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Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A, AZ

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Guide 18 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Prescott > Cottonwood
2.5 of 5 by 6
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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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14  2019-09-14
Mingus Inner Basin
20  2017-07-12
Black Hills Loop
4  2015-05-22
Mingus North Loop
10  2015-05-02
Mingus North - Inner Basin
10  2013-07-24 PrestonSands
20  2012-09-08
Mingus Meander
15  2012-09-08
Mingus North - Sands Mint Julep Loop
15  2011-11-15 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 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  6:12am - 6:34pm
Official Route
7 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Before highways and railroads...
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
This hike follows the 4 wheel drive route of Forest Road 503A, which is a remnant of the 1883 wagon road that linked Jerome with Prescott. The route contours along the eastern slopes of Woodchute Mountain and features fine views of the entire Verde Valley area.

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 not any 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 completely obsolete with the completion of U.S. Highway 89A in 1926. Today, most of the wagon road has been reclaimed by nature, with the exception of 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 north side of the canyon, 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 just to the east of the saddle for a view into the United Verde Mine's abandoned open pit.

If you are continuing on...

From the 6277' saddle, FR 503A leaves the route of the wagon road 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 a number of 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.

    Most recent of 13 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    Mingus Inner Basin
    A return to the Mingus area for cooler temps.
    This hike features tall pines, decent trail and some off trail. A start in the 60's was perfect.

    There was some smoke in the area in the AM, that dissipated in the afternoon.

    Goal on this loop, was to try and find a way down from the dead end of the Powerline Trail. I'd seen on satellite, what appeared to be undocumented sections of a trail. Bingo, we found it and it was a much easier way down than the Ravine. Next time, I need to find where this goes up to? This is an old trail with great tread. I'd love to know the history of this one.

    Now on the Mescal Gulch-Hull Canyon Trail, this one is fading away on the south side of the ridge. The steep north side of the ridge, has seen some recent and welcome love, all the way to Walnut Spring.

    Out of the tree cover for the most part, we followed the old Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road, back to the TH.

    A couple miles from the finish, some poor sole had lost a tire (not wheel) on his Silverado, and wound up 10' down/off the trail.

    A good day for wildlife. 2 miles in, 3 deer with the buck still in velvet. 3 miles in, a dozen turkey lazily sauntered away from us. 12 miles in by Walnut Spring, a couple of Javelina.

    The rain held off until the drive home.
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    This was a re-exploration of the west end of the wagon road among the tall pines. Was a bit disturbed to see an abandoned, dead dog while off-trailing from 89A to the canyon bottom. Made my way through a locust thicket to the old stone corral along the wagon road, and then on to the cabin site where I suspect wagon trains may have had an overnight stop. All kinds of smashed beer bottles and whiskey flasks at that spot. 1890’s drunken revelry. Hiked back to my truck after my visit, and then drove on to Mescal Gulch for a nice evening loop hike.
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    Black Hills Loop
    I started my hike from rge Prescott National Forest sign at the large pullout on the west side of AZ-89A, opposite Mescal Tank. I headed east on the jeep trail, through some nice shade. This, and all jeep trails, foot trails and cross country, throughout my loop, showed ample evidence of recent heavy rain. Some jeep trails appeared to have channelized runoff, with downslope sand patterns, and shifted small accumulations of dead grass. On flatter parts of the jeep trails, the ruts were either muddy or still held water. Off trail, the soil was quite loose, with even large rocks poor candidates for a solid foot hold.

    A half mile into the hike, on the south side of the trail, there are the ruins of a stone-walled building. Just past the ruins is Mescal Spring. There is a dry spring box, and the springs are fenced off. I always wondered why some springs are fenced, and today the reason finally occured to me: So that animals would not pollute the water, at its source, with their droppings. I may be off base, but it makes sense.

    A half mile up FR 338, hidden back in the tree line, I checked out the small graveyard. There are three anonymous graves there, although apparently one cross once had the name “C. Jones” on it ( ... .htm ).There is a collapsed mine shaft not far away, so perhaps it is a miner & his family?

    Back in Mescal Gulch, the path up the ridge looked, to me, less like an MTB path than a Roman footpath, with a (now scattered) rock surface and rocks lining much of the sides. An obvious old road crossed the path halfway up the ridge.

    On a clear day -- there was a lot of wildfire smoke in the Verde Valley -- the view from the ridge top would have been nice, but I could still cealry see the Verde Central Shaft and Jerome High School.

    I could not find a path south off the ridge top, so I bushwhacked. Despite the lack of manzanita and cat claw, it was still slow going. It took me 15 minutes to go 250 yds. and descend 150 ft., until I bumped across a powerline right-of-way, where I was able to pick up a defined foot path. At the bottom of the ridge, in Hull Canyon, the trail splits. Going right would take you to the Jerome waterworks; I went left up a wash.

    Up the wash, I found an old mine. The oddest part, at the collapsed shaft, was all the firm yellow foam laying about. It looks like the miners used it to keep pipes and posts in place.

    At first, I thought the Jerome municipal water tank was the most massive cattle tank I had ever seen. I also took a look at the chlorine purification plant. (When I was in the Army, I was in Civil Affairs, so we got to tour waterworks and sewage plants, which was fascinating.) Heading out to AZ-89A, it appears I may have been on mining company land. :-$ In my defense, there was no fence or sign of any sort the way I came in, over the ridge.

    Nearly noon, I was ready to call it a day, but couldn't get ahold of my wife for pickup, so trudged onward, up the old FR 503A wagon road. I got to the top of the climb, near the intersection of FR 500E, where I took an extended break. Unfortunately, I did not bring lunch, or even an energy bar. (I was expecting to be in Jerome drinking beer at lunch time.) As much as I like salt & vinegar chips, they are a poor source of energy.

