Black Canyon National Recreation Trail is a furtastic option for a backpacking trip with your four-pawed pal! The route has two conveniently located trailheads in Phoenix -- one in the northern area of Anthem and another near the town of New River -- and runs through breathtaking desert landscape for eighty-two miles all the way to the boundary of the Prescott National Forest. If you don’t want to take the risk of free-camping, you and your pooch can put up a tent at the pawesome Bumblebee Ranch in the historic and gorgeously named town of Bumblebee for $10 and no pet fee. You can park for free at either of the Phoenix trailheads.
Black Canyon is an ideal hiking experience for pups and people who like their landscapes stark and slightly alien. The route meanders through striking desert scrubland and cactus forest, with a bright red clay surface and interesting rock formations. The area isn’t entirely barren, though -- you and your buddy will pass through a surprising amount of stream crossings, so be sure to bring adequate footwear! You’ll also be treated to the sight of lush and unexpected greenery by the Agua Fria River, and fabulous views from inclines of waterways and canyons. Black Canyon has been a livestock route for centuries, and it’s still in operation, so you might want to keep a tight leash on your furry friend!
With several steep inclines and stream crossings, this trail is not for the unsure of foot or unfit of heart. You don’t exactly need to be an Everest climber to complete the route, but a certain level of athleticism is required. Black Canyon is intended for those looking to "ruff" it, so facilities are limited -- there are no restrooms, you’ll definitely need bags and water, and you’ll have to bring your own provisions or make a stop in Black Canyon City to pick up food. Nor is there much in the way of shade. Keep an eye out for snakes along the way -- you’ll mostly see relatively harmless gophers and garters, but there are some rattlers in the area. Make no bones about it, if you value a wilderness experience over comfort and convenience, then this is the trail for you!