Arizona National Scenic Trail – Gila River Canyons Passage | White Canyon

The Arizona National Scenic Trail traverses Arizona from Mexico to Utah, covering over 800 miles. This multi-use non-motorized, long-distance trail highlights the state’s topographic, biologic, historic, and cultural diversity. Designated in 2009 as part of the Omnibus Public Lands Bill, the trail was the vision of Dale Shewalter, a school teacher from Flagstaff, Arizona.

Features along the trail include historic sites, diverse natural features, and geologic wonders, and remote wilderness areas. The Tucson Field Office administers 34 miles of trail through two passages, Passage 15 (Tortilla Mountains) and Passage 16 (Gila River Canyons). Most passages can be assessed by motorized vehicles at the beginning and end. Some areas require 4-wheel-drive vehicles to get to the access point.

Southwest Trail Solutions assisted the Arizona Trail Association (ATA), the organization responsible for the construction, maintenance, and support of the 800-mile cross-state trail, on several projects. Neil and Mark specifically contributed thousands of volunteer work hours.

Mark gave his time to design 35 miles of the trail in Pima County and planned and coordinated volunteer work events that produced more than 100,000 volunteer hours of construction. He is a regional steward for the ATA and spends hundreds of hours each year working on the trail, supporting trail users, and working with ATA staff.

In 2008, Mark led a crew to design a section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail in the Gila River Canyons Passage. This passage begins at the Kelvin Bridge as it crosses the Gila River. The terrain was challenging – steep and rugged – and property boundaries limited options.

It took the crew a week, including two half-days of travel time, to complete a 1.6-mile grade stake centerline alignment. The segment is widely viewed as one of the most beautiful stretches of the trail.