Are you hiking the Arizona Trail? In this Arizona Trail resupply guide, you’ll read everything about resupply strategy, the best trail towns, and how to get water.
Why do you need an Arizona Trail resupply strategy?
The Arizona Trail is a trail of approximately 800 miles across the US state of Arizona. This state consists almost entirely of deserts and is not as densely populated. So you don’t pass through a village or city daily where you can buy food. Most of the time, you need to carry food for about five to seven days. Where do you get that food?
I hiked the Arizona Trail in the spring of 2022 and in this article, I’ll tell you about different resupply strategies on the Arizona Trail, which places to resupply, and what to eat. In addition, I’ll tell you more about the water situation on the Arizona Trail.
Arizona Trail Resupply
What strategies are there when it comes to resupplying on the Arizona Trail? And where do you get your food?
Pick a strategy
The very first thing to do is determine a resupply strategy. Do this before you start hiking, it is useful to decide about this a month in advance. There are three different strategies:
- Send yourself packages. You can send packages to post offices or hotels on the route. With this strategy, you’ve got everything covered before starting the hike. This option is perfect for those on a special diet. However, it has some major drawbacks. Post offices usually don’t hold packages for more than a month. So if you don’t know anyone in the US who can send you these packages while you’re hiking, this can be difficult. In addition, your taste can change a lot during a long-distance hike and after six weeks you may no longer feel like eating the food you have packed. If you choose this option, it will take a lot of time to prepare, buy, pack and send food. That is why you should know well in advance whether you opt for this strategy. The upside is that you don’t have to worry about shopping for food when you’re in town.
- Buy your food in trail towns. Since you regularly (every five to seven days) pass by a village or city, you can also buy your food in these trail towns. The only drawback is that there is only a limited supply in the small villages and that the prices are much higher than, for example, in a large store such as Walmart.
- Mix. Buy some of your food in trail towns and send a package to the places where it is really difficult to buy (good) food. This takes some time when you’re in town, but it is also practical. Therefore, this is the AZT resupply strategy that most hikers like to choose.
How do you send yourself packages on the Arizona Trail?
Are you unfamiliar with sending yourself parcels in the USA? The most convenient is to use the standard USPS (United States Postal Service) packages. You can get boxes at almost any post office that you can stuff as full as possible with food and other things you think you need. It doesn’t matter how heavy they are.
You pay a fixed amount per box to send. They call these “Flat rate boxes” and there are three sizes:
- Small Flat Rate Box (this one is very small). Cost to ship: $9.45
- Medium Flat Rate Box. This one is available with two different openings, one with a top opening and one with a side opening. Cost to ship: $16.10.
- Large Flat Rate Box. This is the most popular one. Cost to ship: $21.50.
You send most packages to a post office in your name. You do this by putting the following on your package:
< NAME >
c/o GENERAL DELIVERY
< TOWN > < STATE > < ZIP CODE >
In addition, write on the side (or on all sides): “Please hold for AZT hiker” and “ETA < DATE >”. The ETA (estimated time of arrival) is the date you expect to pick up the package. If you’re European, please remember that in the US the date is written the other way around, so m/d/y instead of d/m/y.
When you send a package, you will receive a receipt with a track and trace code. Take a picture of this. So you don’t have to carry it with you.
Please note! Do you regularly send packages to post offices? Then take into account the opening hours of the post offices. These can be very limited, especially in the smaller villages. For example, I was forced to take a zero in Kearny because I couldn’t go to the post office until Monday morning (and I was already there on Saturday morning).
In addition, you can also send packages to other places, such as a hotel where you want to stay. Call ahead to check if this is possible and to ask for the correct address.
Order via Amazon or another online store
Do you need new gear, such as a sleeping mat or new hiking shoes? There are only a few outdoor shops on the trail. For example, REI is only found in Tucson and Flagstaff. It can then be useful to order new gear through an online store such as Amazon. Please note that post offices do not always accept packages from UPS (USPS only). If UPS is the only shipping option, I’d have it shipped to a hotel.
The best places to resupply on the Arizona Trail
There are several places on the Arizona Trail that are convenient for resupply. This is an overview of the most common places.
