Something just felt right when I saw an ad for the Black Canyon 100k trail race. I wanted to know what trail running in Arizona was like! The photos looked amazing and it was a great time of year for escaping from the long winters of New Hampshire. The skiing is fun but it is also nice to go somewhere warm and feel the sun on my skin.
Unfortunately a muscle tear in my hip area turned into a huge pile of adhesions and sidelined me since October. I would get better, get worse, think I was healed and then realized I wasn’t. I thought I was in the clear until we did a hike on very unstable snow and two weeks before the race I was hobbling around in pain again. Being stubborn I went to the race and sadly dropped at mile 20.
It was motivation to finally fix this issue so I ruled out a stress fracture and saw two body work specialists where I experienced very painful massage, active release and dry needling along with chiropractic adjustments. I am feeling incredible now and wish I had gone sooner, although if I had been able to run I would never have taken up skimo so if I could turn back the clock I would not change a thing!
Arizona, this is probably my absolute favorite trail running destination so far! The race was in February and typically the temperatures are a bit warmer than we had but it was still wonderful! Normal daytime temperatures are in the 60’s with the night dipping into low 40’s. For us we had 30-40 degrees during the day, 20’s at night and a snowstorm (not typical)
We camped at the Bumble Bee Ranch in Mayer, Arizona. They were very nice there and the camping was in a small area that had nice bathrooms and showers. The race course literally passed by the camping area. It was a great place to spend a couple of nights.
The race was absolutely fabulous! Jamil Coury is the race director as well as the CEO for Aravaipa Running. This race was flawless, perfectly marked trails, excellent pre race information, enthusiastic volunteers, fully stocked aid stations and an incredible vibe! I actually enjoyed the race so much, even with a DNF that I plan to be back!
What is it like trail running in Arizona? What kind of scary animals are there? Is Arizona all desert, does it have trees? What does it feel like to run into a cactus?
Running in the desert is fun, there are killer views the whole time due to the lack of trees. The variety of cacti is really cool and the terrain is quite runnable. There are some technical sections but they are not too bad if you are used to running on rocks. The terrain is rolling and all runnable. I found it to be a great way to run a faster pace than I am used to in the White Mountains. I prefer running mountains but I also love to be able to stride out and feel my legs just go!
Scary animals…we did not see any but the biggest hazards are poisonous snakes, bears, mountain lions, scorpions, killer bees and other insects that pack a punch. We saw absolutely none of these and honestly, the only thing that hurt me was running into a cactus and that was not even too bad. Aside from the initial sting I had no idea that I had spines stuck in my leg until I felt something hanging off my leg and looked down. Pulling them out hurt more than getting stuck with them.
Arizona was really unique because it had so much variety! You could go to Flagstaff and run mountains (avalanche danger was very high so we did not tag the highpoint Humphreys Peak). Flagstaff had trees, mountains, snow and felt like home. Sedona had drier air and a mix of cacti, small trees and beautiful red rocks.
We also travelled to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and went down a few miles in the snow storm. It did end up clearing up and we had great views! I loved dropping down in the canyon and wished we had more time to explore the area. There were trees there and very cool rock features. The Lake Powell area was very desolate and pretty in it’s own way. I am not sure trail running here would be too pleasant due to very dry and sandy conditions. There was almost no plant life here but there were neat landmarks such as Antelope Canyon and Horshoe Bend.
February is a tough time of year to find open campgrounds and showers were even harder to come by. Unless you have an RV you are not welcome to shower in any of the year round campsites that offer showers. The national park campsites do offer coin operated showers. Expect to pay for a National Park Pass and a $35 campsite fee. Your National Park pass is good for 7 days so you will use it if you plan to see some sights.
To our surprise truck stop showers were the best find! For $12 you get to take a clean shower in a huge stall that you can lock the door and there is no time limit. Ryan and I took turns showering and were able to both take a shower for the $12. It was a bit sketchy but I would take a truck stop shower again!
Do not expect to be alone if you are doing any of the popular attractions such as the canyons, Horshoe Bend, etc. There were thousands of people, multiple tour busses and the bathrooms were so disgusting I preferred to “hold it” than use them. Even grocery store and gas station bathrooms were a disaster in the areas that offered more tourist type attractions.
The cost of visiting Arizona was reasonable. Camping ranged from $10-35 a night and they all had nice tent sites. Food was very affordable with the exception of Sedona which was much more expensive (plan to pay between $25-60 for dinner). Breakfast and lunch were very affordable as well (except for Sedona which ranged from $15-20). Sedona was beautiful and worth checking out. Due to the time of year only one campsite was open just outside of Sedona, during the peak season there are a lot more to pick from. We stayed at Manzanita campground and it was perfect!
Overall I would recommend visiting Arizona for a winter escape! The trail running is fun and the vibe in Arizona is really laid back! Don’t let the overdevelopment of Pheonix concern you when you land. It is a city, just like any other major US City. The airport is easy to get in and out of and you will have plenty of places to stay just outside of the airport.
The La Sportiva Lycan was the perfect shoe for running the trails in Arizona. It offered plenty of support and cushion while maximizing traction. The clothing was perfect for the variety of conditions we encountered! My Julbo Aerolite sunglasses with Spectron 3 lenses kept my eyes shaded from the sun, they are light and comfortable.
We plan to check out other parts of Arizona the next time we visit and can’t wait to share the experience! I wish we had more time to run in Flagstaff but there is always another time to explore! If you have any questions about our trip feel free to reach out!