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Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim, AZ

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Guide 15 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Heber
3.8 of 5 by 8
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 6.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,519 feet
Elevation Gain -440 feet
Avg Time One Way 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.83
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
8  2018-09-08
Woods Canyon creek - Bear Canyon Lake
15  2018-08-11
Highline - Woods - Crook - Rim - Sinkhole
10  2018-08-11
Highline - Woods - Crook - Rim - Sinkhole
14  2018-06-02
Woods Canyon / Bear Canyon Lakes
6  2018-01-13 MountainMatt
6  2017-08-19
Woods Rim Loop
15  2017-08-05
Highline - Drew - Woods Canyon - Sinkhole Loop
15  2017-08-05
Highline - Drew - Woods Canyon - Sinkhole Loop
Page 1,  2,  3
Author chumley
author avatar Guides 75
Routes 667
Photos 13,172
Trips 1,417 map ( 10,542 miles )
Age 46 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, Oct, Jun → Any
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:12am - 6:21pm
Official Route
6 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
A Different Point of View
by chumley

Likely In-Season!
Where in the World? This hike refers to the Woods Canyon that lies downstream (north) of Woods Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim. It is not to be confused with the Woods Canyon in the Sedona area.

This off-trail hike follows Woods Canyon downstream from the popular lake to the rugged, isolated junction of Chevelon Canyon and Willow Springs Canyon. The first mile or so is an easy stroll in grassy terrain, but quickly turns into a treacherous boulder-hopping trek. The mileage is listed as one-way, so if you go all the way to the junction, you will have to return the way you came (doubling the mileage to 12.2) or choose one of the other options listed at the end of this description.

There is no established trail, and the going gets to be quite treacherous and occasionally unpleasant. There is a lot of overgrowth, deadfall, large boulders, and other obstacles the farther down canyon you go. If you are not comfortable with this kind of terrain, please don't attempt this hike!

Begin by heading downstream on the right side of the spillway. Descend into the canyon by using any of the established use trails. This part of the canyon is generally a pleasant grassy meadow and the hiking is fast and easy.

As the canyon meanders downstream, it begins to tighten. Pools of water appear and disappear, depending on the recent weather, though only after monsoon rains or spring snowmelt will the water actually be "flowing." As you continue, the hustle and bustle of an overpopulated Woods Canyon Lake disappears into your memory as you enjoy the solitude of this remote canyon.

The canyon gets progressively more difficult to navigate. The use trails along the sides of the creek basin become overgrown and tough to get through. The rocky creek bottom is the best way to proceed, but the going is slow. Sometimes there are pools of standing water. This varies with the time of year or recent weather. Wildlife is abundant in this canyon. I witnessed both bear and mountain lion scat, plus I encountered a rafter of 4 HUGE turkeys. I mean, if you were thinking Thanksgiving dinner, these were all 20+ pounders!

You will pass 2 or 3 reasonably nice dispersed campsites with established fire rings in the first couple of miles before the canyon gets more rugged. Eventually, the canyon turns into something reminiscent of Boulder Canyon in the Supes. Only there's nowhere to hike on the sides. It's just slow hiking/jumping from boulder to boulder, requiring some route-planning. The pace here slows to less than 1.5mph.

Eventually, the right bank opens up a bit and it is easy to find wildlife trails through the shaded forest. After a couple hundred yards, the forest ends at the junction of the three canyons. Woods on the left, Willow Springs coming in from the right, and Chevelon continuing downstream toward the lake. From here, take a break and head back the way you came, or continue elsewhere based on your gear and previous plan.

Backpacking Options
Backpackers might continue down Chevelon Canyon another ~10-miles to the first established canyon exit point at the Telephone Ridge Trail #203, or the full 13-miles to the head of Chevelon Canyon Lake where another exit trail exists. Or they might head up Willow Springs Canyon for the 4-miles to the Willow Springs Lake dam. Except for at the junction of the three canyons, there are no good camping opportunities in the lower 2.5 miles of Woods Canyon.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2012-07-03 chumley

    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 Triplog Reviews
    Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Woods Rim Loop
    I was looking to get 12 miles or so in the morning before meeting up with a friend arriving later for some camping. This turned out a little shorter than planned but still worked out ok. We parked at the end of the 195 camping area and took the nice trail down to the lake, before proceeding around on the north side trail. From there we went a couple miles downstream in Woods Canyon, then climbed out and made an off-trail traverse toward the Military Sinkhole. This area has been heavily thinned and is pretty unattractive right now. Hopefully a little grass grows in and greens it up.