Patagonia – mile 51,6
Patagonia is the first town on the trail. When I hiked the trail (March 2022), the trail went straight through Patagonia. The route has now been adjusted and the trail is approximately 5 miles from the town. However, you can easily get here by hitchhiking. Patagonia is small, but has some nice restaurants (tip: go to the Gathering Grounds for breakfast or lunch) and also two small supermarkets.
Red Mountain Foods is a healthy supermarket with many vegan products (very expensive) and in the Patagonia Market, you can get almost all standard backpacker products (noodles, mashed potatoes, Snickers, etc.). The latter is quite affordable.
- Where to stay: Stage Stop Inn. Great hotel in the middle of the village and you can do your laundry here for free.
Colossal Cave (mile 123,6)
After Patagonia, it takes quite a while before you come close to a city or village again. Therefore, most hikers send a package to the gift shop of Colossal Cave Mountain Park. This is only 1 mile from the trail.
I myself also sent a package here, but I actually didn’t need to. We took an Uber from here to Tucson to spend the night there, so we might as well have gone shopping there. If you’re not planning on going to Tucson, Colossal Cave is the perfect place to send a package with food.
Summerhaven (mile 187,1)
Summerhaven is a small winter sports village and you walk right through it. Here is a small general store where you can buy food. It’s a bit pricey. I myself skipped this one (although I did eat a burger at the restaurant down the street) because I had enough food with me to make it until the next stop.
Oracle (mile 208)
Oracle is a village about 4 miles from the trail and you can hitchike here pretty easily. It is very spread out and it takes about an hour to walk from one side of the village to the other. It doesn’t have a supermarket, but it does have a very well-stocked Dollar General. A great and cheap place to resupply. Would you like to have a nice meal when you’re in town? Then The Oracle Patio Café and Market is highly recommended.
Kearny (mile 264,1) or Superior (mile 301,2)
Kearny is known as the “Friendliest town on the trail” and I can only agree. I didn’t even had to put my thumbs up to get a ride, it was offered to me before I was even on the road. I was offered a lift back to the trail at least five times. The Old Time Pizza is the place to meet other hikers.
This tiny village has a fairly large supermarket that is a great place to resupply for the next section. In addition, there is also a Family Dollar. However, this is a mess (the isles are filled with boxes), but it can be useful if you want to buy candy for the trail. It’s a little cheaper here then it is in the general store.
- Where to stay: General Kearny Inn Motel. Basic, but cheap and virtually next to the supermarket.
Superior is a town a little further down the road and it’s a little bigger than Kearny. Also here is a supermarket and a Family Dollar. Most hikers choose to head to either Kearny or Superior for resupply. I myself was very happy with my choice to go to Kearny.
Roosevelt Lake Marina (mile 344,1)
After Superior, you will not pass a village or a city for a long time. You do walk along Roosevelt Lake Marina, where you can find a shop and a restaurant. They are very hiker-friendly here. You can send packages to the restaurant (costs $10 to pick up) and there is a grassy area with picnic benches dedicated for hikers. You can also camp here.
Pine / Payson (mile 456,1)
After more than 100 miles it is time for the next stop. You can choose from two places (or visit them both): Pine and Payson.
Pine is closest to the trail, but is also quite small. You will find a supermarket and a few restaurants here. Just a 15-minute walk from the trail you’ll pass THAT Brewery, a cozy place to meet other hikers.
Payson is a bit further away (fortunately, getting a ride is easy) and is a typical American town full of hotel chains and supermarkets. This is the cheapest place to stay and buy food. I myself stayed here for one night.
- Where to stay: Majestic Mountain Inn. Nice hotel in a good location near several supermarkets.
Mormon Lake (mile 529,5)
Mormon Lake is a tiny village about 1.5 miles from the trail. A fun place to check out and it has a small general store. There is also an RV campground here where you can shower and do laundry. From here it’s only 35 miles to Flagstaff, so if you’ve got enough food there’s no need to stop here. I did go here because I wanted to be back in civilization after a few lonely days.
