Woodchute Wilderness; Tree-studded heights harbor history, awesome views

About 30 miles from downtown Prescott, due west of Jerome, Woodchute Mountain rises rather unobtrusively along Highway 89A. Many people don't know it, but this mountain is home to the 5,540-acre Woodchute Wilderness area.

Only one distinct hiking trail winds through this infrequently visited wild expanse. The Woodchute Trail, which is an easy three-hour round-trip trek, leads to one of the most commanding vistas of central Arizona imaginable.

Courtesy photo/William Leggett

At the top of Woodchute Mountain, views of northern and central Arizona stretch for miles in nearly every direction. From this vantage point, the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff appear close enough to touch.

The trail is usually wide, and presents spectacular views of Granite Mountain, the Verde Valley, the red cliffs of Sedona, the Mogollon Rim and the San Francisco Peaks along the way. The elevation gain is minimal – the trail starts out at 7,100 feet above sea level and gradually climbs to 7,700 feet, in the course of four miles.

The beginning half-mile of the walk is on a Forest Service road; the actual trailhead features a sign-in sheet and the beginning of a slightly narrower path. Due to the general flatness of the trail, snowmelt can create muddy conditions.

Grassy meadows on the trail offer potential glimpses of wildlife; for example, deer and elk are both common to this region.