The Arizona Trail is full of beauty from it’s start to the end. You might notice that my Arizona Trail, Best Passages * are all north of the AZTR 300 finish. That’s not to say the 300 isn’t beautiful. I had heat stroke and suffered from dehydration during first 300 miles so my opinion of the area is a bit askew. With that said most people regard the first 300 miles to be the hardest of the whole trail.
If you asked me right after I finished my ITT (Individual Time Trail) I would have told you none of it was enjoyable. The AZT is a very difficult trail. At times it can be hard to take it in and appreciate it in the moment (See my Hardest Passages post). After some time off the trail and time to reflect I realized there were some amazing pieces of trail between the Mexican border and Utah.
*Passages are designated sections of trail as determine by the Arizona Trail Association. They help to make planning, maintaining, and navigating the trail easier.
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HERE ARE MY (VERY SUBJECTIVE) BEST PASSAGES OF THE ARIZONA TRAIL
Apache Junction – Gold Canyon
Don’t make the mistake I did in thinking it’s only 20 miles from Queen’s Valley and Apache Junction and would be easy. You’ll find a long exposed, sandy and rocky 20 miles of dirt roads and double track. But towards the end you’ll find amazing single track of the Gold Canyon area with jumps, berms, dips, hips, and great flow. The AZT only scratches the surface of the Gold Canyon area, so if you have the chance take some time and explore.
Passage 33 –
Going into Flagstaff you’re treated with incredible riding but going out isn’t too shabby. Passage 33 earns it’s place on my Best Passages of the Arizona Trail list for a small section near Schultz Pass Road. You descend down a set of long flowing switchbacks to the start of Passage 34. Even with a fully loaded bike you’ll forget for a short while you’re bikepack racing.
Passages 42 & 43 –
Kaibab Plateau North & Buckskin Mountain
It quite possibly could be that I was less than 30 miles from the finish but Passages 42 & 43 were amazing. Besides a few canyons to climb out of, these passage are mostly downhill. They descend with great flow and one can really fly. Of course there are a bunch of gates to slow you down but they do give you a chance to take in the surrounding forest a last few times.
Passage 31 –
After navigating what seems like endless lava rock in exposed fields on Anderson Mesa you enter Passage 31 and the shade of tall pines. The single track through this passage is grand (in either direction). Once you make the descent to Fisher Point the trail is a sandy ribbon in a sea of grass surrounded by painted canyon walls. It’s hard to believe Flagstaff is just a few miles away. An urban paradise for sure. This section truly earns it’s place on my Best Passages of the Arizona Trail.
Passage 27 –
Any trail that was remotely flat and rideable would get praise if it followed Passage 26 and the Mogollon Rim. With that said the Blue Ridge passage is a beautiful section of trail. I even rode close to 3/4’s of it at night, but regardless of the time of day it rides so well. It’s definitely an island paradise sandwiched between the Happy Jack and Mogollon Rim areas.
Passage 12 – Oracle Ridge
Before you scream at the screen thinking, “IS THIS GUY CRAZY!”, I only mean the last section of this Passage. The descent off the ridge on Tr. 9 is a blast to ride.
Passage 17 – Alamo Canyon
I would say the last few miles of Passage 16 could be included in this list. From the single track to the views you can’t beat the last miles of the AZTR 300.
More Helpful AZT Resources
Read these next.
MY PROVEN GEAR LIST FROM THE AZTR
A detailed look at what I used on my AZTR (ITT), what worked and what didn’t.
Checkout our bikepacking resource page for more planning help.
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