The south is pretty damn hard and not as well marked so starting in the north was nice. I tried not to take big risks, but I also tried not to carry an insane amount of water.I walked a very fine line and occasionally it was stressful. I think the ATA and volunteers have been out in droves the last few years finishing the trail and marking it better It's certainly not like the AT or PCT, but it was also much better than expected.I think my best tip would be to have a "keen eye" for the trail.

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I’m not super focused on the AZT anymore since I’ve already hiked it, but I generally know what’s going on with the trail.

The biggest change in the last 5 years is maps and guidebook.

In 2009 the guidebook was super old and the maps within it still had a lot of dotted lines denoting a possible future route that was now generally actually the trail.

These days, there is a brand new guidebook and also a mapset developed by the AZT and Brett Tucker.

I’ve haven’t seen the maps, but I used Brett’s maps for his Grand Enchantment Trail and can vouch that his maps are great so I’m sure the AZT maps are great too.

The other big change is probably a much improved trail condition.In 2009, the trail was challenging, but not crazy or anything. Many, many of the running water sources (springs, creek) are completely dry. The water report is extremely helpful by lisitng all of the potential sources, but was fairly limited in helping me figure out where there might be water.I hiked the Grand Enchantment Trail in 2014 which shares about 80 miles of the AZT. Also, there seemed to be a fair number of new trail miles where in 2009 I might have been on a dirt road or cross country. The "current" water report is only as good as the hikers who hike and report to Fred. dating 4-5 months back which is an eternity in the desert and over a summer.The AZT seems to have a pretty good volunteer base and I think the trail overall is just in a lot better shape these days which is great to see. This trail has more beauty and more variety than you can possibly imagine. South makes sense to beat the cold in the north and the heat in the south. There was practically no one else out there and the colors were incredible. The "historical" water report I found difficult to interpret for Fall. I pretty much drank everything and everything included some pretty bad water.I promise that you will walk away amazed at what Arizona has to offer. The main benefit of a Fall hike is that the first 200+ miles to Flagstaff are pretty damn easy. Every year is so different and I found that most of the time it was tough to tell what was reliable. I never carried more than a gallon, although I did carry a gallon a lot of times (keep in mind that you may need more.... There are almost no caches on the trail, but several times I ran across a gallon or so that someone had randomly left for AZT hikers.The climbs are gradual (like 3,000 over 30 miles) and the trail is exceptionally well marked. This alone may be a good reason to go in the Spring, but don't count out a Fall hike just because of water. I don't know much about a Spring northbound hike, but since 90% of the hikers do that I'm assuming it's the way to go. Also there are hunters and vehicles occasionally on dirt roads.