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Woods Canyon - Sedona, AZ

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Guide 15 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Munds Park SW
4.6 of 5 by 8
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 14 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,360 feet
Elevation Gain -2,485 feet
Avg Time One Way 9 - 12 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.14
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Ruins, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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32  2010-09-05
Woods Canyon - Upper
69  2010-05-17
Woods Canyon - Upper
10  2007-06-23 joebartels
21  2004-04-20 Lizard
17  2003-06-21 pfredricks
10  2003-06-21 arizonaheat
30  2003-06-21 joebartels
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,825
Trips 4,259 map ( 21,438 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → 5 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:14am - 6:25pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
I call it my own
by joebartels

Likely In-Season!
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.

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.

RatedHike DescriptionPoint to point describedOne-Way mileage
5Woods Canyon (Upper)Upper trailhead to 1st scramble3.25 miles
4 Woods Canyon1st scramble to Red Rock Beach7.00 miles
3Woods Canyon Trail #93Red Rock Beach to lower trailhead (in reverse)3.40 miles

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2003-06-23 joebartels
  • wilderness related
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Woods Canyon - Sedona
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First - If you are driving a car, don't even consider driving past the parking area right next to I-17 at exit 315.
Second - If it's at all wet or there's a chance of it being wet, I don't think 4x4 will even help you. If it's dry, high clearance is cool for the brave. All others, hike the extra 4 miles round trip.
Third - If you are a hiker and not a climber/canyon mad man/woman, prepare for some mighty sore quads the next day.

Make sure to follow the GPS track to drop into the first little canyon that roughly travels north to reach Woods Canyon, or else you might get to a spot you can not enter easily.

Prepare for 12 miles of boulder hopping your way to some of the Best Views in the State of Arizona. Also prepare to get wet. On this day we had 3 waders and 2 swimmers each direction. A Dry Bag is just about mandatory, and a nice Wallyworld float might help on especially the 1st swimmer.

The views are un matched... WOW....The carved and weathered red rocks, the green trees, the blue skies, and we were lucky enough for Fraley to make an appearance on the way out to keep it a bit cooler.

Heard some elk bugling in the morning, a raptor calling out, a Garter and my first Arizona Mountain King Snake.

Made it to the Indian Ruins and started eating some lunch while Bob aka "Boulder Bob" aka "Bobby Goat" tried to find a way (with no luck) up the cliff to the Ruins.

The hike back up the canyon was just as beautiful. My quads really started getting rubbery on the way back, butt my two close hiking buddies were patient with me. Joe is normally the butt of the jokes on the hikes, butt this time is was my turn to be the butt of the jokes.

Thanks for the great time gentlemen..... and Dinner Bobby.
Woods Canyon - Sedona
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Wow, what a burly long rock hop! :sweat: I had a 3-day weekend from a recent B-day and filled it up with more canyoneering. :GB: I've done the non-technical rock hop & swim down to the Supai Pools a few times over the years, but this was my first shot at the technical loop that drops in via a side canyon below the Supai layer into middle Woods Canyon. My buddy got us along that bumpy FR80 fairly far before we hopped out, geared up and made the almost 3 mile rim walk to the drop-in point. That side canyon is rather bushy with loads of tree fall to push thru before hitting a few 'Todd down climbs'. :o We manage to climb down most of them, but the top one had a good anchor already so we made a 50ft rappel out of it, and another we initially rappelled down but once we saw how easy it was my buddy climbed back up and dismantled the anchor. After we were done with all the down climbing, the canyon opens up with some nice angled Coconino sandstone slabs to descend and small pools to avoid before hitting the first of many drops in the Supai Sandstone layer . There was a good anchor there that we used for this 20ft drop but I suspect this is another 'Todd down climb'. :lol: Right after this drop is a super sweet 80ft rap down a dryfall covered in desert varnish followed quickly by another 80ft rap but the first 40ft are gently sloping until you hit the quick 40ft drop. Thinking we hit the 3 rappels already, we were kinna surprised to hit the final 70ft rappel that was very overhung; it was like rappeling off the edge of a dinner plate. :o The anchor is 30ft back so my 100ft rope barely made it down with only a few feet to spare... My friends isn't too experienced on overhanging rappel, so he butt slide off of it and got scraped up pretty good... After that is was some more down climbing and avoiding a Diamondback before hitting the rocky middle Woods Canyon around 2pm. I've yet to be this far down/up canyon, so it was kinna cool to finally see it and we started the long rock hop upstream before shortly running into yet another Diamondback. :o The coolest part by far was navigating our way thru the Supai Pools area and trying to find the best way to make our way upstream. It would have been nice to play in the flowing pools a bit but we were already pushing to make it out before dusk. We eventually made it back up to the Coconino layer were the canyon narrows up and we encountered a few chilly swimmers and we thru on our 3mm full wetsuits to make them bearable. ;) After nearly freezing our rears off, we slowly made it further up the long rock up as the boulder got slowly bigger and tougher to navigate thru. We eventually reached the basalt layer where the boulders get even bigger until we hit the basalt falls with 3 pools above it that require a wade or swim to get across. Once across those, we quickly reached our exit canyon with a huge pool and falls in upper Woods Canyon were we dropped our wetsuits, hiked up that side canyon a bit before climbing back up to the rim, and making the final 1.5 miles of rim walking back to our vehicle making it back just after sunset. :sweat:
Woods Canyon - Sedona
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I finally got around to taking advantage of the new TH now that the Ranger Station is finished. The creek was flowing pretty good from snow runoff most likely. I wasn't expecting to much from this hike, so I came away pleasantly surprised on another beautiful day (sunny upper 70s with a light breeze) in Sedona. I've done the upper section a couple times but this was my first time checking out the lower reaches. I ended up hiking past Rattlesnake Canyon, Red Rock Beach, and up to the triple confluence of Pine Tank, Woods, and the canyon coming from Horse Mesa Tank. The trail moves pretty quick due to little elevation gain and a fairly good trail most of the way. :D
Woods Canyon - Sedona
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Camped out the night before to get a relaxed morning start. Tagged on an extra mile at the upper end to accommodate nonot's low clearance. Started off in refreshing 41~45 degree weather. The first swim kicked my butt carrying all my camera gear, prohibiting me to use my arms. Which turned sour anyhow as my camera apparently took the second swim of it's rather arduous life.

