The name is reminiscent of an old western.  Tex Ritter starred in the 1943 movie of the same name. It was the story of a man and his sidekick returning home to rescue the family ranch from unseen forces. Today, The Arizona Trail is a meandering 800 mile hiking and horseback riding trail that stretches from Mexico in the south all the way to Utah at Arizona’s northern border.

Arizona Trail Sign

 And what a trail it is.  It traverses the state and takes the adventurous into what Arizona is all about. Vast open spaces and a diverse ecology that is uniquely Arizona. From the rolling oak covered hills and canyons of Arizona’s border with Mexico, through the rugged southern deserts, up along the Mogollon Rim and into Arizona’s alpine highlands. From here it circles Arizona’s highest vistas, crosses wind-swept high desert plains, travels deep into the Grand Canyon and then crosses the forested hills of the Arizona Strip until finally finishing at the Utah border.

The trail was the brainchild of the late Dale Shewalter, a Flagstaff grade school teacher who traversed the route in 1985 and dreamed of an interconnecting trail system that would stretch the distance of the entire state. His vision eventually did become The Arizona Trail.  I had the honor of knowing Dale quite well, as he was good friends with my brother.  I have a walking stick that his father made.  Dale carved the initial “G” into the top and gave it to me when I helped him move once.

Here is a great article on Dale in Flagstaff's Arizona Daily Sun

Started in the late 1980’s, the Arizona Trail is finished now and only small portions have yet to be improved even more.  Through National Forests, National Parks, State Trust lands and BLM lands, the Arizona Trail has been going for 25+ years and 800+ miles.

2 parts of the trail run right through the heart of Flagstaff and it also wanders through its nearby forests as part of Flagstaff’s Urban Trail system.  Many Flagstaff residents utilize sections of the Arizona Trail as part of walking their dog or teaching their children to ride a bike.

Perhaps you will get a chance to hike some of its grandeur or set a life-goal of walking the entire length in stages. The Arizona Trail will reward you with a deep understanding of what Arizona truly is: A rugged landscape of beauty and adventure. To gather information on a passage of the trail near you, visit the Arizona Trail Passages page.  For more information and current trail conditions, check out The Arizona Trail Associations website.

As for me, it is now one of my life goals, a bucket-list item, if you will.  I have set a goal of wandering the entire length and have about 40 miles of it complete as of this writing.  I will be using that walking stick that Dale Shewalter gave me decades ago as I finish this goal.  It may take me years to do, but it has been a blast so far!  I will be writing about each leg of my journey from the viewpoint of someone hiking the trail in “day hikes”, shorter 7 to 15 mile legs of this wonderful Arizona Trail.  Stay tuned and I will update you on our progress on this blog!

 Happy wandering!


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at