    The vista loop spends too much time close to the road, and then it disappears completely after the Mogollon campground. I didn't realize there was no track out here. Not difficult to hike, but with the recent thinning operations still a bit of a mess.

    We did a short stretch on a segment of the Aspen/Crook trail before making an off-trail beeline back toward the truck.
    Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim
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    Highline - Drew - Woods Canyon - Sinkhole Loop
    The Turtle and I started from the 260 TH CW a bit after 7am.
    Temps in the upper 60's to start and the Highline #31 was in great shape.

    4.4 miles to the Drew Trail #291 and the biggest up for the day. 800' and 1 mile get you to the top of the rim.

    On top we followed the Drew to the General Crook to the "Hole in the Ground" area. An easy off trail took us to the Boulder Hop #413. From here it was another easy off trail to drop into the East Fork making our way towards Woods Canyon Lake. East Fork had a couple of slow areas, but game trails helped for most of the way to the lake.

    I always enjoy Woods Canyon Lake. Taking the northern route around the lake keeps you from the majority of the masses. Past the Woods Canyon Dam, we stayed in Woods Canyon for another 2 miles, before climbing out to the south. There was a feature on the Satellite view that I wanted to check out.

    Now on the Military Sinkhole #179, a brief check at the sinkhole, then the Rim Vista for the...views and down the rim to the TH.

    Thanks Turtle... Good Times
    Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Woods Canyon Creek
    Went on a FRIENDS HIKING CLUB hike with about 10 happy hikers. The hike was a shortened version of the "Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim" hike but nevertheless a pleasant hike and wonderful getaway. Lots of folks around Woods Canyon Lake but didn't run into any other hikers along the trail. Thought it might be a good place to fish but think otherwise now -- there was water all along the trail but doubt if the flow was adequate for fishing habitat. NO MOSQUITOES!!!!
    Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim
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    Highline - Woods - Willow Spring Lakes Loop
    Escaped the valley to the cool air, pines and lakes of the Rim. :y:

    I had never seen Willow Springs Lake, so I needed to bake that into the loop. A 40% chance of rain scared some away, but temps were perfect all day, with just a few sprinkles.

    We were the second truck at the 260 Trailhead when we started around 7:30. The eastern end of the Highline affords some nice views of the rim as it rollercoasters towards the Drew Trail #291, 4 miles away.

    The Drew Trail was the only extended climb for the day at 800' in less than a mile. We made our way through the people camping, over to the first of the easy bushwhacks for the day, Woods Canyon, a tributary of the lake.

    Next a fun favorite, the Woods Canyon Lake Trail. I've always liked this easy stroll around this picturesque lake. There were others out enjoying the day, but not in the numbers I expected. Stopped and took pictures of the kids, to see how their family was doing, and then headed past the dam into Woods Canyon on the east side of the lake.

    Woods Canyon is an easy walk with use trails for the most part where we hiked. 2+ miles into it we made the short steep climb out and made our way across some scattered pine and meadow area and into Willow Spring Canyon. Getting up to the lake is easiest by following the spillway. I was not as impressed with Willow Spring Lake.

    It started sprinkling a bit on us as we made the rest of the journey on the Rims Lake Vista Trail and then made our way back on the Military Sinkhole Trail.

    I love the rim hikes and another good hike up there, with interesting conversations with Karl and Ray. Thanks for driving Karl.
    Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim
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    Highline - Woods - Willow Spring Lakes Loop
    This was a very nice hike in the Rim Country with Karl and Bruce. Great weather at the start, an occasional rumble of thunder with some sprinkles starting at about the halfway point and continuing through the remainder of the hike. It was a little wetter at the end, but not enough to detract from this splendid trek along the Highline, through a couple of canyons, past two lakes and across an open meadow. See The Eagle's GPS route for more info.

    This is officially my longest hike in terms of miles. I've had several close to, but none longer than 20 miles. I know it's not a lot for many of you out there, but it's always nice to reach a new milestone.

