A tent at night in the wilderness

Six Great Arizona Backpacking Trips

With both deserts and forests, and elevations ranging from just 72 feet to over 12,000, Arizona has a backpacking trip for pretty much every season.

With all this variety, it’s impossible to say whether these are the best backpacking trips in Arizona, but they’re all pretty awesome.

If you want more, see Six More Great Arizona Backpacking Trips or visit our Backpacking page.

Cabin Loop, Mogollon Rim

A summer favorite that’s incredible after an active monsoon season

Cabin Loop is a 25-mile backpacking route between six historic forest service cabins. Although only three of the cabins are on the loop itself, the other three can be accessed with short side trips. This hike can be especially enchanting near the end of an active monsoon season with lush greenery and a wide variety of stunning mushrooms. For those who aren’t up for the full length, the journey can be completed in your choice of two half loops.

The stats
24.8 miles for the whole loop without side trips
3625 ft elevation gain
Best seasons: summer, fall, and possibly spring

The full report
Cabin Loop

General Springs Cabin on Cabin Loop Trail Mogollon Rim Arizona

West Fork Trail, Sedona

An Arizona backpacking adventure to rival the Narrows in Zion

I know what you’re thinking. West Fork? That crazy crowded one in Sedona? Sure, you may share the beginning of the trail with the hordes of people exploring the incredible beauty of West Fork, but once the beaten path ends, you’ll leave them behind for some seriously spectacular scenery that you might have all to yourself. Your feet will be mostly wet, and the rocks will be slippery, but it’s the water running through here that gives it its unique charm.

The stats
14.4 miles
964 ft elevation gain
Best seasons: summer, spring, and fall

The full report
West Fork Trail Backpacking Route

Paria Canyon, Vermilion Cliffs Nat’l Monument

An epic odyssey through a narrow sandstone canyon

There are few places on this planet that awaken the senses and the spirit more than Paria Canyon. Straddling the border of Utah and Arizona, this 38-mile backpacking journey follows the Paria River as it carves its way down to Lee’s Ferry. This trip can be combined with a hike through the world famous Buckskin Gulch for those who can handle at least 16 miles in a single day. Getting a permit can be difficult, but the rewards are immeasurable.

The stats
38 miles
1200 ft elevation loss (north to south)
Best seasons: spring and fall

The full report
Paria Canyon

Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Upper Grant KP Creek Loop

KP Creek Loop, Blue Range Primitive Area

A remote hike through thickly forested wilderness

If you’re the type to thrive in complete wilderness and ample solitude, a backpacking trip around the KP Creek Loop is what you need. Though a fire damaged the areas at the beginning of the hike, and the trail seems to have very little maintenance, you will be rewarded for your effort with small waterfalls and surprisingly tall trees. The forest therapy is powerful here, and you’ll leave with a refreshed soul even while your weary body recovers.

The stats
19.1 miles
3712 ft elevation gain
Best seasons: summer, fall, and possibly spring

The full report
KP Creek Loop

Secret Canyon, Sedona

Get lost in the magic of Sedona without the crowds

If you have 4×4 and high clearance, then there’s no excuse not to get off the beaten path and explore Sedona’s magnificent Secret Canyon. Deep in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, this Arizona backpacking trip explores a canyon that’s beyond the reach of the typical hiker stopping at Devil’s Bridge and provides a measure of solitude that can be rare in Sedona. Immerse yourself in the tall canyon walls made of the red sandstone Sedona is famous for and stay alert to discover the secrets hidden here.

The stats
9.8 miles
935 ft elevation gain
Best seasons: spring and fall

The full report
Secret Canyon

Secret Canyon Backpacking Trip Sedona
Charlebois Spring Loop Superstition Mountains Arizona

Charlebois Spring Loop, Superstition Mountains

A great winter destination if you don’t like snow

There are plenty of wild legends that go along with the mining history of the Superstiton Mountains, and some people even say they are haunted. We aren’t into superstition, but these mountains are a favorite haunt of the women of WildPathsAZ. Charlebois Spring is a great Arizona backpacking trip within the wilderness, as it provides a scenic oasis in a rugged environment, but other destinations like Hackberry Spring are also great choices for an overnight stay.

The stats
16.8 miles (without the Cavalry side trip)
3199 ft elevation gain
Best seasons: winter, spring, and fall

The full report
Charlebois Spring Loop

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Disclaimer Outdoor activities have inherent risk, and we will not be able to tell you all the risks you may face. You are responsible for your own safety, so prepare as well as you can and know your limits. Follow this guide at your own risk. And have fun!

2 responses to “Six Great Arizona Backpacking Trips”

  1. Michael Avatar

    Another great one, for those seeking a thru-hiking experience or are possibly training for the Arizona Trail, is the 80-mile Black Canyon Trail between Prescott and Phoenix. It’s a good winter hike as temperatures are quite nice in the desert at this time with some majestic views of the Bradshaw Mountains and Agua Fria river, however this trail really shines in the spring, especially after a high-precipitation winter. It is absolutely covered in oceans of wildflowers and the desert is surprisingly green at this time. A few creek and river oases offer the chance to rest in the shade of trees. What’s more, you will probably have the majority of this trail all to yourself. A few mountain bikers use this trail, but I went entire days without seeing another soul. There’s a resupply option at Black Canyon City halfway through the trail. Water is spotty and seasonal and usually comes from gross little cow ponds, so a filter or some kind of purification method is highly recommended.

    1. Stacey Johnston Avatar

      “Oceans of wildflowers” sounds absolutely delightful. Thank you for sharing! We are always looking for new ideas.

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