Featuring towering cliffs and flowing water, Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness is one of Arizona's most unique wilderness areas. Adventurers who yearn for solitude and scenic splendor can find both in its 19,410 acres of wilderness. It is located between Tucson and Phoenix in southeast Arizona. There is a year-round flow of the Aravaipa Creek in the Arizona desert, a rare phenomenon. Along the streamside, large sycamore, cottonwood, and willow trees flourish nourished by abundant water. During the fall, the Sonoran Desert landscape is transformed into a brilliant kaleidoscope of reds and golds.
Expect the Wild
There are no designated trails, signs, campsites or facilities. The land is rugged and you should be ready to pass through dense vegetation. Wear sturdy footwear suitable for hiking in sand, gravel, and cobble stones. Be ready to hike in the creek and for numerous stream crossings in knee-deep water. I wore neoprene socks which kept my feet warm.
Along the way, you can explore side canyons, caves, outcrops, and chimneys. Nature watchers, photographers, and those interested in exploring side canyons may spend one or two nights hiking from end to end. Permits are required because a limited number of hikers can enter the canyon. Plan accordingly as they typically sell out months in advance.
Having spent a full day hiking through the canyon, I chose to set up camp in a clearing above the creek. After setting up my hammock, I built a small fire and prepared a hot meal of lasagna for myself. It felt amazing to sit by the fire and eat the hot, delicious food after hiking in the cold water all day. The temperature dropped below freezing, making this a chilly December night, but I was able to stay relatively warm in my sleeping bag. I found my hiking boots frozen as I prepared to begin my day. Following a quick thaw out by the fire, I started my hike out of the canyon.
Heaven in the Desert
The canyon showcases nature's incredible beauty. God's masterpiece is on full display here. There's something very special about listening to the sound of the flowing creek in the midst of towering cliffs with colorful vegetation. If heaven had a desert, it might resemble Aravaipa.
Focus on the Outcome, not the Obstacle
When I arrived I was amazed at the beauty of this remote desert on a gorgeous December night. As I was setting up my camp, the rain began to fall, the temperature dropped, with the wind howling, this wildness of the canyon showed me I was in for a challenge.
There is no easy way to hike this canyon. I spent most of the time hiking in the creek as I believed it was the easiest route. Every step I took, I knew I was getting closer to the end of this journey. As I viewed this beautiful wild canyon, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I realized at that moment all of the obstacles I encountered over the past few days were nothing in comparison to the rewards I received by experiencing the wilderness of this oasis in the Arizona desert. Breathe in. Breathe out. Move on. Mark