The Grand Arizona Traverse with Shawn Z.
Arizona is the land of mystery and adventure. As the sixth largest state, Arizona has long been a state for off-roading, exploration, and unbelievable scenery. If you haven’t added this to your bucket list, now’s the time to.
This month we are featuring the Northern Arizona Traverse. This trail is known for the smooth roads through the forests and vistas, with some challenging sections.
Shawn has been there, and he has some advice for anyone looking to go!
How'd you get into Overlanding and off-roading?
I grew up in a small town in Maine, hunting, fishing, and cutting timber was something you did to fill the freezer and keep the house warm. So “off-roading” for me started as soon as my feet could reach the pedals of our 1981 Chevy K10. I would drive loads of freshly cut wood from the forest to my brothers at our home. Camping was also a huge part of deer and bear hunting in Maine. I would spend nights in a lean-to or hunting cabin. Once I grew up and got ahold of some money if seemed natural to combine my favorite childhood activities.
What keeps you into overlanding / off roading?
I now have two adorable kids and last thing that I want is to raise a couple young adults who are glued to their phones and can’t change a tire. Thankfully, they both really enjoy camping and love to learn archery, shooting, land navigation and other basic skills.
Tell us about The Grand Arizona Traverse, Why that location? What was the coolest moment? Any scary or recovery moments?
The Grand Arizona Traverse is absolutely amazing because of the diverse ecologic environments you will experience. Of course, you start out in the desert, which everyone thinks Arizona 100% consists of. But soon you pass into the tall pines of Prescott National Forest, then you skirt by the red rocks of Sedona and climb up into the forests near Willams. From William, you continue north and of course, you end your trip at the crown jewel of Arizona, The Grand Canyon. There are so many unique shops along the way like Cherry, Jerome, Williams, and the Verde River.
What makes this a difficult or easy trail?
All in all the Grand Arizona Traverse isn’t an incredibly difficult trail, the most difficult part of the trail is its sheer length, which is about 200 miles long. Also, it is not a well-marked trail, so GPS and good info are a must. You can explore lots of technical offshoots from the trail, but the main route is easily completed during dry conditions.
How often do you get to go out and explore?
Not as much as I want. I get out a couple of weekends a month but longer 4-5 day trips are limited by my children’s school schedule.
What is your favorite trail and why? What is your dream trail and why?
My favorite trail in Arizona is the Senators Highway, it is full of beautiful forests, abandoned mines, towns, and wonderful campsites. As far as a “dream trail” I would really love to drive the Dalton Highway if I could get a few months off from life. Alaska is just such a majestic and cold (I love the cold) place. It would be the ultimate isolated trip, just you and your truck.
Out of all the off-roading vehicles, Why a Tacoma?
The Tacoma has a great reputation for reliability and it is the perfect size for squeezing down narrow desert trails, also you can pack way more gear into a Tacoma than you can a Jeep or new Bronco.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I was raised in Maine but after I graduated High School I moved to Arizona and except for the 5 years I spent in the Army, I have been here ever since. I work at the largest hospital in Arizona working as an Interventional Radiographer. Don’t know what that is? Don’t worry, no one does.
Why would you recommend going to Arizona to overland?
We have every type of ecosystem here except for rainforests. You can drive over blazing hot sharp desert rocks or head up to the high country and cruise forest roads. You can follow lazy rivers to hidden lakes or spend weeks following trails on the Arizona Strip.
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