Hiking in the Arizona Deserts
Hiking is a popular recreational pastime in Arizona, as a get-away from urban living, while enjoying the beauty and wildlife of nature. Hiking season runs all year in Arizona. Of course, with unpredictable weather and fires, some trails may be closed anytime during the season. The websites for the area will usually inform you of any closures or cautions and we provide links for most of the trails in our directory.
Safety includes having the right kind of clothes and equipment. Preparation, comfort, ethics and how to deal with an emergency are all important topics to know when enjoying the outdoors.
A day hike, where you expect to return home before evening, doesn’t require as much equipment as an overnight hike or backpacking trip. You will need a good pair of hiking boots or walking shoes, and loose clothing that is appropriate for the weather conditions. Because our weather conditions can change quickly in the desert, it is safer to overdress, and carry a few extra layers, than to be under-dressed and cold. For a day hike bring these basics: water, energy food, sunscreen and hat, a map of the area, a GPS or compass, a rain coat (for rain & warmth), sharp knife, matches, and a friend or Cell Phone. We also bring a few cameras, extra batteries, a whistle, two way radios, MP3 player, hiking stick, pad to sit or lay down on and the dog.
For an overnight hike, you may also need a tent, food bags (to hang food in trees and away from critters), a change of underwear and socks, and cooking supplies. Check with your hiking partner to prevent packing duplicate gear, to minimize gear weight.
Hiking Ethics and Courtesy
Hikers have a responsibility to the land, wildlife nature and to other hikers and sportsmen. The effects of just one person or one group can be great. For example, a cigarette that starts a fire which starts a forest blazing. The cumulative effects of people over time can be very damaging to our wilderness areas.
Leave no trace of your ever having been in the area.
|Don’t hike off existing trails
It’s rarely necessary to hike off trail. On trails with switchbacks, don’t shortcut the curves. When you make a new path on steep slopes, you encourage others to follow it until the vegetation is tramped down and removed. During subsequent rainstorms, this can result in serious erosion problems that can damage the trail as a whole. This cost money from the limited funds available to our forests each year.
Pack it In / Pack it Out
Carry a plastic trash or store checkout bag to take up your trash until you get back to an area with trash cans. Properly dispose of what you can’t pack out. Human waste and food leftovers should be buried at least 200 feet from streams, water bodies and trails. Don’t leave cigarette butts behind for the next people to see. Open your items before you go. Remove foil wrappers, for example safety seals can be removed and thrown away at home before a trip
Or don’t start a fire at all. Many forests are just full of dry kindling waiting for an excuse burn. If you plan to heat something up during an outing you are best off carrying a small fuel stove versus messing around with a campfire, especially if the wind kicks up. Check before you go for forest area fire alert conditions that might prohibit open campfires. It is up to you to be aware of these situations. People who cause forest fires usually receive both civil and criminal charges, often involving both the Federal and State systems.
Using campfires on a hike is best restricted to an emergency situation in which you desperately need to get warm and dry your clothes. The thing to remember if you have to make a fire is that mineral soil and rocks don’t burn, but ground cover, overhanging branches and root systems will. Use a cook stove, placed on a rock, with a minimum of 10 inches of nonflammable surface around the stove in case some fuel is spilt.
Leave what you find
You will sometimes come across old ghost towns, abandoned military equipment, indian artifacts, mines or other features of interest. Leave them as you find them don’t collect souvenirs. Let others find these treasures as you did.
Close fence gates
In most areas the Government leases public land for cattle grazing and the fences are used to contain these animals. Leaving a gate open allows livestock to go where they shouldn’t, causing environmental damage. Any fence gate you go through should be immediately closed.
Keep an eye out for trespass signs and respect them. Sometimes the owners may be downright hostile towards you if you’re caught on their land.
Be Ready to Help Others
You know if you come across somebody in distress while deep in the wilderness, you wouldn’t just walk away. It may be frustrating when it disturbs your trip, and it’s usually the injured person’s fault for not preparing or using good sense. Nevertheless, if somebody is injured or in peril, we all have an ethical obligation to help, and/or get them help. Be ready for emergencies and they won’t be such a burden.