For the past few years I've done a Christmas Eve Backpacking trip, and since I was in Arizona for Christmas I decided to do a solo overnight backpacking trip on Passage 37 of the Arizona Trail. I started at the Grandview Tower in the Kaibab National Forest and hiked north to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
- The Arizona Trail is an 800 mile long distance hiking trail that goes from the border of Mexico at it's southern terminus to the border of Utah at its north.
- Passage 37 is a relatively flat and easy section of the AZT.
- I did see evidence of mountain lions while I was at camp, be aware.
- Take water! I encountered absolutely no water sources along the entire 25 mile section. There were a couple man-made tanks (reservoirs) along the trail but they were all dry.
I had little idea what to expect on this trip. In all honesty I didn't even know I was going to be in Arizona until about 2 weeks before I left. I knew I wanted to at least camp on Christmas Eve so imagine my surprise when I realized the Arizona Trail passed within about a mile of where I'd be staying.
My friend Todd drove me to the Grandview Lookout Tower in the Kaibab National Forest, where Passage 37 of the AZT starts. From there I headed north towards the South Kaibab Trailhead in Grand Canyon National Park. It was about a 25 mile section of trail... perfect for an overnight trip.
Winter weather can be a bit unpredictable in the high desert, especially over night low temperatures. The forecast called for lows anywhere from 20°F all the way down to 1°F. It actually stayed in the high 20's from what I could tell.
The scenery was fantastic. Although there were no sweeping vistas or mighty rivers to take in, the sheer beauty of the high desert forest was all I needed. What a difference from the dense, mixed forests of the east coast. The sandy terrain mixed with groves of pinyon pines, ponderosa pines and junipers combined with the bright pale green of the rubber rabbit bush was like hiking on another planet for me.
Although I didn't have any significant wildlife sightings I did see evidence of mule deer, feral horses, elk and one very large mountain lion print right outside of camp!
I know it's easy to be consumed with the Grand Canyon when you are this close to it, but if you are in the area and you have the time venture out into the surrounding Kaibab National Forest. If even only for a day hike on the AZT, you won't be disappointed. The landscape is a start contrast to the vastness of the canyon and has a beauty all it's own. This is an area I would most definitely revisit should I find myself nearby again.