Backpacking in Aravaipa Canyon

by Stephanie Daniels Tuesday, July 9th 2019

Aravaipa Canyon is one of the best kept secrets in Southern Arizona. With its towering canyon walls, lush vegetation, abundance of wildlife, and the ever flowing Aravaipa Creek, it is a wonderland waiting to be explored. 

Aravaipa Canyon is a protected Wilderness Area. Only 50 people a day are allowed to enter the 12 mile canyon and you need a permit for all activities, even day hiking. Permits are distributed through Recreation.gov (search Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Permits). Permits are released 13 weeks in advance and weekend permits sell out very quickly. You’ll have a much better chance getting permits if you plan to go on a weekday.

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to snag a weekend permit for 3 days (2 nights), the maximum you are allowed. I was joined by Jeremy (Oro Valley Store Manager) and Lylah (Summit Hut Gearhead) for a fun weekend backpacking and exploring the canyon for the first time.

We entered at the West Trailhead after driving 12 miles down a paved then dirt road off of Highway 77. We made sure we had all of the right gear, including sun protective shirts, sleeves, hats, and gaiters to help keep sand and rocks out of our shoes while walking in the creek. I recommend wearing a lighter weight shoe, perhaps an older pair you don’t mind getting dirty. I wore my go to hiking boots, the Vasque Breeze III. Lylah wore her La Sportiva Bushidos and Jeremy wore another lightweight trail running shoe.

One thing to know before you go, you will get wet. You can try to criss cross the creek and walk on dry land but it is definitely easier to just stay in the water. I would also recommend using trekking poles to help you stay balanced while walking in the water and hiking over rocks and ankle-turners. 

Our goal the first day was to hike in to Booger Canyon. From there we would set up camp and spend the next two days exploring the side canyons. On our list were Booger Canyon, Paisano Canyon, Horse Camp Canyon, Virgus Canyon, and Hell’s Half Acre Canyon. Keep an eye out for those side canyons. Despite having large openings, some of them are easy to miss!

Each side canyon was beautiful in its own way. Paisano Canyon had a peaceful pool with a waterfall. Booger Canyon had rocks and boulders to climb over. Horse Camp Canyon had beautiful pools surrounded by flowers and layers of rock. Virgus Canyon had large boulders to scramble over and deep pools of water.

Horse Camp Canyon

The second night we camped across from Horse Camp Canyon under a big beautiful tree. We were lucky to have cooler, overcast weather during our trip. The second night we even got some rain even though the weather report said there was only a 10% chance of rain. Just another example of why you should always be prepared for anything. I unfortunately left my hiking pants, boots, and socks out overnight to dry and when I woke up they were soaking wet. I count that as another learning lesson in the backcountry.

When you plan your first trip into Aravaipa Canyon, my advice is to take your time and explore. Don’t be in a rush, stop and see what you find. Scramble over some rocks, really discover this beautiful canyon. I felt like a little kid for 3 days, playing in the water, looking for tadpoles, listening to the call of the canyon wren overhead, trying to find a coati (which we did!).

Aravaipa Canyon is a must do for an unforgettable hiking or backpacking trip. I plan to make this a yearly trip, there’s that much to see and do!

The Best Places to See the Desert in Bloom

by Stephanie Daniels Monday, April 1st 2019
Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park

Happy Spring! If you haven’t already noticed, the wildflowers are out in full force in the Sonoran Desert. Driving around Tucson, you can see Mexican gold poppies, desert marigolds, brittlebush, desertbells, and scorpionweed, all bursting with color.


Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park

There are many accessible parks and open space to view the Sonoran super bloom. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Picacho Peak State Park, 15520 Picacho Peak Road, Picacho, AZ 85141
  • Catalina State Park, 11570 N. Oracle Road, Tucson, AZ 85737
  • Saguaro National Park, East: 3693 Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, AZ 85730, West: 2700 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ 85743
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ 85743
  • Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712

Please follow Leave No Trace principles and refrain from picking wildflowers or going off trail to get a better look. Many flowers have already been smashed and trampled from visitors going off trail. It can take years for vegetation to return, so let’s help keep our wild places beautiful by respecting park rules.

Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park

Activities | News

How do you layer?

by Stephanie Daniels Friday, February 8th 2019

Layering your clothing is a useful technique that is designed to help you get the most out of your outdoor experience. By giving you flexibility in your wardrobe to accommodate inevitable weather changes, layering will keep you comfortable in temperatures that may otherwise send you back indoors. There are three key components to a proper laying system: Base layer, mid layer and outer layers. These layers often come in various “weights” and are generally classified using the terms light, medium or heavy. The weight of the layer correlates to warmth, so the weight you choose should match the activity and energy you are exuding.

