Column: Long distance hiking, the Black Canyon Trail

'Hiking Arizona'

In the book, “Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People” by Robert and Martha Manning, we find a wealth of information and encouragement to “hit the trail.”

Some of the trails included are out of this world, which are in Europe, Australia, Africa and across the United States. In discussing a longer trail in Yavapai County, I will refer to the first section of their book, “Why walk?” The Prescott Circle Trail has been mentioned occasionally in this column, but it is not the only established route in Arizona or Yavapai County that is 50-plus miles.

While the Mannings include a couple of Arizona hikes in their book, most of their routes are, as they say, “well marked and managed.” That’s not often the case with Arizona’s longer trails. The Mannings present walks that exhibit “great cultural landscapes of the world where nature and culture are intertwined.” They include a handy table which lays out all 30 hikes next to each other to gauge distance, difficulty, accessibility, and other logistical factors. Interestingly, some hikes are not that long, such as the Kaibab Trail across the Grand Canyon, listed as 21 miles.

In fact, the hikes they cover range from 11-plus miles to 480 miles. So, what makes a hike one of distance, according to the Mannings? They define a long distance trail as a “named trail that can be walked in a few days to a few weeks.” Many of these trails can be hiked in sections. The Mannings emphasize the “ordinary” ability of the average hiker in their descriptions and so stay clear of the super long trails such as the Arizona, Pacific Crest, or Appalachian trails.

WHY WALK

The Mannings list things such as: to be more active. It’s a healthy choice. To be directly in touch with the world around us. To more fully appreciate the cultural and natural worlds we inhabit. To experience more authentic contact with people and the places they live. To simplify life by slowing down. To conserve landscapes that make our world so much more interesting. To invest more fully in the local economy. To celebrate the magical nature of something we take for granted. To see life through a different spiritual lens. I agree with each reason, but I have found that unless, “I like it,” I won’t do it. Why do you walk? There’s quite a bit to like about hiking the Black Canyon Trail.

BLACK CANYON TRAIL

The BCT is a north-south route which runs between Highway 169 (Cherry Road) and Highway 74 (Carefree Highway). That’s about 100 miles and consists of a combination of roads and trails. It is a non-motorized route. It is still under construction. I have yet to receive a response from the Black Canyon Trail Coalition as to the status of trail development. The trail is best in cooler weather. There are no accommodations along the route, little shelter, and water sources are few and far between. It’s a challenge and that’s what I like most about it.

There are quite a few trailheads to choose from, such as on New River Road some 3 miles west of I-17 or Highway 69 just west of Spring Valley at mpm 266.5. This is an historic sheep trail and though it has its civilized side, being so close to the freeway, it has its wilder elements too, my favorite being the section west and south of Rock Springs. The views are spacious and though not remote, it often feels that way.

Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.