Category Archives: Hiking

Celebrate National Trails Day This Saturday

June 2014This Saturday, take a hike. In honor of National Trails Day, the country’s largest celebration of trails, Editor Robert Stieve wanted to share a few of his favorite hikes. We hope you’ll go out and celebrate Mother Nature — just remember to adhere to the Leave No Trace Principles.

Widforss Trail, North Rim
It’s hard to single out the best hike in Arizona. There are too many 10s. That said, a solid case can be made for the Widforss Trail. It’s quiet, the ecosystem is exceedingly diverse, and over your left shoulder you’ll see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The only thing the Widforss doesn’t offer is elevation gain, which is important to hikers who want to burn calories while drinking in the scenery. Still, this is a 10-mile round-tripper, so a few calories will be incinerated. More

Weatherford Trail, Flagstaff
It’s hard to imagine driving a Model T up the slopes of Fremont Peak, but that’s what John Weatherford had in mind in the 1920s when he constructed an eponymous toll road to the upper reaches of the San Francisco Peaks. It was an ambitious undertaking that was ultimately undermined by the Great Depression. Fortunately, he had better luck with his hotel in Flagstaff. Today, the Hotel Weatherford (he liked his name) is still one of the best places to stay, and his toll road, as it turns out, has turned into one of the best trails in Arizona. More

Barbershop Trail, Mogollon Rim
This trail is not marked by red-white-and-blue barber poles. It would be nice if it were, but it’s not. Instead, this is one of those trails that can be hard to follow. Usually, all you have to do in Arizona is get to a trailhead, throw on a backpack and hit the dirt. You couldn’t get lost if you wanted to. This trail is one of the exceptions. More on that later. More

For more hikes, check out our June issue, featuring easy summer hikes, or pick up Robert’s book, Arizona Highways Hiking Guide: 52 of Arizona’s Best Day Hikes for Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall.

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Hit the Trails … With Us

Along the Bell Trail, by Susan Cole

Along the Bell Trail | Susan Cole

Join Arizona Highways and our team of experts as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act through a series of summer hikes in some of Arizona’s most pristine wilderness areas.

Bell Trail
Wet Beaver Wilderness, Sedona
Date: Saturday, June 28
Time: 8 a.m.
Distance: 6.6 miles round-trip (to Bell’s Crossing)
Rating: Moderate
Details: Join Arizona Highways Editor Robert Stieve and experts from the Arizona Game and Fish Department to explore this popular trail, which crosses Wet Beaver Creek and meanders along the stream bed until it climbs to a narrow bench along the canyon’s north wall. From there, the trail drops to the canyon’s bottom, where it finally fords the creek at Bell’s Crossing.

West Baldy Trail
Mount Baldy Wilderness, White Mountains
Date: Saturday, July 26
Time: 7 a.m.
Distance: 14 miles round-trip
Rating: Moderate
Details: The easy-to-follow trail traces the West Fork of the Little Colorado River as it winds into a thick forest of spruce, firs and aspens and climbs to its junction with the East Baldy Trail. This hike, led by Editor Robert Stieve and U.S. Forest Service experts, will begin from the Sheep’s Crossing parking lot.

Humphreys Peak
Kachina Peaks Wilderness, Flagstaff
Date: Saturday, August 23, 2014
Time: 7 a.m.
Distance: 9 miles round-trip
Rating: Strenuous
Details: This challenging trail beings at the lower parking lot for Arizona Snowbowl ski resort and climbs through ponderosa pines, spruce, corkbark firs and aspens as it approaches Agassiz Saddle and Arizona’s only tundra region. From there, the trail climbs for another 1.5 miles to the summit of Humphreys Peak, which, at 12,633 feet, is the highest point in Arizona.

Group sizes for each hike will be limited to 10 people on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no charge for these hikes. To register, email Kelly Kramer at Include your name, telephone number, email address and preferred hike. Registration will be confirmed and further details provided upon completion of a signed waiver. Details are subject to change. 

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Q&A: Sirena Dufault Nears End of 817-Mile Arizona Trail Hike

Sirena Dufault at the Mazatzal Wilderness | Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

Sirena Dufault at the Mazatzal Wilderness | Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

Back in March, we told you about Sirena Dufault, who’s hiking the entire 817-mile Arizona Trail to raise awareness and funding for the Arizona Trail Association, where she is a volunteer. Dufault is nearing the end of her hike now, and we recently caught up with her via email to see how the trek was going. To see Dufault’s updates on her progress, check out her blog, and to contribute to the ATA, visit this link.


