The southern end of this segment begins at the Ripley Wash Springs, about 14-miles to the north of the Freeman Road Trailhead (bring a filter to purify the water flowing from the spring into a trough).
From there, continue north to climb Ripsey Hill. The climb gets steep and loose on some of the switchbacks. So, extra points for a clean ascent! On the other side, enjoy a fun singletrack descent to the Kelvin Trailhead and the Gila River beyond. The steep plunge before the trailhead is technical and exciting. Tight switchbacks and sweeping desert views are the norm, and you'll be breathless by the time you reach the bottom. Whether that's from the adrenaline, the views, or pedaling up smaller rollers is up to you! Keep going along the singletrack to reach the bridge across the Gila River.
The remaining 35-40 miles of this segment is a long and demanding passage, so it is typically split into either the AZT - Kelvin to Red Mountain
ride or AZT - Picketpost TH to Red Mountain
ride, with the sections being completed discontinuously.
If you're bikepacking through or tackling a brutal full-pull, the next 17-miles of trail follows relatively flat terrain. You're still in the Arizona desert, so even if the trail isn't overly technical, you'll still be riding through loose, rocky terrain, and you're still in a remote location. The water of the Gila River is drinkable with a filter or purification system, and it's recommended that you fill up in this first segment, as there won't be water in the northern half of the trail.
The real challenge occurs near mile 30 of this segment, where you'll begin a rough climb that just keeps going (this is where that extra water comes in handy). You'll get an initial break, before two more climbs lead through a saddle around 3,700-feet.
The descent isn't entirely downhill, but the somewhat rolling terrain trends downward and it's pretty grin-inducing. The trail is well-marked and is almost entirely rideable. This is not a super fast trail as a descent. It is not an incessant rock garden, nor a flow trail. There is a rhythm, just not a fast one. Either way, the plentiful rock ledges and curbs will provide some challenge for everyone and riders will want to watch the off-camber contours of the area. The singletrack eventually wanders down across a wash to reach the Picketpost Trailhead and the end of this segment.