Adventure Awaits...
on the Grand Enchantment Trail

Canyon of Turkey Creek, Galiuro Mountains  

The 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.

First conceived in 2003, the Grand Enchantment Trail (GET) is today a proven, navigable route from end to end, over 770 miles in total across Arizona and New Mexico. Primarily described by map and guidebook, the route 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

Many aspects of the Grand Enchantment Trail are unique to distance hiking, but perhaps none more than the locations of its termini. The GET begins and ends at the edge of large urban areas - Phoenix in the west and Albuquerque in the east. This allows unparalleled ease of access, yet without diminishing the wilderness experience in any way. National Forests touch the boundaries of both cities, and hikers find themselves out of civilization's grasp less than an hour from downtown.

  Albuquerque at dusk, from Sandia Crest

While the vast majority of the GET explores remote wilderness areas, it also reaches small towns along the way, where travelers 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 Guide)

GET   Number of on or near-route resupply points: 13
FACTS  Longest distance between resupply points: ~90 mi.

Over 770 Enchanted Miles from End to End

The 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.

 Manzano Crest Trail

The 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 GET does not possess any official sanction. This, in fact, offers several distinct advantages. Because the GET is a free route, distinguished by its impermanence on the land, it is not so at the mercy of politics. Instead it is free to wander the backcountry, to be adapted as circumstances or preferences allow, all the while making 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)

Mileage by Surface Type
Foot Trail
4WD dirt
2WD dirt
Total                       770
How much trail? A bit over 400 miles of the GET 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 GET project is to push for rehabilitation of overgrown or otherwise time-weary sections of trail in order to smooth travel along certain portions of the route. 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.

As for its other miles, many are routed along primitive 2-track roads which are often closed or largely 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 light throughout.

Where trails and roads do not offer an efficient link, the GET 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.

GET   Longest continuous distance away from paved roads: 186 miles
FACTS  Route does not join pavement from Gila Cliff Dwellings to the town of Magdalena

A Bridge Between Trails

The 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 GET 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 the PCT and PNT, the "Great Western Loop").

An Oasis in an Arid Land

The Southwest is arid country, no question about it. 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 full 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, desert springs, and piped groundwater such as windmills and stock troughs. Most water is of fair to excellent quality.

Aravaipa Canyon 

Notable among the route's watery reaches is its abundance of truly outstanding desert and montane canyon environments. Aravaipa Canyon, a renowned riparian canyon ecosystem, is located along the GET, as are the picturesque and sometimes dramatic canyons of the Gila River, Blue River, San Pedro River, Eagle and Bonita creeks, and Monticello Box. Not only do these perennially flowing watersheds provide an oasis for hikers, they are also home to a rich diversity of plant and animal life. 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.

Number of potential water sources along the route: 170+
FACTS  Total hiking miles alongside creeks and rivers: 90

14 Mountain Ranges

The 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 Pinalenos, 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.


Highest point: Mogollon Baldy (10,770'), Mogollon Mountains, NM
Lowest point:
Gila River (1,750'), Sonoran desert
Number of on-route summits over 10,000 feet: 10
Greatest vertical relief: 7800 feet, Gila River at Safford AZ to Mt Graham (also state's greatest)

 Magdalena Mountains
Hedgehog cactus bloom 

Uncommon Deserts

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 US 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.

GET   Miles of desert or semi-arid hiking between termini: 495
FACTS  Miles of hiking beneath forest cover: 275

12 Forever Wild Regions

The 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.

WILDERNESS AREAS (with managing agency)
New Mexico
Superstition (USFS) Gila (USFS)
White Canyon (BLM) Aldo Leopold (USFS)
Aravaipa Canyon (BLM) Apache Kid (USFS)
Santa Teresa (USFS) Withington (USFS)
Gila Box NCA (BLM) Manzano Mountain (USFS)
Blue Range P.A. (USFS) Sandia Mountain (USFS)

Wilderness 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 appareance.) 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

The Southwest is archaeologically rich, with a staggering number of significant 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 near the route of the Grand Enchantment Trail.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument 

Gila 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.

Many traces of indigenous cultures lie elsewhere along the Grand Enchantment Trail as well. Seek, and you may find...

Ghost Towns and Boomtowns

 Chase Creek Street in Clifton

The 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.

Mining 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 offers the curious traveler a glimpse.

Watchable Wildlife
> rocky mtn. bighorn sheep
> collared peccary
> white-nosed coati
> mexican gray wolf
> great blue heron
> blacktail rattler
> rocky mountain elk
> mt graham red squirrel
> whooping crane
> gila monster
> elf owl
> coues whitetail deer
> ringtail cat
> desert tortoise
> gila woodpecker
> desert pronghorn

Unique Wildlife

Few long distance trails offer as much diversity of wildlife as the Grand Enchantment Trail - particularly of uncommon wildlife, from the curious to the breathtaking.

 Gila monster

In 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.

desert tortoises

Farther 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 gray fox among the ponderosas and pinyon pines. 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 travel fleet-hooved 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.

Unlimited Opportunities

Santa Teresa Wilderness  

The 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 GET 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 it, and ultimately, to ensure that its beauty endures.



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