Each of Arizona’s wilderness areas is beautiful in its own way. The Woodchute Wilderness offers sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, and the scenery on the trail is amazing — the San Francisco Peaks, Bill Williams Mountain, Kendrick Mountain and Granite Mountain as well as the Mogollon Rim are all on display.
Hiking the Woodchute Trail is different when you’re talking with environmentalist Doug Hulmes. I interviewed him for my video series Preserving Arizona Wilderness.
Hulmes is vice chairman of Wild Arizona, an organization that works to preserve and protect Arizona’s 90 wildlife areas, and he played a key role in getting Woodchute established as a wilderness area.
The legislation came through in 1984, not long after Hulmes testified about his 1980 experience with a mountain lion to the House Subcommittee on Parks and Public Lands. Testifying in DC in favor of the Arizona Wilderness Act, he said. “But to gaze into the emerald-green eyes of one of these incredible animals while it was crouching on the limb of a Ponderosa 20 feet above me was a profound experience I will always cherish.” As part of that testimony Hulmes passed to the subcommittee photos of the mountain lion. He had spent 30 minutes watching the 150-pound cat. “It was as great a wilderness experience as any I could ever imagine,” he said.
Beyond lions, Woodchute’s wide array of wildlife includes wild turkeys, which have come within a couple feet of me, and a young coyote came within about ten feet of my car on a recent visit. But the wildlife stories that come from here are mainly about bear, and it’s not unusual to find bear scat along this trail.
I’ve seen bears on other Arizona trails, but not on Woodchute, so I spoke with several who have. One said his dog went up to a bear, which just ignored the dog. Another said that when the bear saw him it hid behind a tree, but still snuck a peek at the hiker.
There are also elk in this area. Horned lizards were plentiful earlier this summer. Golden eagles are known to nest on the rim.
At 5,883 acres the Woodchute is one of the smallest wilderness areas in Arizona. The Woodchute Wilderness Trail is the only one in the area, but it also connects with Martin Canyon. In Martin Canyon the feel of wilderness is obvious, the only sound you’ll hear is the wind. The irony is that Martin Canyon runs along the southern border of the wilderness area, but is not part of it.
Walking on the Forest Service road to the Woodchute Trail is great because you pass the Powerline Tank Wildlife Area, which protects a pond and a beautiful meadow.
Woodchute Trail, part of the Woodchute Wilderness, is a little more than seven miles round-trip. Those looking for more mileage can hook into Rick Tank Trail or Martin Canyon Trail.
Directions: From Prescott Valley, take 89A up Mingus Mountain. At the top turn left onto Forest Road 106, go about half a mile and turn left onto Forest Road 106D. From there it’s about seven-tenths of a mile to the trailhead.
We were filming as part of our Preserving Arizona Wilderness series. There are 90 wilderness areas in Arizona spread out throughout the state. Our first episode was about the Bell Trail in the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness just outside Sedona. Search for Preserving Arizona Wilderness on YouTube.
Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com