So you’re planning to race/tour the Arizona Trail.  Are you wondering where to start your planning?  Planning for the Arizona trail can be complex and time consuming, especially if you don’t know where to start.  The One of Seven Project knows about planning for long trips.  As a result I put together this Arizona Trail Planning Guide to make life easier for you.

Everyone has questions about which gear to bring, how to get to and from the trail, and probably the biggest question is how to resupply.  You’ll find answers to all you’re questions and more throughout this page and our other AZT focused pages.  We broke down planning for the Arizona Trail into 7 steps for you.  That shouldn’t stop you from doing your own research to ensure the best possible outcome for your trip.

I can’t stress enough how important planning is and how much it can effect the outcome of your Arizona Trail Race/Tour.  The more information you have on hand and available to you, the more options you’ll have while on the trail.  If you don’t know where water and food are, or if alternate routes exist, then they cease to be an option.  Bottom line, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  Read on and plan your own race/tour of the AZT.

Do you find this page valuable?

Shopping with our affiliates helps fund the development of content like this.

STEP 1: RACE OR TOUR

RACING PROS:

  • Riding course with large number of others (Though no guarantee you’ll race with others).
  • Chance to test your grit against other like minded individuals.
  • Meet and bond with fellow racers in a shared experience.

TOURING PROS:

  • Choice of start time, direction, and route.
  • No pressure from the clock.
  • Ability to go at your own pace.
  • Less physically and mentally demanding.

RACING CONS:

  • No choice over start time or direction.
  • Fixed route.
  • Extremely physical and mentally demanding.

TOURING CONS:

  • Less chance of meeting fellow bikpackers.
  • Slightly higher danger (Less people, less support if you get hurt or have a mechanical.)

STEP 2: PICK A DATE

RACE

The AZTR is now always on the 3rd Thursday of April.

  • 750 – 7 am Mexican Border
  • 300 – 8 am Parker Canyon Lake

TOUR

If your looking for some flexibility then touring is the option for you.  The best times to attempt a thru-bike of the AZT is in the Spring and Fall.  Summer temperatures are far too warm and could be dangerous.  The Winter months bring snow to the higher ridges and peaks, making the trail impassable in certain areas.

Pro-Tip

If you choose to race in the Fall, be aware that the trail will be more overgrown than the Spring.  The Cats Claw in the south is a bitch.  Over half the distance from the 300 start to Patagonia is choked in tall grass, making following the trail extremely hard.

STEP 3: WHICH DIRECTION TO GO?

NORTH TO SOUTH (Utah to Mexico):

PROS:

  • Trail starts at a higher elevation (start cooler and get colder temps out of the way).
  • Grand Canyon aside, an easier start

CONS:

  • Last 300 miles will be more difficult than first 300.
  • Grand Depart is at the Mexican border.

SOUTH TO NORTH (Mexico to Utah)

PROS:

  • Easier to get to start.
  • Leaving with Grand Depart.

CONS:

  • Physically harder start.
  • You’ll have to hike the Grand Canyon more worn out.
  • Remote finish, harder to get home.

STEP 4: SETTING UP A RESUPPLY / ITINERARY SCHEDULE

Once you’ve decided on the first three items on the list, things get a bit harder and the real work begins.  I can’t stress how important Steps 4-6 are!  As I stated in the opening paragraph of the page you have to do your homework.  Not planning for the Arizona Trail, isn’t an option.  Trust me!

A well put together resupply list and itinerary are crucial to your planning for the Arizona Trail.  I referenced mine multiple times a day.  An itinerary is just a guideline, and the chances you’ll stick to it are slim, but it’s still good to have.  If you’re ready to start your own now, checkout my post, Arizona Trail Resupply Planner.

AZT Resupply Sheet - AZT Resources - Foodwater - Arizona Trail Planning Guide

This spreed sheet is available on Google Docs.

STEP 5: GEAR

A big part of planning for the Arizona trail is selecting the right gear.  The AZT demands some speciality items like good sun protection, extra water capacity, good hiking shoes and more.

