on the Grand Enchantment Trail
of Turkey Creek, Galiuro Mountains
G.E.T. offers a wild, scenic, diverse, yet also convenient way
of discovering some of the most fascinating and little-known corners
of the American Southwest.
in 2003, the Grand Enchantment Trail (G.E.T.) is today a proven,
navigable route from end to end, over 700 miles in total across
Arizona and New Mexico. Conceptual by design—the route is
described by map and guidebook rather than being marked or formally
established on the ground—the G.E.T. links existing hiking
trails, dirt roads, drainage courses, and occasionally runs cross-country,
providing an adventurous, rewarding, and highly varied hiking
(non-motorized travel) experience that nonetheless feels natural
and fluid like a more traditional long-distance trail.
Access and Opportunity
aspects of the Grand Enchantment Trail are unique to distance
hiking, but perhaps none more than the locations of its termini.
The G.E.T. begins and ends at the edge of large urban areas -
Phoenix in the west and Albuquerque in the east. This allows
hikers to access the route with unparalleled ease, yet without
diminishing the wilderness experience in any way. National
Forests touch the boundaries of both cities, and thru-hikers find
themselves out of civilization's grasp less than an hour from
at dusk, from Sandia Crest
the vast majority of the G.E.T. explores remote wilderness areas,
it also reaches small towns along the way, where hikers may rest
and provision themselves for the journey's next leg. Groceries
and restaurants offer much sought-after calories, and post offices
hold maildrops for hikers as on other long-distance trails. These
"trail towns" are located at convenient intervals along
the route, allowing hikers to carry less packweight and to focus
on the wonders of the natural world. (See Town
Number of on or near-route resupply points: 12
Longest distance between resupply points: 97 mi.
Over 700 Enchanted Miles from End to End
airline distance between Phoenix and Albuquerque is only 300 miles.
Clearly the Grand Enchantment Trail does not make direct passage
between its end points, but instead follows a route designed around
the journey. (See overview map)
What may be lost in sterile efficiency is more than recovered
in enjoyment: the trail passes through some of the most scenic,
well-watered, and diverse environments - ecologically, culturally
and geographically - that exist in this region.
Grand Enchantment Trail differs from most other long-distance
trails in that it does not at present use
a single mile of trailway built specifically for its purposes.
Although increasingly familiar to land management agencies, whose
trail maintenance efforts portions of the route will surely benefit
from, nevertheless the G.E.T. does not possess any official sanction.
This, in fact, offers several advantages for hikers. Because the
G.E.T. is a free route, it is not so at the mercy of politics.
It is, quite literally, free to wander as it pleases, and in so
doing makes efficient use of the existing trails, primitive tracks,
and public lands that occur abundantly throughout the states of
Arizona and New Mexico. In fact, the Grand Enchantment Trail already
utilizes significantly more trail tread than
does the Continental Divide Trail in New Mexico, a route that
has been in development for many years.
(View GET Surface Types map)
much trail? About
400 miles of the G.E.T. is hiking trail at this time - nearly 60%
of the route. The majority of these miles are part of the US Forest
Service's trail system, and vary in condition from well-maintained
and obvious to relict and vague. An ongoing focus of the G.E.T.
project is to advocate for the rehabilitation of overgrown or otherwise
time-weary sections of trail in order to maximize the route's primitive
recreation potential. Ruggedness and challenge are essential components
of the experience, however, and hikers should bring with them
a familiarity with wilderness travel, map and compass skills, as
well as the use of GPS.
by Surface Type
for its other miles, many are routed along primitive 2-track roads
which are often closed or impassable to vehicle traffic, but remain
ideally suited for travel on foot. Hiking here is generally straightforward.
