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Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A, AZ

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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 5.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,361 feet
Elevation Gain -917 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7.03
Interest Historic
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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Page 1,  2
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 169
Routes 148
Photos 5,617
Trips 1,516 map ( 7,711 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Oct, Sep, Apr → Any
Seasons   Late Winter to Late Autumn
Sun  5:33am - 7:37pm
Official Route
7 Alternative

Before highways and railroads...
by PrestonSands

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This hike follows the four-wheel-drive route of Forest Road 503A, a remnant of the 1883 wagon road that linked Jerome with Prescott. The route contours along the eastern slopes of Woodchute Mountain and features the entire Verde Valley area's fine views.

F.Y.I. The northern end of FR 503A (near the Jerome Grande Mine) appears to cross Freeport-McMoRan mine property, although there are usually no signs indicating this.

There are several options for hiking the Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road (consult a topo map):

Option 1 (recommended):
The shuttle hike
Hike from the south end of FR 503A at Mescal Gulch on Highway 89A to the north end of FR 503A at the Jerome Grande Mine on Highway 89A. Stats for this option: 5.5-miles, 901 AEG

Option 2:
The round trip hike
Start at the south end of FR 503A at Mescal Gulch on Highway 89A and hike to the hilltop just east of the 6277' saddle, returning the same way. Stats for this option: 9.1-miles, 1294 AEG

Option 3:
The loop hike
Hike from the south end of FR 503A at Mescal Gulch on Highway 89A to the north end of FR 503A at the Jerome Grande Mine on Highway 89A. Carefully (!) walk back along Highway 89A to your starting point. Stats for this option: 8.2-miles, 1344 AEG

In 1876, mining claims were staked atop a rich deposit of copper, near the present-day town of Jerome. In 1883, some of these claims were bought and consolidated as the United Verde Mine. Frederick Thomas, manager of the newly formed United Verde Mine, was in charge of constructing a wagon road to the isolated mine. Thomas constructed one road going north to Ash Fork, and another going west over the Black Hills to Prescott. The rough road to Prescott was quite steep in places, requiring a log brake to be pulled behind the wagon wheels to prevent runaways. Wagons brought black cinder-like fuel known as coke to the mine for use in the United Verde smelter. Smelted copper was hauled out by wagon on the return trip.

Subsequent mine owner William Clark replaced the erosion-prone wagon road in 1894 with the United Verde and Pacific Railroad, which contoured along the northern slopes of Woodchute Mountain. The wagon road became utterly obsolete with the completion of U.S. Highway 89A in 1926. Today, most of the wagon road has been reclaimed by nature, except for Forest Road 503A (this hike).

The signed, southern end of Forest Road 503A begins at milepost 339.15 on Highway 89A. There is parking here and at a small campsite a few hundred feet up FR 503A. Follow FR 503A up the canyon into a shady ponderosa pine forest. Three lesser side roads are encountered in the first 0.6 miles; stay left at the first two, and right at the third.

Shortly after the third side road, FR 503A crosses the creek bed and doubles back onto the canyon's north side, continuing to ascend and eventually topping a ridge, where it then descends to a four-way road junction at 1.33-miles. Hang a left at this junction; you are now on the route of the historic wagon road. The wagon road (still FR 503A) contours along the wooded eastern slopes of Woodchute Mountain high above Hull Canyon for the next few miles, affording fine views of the Verde Valley and Mingus Mountain along the way.

The wagon road arrives atop Woodchute Mountain's prominent east ridge at 4-miles, where it meets the Section House trail 500E coming in from the north (a worthy side hike if you have the time). The wagon road travels east along the ridge through grey limestone bedrock, grass, and agaves, dropping down to the 6277' saddle at 4.6-miles. At this point, one can return the way they came, or continue on FR 503A. I recommend climbing one of the small hills to the east of the saddle for a view into the United Verde Mine's abandoned open pit.

If you are continuing...

From the 6277' saddle, FR 503A leaves the wagon road's route behind and descends a side canyon to the south, reaching Highway 89A near the Jerome-Grande Mine in 0.9-miles. Return the same way or take the highway back.

There are several potential ridge top campsites along the route.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2012-07-02 PrestonSands

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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.

    Permit $$

    Prescott Forest
    Prescott National Forest Pass

    Only trailheads with six "amenities" have fees. Amenities are picnic tables, trash, toilet, parking, interpretive signing and security.

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From the junction of U.S. Highway 89 and U.S. Highway 89A just north of Prescott, drive east on U.S. Highway 89A toward Jerome for approximately 21.2-miles. Turn left onto Forest Road 503A (dirt) at milepost 339.15. There is room to turn around and park just a few hundred feet up FR 503A. Start hiking up FR 503A (see hike description). Alternate north access (at Jerome Grande Mine): Drive east on Highway 89A toward Jerome for approximately 23.8-miles to milepost 341.75. There is parking here at a roadside pull-off. Forest Road 503A (unmarked) departs on the highway's uphill side and heads up a small side canyon for the top of the high ridge above.
    page created by PrestonSands on Jul 02 2012 1:18 am
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