I have a whole page that covers the gear I carried not only on the AZT, but also the Colorado Trail and Tour Divide.  You can see what I brought, pros/cons, what did/didn’t work and what I would do differently.

Once you’ve picked all your gear, test it.  Then replace what didn’t work, and test it again.  It’s much easier to make changes to your set up at home than while on the trail.  Like with your planning, more testing is better.

Bikepacking Gear List / Photo - Tour Divide Planning Guide - Arizona Trail Planning Guide - tour divide guide

STEP 6: TRAINING

Some of us might be able to go from couch to start line, but for must of us some training is required to finish a race like the AZTR.  I separated Steps 6-7 even though one could do them at the same time (Though I wouldn’t combine your testing and training.  If something you were testing failed and your training has failed as well).

Everyone has there own way of training so I won’t got into details on the subject.  Rather I’ll tell you want areas were the most physically demanding for me.

  • There’s lots of HAB on the AZT.
  • It’s a hiking trail so corners are tight, practice your 180’s with a loading bike or you’ll be walking a lot.
  • A strong core and back will help with the first two on the list.
  • Practice riding on loose rocks and soil.
  • Ride at night, you could possibly be doing a lot of it to beat the heat.

STEP 7: DO A TEST RIDE

Test, Test, Test.  You can go to the starting line with a fresh off the showroom floor set up and probably make it to the finish. But you might also have to be part MacGyver to do so.  If you don’t have your set up dialed before you go, you will run into some kind of issue that has to be address on trail.  Testing should really be part of your planning for the Arizona Trail.

Do whatever you can to avoid this extra stress to your race.  As I mentioned you could combine your training and testing but a failed set up on a training ride will have the same negative result as in the race.

Consider the following when testing your set up:

  • Don’t settle for your first try, no one get’s it right on the first try.
  • Play with the location of items to see what works best.
  • Is the bike balanced?
  • If your questioning if something is going to work or not, side on it not working and dial it in.
  • Externally mounted bottles will eject or brake off your bike, be sure you have these 100% dialed.  A lots bottle or two means less water you can carry.

More on the AZT

Read these next.

Grand Canyon Descent AZT

ARIZONA TRAIL RESUPPLY GUIDE

The more information you have at your finger tips the better your chances are you’ll finish your AZT thru-bike.

Phillip in repose AZT bikepacking

AZT TRANSPORTATION GUIDE

Getting to and from the AZT is the first and last test of the trail.  Find out how to simplify it with our Transportation Guide.

Pizza Delivery along the Arizona Trail - AZT - Arizona Trail Dispatches - arizona trail planning guide

ARIZONA TRAIL DISPATCHES

A collection of posts about the Arizona Trail and personal dispatches from my ITT of the trail during my triple crown.

Bikepacking Gear List / Photo - Tour Divide Planning Guide - Arizona Trail Planning Guide - tour divide guide

MY BIKEPACKING GEAR LIST

Full comparison of my gear list from the bikepacking triple crown. Pros/Cons, tips, and what I would do next time.

Bikepacking set up - bikepacking resources

BIKEPACKING RESOURCES

Have questions about the gear you think you need to go bikepacking?  Checkout my three set ups and get advice on putting your own together.

Press Inquires & Media

PRESS

Our Press Releases and coverage of the Project spans from news sources to online blogs and print magazines.

CHECKOUT ALL OUR GUIDES

Arizona Trail Logo - pregnant triangle - One of Seven Project - Arizona Trail Guide - FINISH TIME CONTEST
Tour Divide/Great Divide MTB Route Logo - tour divide guide
Colorado Trail Logo- One of Seven Project - colorado trail guide
Kokopelli Trail Logo - Kokopelli Trail Guide - Bikepacking

Support the Project

Simply clicking on the links below with our affiliates supports the Project.

Amazon - Clothes, Electronics, Sports Gear & Apparel, Automotive, Toys, Books, Music
Outdoor Research - Technical Outdoor Gear & Apparel
Backcountry - Outdoor Gear & Apparel
Yeti Coolers - Outdoor Gear