AZT Post-Hike Thoughts: General Impressions

I’ve been off the trail for nearly a week! Yet somehow it feels like much longer! I have at last finished unpacking, washing all my gear and water bottles and sleeping pad. I backflushed and stored my filter. I washed my down bag and my pack. I’m settling into normal life once again.

I’m glad I hiked the AZT! Arizona is a beautiful state with nice people. A varied landscape with a varied climate. I met nice folks to hike with along the way, too. I enjoyed the scenery as well as pushing my body and my comfort zone. The trail is just under 800 miles, which feels like a good distance. It’s not quite my longest hike (Jared and I hiked 1,100 miles of southern PCT in 2014) but it is my longest complete though-hike.

The climate was definitely varied: sun, rain, wind, snow, highs in the 80’s, lows in the 20’s. Some folks that I encountered went into the hike expecting a warm desert thru-hike and were ill-prepared for cold and rain (I will say, it was definitely colder and wetter than usual). The elevation of the AZT is generally pretty high – ranging from ~1700 ft at it’s lowest to 9000+ ft at it’s highest which is kind of wild if you think about it. I’ll post more detailed climate/weather feedback soon.

The terrain was about as expected: easier in the north, more challenging in the south. Some portions are a little harder than the PCT but some are easier, so I would say that in my experience, the overall difficulty is probably on par with the PCT. Again, I’ll post a more detailed review of the trail and terrain in the near future.

Water sources were abundant! An atypical year for sure though. Wayy more water than usual was flowing. My longest carry was probably 25 miles and up to 5-6L. Keep your eyes peeled for a more detailed water review soon.

People were generally pretty great. I hiked with lots of other great section and thru-hikers: Marie and George, Mary and Dan, David, Tarek and Andrea, and Oklahoma. There are awesome trail angels out there – like Melody and Tim in Flagstaff. And of course the Kofrons in Tucson were more than accommodating and helpful! There’s unfortunately the occasional bad apple – like the gross creep I hitched a ride with in Hurricane Utah or the ornery hiker I encountered south of Patagonia. I’ll go into more detail in another post.

My resupply was pretty successful, albeit with a few hiccups. Trail towns were as I expected – some had good food, some had shitty food, but generally there weren’t many surprises. More thorough breakdown in a future post.

My gear worked pretty well! There were a few things that failed, a few things I loved, and a few things I would change in the future, but overall it was a success. I’ll break it down in a more detailed post soon.

Trail towns were a mixed bag. Some towns were awesome (like Patagonia), some decent (like Superior), and some pretty lame (like Roosevelt Lake). I’ll go into more depth in a future blurb, coming soon.

Navigation was easy! The Guthook AZT app was superb.

My fitness level was pretty good! I may change up a few things for a future hike, but overall I felt I was well prepared.

I do have to say, SOBO is the way to go! I am very happy I chose to hike the trail southbound. When folks thru-hike the trail in Spring, they NOBO, but in the Fall everyone SOBOs. It was nice to “ease” into the trail by hiking on relatively flat and easy terrain in northern AZ. By the time I hit most of the mountains in southern AZ I was in great shape and my feet were ready to handle the hardship. The flat sections in northern AZ – with the exception of the Grand Canyon – are relatively boring, too. Things start to get interesting between Mormon Lake and Pine. It was nice to be rewarded with good views at the end of the hike. Some of the best and expansive views are from the Huachucas in the southern-most 50 miles. Also, my favorite trail town was Patagonia – so it was nice to “save the best for last”.

All-in-all, a great experience! I’m happy I did it.

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