What have been the highlights of your trek so far?
That’s a tough question, because there have been so many breathtaking moments! But I’ll give it a go:
  • Hiking through the “sky island” ranges in Southern Arizona, where you go from prickly pear to ponderosa pines and back down again, often through wonderful rock formations. Tough because of the elevation gain, but worth every step.
  • The solitude of hiking for days without seeing another person.
  • Finding perfect camping spots with a view of the spectacular Arizona sunset and sunrise.
  • Seeing people’s eyes light up when sharing my favorite places on the public hikes and backpacking trips.
  • Backpacking through the rugged and remote Mazatzal Wilderness: over 60 miles of trail between vehicle access points, with some of the most wonderful geology, camps and views on the whole trail.
  • The women’s backpacking trip was such a wonderful experience: I had nine women and a mini-donkey along for three days from Mormon Lake to just south of Flagstaff. It was a fantastic group, and there were a lot of laughs.
  • When I hiked the Arizona Trail in sections in 2008-09, there were quite a few pieces that had not yet been built and others that have been rerouted. It’s been fun to see the new trail! Also, there has been a tremendous amount of work to rehab parts of the trail that have been damaged by fires. All of the improvements I’ve seen cost money, which is why it’s so important to me to raise the $20,000 for the trail.


What challenges have you faced that you might not have expected before you started?
The main challenge of this trek is the continued intensity without a real break. In two months, I have had only one or two real days off where I didn’t have an event, interviews, promotion, planning or writing to catch up on.


Overall, has the journey been easier or harder than you anticipated?
The journey has been about as tough as I’d expected. I knew I was committing to a lot by not only hiking the trail, but having events and public hikes and backpacking trips along the way. It’s been exhausting at times, but worth every bit of effort.


How has the turnout and reception been at the stops along the trail?
It’s been wonderful! All of the gateway community events have been well-attended, enjoyable evenings with great music, food and Arizona Trail Ale. It’s been great to have hikers, bikers and equestrians at the events sharing their love for the trail.


What parts of the trek are still to come? Are there particular parts that you’re looking forward to?
I have two weeks left to hike from Flagstaff to the Utah border, about 200 miles. The Grand Canyon is the crown jewel of the Arizona Trail and my favorite place in the world. I’ve hiked rim to rim many times, but it will be such an accomplishment to arrive having walked from Mexico! I can hardly wait to hike down to the Colorado River and relax at the boat beach. I work on the river as a guide in the summertime for Arizona River Runners and will be starting my river season shortly after my trek.

Also, the last passage into the Utah border is one of my favorites; it’s a striking transition from the forested Kaibab Plateau to the colorful sandstone formations of Utah. Then it’s over to the town of Page for my big finale celebration!

It has been a dream of mine to thru-hike the Arizona Trail since 2007 and I am so grateful to have not only this experience, but to also be able to share it with so many other people. It’s been wonderful to educate folks about this amazing resource that links deserts, mountains, canyons, communities and people across the state. Hope to see you on the Arizona Trail!


Filed under Et Cetera, Hiking, Make a Difference, Q&A

Check Out Our June 2014 Cover!

June 2014


by | April 30, 2014 · 9:57 am

Q&A: Disabled Teen and Family Prepare to Tackle the Grand Canyon

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.05.42 AM

“He is always asking me why people keep helping, and does that mean everyone loves him? Then he just smiles really big.” — Jill Castle

When Jill Castle’s son, Anthony, 14, asked his mother to help him cross off an item on his bucket list — he wanted to hike into the Grand Canyon— Castle didn’t hesitate. On its face, this might seem like a relatively easy request. Anthony, however, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). According to Castle, DMD is “the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed in childhood,” and life expectancy is “approximately 20 years.”

Around the time Anthony transitioned into a wheelchair, the nonprofit organization Daring Adventures came into the Castles’ lives. “I realized they were the perfect teammate to make this happen,” Castle says. On May 3, Anthony, with the help of several volunteers and his family, will descend the Grand Canyon. Below, Castle talks about their upcoming trek and how it has transformed them both.

Why did Anthony want to hike into the Grand Canyon?
I think for him, it was really simple. He just wanted to get to the bottom — to get into the Colorado River and see the wonder of the Canyon.

When Anthony asked you to help him climb into the Grand Canyon, what was your response?
I was excited, because I love adventures, and I even love what others say can’t be done. This is one of many things we have done that folks said we couldn’t. We find it fun to be the exception. However, looking realistically at the place we are in, with Anthony transitioning off his feet, I was afraid I wouldn’t have the energy to coordinate this. But the more excited he got at the possibility, the less I worried about me.

What’s going through Anthony’s mind as he gets ready for the hike?
I think he’s really tickled that so many are supporting this. He is always asking me why people keep helping, and does that mean everyone loves him? Then he just smiles really big.

