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thenrie 09-11-2012 09:12 PM

Looking for current information on the status of the Great Western Trail
A friend and I have this thought rolling around in our very small brains that we'd like to ride the Great Western trail from Mexico to Canada. There is not much information available on the Internet, and what information there is is quite old and probably outdated. If there is anyone on the forum who has ridden any part of the trail, or hiked it, or knows a contact who has, I would appreciate any information you can offer.

We're currently looking at starting March or April 2014 from the Arizona/Mexico border near Nogales, or possibly down near Douglas if I can find a suitable route up past Safford. Once I get above Safford, I am familiar with the trail system on up past Springerville/Eagar and could rejoin the GWT over near Flagstaff. From the maps I've found, it appears the part of the trail from Nogales to above Phoenix is "proposed" but does not appear to be official yet. Same thing once you get up to Montana. Any current info would be greatly appreciated.

Painted Horse 09-11-2012 10:52 PM

I ride section of the Great Western in Utah. Can't say that I've ridden it's length. Just section here and there. Some of the Great Western in Utah is multi-use, Meaning ATV may be found along those sections.

Here is the Arizona Trail. Which make up part of the Great Western in AZ

ATA - Overview Map

From John on

"At one time, the Arizona Trail (Mexico to Utah) and Great Western Trail (Mexico to Canada through the Intermountain West), talked about joining (ca 1995), but one is non-motorized and one is motorized, the objectives and visions are sometimes different, and so the trails were built separately in Arizona. The Az. Trail was completed this year, just in time for the Arizona Centennial, and after about thirty years of planning and work. It is nearly all single-track, is a non-motorized trail, and passes through the amazing diversity of Arizona, offering unique desert, canyon, and high country experiences. It is a National Scenic Trail, designated by Congress, similar to the CDT and PCT.

The GWT through Arizona runs mostly on existing roads, roughly following a corridor up the spine of Arizona similar to the one the Az Trail follows. As Painted says, in Utah and points north, the GWT is often a multi-use trail, with motorized and non-motorized portions - e.g. the popular multi-use Paiute Trail section through the Richfield, UT area. "

thenrie 09-12-2012 08:21 PM

Thanks much! That link is just what I was looking for. Is there anything like that for the rest of the GWT? Looking at one of the maps on the GWT web site, it looked like it is more like a network of trails in Utah, rather than a single designated trail. The guy I'll be taking the trip with lives in Richmond, Ut, just north of Logan. Hopefully he'll be able to get more info from local sources like yourself. I'm actually an Arizona boy and I'm familiar with some of the AZ trail. I had forgotten all about it. Thanks again.

AQHSam 09-12-2012 09:47 PM

Omgoodness does your idea sound fun. How long of a trip do you think that will be?

Celeste 09-12-2012 10:14 PM

All I have to say is that it must be nice to have both the time and the energy to ride like that. When I retire so that I have the time, I'll be too dang old............
Lottery maybe????

QOS 09-13-2012 11:22 AM

Sounds like a blast. I am pea green with envy. Celeste, I would have to play the lottery to win...maybe I will buy a ticket next lottery...I will win and I will ride off down the trail....sounds like a plan

thenrie 09-13-2012 11:48 AM


Originally Posted by AQHSam (Post 1681269)
Omgoodness does your idea sound fun. How long of a trip do you think that will be?

Best info I have so far is approximately 3,000 miles. I'm expecting it to be a four-month ride. I will likely have to take a break in the middle to attend my daughter's high school graduation, but otherwise we're hoping to do it all in one ride. Several family members and friends want to ride portions of it with us. I would even invite members of the forum on board for portions, although we want to keep the party small, for logistical and environmental impact reasons. As we get farther along in planning, if anyone is interested, let me know.

It's going to take a ton of planning and I'm still not sure we can do it logistically (or physically). We'll need a lot of help on the support side. That's where family and friends will come in. On top of that, I'll be 55 and my buddy will be in his 60s, so we're going to both have to start on our conditioning pretty soon. Right now this is just in the "I want to..." stage. We'll see how it pans out.

