With rising temperatures and record breaking heat in the Arizona desert, the summer months are the perfect time for heading up north to higher elevations, 7000ft or higher, where the temperatures are cooler and you can get outdoors again to enjoy more of the natural beauty and diversity that is state of Arizona and its terrain. For a quick and easy summer day trip and a quiet, less crowded, easy-moderate hike with breathtaking panoramic views of Arizona, I recommend hiking the Woodchute Trail, in the Woodchute Mountain Wilderness, near Jerome.
Starting out from Phoenix, you’ll want to take I-17 north till you reach the exit for Route 260 West, Cottonwood/ Clarkdale & Jerome. We started out around 8:30 am on a weekday so the traffic and road conditions were pretty good. We noticed there seemed to be a lot of Arizona Highway patrol cars everywhere so be very careful to watch your speed. After a few short stops along the way, we arrived in the small town of Cottonwood at around 10:30am, made a left onto route 89A South, and followed the signs for Jerome. On 89A South, you’ll begin a winding ascent up in elevation from 3000 feet up all the way up to 5000 feet, with some really beautiful views of the surrounding Verde Valley behind you.
We arrived in the historic town of Jerome and after a short break to stretch our legs, we continued on our journey heading south on 89A, now called the “Mingus Mountain Scenic Byway”. With many tight twisting, hairpin curves and a winding ascent up in elevation now from 5000 feet to 7000 feet, the views along the way are absolutely spectacular! This very scenic drive from Jerome to the top of Mingus Mountain is roughly about 8 miles. Once you reach the top you’ll see a sign for “Mingus Recreation Area” off to the left. Turn right, then drive a short ways until you come to FR 106, then take that for about a mile until you come to the Woodchute Trail. The road is all dirt but good and passable for regular vehicles if you take it slow. However, if you have a high clearance 2WD or a 4WD, that’d be better.
After arriving at the trailhead by noon we set out on our hike on the Woodchute Trail. It was a really nice, quiet and serene hike which wound through thick ponderosa pine forest. The elevation ranged from 7000 feet to roughly 7600 feet with only a moderate, gentle climb. The temperature was roughly in the low 80’s with a light breeze to keep you cool. Starting out on the trail we noticed some signs of a burn, though not too bad. What I liked best about this hike was the spectacular panoramic mountain top views it offered. Only a short ways down the trail and off to your right you’ll see the view down below of 89A winding up to the top of Mingus Mountain, but as well, … Read More