The Arizona Trail traverses the entire latitudinal length of the US state of Arizona. It starts from the Mexican border and reaches north to the border with Utah. The trail reaches its highest elevation in the volcanic mountain range of the San Francisco Peaks. This trail difficulty is considered to be strenuous. Although some sections are easy, thru-hiking the entire trail will take hikers through difficult terrain with extreme conditions, and includes difficult logistical arrangements with navigation and resupply. Due to these factors, hiking the trail for long periods is only recommended for experienced hikers.
The trail passes through varied terrain, including very dry desert sections, along with high elevation mountainous regions. At the trail's considerable length, hikers will need to be prepared for the varying terrain difficulty, which can be muddled (literally) by severe storms, extreme heat, and even snow in higher elevations. Proper hiking boots and trekking poles will be needed.
Natural water sources in Arizona vary significantly in dependability. The Arizona Trail publishes water sources online which can aid in preparation. Additionally, guidebooks have more detailed information on water supply points along the route. It is recommended that hikers verify water sources with sources local to the area, like park rangers. All water sources will need to be treated before use.
The trail does pass through many towns along the way, with varying amounts of adequate food for resupply. Due to this variance, most hikers thru-hikers will opt to use a bounce box, by repeatedly mailing a box of food and supplies to upcoming towns on the trail. There are some basic guides published online that detail suitable areas for pursuing this strategy. Advanced preparation for resupply is a relative necessity for all thru-hikers on the Arizona Trail.
As with most thru-hikes that could last several months, weather conditions can vary significant by section and season. The typical weather on the trail is actually quite pleasant, with sunny and warm days and cool nights. Depending on the precipitation of the year, there can be snow in the extremities of the trail and the season, so it's important have sufficient gear for varied conditions.
The Arizona Trail does have signposts marking the route, but these are less frequent than in more popular trails. Since the trail is less-traveled, hikers will need to be extra careful to navigate correctly and stay on the route. At the very least, hikers should carry a guidebook, though additional navigation tools will be useful (map, compass, gps).
Besides for typical concerns around severe weather, Arizona is known for being home to the rattlesnake. Although rattlesnakes sightings are relatively rare, it is important to learn about how to avoid them. For the most part, staying to the trail will be sufficient, as rattlesnakes prefer to hunt and hide. Additionally, if you do encounter one, resort to common sense and leave it alone -- do not provoke the snake.
The AZT is much less popular than the more well-known American long distance trails. Because of this, there is a much smaller network that caters to hikers in the area. Therefore, this trail is more suitable to hikers who enjoy the challenge of having less overall support available to them. Logistical arrangements around water, resupply, and navigation will likewise be more difficult.
The trailheads along the AZT are relatively accessible by local shuttle services in the region. While these options are convenient, they will be expensive (especially for solo hikers) and will require advance reservation. Besides for these services it will be difficult to access parts of the trail. The towns along the route will be easier to access in general, but public transportation is not well-developed in areas of the country that are spread out, like Arizona.
Due to the remote wilderness, the towns along the route are typically very small, and availability of accommodation is low. Additionally, there are shelters on the trail itself, though there are plans to build some in the future. Hikers will need to rely on supplying their own form of shelter for the vast majority of the time. In the prime hiking season, pleasant weather may allow hikers to sleep out in the open, though that is not recommended most of the time due to other concerns (bugs, wildlife, etc).