When I was in high school my dad and I wanted to take a pack trip from Tucson, AZ to Panguitch, UT, where he was born and raised. We had one chance to do it just before I got married and couldn't make it happen. So when my buddy mentioned he'd like to ride the GWT a couple months ago, the thought just sort of sprouted and took root. My dad, at 78, wants to ride part of it with us. He'll turn 80 during the trip, if we go when planned.

We'll have a ton to work out before we can even make a "go-no go" decision. It appears the route has been pretty much established now, so that will just be a matter of getting maps and GPS coordinates, but working out water matters and re-supply stops, logistical help, horses, and equipment, and last, but not least, money, will be the challenge. We may look for sponsors, or even adopt a cause to publicize, and look for funding help that way. I don't really think horses/mules and equipment is going to be a big challenge, but fuel for vehicles for logistical help and feed will be expensive, and if we could benefit a good cause at the same time, that would be a plus.

I've been looking at my gear with a critical eye recently and I think I'm going to have to start collecting new gear. I don't think my current saddle will make it (a 1947 Hamley) without a complete restoration. Maybe time to try my hand at building a saddle. Not even sure my horse is the right horse for this trip. Need to get her on some long trips to see how she handles mileage. I expect I'll be asking for a lot of advice regarding trails, routes, training, administrative stuff, and other things from forum members as I prepare.

I have to say, though, it's been a long time since I was this excited about a trip. If I had to lay a bet, I'd say this one is going to happen. Got to get my ducks in a row first, though.:D

Celeste 09-13-2012 06:27 PM

Thenrie, I am the same age as you, but there is definitely the chance that I have a lot more mileage on me than you do.

Painted Horse 09-13-2012 06:46 PM

I was up in Yellowstone this past August and met some folks, The one fellow introduced the couple he was with as being famous, I asked what for and he said they had rode from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Over 3000 miles across the USA. In talking with them, I asked how long it took. They replied 21 months. They said they average 15 miles per day. So you can tell they did not push it very fast.

They did not have any support vehicles with them. Everything they brought with them was on a pack horse. They planned their route to take advantage of natural feed and to avoid the busier roads. Being in the southern climes during the winter months and northern parts of the country during the summer. They were often at the mercy of local folks taking them in for shelter or a place to lay up for a day or two to rest their horses.

The Great Western Trail is 4455 miles long. ( but some of that is duplicate where several trails cross the same parts of a state) In fact in Utah it is often referred to as a "WAY" vs a trail, since there are multiple routes across sections of the state. Some for ATV's some for non-motorized.

Here by my home, most of the trail is at pretty high elevations, So it would only be traveled during the months when there is no snowpack. In Utah most of the trail is on public lands, And good chance, depending on the season, that you could hobble your horses and let them graze and not need a support vehicle hauling feed. And while I've always found water during my rides. Having a knowledge that water would be available at appropriate intervals would be important for horses doing that kind of work.

A couple of photos from along the Great Wesern Trail

Near Mount Ogden

Near the Griffin Top on the Aquarius Plateau Central Utah

Near Blacksmiths Fork in Northern Utah

thenrie 09-14-2012 02:38 PM

Thanks for those pics. That's what it's all about. Beautiful!

The 4455 miles includes all the various possible routes and trails in the trail system. The site you gave the link for last post indicates the distance is about 3,000 miles, although the distance by car is only 1,553, so I think that the 3,000 mile number is probably exaggerated as well. Even with all the twists and turns a trail takes, I can't believe it would be twice the distance as taking a road. I may be deceiving myself, but I still think we can do it in 4 months. Even at 2,000 miles that's only 17 miles per day. I plan to track our trip on GPS, so by the end we'll have a definitive mileage we can report for future travelers.

Apparently the trail in Arizona is a single designated trail that is well marked. In Utah, you have just confirmed that it is still a system of trails, so we'll have to select our routes and trails and be able to know which fork to take when we come to it. I talked to my riding buddy there in Utah and he's going to do the research for the Utah leg, while I handle the Arizona planning. My main concern will be water for the AZ and southern Utah portions of the trip.

I expect we'll take one, possibly two pack animals, but it is unlikely we'll be able to be self-sustaining. I'm pretty sure we'll need resupply help, particularly during the southern Arizona portion, where we'll likely find little good grazing and less water. We'll probably have to pack some feed and maybe water for certain stretches.

I'm looking forward to this. I hope we can do it.

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