Unmarked Trail At Woods Canyon


Dry Beaver Creek as accessed from an unmarked side trail off of the Woods Canyon Trail.

I grew up mostly hiking off trail in the woods behind my childhood home. Over the years I developed the habit of mostly sticking to established trials. The habit was strengthened by the fact that I occasionally lose a trail and get lost. Since I moved to Arizona I'm wary of allowing that to happen, although it did happen once on my mountain bike. But if you always stick to the marked trails, you can miss good experiences.

I think that's Courthouse Butte in the distance. There were signs of cattle all around this small creek. I've never seen this particular creek dry, but I don't think I've ever been to it in summer. There were also javelina and bird tracks.

I went to the Woods Canyon Trail last Saturday, mostly because it is the closest snow-free trail to Flagstaff. I previously didn't consider it a great trail, and as a result, decided to follow a couple of the unmarked side-trails. The trail starts off by crossing a creek. In a short distance, a literal cow path heads off to the right. This turned out to rejoin the creek. I followed it as far as practical and enjoyed the flowing water and a few birds before turning back. This stream must be a tributary of Dry Beaver Creek nearby but I decided not to push on to the confluence as the stream bed braided and became more difficult to walk.

Looking up into Woods Canyon. The trail seems to be an old wagon/truck route. Maybe it's still used by ranchers? The land seems to be leased for raising cattle. There is a wilderness boundary somewhere back in there but the land in the foreground is just national forest and open to grazing.

After returning to the main trail, I walked a ways and found another, fairly well trod trail heading off to the right. In the distance I could hear Dry Beaver Creek, not dry but flowing. There were red rocks and an apparent arch. After walking for a few minutes it became clear that the arch was an optical illusion made by a hoodoo, but it's still pretty cool.

This hoodoo was visible from the main trail (which is in the background from this perspective) and it created the optical illusion of an arch, but it was a trick of perspective.

The trail eventually joins the creek bed and it was possible to walk out onto a large area of red slick rock and enjoy the water spilling through. It was beautiful! I imagined what it would be like to paddle it at higher flows, and took some video and some photos. I eventually went back to the main trail just to tack on some exercise mileage, but the highlight of the hike is the visit to the hoodoo and the creek. Of course, much of the year the creek is dry, hence the name, so this is a trail best hiked in winter and spring when you know it is flowing.

Dry Beaver Creek, with a winter flow! If the water level were higher, this looks like it would be a good whitewater creek.

Sometimes you have to go off trail to find the goods.


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