The Mustangs Hike a Deserted Woods Canyon

March 17, 2023

By Jim Sweeny

Woods Canyon is an often-overlooked and very sparsely used trail near the VOC. Here, Jim Sweeny, Sophia Sweeny, and Duncan Orr enjoy a beautiful day at their lunch stop.

The sun had barely risen over the Mogollon Rim as the Mustangs set out to hike the Woods Canyon trail. It was a frigid morning, the coldest yet of the winter. The temperature was in the low 30s with 20+ MPH winds. Yikes. Guess that explains the low turnout – you could count us on one hand with fingers left over. But off we went, me leading the way.

The Woods Canyon trail is a not so populated hiking trail east of the Red Rock Ranger Station. The trail crosses some grazing land before heading north along the west bank of Dry Beaver Creek, But before you get to that, you have to cross a normally dry wash coming down from the village. With all the rain and snow we’ve had this year, the wash (and Dry Beaver Creek itself) was anything but “dry.” Despite the rock hopping, we all made it across with no wet feet.

As we continued onward beyond the wash, the trail follows the course of an old cattle trail. This takes us over a couple more washes. These had standing water which of course was ice due to the freezing temperature. Alas, the cold weather does have a benefit – no mud. There would be no boot cleaning to do later.

After about a mile of hiking, we could here the sound of flowing water. The landscape began to change from prairie to forested with Cottonwood and Sycamore trees. The flood plain of Dry Beaver Creek is vast providing the much need water for this forest. It would be another two miles before the creek came into view, and what a view it was! Picture the snow melt water quickly flowing between boulders of basalt and red rock sandstone with the occasional Sycamore tree growing in the middle of it.

We took our first pause at the confluence of Woods and Rattlesnake Canyons. (Hike this area in the spring and you know how the latter got its name.) Dry Beaver Creek has carved a red rock cliff on the west bank with piles of river rock making a peninsula separating the two streams. It is a very pretty spot and a great place to take a breather, have a snack, and contemplate the very serene beauty of the area.

After our break, we continued on for another mile or so. This section was more challenging as we had to climb out of the creek bed. We could see evidence of fresh landslides, with the trail blocked at one point by a sizable tree that had washed down the hill. Eventually we reached our destination – a red rock wash with a spectacular view of the stream below and the snow-covered mesa above.

We each staked out a rock to use as our seats for our lunch break. As we looked out at the scenery, we felt a deep sense of peace and contentment.

After 20 minutes or so, we decided it was time to start heading back out. Greg Pribyl took the lead as we made our way back along the same route back to the trailhead.

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