Friday, October 16, 2009
WOODCHUTE MOUNTAIN TRAIL Woodchute Wilderness Area Cooler temperatures and shorter days work together to paint the oak trees on Woodchute Mountain in a palette orange and gold. The mountain is really more of a long ridgeline with Prescott Valley on one side and grand views of the red cliffs of Sedona and the peaks of Flagstaff on the other. Easy-to-follow, trail No. 102 ascends the mountain in a gently meandering style that swings from east to west showcasing vistas of much of northern Arizona. The hike culminates with an easy stroll across a breezy high prairie that dead-ends at the steep east face of the mountain. Here, blood-red maples and honey-colored scrub oaks frame views of Jerome and the Verde Valley. LENGTH: 7.4 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 7,000 – 7,700 feet GETTING THERE: From Jerome, go 7 miles southwest on Highway 89A to the turn off for Potato Patch Campground. Turn right and continue .3 mile to the signed road for the Woodchute trailhead on the left and follow it to a parking loop with restrooms. Those without a high clearance vehicle should park here. To find the trailhead, head right (east) and hike or drive (high clearance needed) up Forest Road 106 (also signed as FR 102/106) for a half-mile to the wilderness sign and trail register. If you opt to hike the road, add 1 mile to the trip length above. INFORMATION: http://fs.fed.us/r3/prescott/recreation/trails/chino/woodchute102.shtml NOTE: The Woodchute Fire of Aug-Sept 2009 resulted in the temporary closure of Trail102. Check with the forest service before hiking this trail. Photos shown here are from October 2008. For current information on fire restrictions or wildfires visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott or call the Prescott National Forest fire information line at 928-777-5799.
NORTH MINGUS TRAIL Prescott National Forest An eclectic mix of scenery and forests are the highlights of the North Mingus Trail No.105. Although there are two trailheads for this route, most hikers choose to start at the top of Mingus Mountain and hike downhill. That’s because the route is easier to follow when hiked in this direction. Right from the start, this popular trail will “wow” you with magnificent views from atop a pine-shaded hang glider launch pad. Here, the rugged Verde Valley rolls out 1,600 feet below. The hike begins with a pleasant stroll across the mountain summit under a canopy of warm gold Gambel oaks huddling beneath enormous confirs. After this short “warm up” section, the trail dips downhill along the north face through colorful corridors of Bigtooth maples, boxelders and velvet ash. Soon, the path enters an enchanting passage where a mass of volcanic boulders cascade down a slender slot canyon where vertical stony walls and a stand of aspens thrive in the cooler microclimate. Past the aspen grove, the trail enters a more arid clime with intermittent sections of grasslands, fields of agave and ridgelines studded with whispy mountain mahogany. An abandoned mine marks the point where the trail merges with an old Jeep road that leads downhill to Mescal Spring, the turnaround point for the hike. This trail also can be hiked one-way using a car shuttle at each trailhead. LENGTH: 8.5 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 6,000 – 7,800 feet GETTING THERE: Mingus Mountain trailhead: From Jerome, go 7 miles southwest on Highway 89A to Mingus Mountain Road (Forest Road 104). Turn left and continue on FR 104 for 2.4 miles to where it ends at a “T” intersection in the campground. Turn left here and go uphill to the trailhead near the hang glider launch pad. Mescal Spring trailhead: From Jerome, go 4 miles southwest on Highway 89A. Just before sign for Prescott National Forest, between mileposts 339 and 338, turn left onto an unmarked dirt road (Forest Road 338). FR 338 is a very rough 4x4 road so those without appropriate vehicles should park in the turnouts along the highway. Continue down FR 338 for a half-mile to the cement tank that marks Mescal Spring. From here, veer right (southwest) and go uphill. Bear left at all unmarked junctions until you reach the signed turn off for trail No. 105 on the right. This route adds one mile to the hike description above. INFORMATION: fs.fed.us/r3/prescott/recreation/trails/verde/nomingus105.shtml
VIEW POINT TRAIL Prescott National Forest A traipse through an archway of golden Gamble oaks sets the stage for the hallmark mountain vistas and brilliant foliage of the View Point Trail No. 106. Beyond this “grand entrance” the slender path begins its gradual descent along the east face of Mingus Mountain weaving through a mixed bag of terrain including exposed juniper-agave high desert and pine-oak forests fringed with Bigtooth maples. From the trail’s high vantage point, the towns of Jerome and Cottonwood appear like scribbles on a map far below while the course of the Verde River paints a lazy swath of green on a brown landscape. Just past the 1.3-mile mark, at the junction for trail 105A, the route makes a severe dip into the canyon. It’s here where the hike rating goes from moderate to difficult as the path clamors roughly 700 feet downhill on loose rocks to the turn around point at Allen Springs Road. Casual hikes can opt to stay on the high road and make the junction their turnaround point instead. LENGTH: 4 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate-difficult ELEVATION: 7,800 – 6,000 feet GETTING THERE: From Jerome, go 7 miles southwest on Highway 89A to Mingus Mountain Road (Forest Road 104). Turn left and continue on FR 104 for 2.4 miles to where it ends at a “T” intersection in the campground. Take an immediate left and park in the circular turnout near the “106” trail sign. FEE: $2 per person daily fee. Bring exact change for the self-serve permit kiosk. INFORMATION: fs.fed.us/r3/prescott/recreation/trails/verde/viewpt106.shtml
HINKLE SPRING TRAIL From its shaded, riverside access point to the high pastures above Blue River Canyon, the Hinkle Spring Trail #30 is a gateway to a seldom-seen tour of one of the most remote areas of Eastern Arizona. The trail, which is still used to drive cattle from the canyon floor to rim-top grazing areas, has some faint, difficult-to-follow segments marked only by tree blazes and occasional rock carins. This provides a good excuse to slow down and savor the sights. Ducking in and out of canyons and forests, the upper portion of the trail features outstanding views of the eastern reaches of the Blue Range Primitive Area. In addition to the route-finding requirements, hikers will encounter a few steep switchbacks and some fallen trees, before reaching the reliable waters and corral of Hinkle Spring, the turnaround point for this trip. LENGTH: 9 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 5,700 – 7,220 feet GETTING THERE: From Alpine, drive 3.5 miles east on Highway 180 to Blue River Road (a.k.a. Country Road 2104 or Forest Road 281). Go south on this good dirt road and continue 21.3 miles to the signed trailhead on the left side of the road. Those with a high clearance vehicle can opt to ford Blue River and park further up the road.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Rim Lake Vista Trail #622 This popular trail offers easy access to Rim country fall hiking. Following a level, mostly-paved route situated just a few feet from the rim’s edge, this path is open to the sky and exposed to crisp, canyon breezes. Among the jumbled boulders that crowd the edge of the escarpment, are clusters of low growing oak trees that teeter precariously over the precipice, shedding a flurry of golden leaves into the canyon 1000 feet below. In addition to unobstructed views and the colorful oaks, sun-drenched glens along the trail foster wildflowers that bloom profusely well into mid-October. Length: 3.5 miles one way Rating: easy with paved, accessible segments Elevation: 7,500 feet Peak fall color: early October Getting there: From Payson, go east (right) on Highway 260 for 30 miles to Rim Road (Forest Road 300, which is located across from the Rim Visitor Center). The trailhead is located along FR 300 between mileposts 39 and 40. Information: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Black Mesa District, (928) 535-7300, fs.fed.us/r3/asnf/recreation/black_mesa_trails/trl_chv_rimvista.shtml