Flagstaff (mile 572)
In Flagstaff, you can choose two different trails: the equestrian trail or the urban trail. The first runs in a large arc around Flagstaff (east side) and the urban trail runs right through the city. You might think the urban trail is very urban, but it’s not at all! You have to cross two intersections (including route 66) and for the rest, you just walk through parks. You barely notice you’re in a city.
Flagstaff is the perfect spot for a zero, a place to take a short break before the final stretch of the Arizona Trail. It has many hotels (also budget options) and several supermarkets where you can resupply easily. There’s also an REI in Flagstaff. A day ticket for the bus costs only $2.50, which gives you unlimited rides all day long. This is very convenient if you want to shop in different stores. In addition, the old town also has many nice bars, breweries, and restaurants (Red Curry Vegan Kitchen is highly recommended!)
- Hotel tip: Econo Lodge Flagstaff Route 66 – near the trail, supermarket, and bus stop.
Grand Canyon South Rim (mile 688,9)
The next stop is one of the highlights of the Arizona Trail: the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. This is a large tourist village, full of restaurants, lodges, and a supermarket. This is also a good place for a zero, especially since you’ll probably need to arrange your permit here if you want to stay in the canyon (which is highly recommended!). The general store has an excellent stock for resupply, but it is a bit more pricey than you may be used to. I thought it wasn’t too bad, I spent about $60 stock for the last 4/5 days on the trail.
- Where to camp: Mather Campground has a hiker/biker site where you can stay for $6 a night. Just ask at the counter at the campground, there is (almost) always room.
- Hotel tip: Bright Angel Lodge. Off all the lodges, this is the cheapest place to stay in the park. Rooms from $136. Often not available, but keep checking. Sometimes rooms get available in the morning. I spent one night here (it was a birthday present for myself) and I really loved it. From my room, it took me 30 seconds to get to the rim. Amazing!
Most hikers get all their food for the rest of the trail in Grand Canyon National Park. If you want to plan an extra stop, you can do so at Jacob Lake (mile 761.1). Here is an Inn and a gas station where you can buy some food.
What do you eat on the Arizona Trail?
I’m sure you’ll eat very different food on the Arizona Trail than you would at home. You have to carry everything in your backpack and also take all the trash with you. Since you burn a lot of calories, you also need to make sure you get enough calories. It is therefore a matter of picking a meal with as many calories as possible in the smallest possible packaging that does not cause too much waste. Quite a hassle right? You actually have endless possibilities, but to give you an idea this is what I ate on the Arizona Trail.
- Larry & Lenny’s The Complete Cookie – Yes, I ate a cookie for breakfast. Well, not just a cookie! These cookies are vegan, full of protein, and contain over 400 calories. A great start to the day, I was able to hike quite a few miles before I was hungry again. They come in several flavors, my favorite was white chocolate with macadamia nuts.
- Quaker Instant Oatmeal – Would you rather eat something healthier? Many hikers start the day with several bags of oatmeal. Although those ready-made versions are also packed with sugar. I really can’t eat this in the morning (also not in the afternoon or evening), but maybe this is something for you.
- Wraps with tuna – You can eat the same for lunch as for dinner, but I always had a few wraps in the afternoon with a packet of tuna ( Starkist Tuna Creations ). These packs come in different flavors, I liked Sweet & Spicy (and skip the ranch flavor, yuk).
- Noodle Soup with Peanut Butter – Cheap, tasty, and filling. You get a kind of peanut soup and that is quite tasty! You can buy peanut butter in small packages (squeeze bags or cups), so you don’t necessarily have to take a large jar with you (although some hikers do).
- Mashed Potatoes – Inexpensive and super easy to make (it’s ready right away). Not necessarily very tasty, but it is very filling.
- Knorr Sides – Available in pasta or rice variety. I ate these every single day on the Pacific Crest Trail, but I barely had it at the AZT. I thought it took too long before it was ready (it needs a lot of water and gas) and often didn’t like the taste of it after three bites.
- Freeze Dried Meals – By far the most expensive option, but usually tasty and super easy because all you have to do is pour water into them. I usually bought the meals from Backpacker’s Pantry.
You can never have enough snacks! These were my favorite snacks on the Arizona Trail:
- Snickers – I ate one every morning. My favorite was the one with almonds.