Maintained Forest Service, BLM, and county roads offer easier
walking still, and some are graded for passenger cars. Traffic,
even along the very occasional paved road surface, tends to be
trails and roads do not offer an efficient link, the G.E.T. sometimes
opts to travel overland. Most such segments are short, direct,
and obvious with due care. Box canyons, many with flowing water,
offer rugged yet straightforward passage, as do the sandy bottoms
of desert washes and arroyos. Dirt roads can be linked together
in open country by following a compass bearing or line of sight,
traveling cross-country among the greasewood or pinyon-juniper.
continuous distance without a paved road crossing: 219 miles
does not touch pavement from west terminus at Phoenix until
Bridge Between Trails
Grand Enchantment Trail also uses segments of the Arizona Trail
(AZT) and Continental Divide Trail (CDT) on its way from
end to end. Approximately 70 miles of the G.E.T. coincides with
the Arizona Trail across the Sonoran desert, as well as 45 miles
of the CDT in New Mexico's remote Black Range. Both the AZT and
CDT offer distinct experiences of their own, and the GET weaves
a portion of these into its own unique perspective.The Grand Enchantment
forms a bridge between long distance trails, even facilitating
a great circuit hike of several thousand miles throughout the
American West (with as well the PCT and PNT, the "Great Western
Water, Water Everywhere
Southwest is arid country, as any self-powered traveler here knows.
Much of the region is desert, and even the highest mountain summits
receive less precipitation annually than in other parts of the
US. Despite this, the Grand Enchantment Trail encounters water
sources with surprising frequency over its 730 mile length.
(See Water Chart) Part of
the criteria used in developing the route was to find a way of
minimizing the burden in water weight typical of arid-land hiking.
Indeed, spring season hikers can often expect to find multiple
sources of drinking water each day of the journey, and rarely
if ever would carry more than a day's supply at a time. Typical
sources include mountain and canyon creeks, snowmelt rills, desert
springs, and piped groundwater such as from windmills and at stock
troughs. Most water is of fair to excellent quality.
among the route's watery reaches is its abundance of truly outstanding
desert canyons. Aravaipa Canyon, a renowned riparian canyon
ecosystem, is located along the GET, as are the lesser known but
also beautiful canyons of the Blue River, Eagle and Bonita creeks,
and Monticello Box. Not only do these riparian canyons provide
ample, in some cases perennial drinking water, they are also home
to a rich diversity of plant and animal life, and offer a cooler
and sometimes shady respite from the open desert beyond. Pools
of water also appear in occasional slot canyons along the
way. Non-technical in nature, these narrow defiles are remarkable
both for their rugged beauty as for their near total obscurity
in spite of the former.
of potential water sources along the route: 170+
hiking miles alongside creeks and rivers: 90
14 Mountain Ranges
GET traverses at least 14 distinct mountain ranges, and passes
in the shadow of many more solitary peaks and cliffs. (See elevation
profile) Some ranges are low and arid, but often with stark
and dramatic relief, while others rise much higher where they
penetrate any storm clouds, providing sufficient moisture for
coniferous and aspen forests. Many of the mountain ranges encountered
show aspects of both desert and montane ecosystems. Among these
are the aptly-named "sky island ranges," such
as the Pinaleno Mountains near Safford, whose lofty crests rise
like islands above a sea of desert. These ranges are exceedingly
diverse, both climatologically and biologically, and in some cases
harbor virtually every life zone - the equivalent of what one
might see on a walk from Mexico to Canada.
By way of
its east-to-west orientation, the Grand Enchantment Trail explores
both the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, as well
as transitional environments between and beyond the two. It
is the only long-distance route in the U.S. to visit both of these
"wet" deserts, which receive more rain annually
than any other desert in North America. Owing as well to its warmth,
the Sonoran desert is home to a fascinating and unusual assortment
of life forms, including the stately saguaro cactus, fishhook
barrel, and bizarre whip-like ocotillo. The Chihuahuan desert
is higher and cooler. Here, agave and yucca grace the open plains
with their spikey clusters and waving stalks, while fragrant greasewood
lend hillsides a soft grey-green hue. Semi-arid grasslands and
pygmy forests of pinyon and juniper occur at elevations just above
the desert, offering charms all their own.
of desert or semi-arid hiking between termini: 470
of hiking beneath forest cover: 260
12 Forever Wild Regions
Wilderness Act of 1964, implemented by US Congress, mandates the
long-term protection of undeveloped natural areas determined to
possess greater value - biological, scenic or recreational - in
their own right than might be realized in some other sense through
their exploitation. These Wilderness Areas are the crown jewels
in America's public lands system, the few remaining places in
our country where "man himself is but a visitor, who does
not remain." Here we may hike and camp in relative isolation
from the tiresome machinery of modern living, and experience nature
more on its own terms.
