Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
6,347.00 ft (1,934.57 m)
Trail type
26.00 mi (41.84 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

AZT Passage 16: Gila River Canyons is a 26-mile point-to-point section of the roughly 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail. This section runs from Gila River to Tonto National Forest Boundary and is located   southeast of Phoenix, AZ. This passage is accessible for runners, hikers, long-distance backpackers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. 

Passage 16 runs along the Gila River Corridor and climbs through the Gila River Canyons.This section features a lush riparian environment with large cottonwood trees, spectacular gorge scenery, and some of the best wildflower displays in Arizona, including stunning blooms of Mexican gold poppies, bluedicks, and purple lupines.

This passage begins at the Kelvin-Riverside Bridge, crosses the Gila River, and briefly follows alongside railroad tracks. The trail consists of a winding singletrack that follows the Gila River for many miles, sometimes rising several hundred feet above the river, sometimes close to it. It passes through thick saguaro forests, and crosses numerous canyon drainages. 

To the north are the formations that define the Gila River Canyons, including The Spine, Walnut Canyon Narrows, Copper Butte, and The Rincon.

After crossing Walnut Canyon, the trail leaves the river and begins a long, steep climb to the north. The trail ascends steadily with views of deeply cut canyons, desert spires, dramatic geology and some of the most spectacular gorge scenery outside of the Grand Canyon! This remote area is prime habitat for bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and Gila monsters.

After traversing spectacular ridgelines and passing several deep chasms, the trail crosses the boundary of Tonto National Forest and ends at a gate on an abandoned two-track road.

Check the Arizona Trail Water Report for current information at:


Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Gorge Scenery. Wildflowers. Riparian Corridor.

Trailhead Elevation

1,909.00 ft (581.86 m)

Highest point

3,686.00 ft (1,123.49 m)


Backcountry camping
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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