Courtesy of Jill Castle

Courtesy of Jill Castle

Talk to us about the training regimen. What’s involved, and how is Anthony preparing himself for this challenge?
We have been hiking every week for the last few months. We are carrying him at least 7 miles every time we hike, but I’m still not sure that’s enough. I think everyone is training on their own as well. I know I am. Most everyone on the carrying team is either an elite athlete, a world-class hiker or a fire-department search-and-rescue worker. All that’s left is the family. Anthony’s dad is carrying, and his fiancée, Dee Dee, and I are in charge of trying to keep up to take care of Anthony. There will be two EMTs on the trip, but he needs to be adjusted and stretched every 20 minutes or so, as well as kept hydrated and fed. Dee Dee and I will alternate, keeping up with the crew so there is always one of us with him. My other son, Oliver, is going as well and although he seems so much more mature, he is only 12, and this will be challenging. My boyfriend, Doug, will help take care of him as well.

Anthony does know it’s going to be hard. He is working on communicating his needs, which can be challenging for him. He knows that’s his job. He is also being very dedicated to his regimen this month prior, with stretching, meds and nutrition. He knows we can’t slack at all.

How will Anthony get down into the Canyon?
We will carry him in a custom chair called a Safari Chair. Mike Box made it for Phoenix Adaptive Recreation, and Daring Adventure now owns it. It has been customized for Anthony, but it is light and has wheels with poles to pull like a rickshaw. When the terrain gets too rough or too narrow, then the wheels clip off, the poles slide back and he is then carried like a pharaoh. He loves that, and it suits his little attitude. There are 10 sets of two carrying him and alternating approximately every 20 minutes. We will have a fresh changeout team at the halfway point: Indian Garden Campground. We estimate with the crew, it will take 10 hours to get him out.

Courtesy of Jill Castle

Courtesy of Jill Castle

How many people will be helping you on this adventure?
We have 19 staying at the bottom that will be part of him getting down, running the camp once we are down there and starting the trek out. We have another six who are so fit, they are able to come up and down as needed within the days. And we have another six staying at Indians Garden Campground for the halfway changeout. We also will have a “base camp” on top to support everyone and provide a nice meal when we make it up. I believe there are about 10 folks there. Lastly, there are quite a few family and friends coming to day-hike down as far as they can and walk out with him.

It seems like preparing for this adventure has given you a lot of time to think. On your blog, you talk about hope, humility and self-compassion. What has been going through your mind as you prepare to descend the Canyon?
The Canyon is a perfect metaphor for DMD. There are a lot of challenges and fears, but a ton of joy and love. When you have a child with this condition, you have to pace yourself and condition for the long haul. The journey can be unbelievably painful and unbelievably joyful; self-discovery is just moments later. I think in order to not just survive, but enjoy both endeavors, you have to be able to be open to what you are learning, accept help and stay connected to the moment. In the Canyon, no matter how painful or hard it gets for me personally, I will be thinking of my sons and how my strength and perseverance will give them comfort in their time of need. That is the same goal I have in DMD with regards to our family. My boys see me in pain, cry, be honest and ask for help when needed. But even more importantly, they see me regroup, get back up and keep going with a smile on my face. If they never saw me struggle, they would never learn how to get back up. They see me being hopeful that the joy will always compensate for the pain, and I believe, on a smaller scale, that will be exactly the case in the Canyon. In our journey in DMD, as well as into the Grand Canyon, we want to show everyone that to experience the good stuff, we must focus on what we can do, not what we can’t — regardless of what we think our limitations are. There is always something to be grateful for, and we are responsible to find it.

How can folks help out?
They could donate to our fundraiser at They can also donate any supplies we may need for the climb in and out. We are looking for sponsors for food, gear and any other help folks would like to provide.

For more information about Anthony’s trip into the Grand Canyon, visit:


—Kathy Ritchie


Filed under Hiking, Make a Difference

State Highway 366 to Riggs Lake Opens Today

Monika Ragland | Mt. Graham

Monika Ragland | Mt. Graham

A message from our friends at the Forest Service:

The unpaved portion of State Highway 366, also known as the Swift Trail which accesses the upper reaches of Mt. Graham, will open Tuesday, April 15.

The Safford Ranger District, Coronado National Forest will open all seasonally-closed camping areas on April 15. Twilight, Upper Arcadia, Arcadia, Round the Mountain, Noon Creek and Stockton Pass are usually open year round, weather permitting.

Drinking water will be available at Treasure Park and Columbine Corrals Memorial Day Weekend.

No campfire or smoking restrictions are in place at this time.  All forest visitors are urged to be extremely careful with fire, including cigarettes and other smoking materials.

While camping or picnicking, visitors are reminded to be “Bear Aware”.  As the weather warms, all animals on Mt. Graham become more active, including black bears. Some safety recommendations  include:

  • Keep camping and picnic areas clean at all times
  • Clean cooking utensils after meals
  • Stow food and garbage out of sight and smell range of wildlife
  • Wash hands and face, and change clothes before lights out

More information can be obtained by calling the Safford Ranger District at (928) 428-4150, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  For information on recreational opportunities on the Coronado National Forest, please visit

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