Woodchute Mountain • Range Highpoint: Black Hills
• Northern Yavapai County

The summit is the flattish ridge about 1/3 of the way from the left

Humphreys Peak makes a special guest appearance

Another trail shot

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Prominence Peaks



Date: April 23, 2005 • Elevation: 7,860 feet • Prominence: 2,930 feet • Distance: 6 miles • Time: 3 hours • Gain: 1,000 feet • Conditions: Pleasant, a little breezy

Woodchute Mountain is the highest peak of the Black Hills, a range of peaks overlooking the Verde Valley and the historic towns of Clarkdale, Sedona and Cottonwood. The famous mining-town of Jerome is tucked into the peak's hillsides, and nearby Mingus Mountain has all the campgrounds and recreational activities. But it's Woodchute that gets the honor of having the highest point, although finding it among the trees on its flat summit isn't the easiest thing to do. Still, it's a nice, easy hike along trail, with some outstanding viewpoints along the way overlooking Sedona and distant Humphreys Peak.

My parents were in Cottonwood-Sedona area celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and I had the day open so I decided to drive up and hike the peak, then visit with my folks and have a lunch with them. I left home before 7 a.m. and drove 130 miles through Cottonwood and Jerome (following, in order, I-17, AZ-260 and US-89A) in a little over 2 hours. At the pass on 89A, I went north a short ways to the parking area near the Potato Patch campground, parked and started my hike past a gate.

A half-mile later I came to a second parking area where a few cars were parked, at the actual trailhead. I was not aware vehicles were allowed past the first gate (it was unlocked), but no signs said you couldn't, but it was silly for me to walk back out and drive back in, so I continued walking. The trail begins at the second parking area. From here, it's about 2.5 miles one way to the top. The trail generally stays level and drops a little for the first 1.5 miles, with great views of Humphreys Peak along the way. I had good weather and occasional gusty breezes. The flora was a mix of ponderosa, juniper, grass, and scrubby brush.

The trail reaches a low spot at a saddle, then starts a mile-long ascent of about 700 feet to the broad summit plateau. The gradient was easy but the trail was covered in fist-sized rounded rocks which caused me to turn my ankle about eighteen times. When I reached the top, I left the trail and started cross-country about 1/3 to 1/2 mile generally west through the open forest and low grasses (and rocks) to the summit. The trail doesn't go to the very top, but instead continues north to some lookouts and the steeply down the mountain on the north flank.

I was on the broad summit area 10 minutes after leaving the trail. The top is indistinct, and I spent a few minutes walking the area to find the top rocks. I found a cairn and register at a point that to me was clearly not the summit. The register had just five names in it going back five years, and none since September 2002. Even the register booklet said "the summit's around here somewhere". I took a break for a snack and pondered this uncertainty. I spent awhile walking around and tagging anything that looks like a highpoint.

After about 15 minutes, I started the hike out. I found the trail and walked back out in increasing cloudiness. I found my folks' hotel in Cottonwood and we had a nice lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Well, my mom didn't, as she got a touch of food poisoning. But she's fine, I'm fine, it rained, my dad's fine and they're now working on their second 40 years together.

Woodchute Mountain has a minor claim to fame: it's featured in the movie National Lampoon's Vacation. When the family discovers Aunt Edna's dead in the car, they pull off and all get out of the car and freak out momentarily. That stop is the scenic pull-out along Interstate-17 about 30 miles south of Flagstaff, just before the highway descends into the Verde Valley. The peak in the background is Woodchute. Now you know.

(c) 2005 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.