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AZ Highways Hikes Celebrate Wilderness Act's 50th Anniversary

PHOTO: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, Arizona Highways magazine will be hosting wilderness hikes this summer to places such as Humphrey’s Peak near Flagstaff. CREDIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
PHOTO: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, Arizona Highways magazine will be hosting wilderness hikes this summer to places such as Humphrey’s Peak near Flagstaff. CREDIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
February 11, 2014

PHOENIX - To celebrate this year's 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, Arizona Highways magazine is organizing a series of wilderness hikes this summer in some of the state's most spectacular protected lands. According to editor-in-chief Robert Stieve, hikers will be joined by representatives of the U.S. Forest Service and BLM, among other agencies, along with members of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition.

"It's a unique opportunity, bringing together a lot of different experts and having them on the trail, and what better way to learn about the vegetation in the White Mountains than to be spending six or seven hours out on the trail with the people who write the books about those things?", he asked.

Hikes are planned for Mt. Baldy Wilderness in the White Mountains, the Bell Trail near Sedona, and Humphrey's Peak outside Flagstaff.

Stieve said the purpose of the hikes is to raise awareness and encourage people to enjoy the natural beauty of Arizona's 90 different wilderness areas.

"Most of these areas are free," he pointed out. "They're primarily on National Forest lands or BLM land and it doesn't cost anything to actually go out there. So, we really try to encourage families and get kids out there and let them see what's out there and have an experience that's a little different. Get 'em off the couch is kind of what we're shooting for."

Stieve said protecting additional wilderness becomes increasingly important as the state's urban areas continue to expand into previously untouched wildlands.

"These wilderness acres belong to the people of Arizona and the people around the world that might want to come here," he declared. "And as other areas do get developed, it makes these areas that much more important."

Hikers and horses are allowed in wilderness areas but roads and even mountain bikes are prohibited.

Stieve said the areas are especially valuable for teaching children about the natural world.

"If you want to go out and hike in an environment that probably looks a lot like it did two, three, four, five hundred years ago, the wilderness areas are the best bet."

He noted that wilderness also has economic value, by drawing visitors to dozens of Arizona's smaller communities that rely heavily on tourism. The Arizona Highways hikes are free of charge.

Arizona Highways photographers also will be along to provide photo tips.

More information is to be found at AZWild50th.org. Detailed information on hikes, and sign-ups, will be available in a couple of weeks.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