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Monday, September 21, 2020

Blowout Wash Trail System


Bear grass & ocotillo on the Bullseye trail #557

Occupying a hilly slice of high desert below the east flanks of Mingus Mountain, the new Blowout Wash trail system is shaping up to become a prime Verde Valley hiking destination.

The remediation project is a multi-agency collaboration of local, state and federal land agencies working together to improve recreational opportunities in the section of Prescott National Forest southwest of Cottonwood.  

View from Campus trail #559

Before trail construction began in 2019, the wash-riddled foothills that are surrounded by popular recreation hubs in Sedona, Jerome, Dead Horse Ranch State Park and the Woodchute-Mingus Mountain complex of routes, the area was rife with wildcat user-created paths, shooting and dumping that was disrupting the ecosystems and decimating native vegetation. 
The Bullseye-Campus loop was completed in early 2020

Cacti and grasslands on Bullseye trail #557

The destructive anything-goes arena is gradually being replaced with sustainable, non-motorized trails that reduce erosion, protect natural assets and promote responsible use.
Vineyards of the Verde Valley seen from Bullseye trail

Sacred datura bloom Apr-Nov along Blowout Wash 

While a map at the trailhead teases with an overview of planned trail development, a little loop that was completed in early 2020 provides a tasty tidbit of what’s to come.

Right from the trailhead, the fresh-cut nature of the Bullseye Trail #557 and the Campus Trail #559 that pair up for a short tour of the area is apparent.  Behind the parking area kiosk, brand new sign posts mark the beginning of the system’s inaugural loop.  To get the climbing part of the hike done first, head left on trail #557.  The loopy single track that’s open to hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers heads west before making a twisting ascent of a ridgeline. 

Fruits on Silverleaf nightshade follow purple blooms

The path wanders among junipers, mesquite and crucifixion thorn trees occasionally ducking into drainages and washes where spots of cottonwoods and Arizona walnut trees sink roots deep into the water table.  Taking on the long switchbacks that lead to the hike’s high point, the trail hangs on the edge of the ridge showcasing amazing views of Mingus Mountain, and the emerald corridors of the Verde River and Oak Creek. 
Limestone pebbles spill over Campus trail #559

After a few dips and bends, the trail tops out on a ocotillo-and-bear grass cluttered knob with big views of the red rocks of Sedona and the green grids of vineyards in the valley below.  From this high vantage point, the trail begins a downward spiral through cacti-studded grasslands. At the 2.2-mile point, the route meets the back end of the loop where trail #559 spins off to the north and heads toward the Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus.  To complete the loop, head east (go right) and follow #559 through a flatter landscape marked by rugged washes and a swing by a prominent pyramid-shaped mound with white limestone chunks spilling from its slopes. 
Mingus Mountain rises over Bullseye trail #557

Along this passage, you’ll notice white flag tape tied to trees and shrubs as well as rocks blocking access to old roads and unauthorized paths. 
A shady passsage on Campus trail

Campus trail makes several drainage crossings

Crucifixion thorn trees bear spiked, egg-shaped fruits

Mesquite trees provide sporadic shade along the route

Please leave the flags in place and avoid crossing barriers as these are part of future trail development efforts. One more short uphill segment completes the loop that gives a glimpse at an emerging trail system and the taking back of a formerly neglected corner of national forest.

LENGTH: 3.3 mile loop as described here

RATING:  easy

ELEVATION:  3,706- 4,031 feet


From Interstate 17 north of Camp Verde, take the Cornville Road exit 293 heading west (go left).

Continue 17.7 miles on Cornville Road (aka County Road 30) which will turn into Mingus Avenue and then Forest Road 493 to the large Blowout Wash trailhead.  For reference, the trailhead is 1.5 miles south of the Cottonwood Municipal Airport. Roads are paved up to the last half mile where FR 493 is a dirt/gravel track suitable for all vehicles.


Prescott National Forest

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