A couple of weeks from now, I’m starting the Arizona Trail. I’ll be hiking 1300-kilometers (800 miles) through Arizona. How to prepare for the Arizona Trail? A personal update.
What is the Arizona Trail?
The Arizona Trail (AZT) is one of eleven “National Scenic Trails” in the United States of America. Other National Scenic trails include the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Appalachian Trail (AT).
As you might understand from the name, the Arizona Trail is located in the state of Arizona. It traverses the state from south to north (Mexican border to the border of Arizona and Utah) and is 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) long. The trail originated in 2011 and is designed for hikers and mountain bikers, but you can also use the trail for horseriding and skiing.
On this trail, you’ll hike through various mountain ranges and different ecosystems. You will also hike through two national parks: Saguaro National Park and Grand Canyon National Park. As you can see, hiking the Arizona Trail is a wonderful way to discover the beauty of the state of Arizona.
Why am I hiking the Arizona Trail?
Why did I think that hiking the Arizona Trail is a good idea?
The USA is my favorite country to travel to.
Ever since I watched this Dutch childrens tv show about a clown and his acrobat friend on a journey through America as a little girl, I’ve been fascinated by the country. When I traveled to the US for the very first time back in 2013, I knew from the day I arrived that I wanted to explore more of this country.
Fun detail: this website was created for that first trip to Florida because I wanted to tell my fellow Dutchies how great it is to travel in the USA.
Fast forward to 2022. So far, I’ve traveled to the US six times and each trip was even more interesting than the next. The Florida theme parks, the awesome combination of cities and waterfalls during the road trip in New York State, island hopping in Hawaii… There are so many beautiful places to explore! But after three amazing road trips, Southwest USA is my favorite region. I just can’t get enough of the beautiful desert views, the gorgeous national parks, and the hiking trails.
So I’m going back to Southwest USA
In January 2020 I booked plane tickets to Las Vegas for a three-week road trip, which I had planned for September 2020. I wanted to go road-tripping and visit several places in Arizona. Maybe even check out some spots in New Mexico. You undoubtedly understand that that trip could not take place, since everything was in lockdown and the borders were closed.
So I had vouchers for airline tickets, but no trip yet. More and more often I was thinking about that amazing 700 kilometers I hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail back in 2019. That was such a cool experience and really fueled my love for long-distance hiking. I would love to finish the PCT someday. But in order to do that, you need four to six months off. Since I’m self-employed these days, that’s too long (and it’s also more difficult to get a 6-month visa).
In the spring of 2021, I thought to myself: why don’t I hike the Arizona Trail instead? I was planning to go to Arizona anyway, and this trail “only” takes about six to eight weeks. I’m still somewhat young and fit, so if I want to do something like that, now is the right time.
In October it was announced that the US borders would open again for tourism, so I immediately booked my tickets. America, here I come!
What to do before I start hiking?
I have been preparing for my hike on the Arizona Trail since the spring of 2021. I want my backpack to be lighter than on the Pacific Crest Trail, so I took a good look at all my gear. I already replaced a lot of gear with lighter options. Right now, I got a new lightweight tent, sleeping bag, and backpack.
Check out my Arizona Trail Gear List.
In terms of paperwork, preparing for the Arizona Trail is a lot easier than for the Pacific Crest Trail. You don’t need permits to hike this trail (only if you want to spend the night in a national park, but you can arrange that on the spot), so you can start whenever you want.
To avoid the worst heat and snow, early March is the best time to start and that’s when I plan to start as well. This time I will not start my hike all by myself, but with a friend from San Diego who I met on the PCT. This makes the preparations a little easier as well. I even get to do some sightseeing in San Diego this time.
At the moment I am making a lot of lists of what to do and what to bring with me. In addition, I also check whether I have to send packages to myself on the way (be sure to read the article Arizona Trail Resupply Guide if you want to know more about that). Fortunately, there are quite a few villages along the way where you can buy food for the next section, so I don’t worry too much about it.
In total, I have 10 weeks to get to Las Vegas for my return flight, and I think I should be able to do that.
The only thing I do worry about right now is getting into the United States. I have now taken out a new travel insurance policy that covers traveling to high-risk destinations (that’s how our government sees the US right now) and I still have to fill out some paperwork before I can get on the plane.
First of all, I need to fill in an ESTA and I also have to prove that I am fully vaccinated. I can already check those off of my list, so that’s great. In addition, I have to fill in a form so that they can trace me (what else is new) and I also have to do an antigen or PCR test the day before departure. And that, of course, needs to be negative.
As you understand, I’m terrified of getting infected with COVID-19 in the coming weeks, so I stay indoors a lot and avoid large groups of people.
How to prepare for the Arizona Trail
No, I have not forgotten that I also have to prepare physically for the Arizona Trail. On the PCT I lived on ibuprofen for the first few weeks because my back and neck were hurting really bad. This, I guess was a result of a combination of having a wrong posture for years, working on my laptop a lot, and carrying a backpack that is too heavy.
As you have read, I’ve already tackled the weight of my backpack by purchasing lighter items. In addition, I am strengthening my back by doing a daily yoga class. I have already noticed a huge difference, even after a long day of writing articles, I have no pain in my back and neck (which was always the case before).
I also go hiking regularly and once or twice a week I carry my big backpack. I’m putting more weight in my backpack every time I go out, so I can get used to that too. So far it’s going great. Even with 12 kilos (26.5 pounds), I don’t experience any pain. Let’s hope it stays that way!
Follow my adventure!
As you may notice from my enthusiasm, I am really looking forward to this adventure. During my hike, I will try to post regular updates on my Facebook page and Instagram. I will also try writing trail journals during my hike and post them on this website.
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If you like to help me during my hike, I would really appreciate a cup of coffee!
Want to read more about long-distance trails or trail journals? You might like to check out these pages:
- Trail journal Fishermen’s Trail (Portugal)
- Pieterpad: the most famous long-distance trail in The Netherlands
- The Lee Trail: a beautiful 3-day hike in the heart of Luxembourg
And if you like hiking, these are some great books to get inspired:
100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails
Epic Hikes of the World (Lonely Planet)
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