariz. (Tortolita Mountains)
While Sonoran Desert beauty is generally accepted among outdoor enthusiasts, the areas in which to enjoy it best are often a well-kept secret. Wild Burro Trail is considered the "gateway" to an extensive twenty nine mile trail network within the Tortolita Mountains. Meandering through a desert canyon that eventually gives way to one steep ascent, Wild Burro supplies amazing views, historical site exposure, and the opportunity to be in the vicintity of unique flora and fauna that call the Sonoran Desert home.
The hiking surface of this nationally designated trail blends very naturally with surroundings along its nearly six-mile duration. Adding to the user friendly nature of Wild Burro Trail are intreprative and directional signs that ensure a safe and educational experience while enjoying the area.
For additional information, visit: www.maranaaz.gov/trails
Designation: Scenic Trail
Location: Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, north of Payson, Ariz.
Pine Creek Trail is an integral piece of a larger trail system within Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. This relatively short stretch of trail traverses the canyon bottom, adjacent to Pine Creek, en route to what is believed to be the the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. Geological processes have formed this unique wonder over the last several million years, and currently continue to do so.
There are essentially four viewpoints from which to observe the bridge while decending toward the canyon bottom where Pine Creek Trail is situated. The views from the canyon bottom, however, offer visitors a chance to experience the immense size of this geologic wonder from below, which is truly awe inspiring! In addition to the sheer amazement of bridge proportions, visitors are greeted with a beautiful broad color display along the trail. Varying hues of green are apparent along the edges of this heavily vegitated trail, while canyon walls and accompanying rock formations, splash the visual palate with orange, red, and brown. The blues of both sky and creek complete this visually diverse trail experience.
For additional information, visit: azstateparks.com/tonto
Designation: Trail System
Location: White Tank Mountains, Buckeye, Ariz.
This trail system encompasses over 16 miles of trails in an interconnected network within the 8,700 acre preserve. The trail structure is designed to blend into the Sonoran Desert environment while leaving as little of impact as possible. Thanks to the trail design and general size of this park, users will often feel as if they are in a peaceful, remote wilderness setting, instead of within close proximity to west Phoenix.
Unique rock formations, wide wash crossings, beautifully framed vistas, and a picturesque pedestrian bridge that spans Mountain Wash all provide visitors with a great experience. Native Sonoran Desert flora and fauna abound throughout the preserve offering users a natural perspective of their existence.
Skyline Regional Park is free, and the city of Buckeye will build a three-quarter mile ADA accessible trail starting in 2017 to accommodate those with limited mobility.
For additional information, visit: skylineregionalpark.com
Designation: Interpretive Trail
Location: Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Sate Park, Yarnell, Ariz.
Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park was dedicated as a memorial to the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshosts who perished in 2013 while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire. These two trails complete the seven-mile network within the park and offer very unique experiences for those that venture to the park and pay tribute to the brave men honored there.
The Hotshots Trail is an interpretive one-way adventure that is sure to evoke emotion. As hikers make their ways through the Weaver Mountains while admiring the beauty that surrounds them, they will encounter 200+ stairs carved from the surrounding rock, interpretive signs, benches, and 19 memorial plaques. The plaques are set into rocks and share a photo and a story of each fallen Hotshot. Four interpretive signs paired with memorial benches provide information about the dangers and benefits of wildland firefighting.
The Journey Trail allows you to follow the last steps of the Hotshots down to where they made their last stand. Encircling the fatality site, 19 gabion baskets, one for each Hotshot, are united by chains representing their eternal team. A short path surrounds the gabions and the nearby memorial flagpole.
Although many visitors choose to walk the trail on their own, seasonal park rangers are available at the trailhead and will lead walks along the trail if requested.
For additional information, visit: azstateparks.com/hotshots/explore/trails
Designation: Trail System
Location: Pinetop-Lakeside, Ariz.
This large, robust trail system contains over 85 miles of interconnected trail systems designed for outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels and preferances. Beginner through expert level trails can be found here and most can be enjoyed throughout the year. Hiking, biking, and equestrian use is best prior to the first big snowfall. After snow begins to accumulate, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing have become very popular here.
The entire trail system is located on U. S. Forest Service land, within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The chance of seeing area wildlife is likely, including elk, birds, chipmunks, squirrels, deer and antelope throughout many of the areas in this trail system. Because of the remoteness of some trails in the system, all trails have an emergency marker system with coded white diamonds every quarter mile. Each of the markers is referenced by GPS coordinates that are available to emergency responders in the area. All trails are well maintained by TRACKS Club volunteers. The volunteers of the TRACKS Club are recognized throughout the state for their great work and innovative approach to trail maintenance.
For additional information, visit: trackswhitemountains.org
Location: Prescott, Ariz.
This trail is so close to town, yet seems so far away! The WIllow Lake Loop Trail is a nearly six-mile adventure that can create a feeling of solitude for users as they become absorbed in the seemingly remote area beauty. This multi-use, non-motorized trail consists of great sweeping views, technical rock hopping, and steep steps while providing a level of challenge for users.
Birds and wildlife abound within the Willow Lake area while offering trail users a unique look into the lives of these species as they coexist with humans so close to town. Ducks and other birds thrive here, making this trail a favorite among bird watchers as they search for rare and beautiful specimens to view and photograph. Anglers arrive at Willow Lake expecting a chance at one of the trophy largemouth bass that live within the depths and use the trail to reach rarely fished areas. The diversity of this area makes it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels and interests.
For additional information, visit: www.prescott-az.gov/services/parks/trails/?id=38
Designation: Recreation Trail
Location: Picacho Peak State Park, Eloy, Ariz.
Picacho Peak's centralized location makes visiting the park easy for either Phoenix or Tucson-based residents. If challenge is on your agenda, the Sunset Vista Trail will grant your wish! The trail starts out moderately for the first couple miles until the route becomes steep, twisted, and difficult to navigate. Gloves are recommended for the final leg of your trip as steel cables anchored to rock must be used to aid hikers in reaching the summit.
Once hikers have reached the top, their reward lies within simply breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment. Because of the physical demands associated with the navigation of this trail, please use caution before attempting your ascent to the summit. Trail users should also take into consideration the unpredictable area weather patterns before taking their trip. Plenty of water and sturdy hiking shoes are highly recommended as well.
For additional information, visit: azstateparks.com/picacho/things-to-do/trails
Designation: Trail System
Location: Red Rock State Park, Sedona, Ariz.
Well revered by bikers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts in general, the Red Rock State Park trail system and its multi-use capabilities are world-class in nature. Green meadows framed by luscious vegetation, riparian zones full of life, and the famous red rocks of Sedona surround the park. The ecological diversity within this five mile interconnecting trail network is astounding and must be experienced to fully appreciate the 286 acre preserve.
Located within Coconino National Forest, the trail system provides direct access to a large network of USFS trails. The relatively close vicinity to other state parks, including Slide Rock State Park and Dead Horse Ranch State Park, gives users options when visiting this beautifully diverse region of Arizona. By the way…The Lime Kiln Trail connecting Dead Horse Ranch State Park and Red Rock State Park won the 2012 Critic’s Choice Award for Best Bike Ride!
Need a place to rest after a long hike? Park trails provide access to a number of ramadas, picnic areas (some include electric), water, and barbecue grills. This system offers varying types of trail utilization and difficulty ratings for all types of users.
For additional information, visit: azstateparks.com/red-rock/things-to-do/trails