This Arizona Trail hiking tour is in truly a special area. Deep in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona lies one of the finest stretches of desert trail anywhere – Passages 15-17. We often use the word “remote”, but this section of trail may take the cake. It’s OUT there. Despite being one of the hottest deserts in North America the Sonoran Desert is teaming with life. Gila monsters, desert tortoise, javelinas, rattlesnakes and countless types of cactus permeate the landscape. Rugged and unforgiving as it is beautiful – it is magical world many of us do not get to experience often.

We strongly recommend the following for this hike: GPS with the AZ Trail track loaded, 100oz hydration bladder and sturdy hiking shoes. A little preparation goes a long way on this trip. Our goal is not to scare you, but simply be prepared for a great time hiking Arizona Trail. This is a difficult, advanced level trip for experienced/fit hikers.

We created this trip for those who don’t want a guide, don’t want to be supported during the week and generally just want their own self-serve adventure with a bit of logistical assistance. Each day we relocate a very deluxe camp setup (provided by Ready Camp) of (2) 10×10 canopies, full kitchen, dry firewood, camp chairs, fresh water, coolers of food and beverages (you purchase prior to trip) and all your personal gear like tents, bags and clothing. You can go as cheap or deluxe as you want on food, beverages and amenities!!

Arrival Day


Our meeting point for this trip is Apache Junction, AZ at the Best Western. The day before the trip starts you can pick up a cooler (if needed) from us to do your shopping for the week.


Day One


Our first day we’ll meet at 7:00am and then start with a shuttle from Apache Junction to Dudleyville, AZ of about 90 minutes. As you hike away from Antelope Peak the trail here undulates softly and pleasantly through mesquite trees and past cholla cactus. The sky-scraping spires of the Gila Canyons dominate the northern backdrop throughout this first day. You’ll soon be hiking through the “Boulders” section of the Passage, which is aptly named as it is dotted with large rock formations. After a short spell on a powerline road, the trail conrinues on singletrack under the shadow of the Tortilla Mountains and your first night camp. Hike length is about 16 miles.


Day Two


The trail continues on rolling singletrack and then into the washes below the Prickly Nipple. This our name for the unnamed peak in the distance with Zorro-like switchbacks scored across its face. Those switchbacks are the AZT snaking its way up the Prickly Nipple; one of the prettier climbs of the entire trip. Once atop the Prickly Nipple hikers are treated to ridgeline hiking with outstanding 360-degree views. The descent from the ridgeline is beautifully designed with views of the Gila River drainage – miles of bench cut trail weaving in and out of Saguaro cacti fields all the way to camp! Hike length is about 11 miles.


Day Three


Hiking away from camp on even more great bench cut singletrack trail you’ll wrap around a ridge and slowly merge into the Gila River corridor. The trail in this section is stunning – excellent contouring grades through thick Saguaro forests with the Gila River gently flowing beneath us to our left for the entire day. After a quick ford of the Gila River you’ll arrive to the nights camp at the base of the Gila Canyons. Hike length is about 18 miles.


Day Four


Day 4 is truly a “queen’s stage” that starts with a very sizeable climb up through the Gila Canyons. The route today will leave an imprint of desert beauty and diversity on hikers as they head home and for weeks afterward. Simply put this final day is one of the best days of hiking you’ll get anywhere, anytime. It’s challenging, beautiful and rugged and is the perfect finale to a great trip. You’ll walk away from the Gila River and rejoin the singletrack AZT very quickly. The climb is very reasonable in most spots, but is mixed with some steeper sections as well. The desert spires and Saguaro forest will keep your mind off the effort as you slowly creep up the canyon. The trail is very kind in spots giving hikers a breather before pointing back up canyon. The final part of the climb is surreal as the trail clings to 50 and 60-degree slopes and cuts through solid rock. As hikers crest the brunt of the climb they are then deposited into a traverse that contours just below a flowing ridgeline. Below you is a remote canyon that rivals sections of the Grand Canyon and other deep-cut desert chasms. The steep canyon gives way to an open bowl of a valley at the head of the final “Picket Post” section of the trail. This final section rolls up and down for a bit with no significant efforts before an almost all downhill hike to exit trailhead just west of Superior, AZ where the van will be waiting! Hike length is about 20 miles.

What’s Included

  • Shuttle Van and driver
  • Luggage, gear and cooler/food relocation
  • Ready Camp kitchen and general gear

Not Included

  • Alcoholic Beverages – we can haul and keep them cold though!
  • Lodging
  • Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner
  • Weather Control – Mother Nature has a mind of her own

Q – Where do we get coolers from you guys to pack our food in?


A – The day before your trip starts you can call your driver/guide and set up a meeting time.


Q – How much gear can I pack?


A – Space is not infinite in our trailer. We ask that you pack smartly in one duffel, plus your tents and sleeping bag. Leave your bike stands, hibachi’s and bath tubs at home.


Q – What happens if I have an injury and get stranded out there?


A – Our trips are truly self-guided and there is no AZT Expeditions extraction team! We suggest bringing a SPOT Messenger or satellite phone.


Q – What do I bring?


A – We supply a full kitchen, water, firewood, chairs, tables, etc. You’ll need your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping gear, clothing and personal items.


Q – What’s the shower situation?


A – Beginning in 2014 we will have a gravity/solar shower on the trip. This works great for a quick rinse off and refresh.


Q – Where do I shop for food for this trip?


A – In Apache Junction, AZ there are a few choices. Safeway, Walmart Supercenter and Fry’s are all in the area.


Q – How do I navigate the route?


A – Prior to the trip we will furnish you with a GPS/Google track of the trip, but we also suggest the Arizona National Scenic Trail guidebook by Matthew Nelson.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and then a shuttle to Apache Junction, AZ.