Wickiup Mesa Trails

High desert vegetation on the Cedar Knoll Trail

Just a few miles north of Camp Verde, Wet Beaver Creek cuts a meandering course through high desert plains and sparse mesas on its way to the Verde River. For thousands of years, the perennially-flowing stream has been the life blood for peoples who settled near its green corridor.

Excellent signage on the Wickiup Mesa Trails

The communities of Rimrock and Montezuma Lake are the most recent to evolve around the reliable water source. The tiny towns are a quaint mix of ranch homes, antique shops, cafes and honey stands that sit at the hub of several important heritage sites off Interstate 17.

Montezuma Well (center far right) seen from the overlook.
Montezuma Well seen from the Well Vista trail.
The trail system crosses rugged washes.
Gordon's bladderpod bloom along the trails.
A scenic spot on the Cedar Knoll Trail.

Up until last year, out-of-town visitors had few reasons to do anything but drive through the creekside hamlets on their way to somewhere else, but a new system of hiking trails now tempt travelers to park and stay awhile.

View of Wet Beaver Creek from Well Vista Overlook

The Wickiup Mesa Trail System, which sits on 700 acres of Coconino National Forest at the far southeast edge of the towns’ suburbs, is the result of years of effort by the Beaver Creek Trails Coalition–a volunteer organization dedicated to creating and sustaining trails in the Beaver Creek area– in cooperation with the forest service. The tentacular network of 7 trails tethers the communities to Forest Road 618, filling a void between the splashy recreational hot spots in Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness (think: Bell Trail) and the Montezuma Castle-Montezuma Well National Monuments that preserve the legacy of the area’s ancient inhabitants.

A classic high-desert scene on Sunset Loop.
MacDougal's biscuitroot bloom through June.

Situated in a landscape of striking contrasts, the trails meander in a place of sprawling flatlands, fractured cliffs and mountain vistas. A strong undertow of earthiness guides visitors through spotty juniper-cedar forests, cactus-dotted grasslands, moist drainages and roughed-up washes on the highlands above the creek’s leafy riparian ecosystem.

Mountain vistas surround the Wickiup Mesa Trails.

Anchoring the 6.5-mile network is the Sunset Loop Trail. A hike on this easy-rated circuit is a good way to get to know the area. From the roomy Forestglen trailhead, pass the gate and use the excellent map signs posted at every junction to navigate. Almost immediately, views of Sedona’s red rock formations and Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks appear on the northwest horizon.

Sunset Loop overlooks Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness

Hazy silhouettes of mountain peaks near Prescott and Jerome bolster the south and western skylines.

View of snow-capped peaks seen from Sunset Loop.

Roughly halfway through the loop, the Well Vista Trail leads to a scenic ledge overlooking Montezuma Well and the floodplains of Wet Beaver Creek.

A side trip to Montezuma Well complements the hike.

Although only the rim of the massive limestone sinkhole that holds over 15 million gallons of water is visible from the ledge, the site is only a short drive away on the road you came in on and makes for a fascinating post-hike side trip. Beyond the overlook, the loop swings west on a ridge overlooking the mesas and canyons of the wilderness area and V Bar V heritage site along Forest Road 618—another point of interest just a short drive away.

The rustic Forestglen trailhead.

Whether hiked alone or in conjunction with visits to the nearby attractions, the Wickiup Mesa Trail System is a sweet addition to the Verde Valley-area recreational menu.

Yucca dot the grasslands on the Wickiup Mesa Trail system.

LENGTH: 6.5 miles total for 7 trails. (4 miles for Sunset Loop-Well Vista circuit)

RATING: easy to moderate
ELEVATION: 3646 – 3791 feet (for the loop)

GETTING THERE:

From Interstate 17 north of Camp Verde, take the McGuireville exit 293 and veer east (right) onto Beaver Creek Road (County Road 77). Continue 1.8 miles and veer right onto Montezuma Ave. Go 1.3 miles to Cliffside Trail, turn left and follow the winding road 0.9 mile to Geronimo Road, turn right and drive 0.4 mile to Forestglen Road. Turn right and continue 0.3 mile to the trailhead at the intersection of Redrock Road. No fees or facilities.

Beaver Creek Trails Coalition

http://www.beavercreektrails.org/

V Bar V Heritage Site

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=55424

Montezuma Castle-Montezuma Well

https://www.nps.gov/moca/planyourvisit/exploring-montezuma-well.htm