  1. Base Layer – Moisture Control
    The base layer is the first layer in a proper layering system that sits closest to the skin. The main purpose of the base layer is to wick away moisture, dispersing sweat throughout the rest of the garment so it can evaporate quickly. Base layers can be manufactured in many fabrics, the most popular being merino wool, polyester/synthetic and silk. Merino wool is known for having a soft hand, quick-drying fibers, and natural odor-resistant properties. Synthetic fiber base layers are often more affordable and easier to care for, but they can retain body odors over time. Silk is often the lightest weight option and most appropriate for light physical activity. With all the fabric options out there, it is important to remember that cotton is not your friend when layering. It will hold on to moisture, often making garments heavier, and cotton garments will take longer to dry.
  2. Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve

    Patagonia Capilene Daily Long Sleeve

    Kuhl Kondor Krew

  3. Mid Layer – Insulation
    The mid layer is all about insulation, allowing you to retain body heat and stay warm. As with base layers, mid layers are produced in many fabrics. Fleece, down, or synthetic filled pieces are all popular mid layers. Fleece is a great option for additional moisture management and breathability. Traditional down provides the most warmth-to-weight ratio and it keeps its lofting capabilities when compressed; however, it loses its warmth properties when wet. Hydrophobic down has been treated with a water-repellent chemical that allows the down to stay lofted when wet; it is not as widely used at this time, but many consider this technology a game changer. Synthetic fiber is durable and will often dry faster than down. It also holds onto its warmth properties more successfully than down when wet, although synthetic can be bulkier compared to its down counterpart.
  4. Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

    Columbia Mountain Crest Fleece Full Zip Jacket

    Mountain Hardwear Stretch Down DS Hoody

  5. Outer Layer – Water & Wind
    The outer layer is arguably the most important in the layering system. It is designed to keep all other layers dry and needed to keep the wind out, which allows every layer to perform their roles most efficiently – thus keeping you warm. For most activities, the perfect outer layer should be waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Almost all will have some sort of DWR (durable water repellent) treatment, which allows water to bead up and roll off the surface of the garment, preventing it from soaking through the top layer. When trying on an outer layer, it is recommended that you wear all of your intended layers underneath, ensuring you have enough room for movement. It is not uncommon to size up in an outer layer to prevent the feeling of constriction.
  6. Outdoor Research Foray Jacket

    The North Face Apex Risor

    Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell

One final component to consider for your outdoor clothing arsenal is the “accessories.” By having a hat, gloves, and socks on hand, you can increase your warmth and protect your extremities from the elements.

For more information on how to layer and to get personal recommendations, come visit the Summit Hut!

Gear | News

Buying Boots: The Importance of the Right Fit

by Stephanie Daniels Tuesday, January 29th 2019

The fit of a shoe can be a major factor in your enjoyment of time spent outside. The last thing you want to have to think about is sore feet. A recent study by the American Podiatric Medical Association found that more than 77% of Americans experience foot pain. Most even think foot pain is normal and don’t seek help to identify or alleviate their issues. Bunions, hammer toes, blisters, black toenails, heel spurs, and plantar fasciitis can be extremely painful and keep you from enjoying outdoor activities. The problem isn’t just our feet, it’s our footwear choices. Are you in the right shoe?

As we celebrate Summit Hut’s 50th year, we are featuring a different Heritage Partner each month. In January, we are featuring Vasque footwear. As a Vasque FitShop Certified Retailer, Summit Hut uses elements of the Vasque FitShop in fitting every shoe and boot we sell. We measure your feet, assess your needs, and provide you with options so you can feel confident on your next hike, trail run, or walk about town.

The ultimate goal with any piece of footwear is to stabilize the foot. It all starts with your foot measurement using the Brannock device. While standing up, we record your heel-to-toe measurement, heel-to-ball (or arch length) measurement, width measurement, and we assess foot volume.

Shoes are designed to flex at the ball of the foot. By determining your arch length, we can better match the bend point of your foot with the flex point of the shoe. If we can match up those two points, we can get a better fit. We ensure the foot is bending where the shoe bends, which allows for extra room for the toes in the front of the shoe. Typically, we look for a finger’s width from the end of the toe to the end of the shoe so that we can be certain your toes have enough wiggle room and will not hit the end of the shoe, which is especially important when hiking downhill.

A supportive insole, such as Superfeet, will cup your heel, support your arch, take up volume inside the shoe, and give your foot the stability it needs. We offer a wide variety of Superfeet to provide the best fit depending on your arch height, foot volume, heel size, and overall comfort needs.

Socks are often the most overlooked item when determining footwear choices. Selecting a sock that will add cushion and provide moisture management is an important piece in any fit package. The soles of your feet have 3,300 sweat pores per square inch. For most people each foot will perspire one-quarter cup per day and as much as one full cup during activity. Feet perspire more than any other part of our body, except for our head and hands. Selecting a sock with moisture wicking properties, such as Darn Tough, Smartwool, Thorlo, or Wigwam, will help keep your feet dry and prevent blisters. Investing in a good pair of hiking socks will help keep you on the trail.

A boot fit isn’t over until we’ve determined the lacing technique that is right for you. The proper lacing technique will push the foot back into the heel cup, preventing forward slipping and excessive friction, which leads to hot spots and blisters. We recommend the sherpa knot (heel lock), surgeon’s knot, or window lacing techniques, depending on your needs.

Once we find the right fit package, it is time to fine tune. If we need to modify a boot to make room for a bunion, provide more width, or stretch out a tight spot, we are able to do so in-store. Our trained boot modifiers are ready to help you with your customized needs.

Our boot fitting philosophy is “it’s all about the fit.” We don’t want to just sell you shoes, we want to help you find the best option for your feet by taking the time to sit with you and find your perfect fit.

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!