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Arizona Backpacking – Aravaipa Canyon

Trip Length4 Days
Group Size4-8
Activity level
Starting from
$1,449 for REI Members
$1,589 for non-members
DeparturesOct 2023-Nov 2024

Explore the remote wonders of Arizona while levelling up your backpacking skills on this 4-day adventure.

Nestled within the southeastern stretches of the Arizona desert, Aravaipa Canyon attracts adventurers and nature lovers alike. The wilderness area consists of 7,000 acres of protected land, but only 50 individuals are permitted to enter the canyon each day. This trip provides the chance to be among the lucky ones who witness the soaring canyon walls, natural springs and fascinating rock formations which characterize this beautiful region.

Hike into the depths of Aravaipa Canyon, pausing to cool down in the shallow water of a cottonwood-lined creek. Meander through lush vegetation while exploring the beautiful narrows and towering sandstone cliffs. Watch for wildlife—bighorn sheep climbing impossibly steep cliff walls or zone-tailed hawks soaring against the skyline. Bird lovers will appreciate spotting some of the more than 228 bird species living in the region. Along the journey, seasoned guides teach us about the cultural history of the native tribes that once resided in this area. After each day’s adventures, enjoy comfortable evenings under the stars, sharing new memories with fellow travel companions.

Be one of the lucky few to experience the wonders of this remote region while enhancing your backpacking skills and learning about local geology, flora & fauna, and human history—a fantastic opportunity to opt outside and feel the restorative power of the desert.

Trip Highlights

  • Explore remote, beautiful Aravaipa Canyon on this 4-day backpacking adventure
  • Backpack the entire length of Aravaipa on this unique through-hike
  • Discover this lush riparian oasis filled with natural springs and hanging gardens
  • Camp of the banks of a perennial stream between soaring canyon walls
  • Perfect for novice and experienced backpackers alike


This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Participants will be carrying their own backpacks weighing 35-40 pounds for distances of 4-8 miles daily over varied terrain. Depending on the season, 60%-90% of the hiking will be in water up to shin deep.

To maximize your enjoyment of the trip, we strongly encourage participants to begin a training regimen at least 3 months prior to departure that incorporates hiking with 30-40 pounds of weight on your back over 5-8 miles. Other cardiovascular exercises such as jogging, cycling and swimming are also beneficial. Most important to your enjoyment of the trip is your overall fitness level upon arrival.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Professional guide leadership; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; roundtrip transportation to/from our host hotel in Scottsdale; tents; group cooking gear; group first-aid kit, water filter; campsite and backcountry permit fees.


Established frontcountry campground, 1 night; backcountry camping, 2 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Arizona Backpacking – Aravaipa Canyon
Day 1

Meet in Scottsdale and transfer to the remote Aravaipa Wilderness.

Our trip begins today in Scottsdale, Arizona. Meet your guides and fellow backpackers at 12:30pm at our host hotel conveniently located in Old Town Scottsdale. After introductions, we load into our private van and set out on the four-hour drive to the east side of the remote Aravaipa Wilderness. Catch a glimpse of the majestic Superstition Mountains as we experience the transition between the lush flora of the Sonoran Desert and dry grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert on the eastern edge of the state. Our road turns to dirt as we enter the tranquil desert leading to our camp at Fourmile Canyon Campground. Tonight our guides conduct a full backpacking orientation around the campfire and familiarize us with the details of the adventure ahead. After a hearty dinner beneath the mesquite trees, we climb into our tents for a peaceful night’s sleep under the vast desert sky. Dinner included.

Driving time: 4 hours.

Day 2

Enter Aravaipa Canyon and begin our amphibious backcountry adventure.

We begin the day with an energy-packed breakfast prepared by our guides. A 45-minute drive takes us to the canyon’s eastern trailhead where we begin our through hike of the undeveloped reaches of Aravaipa Canyon. Most often we hike 1.5 miles on a dirt road leading into the canyon, although our hike may be extended depending on weather and road conditions. We look for signs of ancient human habitation in the canyon and learn about the struggle between the native tribes that resided in this area. Hiking in and out of the water, we keep our eyes peeled for bighorn sheep and investigate side canyons graced with hanging gardens and interesting rock formations. Reaching our campsite this afternoon, we set up our tents along the banks of the creek and have some time to relax in this idyllic setting. Tonight we have dinner together under the stars and let the sounds of the flowing water lull us to sleep. All meals included.

Backpacking: 1.5 - 4.2 miles on dirt road (dependent on road conditions), 2.4 miles in a stream with minimal elevation gain/loss.

Day 3

Explore Aravaipa’s inner gorge on our way to our next creek-side camp.

We start the day with a backcountry breakfast prepared by our guides. With our daypacks only, we begin hiking from our camp into the side canyon that hosts Deer Creek. We explore hidden springs and hike among narrow canyon walls before returning to camp for lunch. We then pack up camp and continue our journey through the inner gorge to our next campsite. Today we fully immerse ourselves in the Aravaipa wilderness and form a lasting connection with this magical place—a fantastic opportunity to get to know the inner workings of the canyon, enjoy wildlife viewing and feel the restorative power of the desert. Our last night in the backcountry is spent sharing stories with our guides and trail companions and soaking in the splendor of our riparian surroundings. All meals included.

Hiking: 4-5 miles; Backpacking 3.5 miles with 160’ of elevation gain/loss.

Day 4

Enjoy a final morning hike in Aravaipa before returning to Phoenix.

We wake up to the soft trickle of the creek before sunrise and enjoy an optional hike into Horse Camp Canyon before returning to our final delicious guide-prepared breakfast. After breaking camp, we hoist our backpacks and begin our last hike to the western entrance of the gorge. Along the way, we get to see Aravaipa’s southern tributaries including Parsons and Half-Acre Canyons before arriving at the West Trailhead, completing our through-hike. We'll share a picnic lunch before heading back to Phoenix to complete our adventure. Our guides drop trip members off at our host hotel in Scottsdale and make a second stop at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at approximately 5pm this afternoon. Please do not schedule any departing flights from Phoenix prior to 7pm this evening. Breakfast and lunch included.

Hiking:1.5 miles; Backpacking: 4.9 miles with minimal elevation gain/loss.

Itinerary map for Arizona Backpacking – Aravaipa Canyon

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

Already booked this trip? Sign into your online traveler profile for a more detailed list of what you'll need.

REI members can shop for gently used gear online or at most REI stores. Members can also trade in pre-loved used gear online or at any REI store in exchange for REI gift card credit. Check out Re/Supply at REI to learn more.

Provided by REI

  • All Group Cooking Gear
  • Group First Aid Kit
  • Stoves and Fuel
  • Tent(s)
  • Trekking Poles
  • Water Filter

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.