- Nuts – Salty or unsalted nuts, I always had a (big) bag with me.
- M&M’s – I often mixed M&M’s with the nuts (my own trail mix, I really don’t like raisins). I prefer the caramel and peanut butter M&Ms.
- Dried fruit – To still feel like I was eating something healthy, I usually took a bag of dried fruit with me. I actually only liked mango and pineapple. Halfway through the trail, I discovered Fruit Jerky from Solely, which I really liked.
- Bars – I ate several bars a day. Sometimes a regular granola bar, sometimes a Clif bar, but a nut butter bar was my favorite.
- Cheese sticks – Like every Dutchie, I am very fond of cheese. Luckily, you can buy cheese sticks in many supermarkets and gas stations. They don’t go bad that quick and are a very tasty snack. But you can also put them in mashed potatoes or in a wrap. Multifunctional!
- Twizzlers – Sweet treats! These don’t melt and they taste pretty good.
Where do you buy all this food?
As you can see, you don’t eat very healthy on the trail, but it is filling! And I usually managed to eat pescatarian (I don’t eat meat but I do eat fish) on the trail. The only thing that was difficult to get was vegetarian noodles, I usually bought the chicken version. The food I mention is eaten by most hikers and is therefore available in almost every village or town along the trail.
Leave no trace
You have to bring a lot of food, which means that you also have a lot of trash. You don’t pass a trash bin every day, so you have to take everything with you. Make sure you have a good plastic bag in which you can store your waste. I used a large ziplock for this.
Water on the Arizona Trail
The entire state of Arizona is desert. How do you get water?
How to find water in the desert?
Fortunately, finding water along the Arizona Trail is not too hard. There aren’t many rivers or creeks along the trail (a bit more if you’re lucky enough to have rain during your hike), but there are a lot of “wildlife tanks”. These are water sources for cows or wild animals.
The best way to find them is via the FarOut app, where the water sources are indicated with a blue drop. You can check the comments to see if there is still enough water. If it’s gone, leave a comment yourself, that’s useful for the people who come after you.
Sometimes you have water caches along the way, trail angels set them up, especially for hikers. However, you can NEVER assume that they are there. So always take into account enough water until the next reliable source. I usually take 1 liter per 4 miles. On hot days 1 liter per 3 miles and on cool days 1 liter per 5 miles. I’ve almost always had plenty of water on the Arizona Trail.
It is wise to filter all the water you come across, especially from the wildlife tanks. I use a Sawyer Squeeze in combination with a 2-liter Cnoc water bag (the bags you get with the Sawyer break quickly).
At many water sources, it is wise to “pre-filter”, which I usually did by pouring the water with a cup through a bandana into the water bag. This way you already clean it before filtering, no leaves, twigs, insects, etc. In addition, you have to “backflush” the filter very often to prevent it from clogging. I did this every time I was in a town, but sometimes also on the trail.
The water generally tasted fine, but if it was gross, I often threw in some electrolytes (such as Nuun tablets) and in the evenings I often made tea.
Read more about the Arizona Trail
These were all my tips for eating, drinking, and resupplying on the Arizona Trail. I hope you find them useful! Do you want to read more about this amazing trail? Check out these articles:
- Hiking the Arizona Trail | The Ultimate Guide
- Arizona Trail Gear List for a Thru Hike
- My Journals – I hiked the Arizona Trail in the spring of 2022 and kept a journal.
And you can also check out the guide Your Complete Guide to the Arizona National Scenic Trail by Matthew J. Nelson.
Do you have more questions about the Arizona Trail but can’t figure it out after reading this article, the ultimate guide, and the travel reports? Then you can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More beautiful long-distance walks
Would you like to discover more beautiful long-distance trails? Here are some great books full of inspiration:
100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails
Every year you can find me on a long-distance hiking trail, that’s why you can read a lot more about beautiful long-distance trails on this website. You might like to check out these articles:
- Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Mexico to Canada
- Fishermen’s Trail: the most beautiful coastal hike in Europe
- Pieterpad: the most famous long-distance trail in The Netherlands
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