Woods Canyon spans over 20 miles end to end. According to USGS topographical maps it originates somewhere between Fair & Gash Mountain or possibly Brollier Park. The most exciting part is where it rips into mother earth near 1-17 then heads down towards the Village of Oak Creek. In planning a full canyon hike it's critical to know the facts. What you see isn't what you get. As mentioned this canyon becomes noticeable at I-17, just after mile marker 316. In fact a bridge spans what looks to be the origins. This isn't the whole story. Woods Canyon has a 6-7 mile head before even crossing I-17. With maps I estimate 50-60 square miles of land drains into Woods Canyon before crossing I-17. Point being there's enough landmass to create serious catastrophe in the narrows. I could have just forewarned but I wanted you to know first hand what the warning is all about. If you sprain an ankle in the wrong place and time on this hike you are dead.
This is part of a 3 set series. See table down below text.
On the table I've noted my personal rating for each hike. Upper Woods is without a doubt the attraction. You may ask why even consider a full canyon excursion. For starters you conquer what few have ever accomplished. It's the logical way to see the Indian ruins. Tag on the fact it's not much easier by just doing the upper as an out-n-back.
See Woods Canyon (Upper)
for the beginning of this hike.
I pick up at the scramble & the supai pool that requires a jump. Since there may be unseen boulders just below the surface jumping isn't wise. Keep in mind a flood may wash boulders in the pool. Therefore forget it when somebody reports it's okay. Choose wisely and scramble the left bank. A sketchy use-trail leads the way through desert vegetation.
Soon you're back down on the canyon floor. I don't believe others share my enthusiasm, but the next 0.8 mile is my favorite! Welcome to the mother load of quality curvaceous Grade-A Sedona-Supai Red-Rock. The "cow pies" of Mitten Ridge are bigger but they don't hold strength when it comes to curves!
Nothing compares to the waves before the scramble
but you won't be disappointed! The sandstone floor loses direction. It's blobbed
like slow melting swiss cheese. Followed shortly by the coconino dunes
, a thin layer of coconino capping the supai! This leads to a slight crescent pool that's been fighting a curve in the canyon for millions of years. The canyon is winning by a ledge! As noted the pool
digs deeper and away from the wall. Swimming would be an honor in this beauty
, but it is possible to skirt the edge.
Further down comes a site rarely seen. The Sinaguan Indian ruins
of Woods Canyon! Spectacular is an understatement for these 800-year-old dwellings. The ruins themselves are small. The setting
is a supai dream right down to the dryfall adjacent left.
You may be thinking of doing an "upper out-n-back" to the ruins. It's possible. It's also possible you'll cramp up so hard on the return you'll never see the next day of your life
Another bend, another perk, dang Woods packs a punch! Imagine a 300 ft slab of crisp jewelers-cut coconino sandstone that'll give Long Canyon a run for it's money. Dreams
come true in Woods!
If you've made it this far, you're more or less committed to the "full canyon offering" for a day hike. Now for the bad news, the perks for the most part are behind you. Next comes miles and miles of mini boulders. I'm serious, OVER five miles of mini boulder hopping. You'll swear it never ends. Red Rock Beach as mentioned in "Woods Canyon (Lower)" is your focus and goal for the next few hours of your life. Once there you can't miss the trail leading you out of the canyon and home. But we aren't there yet!
Push hard for a couple hours and it'll pass quickly. Think about the calves of steel you'll be flaunting next week! Hope arrives with the Supai Freeway
. Keep an eye out for Sinaguan Semis with faulty brakes. You may want to stop at the Red Rock Lounge
. However, I'd push on past another stretch of boulders
which are simply large stones at this point. Better known as ankle busters since your body out weighs the rock. Pass up Red Palette Beach
too. Then take a breather at the etched slab
. Here you'll find pools deeper & clearer then the previous. It's a great spot to cool off and water up. Tackle another good size stretch of ultra mini boulders. Keep an eye out on the right bank for cairns. If you're lucky you'll catch a 1.5 mile trail that high banks the right/west side to Red Rock Beach. The trail goes up at reasonable slant. If you miss the trail scratch out 5 miles of boulders and write in 6.5 miles. Not to mention the canyon gets densely populated with sycamores to slow things up. From Red Rock Beach it's only 3.4 miles home. By the way, don't get excited about Red Rock Beach
itself, it's popular from the lower end only because it's the first appearance of ledged supai.
See Woods Canyon (Lower)
for the remainder of this hike.
For the record we started this hike in 43 degree weather in late June. The first pool was 59 degrees. I believe the second usually runs 5-8 degrees cooler, but I didn't check this time. I wouldn't recommend bringing a dog in as there's very little solid ground. Camping options are plentiful throughout but it simply isn't wise. According to record a big storm hits this area nearly every three years. These are freak storms folks, not forecasted.
Thanks to Pfredricks, ArizonaHeat & CactusCat for a memorable trek! For now I rejoice in post AZventure adrenaline. I imagine in 40-50 years I'll barely be able squeak out a trek from the lower trailhead to Red Rock Beach. Guarantee this, the legend will only grow. I'll be babbling on about the first time we ran from countless bears and wrestled cougars on route.
- Jun 23 2003 joe bartels
||Point to point described
||Upper trailhead to 1st scramble
||1st scramble to Red Rock Beach
||Woods Canyon Trail #93
||Red Rock Beach to lower trailhead (in reverse)