We move at pretty good click... then I lead the way through a short unnecessary bushwhack that eat up precious time as the canyon skillet cranked into simmer mode.

The lack of snowfall over the previous winter was showing signs in lower pool levels and even fewer in non-stagnant category. The death march over the ENDLESS boulders is still as good as always. With the closure of the lower trailhead we took the Hot Loop over to Jacks Canyon Trailhead. That 500 elevation gain coupled with the scorching summer temps was almost enough to turn our sanity into odd illusions...

I downed 216 ounces water and would've like a tad more. Took the umbrella expecting hot ending but honestly didn't have the energy to hold it.
On a positive note, the camera came to it's senses. Proving you can't keep a good camera soaked in the Arizona heat :)

If anybody ask nonot the hike was 19.2 miles :sk: It certainly felt like it!!! All things considered I had a grand ol' time! - Thanks nonot!

Alright, time to go squeeze a lemon :o
Woods Canyon - Sedona
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Lower woods canyon adds more boulder hopping to the end of a long day. Luckily, there is a secret shortcut on the west banks that allows you to avoid much of the pain. 90+ temps at this point during the summer should discourage most individuals from attempting this.

Due to construction in Oak Creek, the lower trailhead was closed, so it is only accessible via Hot Loop as of this writing.
Woods Canyon - Sedona
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Pretty great area. You start off in pine forests and 40 degree weather on a summer morning. We headed south to the tributary that feeds the canyon, and did some somewhat steep down-bouldering. There is a mandatory swim a few miles in and a mandatory wade just after that. Towards the end you have the option to get wet again or try a thorny bushwhack around. The canyon boxes up on top and is quite beautiful with the black granite boulders contrasting against the yellow coconino sandstone which gives way to the red supai. It's slow going though. I added a mile because we didn't park at the "trailhead".
Woods Canyon - Sedona
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It really was an incredible trip, even though I wasn't in the best shape for it physically or mentally and it kicked my ass! I would highly recommend taking at least two days to do this so you have time to enjoy the picture perfect swimming pools and surroundings. There is also plenty of solitude there to enjoy - we didn't encounter a single person the entire day; just turkeys, two snakes, lizards, birds, one cow, and yes, I finally saw my elk on the drive out. There were many suitable campsites just begging us to return for a stay. The highlights were certainly the narrows and the pools. I really enjoyed the narrows that we had to swim through and would like to do trips that involve more swimming. It helped that the water temperature wasn't nearly as cold as I'd feared - I even stayed in longer than necessary, swimming around and enjoying it. Finally, after all the canyons I've hiked, swimming through some narrows makes me feel like a real canyoneer! :D Thanks Joe, for organizing this trip and for letting me go!
Woods Canyon - Sedona
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Well today was the big day. I bounced out of bed, did back handsprings into the kitchen, downed a couple of bowls of Tony Tiger, because their Grrrrrrrrrrreat, and I was going to need a "Tiger in my tank" for what laid ahead. I picked up Cactuscat at 2:45 AM and we were off for our destination. We arrived at the Lower Woods Canyon Trailhead at about 4:45 AM, a distance of 132 miles from Northeast Mesa. We had been there about 15 minutes or so, when suddenly we saw some sort of aborition approaching, we weren't certain what it was and thought it may be caused by on of those Sedona New Age Vortexes! It took on several different alien life forms then voila, there was the Grand Master of HAZ, Teva Joe, coming through the gate.