    Karl, it was great meeting you! Thanks for the ride and the refreshments, and I thank you both for a wonderful time. I can't remember the last time I talked so much on a hike. I'm sure the lower AEG contributed, but great company was the bigger factor.
    Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim
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    I was heading up to Pine to drop off some family so it was a perfect opportunity to get the wife and kids out on the trails. :D

    We got to Woods canyon lake at 10:00am and were greeted to a TON of people :? The parking lot was full and they had lot attendants out managing traffic. The attendant told me that I could park in the dirt at the ends of the spaces if my car would fit. I went to check it out. As I pulled into the lot :o what?!?! an empty spot :y: Parked and got everyone outfitted with packs, cameras and sunscreen. After cutting through the campgrounds we got to the start of our hike(at least the start of my hike. the hike started at the car to my wife and kids :lol: )

    At the dam we dropped down into the canyon. Everything is very green :) I only hope it will stay that way. I chose this hike because there is a lot to see and it's fairly flat. At about the 1 mile mark my youngest started complaining about her pack "It's SOOOO heavy" "It's scratching my arms" after about 20min I gave in. I strapped the pack to my front and I still had mine on my back. I've carried much heavier packs but the way that the weight was sitting on my body was just killing me :? but we push on. As long as it kept the wife and kids happy and hiking it was worth it :D

    This is a great trail. The first time I went 2012 this canyon was untouched. The only trails were game trails but it has become more popular. There is now a well worn trail deep into the canyon with lots of foot prints. There are a few places where people have carved in trees and rocks, in one spot some kids have cut down a perfictly heathy tree. On this hike we ran into 4 groups of people. Even with the increace in trafic this area is still pretty prestine. I hope it stays that way :pray:
    Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This was a beautiful hike. Our hike started at the Woods Canyon store parking lot. We made our way down to the dam along the lake's shore. Once at the dam we followed the canyon for about 4 mile before turning around due to the ever darkening clouds. :scared: .. We almost made it back to the truck but the sky opened up for the last 1/2 mile and just poured on us. I can't complain this was one of the best hikes I've been on in awhile. :GB:
    Woods Canyon - Mogollon Rim
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    17-mile loop: Meadow Trail to Woods Canyon to Willow Springs Canyon, returning on the General Crook Trail.

    Sorry for the long description! A lot of new terrain to cover!
    I had wanted to explore South Chevelon Canyon for a while, and knew nothing about it except that it is 18-20 miles from Woods Canyon Lake to Chevelon Canyon Lake. Figuring that would take at least 2 or 3 nights of backpacking, I decided that it wasn't realistic right now. So I opted for a shorter trip to get my feet wet on the route. I decided to hike down Woods Canyon from the lake until reaching Willow Springs Canyon, and then hike up to Willow Springs Lake.

    I woke up late, didn't feel good, and got a late start. I had mapped out the route and knew it would be about 15 miles to complete the loop. Estimating how long it might take in the canyons, I figured that I couldn't start hiking after 2pm or I would risk darkness while still off-trail. Having never been in the area before, if it was going to get dark on me, I wanted to be in the easy stretch of familiar territory of the Rim Vista Trail, FR300, and General Crook Trail, rather than in an unknown canyon, off-trail.

    Sure enough I got to the Rim Vista trailhead at 1:50, and began my hike down the Meadow Trail at exactly 2:00. Half an hour later, I was at the dam and headed downstream in the grassy canyon. There were some pools of stagnant water, but otherwise, the end of June was taking it's toll on this drainage. The first couple of miles were easy to hike, and as I was cognizant of the time, I was able to keep my speed close to 3mph. Initially, the hiking was flat and grassy, but the vegetation increased, and the use trails became less defined.

    Soon it was a struggle to decide if it was easier to hike next to the dry creek, or just make my way down the rocks in it. Having left the lake far behind, there were no signs of people anywhere, but plenty of signs of wildlife. I startled an elk and its young calf, as well as a rafter of turkey... big, fat, delicious-looking turkey! I was surprised at the number of blue spruce in the canyon, offering a nice contrasting color to the bright green grass and other flora along the creekbed.