    After that I ground out the miles to Hull Canyon, where the shade was welcome. Heavy clouds and drizzle also brought some relief. The best part of the hike is through the trees from Hull Canyon back to AZ-89A, mostly through forest. Just before the highway was the one of the coolest cairns I’ve ever seen: A finely balanced single rock-wide tower. I’m surprised wind hadn’t blown it over!

    An out & back hike from the Mescal Tank trailhead, up FR 503A direct to Hull Canyon — the opposite of the direction I travelled — would be a great six mile, 900 AEG, walk in the woods.

    Hike Video, Pt. 1: [ youtube video ] : cemetery, ruins, ridge, mine
    Hike Video, Pt. 2: [ youtube video ] : waterworks, FR 503A, Hull Canyon
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    Hey, this was pretty cool. Pulled off the highway without really knowing what was there and just followed what was in front of us. There's an old rusted car that apparently rolled off the road decades ago right as you start. Nice mix of tall pines and shade in the trees on the way up Mescal, with some evidence of the logging/mining history of the area. Then a nice descent down Bug Hollow, warm but way better than the valley. Didn't see anybody else, just one other car at the trailhead, wasn't there when we got back.
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    My dad and I set off from the southern end of 503A on a mild late summer's morning, intending to do this and Section House as a shuttle. I performed tour guide duty, pointing out items of historical note along the way. My dad and I don't get to roam the hills together too often, so this adventure was a special one. Jerome adventures on my birthday have been a tradition for almost 30 years now.

    FR 503A and 500E were two of my most favorite hikes during my Prescott days, and it felt great to revisit these areas. The hills were green and the ruts were muddy from ample summer rains. Nice patches of paintbrush flowers in places. There is a new and elaborate wildlife water cache basin around the midway point of 503A. We capped off our adventure by meeting the rest of the family in Jerome for lunch at Hilltop Deli, some town exploration, and a visit to the Jerome State Historic Park. A great Sands family adventure.
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    Mingus North Loop
    We pretty much followed the route posted by Joe and the Eagle, with just slight changes. This is a great loop, although we did find ourselves on the wrong side of a No Trespassing area.

    We did find the logo placed along the route so if there is a prize for that let me know how I collect it :D
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    Mingus North - Inner Basin
    A redux of a hike we did almost 3 years ago. Going CCW this time made the off trail a much easier downhill. With the added bonus of finding a use trail to replace a thick bushwhack.

    Old 503a extension > Mescal > Bug Hollow > Off Trail to Upper Mescal > Powerline > Off trail to North Mingus > FR > Old MTB trail > J-P Wagon Road

    May the Weather stay like this the rest of the year, for this couple welterweights. It was perfect on the day. Clouds and brief very light sprinkles kept the temps down.

    Bug Hollow and Upper Mescal are the highlights on the day for the thick tree cover. (Best viewed in the Autumn). The recently cleared Powerline trail does yield some big views to the north, past Sedona and to "The Peaks", Bill Williams, Sitgreaves and Kendrick.
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    Mingus North - Sands Mint Julep Loop II
    Returned to this classic I threw together and Bruce streamlined in 2012. Temps forecasted around 71 degrees held well. It had it's warm moments in the sun. Ultimately big fluffy clouds made the day. I love this mountain and the variety it offers.

    Bruce suggested we flip the direction of travel to ccw. That decision along with a pinch of experience put this hike into the virtual breeze category.

    The Powerline Trail #549 has been seriously cleared so that was a nice surprise. Our little off trail jaunt over Mescal Ridge ( no name really ) was perfected today. Last time we found partial use-trails on each side. Today we scored use-trails the entire way!

    Down in Hull Canyon, near Walnut Spring, Bruce slipped and gashed his finger. Luckily he survived applying pressure and setting a makeshift bandage. Next found a nice spot to lunch near an old city of Jerome tank.

    All and all a pleasant day hike. Instead of bushwhacking a few areas we danced around the mahogany demons unscathed. We left in what sounded like a motorcycle rally. Which seems typical for weekend afternoons on Mingus.

    Cliff-Rose and yellow flowered bush dominated the upper end of #503A, lupine, skyrocket, thistle & paintbrush
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    An evening of off trail exploring along the Jerome wagon road route... I located the route of the old aerial tramway (like a ski lift with buckets instead of chairs) that ran from the United Verde Mine (the big open pit) at Jerome over to the western side of Mingus Mountain during the early 1890's. Rotted wooden poles with numerous bolts and hardware attached, along with spilled coke (which the tram hauled) seemed to indicate that this was indeed the tram route. Down in a lush canyon bottom, noise from a tree caught my attention, where I noticed 3 owls looking down at me. I cautiously approached, hoping they wouldn't fly away, and almost stepped on a coiled (apparently sleeping) rattlesnake. The owls allowed me to come reasonably close, never flying. We exchanged hoots upon parting. Hiking out of the canyon, I came across a small plane wreck, something I did not expect. Found a date of 8-1-59 on a wheel. Not too far from it was a more recently wrecked truck. I emerged from the canyon at dusk, scratched, filthy, and itchy. A satisfying adventure it was.
    Jerome-Prescott Wagon Road #503A
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    Evening exercise on the east end of the trail. Partook in a bit of rock hounding, roamed through a forest of century plant stalks, and watched the sunset paint the rocks of Sycamore Canyon and Sedona orange before turning around on the Section House trail. A fulfilling outing with great music.

    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 pulloff. Forest Road 503A (unmarked) departs on the uphill side of the highway 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
    3 pack - loud whistle
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