We left his rig at the Lower Woods Canyon Trailhead, all piled into to mine and we were off on a shuttle to the Upper Woods Canyon Trailhead. We drove the 5+ miles back to I-17 like sane people, but once we headed north on 17 toward our destination we went from impulse power to warp drive (for you trekies), we got off at exit 315 and followed FR80 a short distance where we picked up Pfredricks, who had spent the night.

We continued down FR80 toward our starting point, shaking our innards and rattling our teeth, when we came upon the first excitement of the day. We spotted a mother hen Turkey with about ten little chicks crossing the field in front of us. I attempted a photo, but they were to quick to take cover.

Soon we were at our starting point, it was time for the four of us to make an attempt at conquering Woods Canyon in its entirety in a single day. A rare feat, and a admirable challenge. Total distance is only around 15 miles but the first 10 of those are totally off trail and involve nothing but bouldering, rock hopping , swimming, scrambling and on the bright side very little bush whacking. In my line of thinking this type of hiking is "HIKING NIRVANA"

We were soon cutting cross- country to a point where we would enter the upper reaches of Woods Canyon. The outside temperature at this point was a balmy 43.5 degrees. The minute we started our decent into the canyon I knew this was going to be an incredible hike. The rains from this spring had performed wonders on the flora habitat and a green lushness surrounded us, stimulating our senses. We worked our way down the Canyon, first coming upon "The Dip", then the 70' Basalt Drop (See Teva's excellent description of Upper Woods Canyon)
Soon we found ourselves at the point we had been anticipating the most, "The Liquid Pool of Ice", a long narrow pool shaded by the soaring red rock cliffs. It is a totally awesome sight. We loaded all electronics and other items that can't get wet into dry bags and prepared ourselves for the swim. The water was a balmy 59.5 degrees, which really wasn't bad. Pfredricks was first in, floating his pack. It is possible to wade for a distance on the upper end in chest deep water, but swimming is soon essential as the water is extremely deep the rest of the way across. Pfredricks was followed by Teva then Cactuscat with Arizonaheat ( the Mark Spitz of........I mean the lead weight of the group bringing up the rear), I'm glad the swim wasn't any longer, estimated distance around 50 yards, but it was a blast!!!!!!!

A short distance beyond the Liquid Pool of Ice is your next swim. It is possible to wade in chest deep water across at least half of this pool, before it's necessary to swim. This pool actually felt colder than the first. I don't believe Teva took the temperature of the second pool.

We continued at a blistering snails pace down the canyon past several more pools of water. There is one pool that is absolutely astounding, looking almost bottomless when you peer upon it from above. Problem being if you jumped you probably wouldn't be able to get back out, it is a huge bowl. We were totally amazed at the amount of water we were seeing, like I said earlier that rain did wonders.

We eventually came to the middle five miles of canyon, a stretch which was new to all of us, as Teva had never explored this part before. The highlight of this stretch was a magnificent display of what appeared to be undisturbed Indian Ruins ( let's all hope they remain that way).

We continued down the Canyon passing many more pools of water carved into the sandstone in various shapes and sizes, admiring the towering vivid red rock cliffs and outcroppings surrounding us, the many sandstone benches, the lush vegetation growing everywhere and the brilliant blue sky above. It just doesn't get any better.

Eventually we found ourselves in the lower reaches of the Canyon, where we were actually now on a trail. We were back to Teva's vehicle for the shuttle back to the top around 6:30 PM, for a hike time of over twelve hours over grueling terrain.

I absolutely loved this trek!!! I thoroughly enjoyed my hiking partners for the day. I would like to thank Teva for putting this trip together, what a great one. We sought and we conquered, Wahoo.

I would not recommend this as a day hike unless you are extremely hard core or you will end up in trouble. Also don't count on there being as much water in the Canyon as there was this time. Teva had done the upper and lower ends previously and was amazed at what he was seeing water wise and plant growth wise.
Rain does work wonders in the desert!

PS: We saw some elk on the way out.

Pictures to come. I'm sure Teva will have some great ones too.

Permit $$
Red Rock Pass - may or may not be required. Go to Red Rock Pass then check "When is a Red Rock Pass Required?". If you have questions contact the Coconino forest service.

Map Drive
Info is below 'Directions to trail'

To Upper Woods Canyon the arbitrary/unofficial Trailhead
From Phoenix head north on I-17. Take off on exit 315. Go under the highway west and pick up FR#80. Go right (north) on FR#80 and follow to it's end. (at the one fork, stay right)

The road is best suited for high clearance vehicles. When it gets muddy 4x4 is a must and at times not even negotiable. The area is closed to vehicular travel from Dec 15th to Apr 1st as it's a designated "Quiet Area".

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 125 mi - about 2 hours 1 min
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 230 mi - about 3 hours 38 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 27.2 mi - about 31 mins
(Trailhead is generic)
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