    Eventually however, the canyon slowly transitioned from grassy meadow to rocky canyon. The only way forward was to navigate the boulders that fill the creekbed. From time to time, it looked like there was an option for hiking alongside the creek, but every time I tried, the path I had seen ended abruptly in deadfall and brush, pushing me back to boulder hopping.

    Knowing I was looking for the junction of Willow Springs Canyon, and hoping to be there before 5:30, I pressed forward. A couple of large rockslides and one good landslide along the canyon provided some different views than you typically see in lower elevation canyons in Arizona.

    Finally, it looked like there was some easier hiking on the right bank, so I headed over and found a very well defined wildlife trail through a nice healthy forest. Of course, after 200 yards it ended and I realized I was at the junction of the three canyons. It was exactly 5:00 so I was happy with my time, knowing I had 3 hours of daylight remaining.

    Having studied the satellite photos of the area, I was anticipating that the lower half of Willow Springs Canyon would also be an unpleasant boulder field like Woods Canyon had turned into. I wasn't really looking forward to that, and decided to take a short break, have a sandwich and hydrate before pressing on.

    When I started again, I had not gone 300 yards when the most pleasant thing happened. Suddenly the dry canyon I had been hopping rocks in began to trickle with a little running water. And suddenly more and more! There is no spring marked on the map and yet, the water flow was as impressive as many mountain springs in Arizona! :D What a fantastic surprise!

    The only way to navigate upstream was in the center of the mountain stream, but the rocks are plentiful and getting my feet wet was totally unnecessary. The stream ran over dark black rocks, and the water, though crystal clear, appeared black, juxtaposed against brilliant green grasses and flora. This is still a very rugged and remote area, and the going was slow. Deadfall across the creek, and occasional route-choosing decisions impeded progress from time to time.

    I startled a big, fat porcupine sitting on a rock in the center of the stream. He stared at me and didn't move. I looked for a way around, but there was no option, so I slowly approached him, calling out for him to move. He slowly waddled his fat butt to the shore and disappeared into the grass. That's my 2nd porcupine sighting in Arizona!

    So I continued upstream for what seemed like forever, but despite getting later in the day, it actually got lighter as the canyon got shallower and the remaining sun was sometimes visible on the trees above me. The canyon suddenly changed complexion, going from a beautiful wooded mountain stream, to a meandering meadow of grass with pools of water and little flow. I figured I was now close to the lake, but I was wrong. The grassy meadow seemed to continue forever, probably because I was now tired and anxious to get back on a familiar trail before daylight was lost.

    Finally I arrived at the dam and climbed up in time to catch beautiful sunset light across Willow Springs Lake. I had to climb two fences to get across the spillway and head for the boat ramp. Anybody else who does this should hike up on the north side of the spillway to avoid the closed areas. I didn't want to retrace my steps, so I opted for the illegal route.

    I now knew I had 4-5 miles back to my truck, but it was familiar territory. There's no established trail between Willow Springs Lake and the FR300 TH for General Crook and Rim Vista trails, and was more of an adventure than I thought it would be, but with the waypoint on my GPS I still found it easily. As darkness set in, I decided to stick to the Crook trail because it is essentially a closed dirt road and I figured I could make better time on that than the Rim Trail. Plus, the fun of the Rim Trail is the view and at night there's not much to see except the annoyance of bright headlights passing you on FR300. Choosing to skip the headlamp, I hiked Crook with only the aid of the nearly-full moon above me.

    So I made it the 3 miles back to the truck in about 45 minutes, arriving just before 9pm. Exhausted, but feeling the accomplishment of a good day! Managed to be in my garage only an hour and 45 minutes later, and bed very shortly thereafter!

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    This hike begins at the Woods Canyon Lake dam. The lake is easily reached by passenger car on paved roads.

    From PHX travel to Payson on AZ-87 (appx. 80 miles from AZ-87/Loop-202 jct). Go right at the McDonalds in Payson, following AZ-260 East and signs for Show Low. Follow AZ-260 for about 29 miles to signed turn for Woods Canyon Lake/Rim Road/FR300. Turn left onto FR300 and proceed 3 miles to signed turn-off to Woods Canyon Lake on FR105. Turn right and follow FR105 about a mile to it's end at the lake.
    page created by chumley on Jul 03 2012 12:02 am
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