AREAS (with managing agency)
Santa Teresa (BLM)
Box RNCA (BLM)
is where the magic happens, and the Grand Enchantment Trail affords
access to wilderness in abundance. In fact, nearly 200 miles,
or about 28% of the GET lies within officially-designated Wilderness.
(And a great deal more of the route is wilderness by every outward
measure.) Many of these wilderness areas are under the stewardship
of the US Forest Service, and in no case is a permit required
to hike here. In several instances, the Bureau of Land Management
oversees federally-designated wilderness - often a rugged and
picturesque canyon environment - and in one such area (Aravaipa
Canyon), visitors must obtain a recreation permit in order to
hike and camp - the only "red tape" to be found along
the entire trail.
National Monuments, Ancient Treasures
Southwest is archaeologically rich, with an incredible array of
centuries-old cultural sites located throughout the region. Among
the best preserved Native American architecture to be found here
is at the Gila Cliff Dwellings, in southwest New Mexico,
and Salinas Pueblo Missions east of the Rio Grande, both
now protected as National Monuments and located along the route
of the Grand Enchantment Trail.
Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Cliff Dwellings National Monument features a remarkably well preserved
13th century Mogollon community built within large natural alcoves
along a sheer rock face - stunning both to behold and to explore
up close. View examples of Pueblo and Spanish architecture at
the 16th century ruins of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.
Located near the trail, the monument's Abo district features the
tall and impressive remains of a Pueblo community later influenced
at the hands of Spanish missionaries.
traces of Native culture are elsewhere along the Grand Enchantment
Trail as well. Seek, and you may find...
Ghost Towns and Boomtowns
Creek Street in Clifton
Old West is alive and well here too. Nineteenth and early 20th
century mining towns came and went. Some, like Kelly New
Mexico, went bust for good, while others proved too tough to die.
Or too charming: the ghost town of Mogollon sits high in
a rugged, forested canyon near the route, its period homes, saloons,
and other architecture now attracting artists and curious travelers
from around the country.
also lays claim to the New West, and continues to form the backbone
of small town economies. Just uphill of historic Clifton Arizona,
the enormous open pit of Morenci continues to yield more
copper than any other mine in North America. The town of Morenci,
like the mine, is a world unto itself that few outsiders see,
and the GET will take you here.
rocky mtn. bighorn
mexican gray wolf
great blue heron
rocky mountain elk
mt graham red squirrel
coues whitetail deer
long distance trails offer as much diversity of wildlife as the
Grand Enchantment Trail - particularly of unusual wildlife, from
the strange to the breathtaking.
the deserts and canyons of southeast Arizona, hikers are likely
to encounter pig-like javelina foraging on the pads of
prickly pear, or spot a black and orange lizard, the gila monster,
crawling dinosaur-like along a sandy wash. Coatimundi -
looking like one part bear, one part raccoon - forage for manzanita
berries in forested canyons of the Sky Island ranges, while ringtail
cats scurry among desert boulders under cover of darkness. Majestic
bighorn sheep mingle among the high cliffs above Eagle
Creek or stroll nonchalantly across traffic in Morenci.
east, in the remote Gila country of New Mexico, the endangered
Mexican gray wolf roams free once more, hunting for rocky
mountain elk, mule deer and kit fox among the pinyon
and juniper. Black
bear and cougar live here as well; campers
have an excellent chance of hearing the haunting cry of a mountain
lion in the night. Pronghorn antelope run in cautious herds
across the open plains, while along the Rio Grande flyway, the
magnificent wingspan of whooping cranes spreads out across
the New Mexican sky once again.
Grand Enchantment Trail offers truly unlimited opportunities for
exploration, adventure, and solitude. For those who hear its call,
this extraordinary route will reveal a cross section of the American
Southwest unlike any other, one of stunning diversity in landscape,
flora, fauna, and culture. Whether taking to the trail for an
afternoon, the week, or a two month thru-hike, you'll find the
G.E.T. has much to offer of a genuinely grand and enchanting place.
Here, unknown to many, lies a land still wild and worthy of preservation;
come see this land, to revel in its wonders, and ultimately, to
ensure that its beauty endures.
"If you know wilderness in the way that you know love,
you would be unwilling to let it go.
We are talking about the body of the beloved,
not real estate." - Terry Tempest Williams