Magazine article Sunset

The Best of Arizona

Magazine article Sunset

The Best of Arizona

Article excerpt

Do the state's namesake trail-one hike at a time

Planning for the Arizona Trail

Even day-hikes on the AZT require planning: Check the road and trail conditions (snow is possible at higher elevations in December), weather forecasts, and availability of water; obtain maps.

Trail info

The Arizona Trail Association's website (www.aztrail. org) offers an overview and news about the trail. Association member Dave Hicks (www.oraonatrail.net) maintains excellent online descriptions of each of the trail's 43 segments.

Maps

The Arizona Public Lands Information Center provides up-to-date topographical maps of all completed segments ($10 each; 602/417-9300).

Road and hiking conditions

Contact the ranger station or park or forest service center nearest your planned hike. The Arizona Trail Association's volunteer segment stewards also know their designated trails very well. For info on stewards, as well as rangers and park and forest centers, visit the ATA's website (see above).

Safety

Water is your prime concern-most creeks and springs are seasonal. The standard hiker's ration is 1 gallon per person per day; consult rangers or trail stewards. Hike with a partner. Always let family or friends know exactly where you will be hiking.

To know Arizona, you need to experience the Arizona Trail, a 720-mile scribble that bisects the state from Utah to Mexico. It meanders through ponderosa and aspen forests, plunges into the Grand Canyon and lesser-known chasms, lurches over mountains, and droops across the arroyo-crinkled Sonoran Desert. Ten percent of the trail remains to be built, but hikers and mountain bikers can sample the Arizona Trail through daylong excursions.

This isn't just about the views. To really know Arizona, you need to let her rough you up some. Not to the point of serious hurt, but enough to feel her in your muscles and lungs and heart and to experience the beauty in the soft inner lining of the landscape's outward ferocity. Arizona resists armchair contemplation; she is so tactile, so unlike anyplace else, that she demands active participation.

We booted parts of it for 30 days and found six segments that make great outings. Arizona Trail Lite, some might scoff. But it never felt like a diluted version of the AZT. There's much pleasure in realizing that the same quality that carved the Grand Canyon will also get a hiker into and out of the Superstitions in a day: perseverance.

Day-hikes on the AZT

1 East Rim, Kaibab Plateau, Kaibab National Forest

This is a stunning hike. Watch for an aspen grove in which the trunks have all made corkscrew twists in unison, a frozen ballet that appears equally noble and comical. At the north end of the hike, you'll peer 2,500 feet down into Marble Canyon from the East Rim Viewpoint.

TRAIL: Easy 7-mile (one way) hike north to East Rim Viewpoint. Arrange for a shuttle back, or backpack in overnight.

WHERE: From State 67 about 4 miles north of the Grand Canyon National Park boundary, turn east onto Forest Route 610, then south 5 miles to AZT sign.

INFO: North Kaibab Ranger District (www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai or 928/643-7395).

2 Blue Ridge to the Mogollon Rim, Coconino National Forest

General Springs Canyon is a deep, dark ponderosa forest retreat where awaits-if the season cooperates-a lovely necklace of reflective pools. At General Springs, you'll see a few cabins built by the Forest Service in 1914-15. At the end is a view over the Mogollon Rim into the Tonto National Forest.

TRAIL: Moderate hike 9 miles (one way) south to RR. …

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