Hiking in the Verde Valley

Pictured is the trickling waterfall I was able to find at the end of the hike at Copper Canyon. VVN photo by Greg Macafee

Pictured is the trickling waterfall I was able to find at the end of the hike at Copper Canyon. VVN photo by Greg Macafee

VERDE VALLEY - As I have been getting used to living in the Verde Valley I have learned that when someone says they are coming up my way to visit, 90 percent of the time they mean they are going to Sedona to hike, and with around 200 trails it is hard not to look past a place as beautiful as the Red Rock Mountains.

After considering this I set out on a journey to find some of the unknown trails around the Verde Valle. I found three around Camp Verde that can provide great sights and an amazing opportunity to exercise. With writing these articles I wanted to show that there is beauty within the Verde Valley other than those sights found in Sedona. These three trails are found within driving distance of Camp Verde, and two of them are actually found within the towns limits.

Cooper Canyon Trail

This was the first trail that I wanted to share as the sights are at times a bore but it is a great trail to exercise on and if you look hard enough you will be able to find the beauty it provides. To get to the Copper Canyon Trail coming from I-17 you can take a right hand turn onto Oasis Rd. off of SR 260. There is a sign at the bottom of the road that will lead you to a parking lot labeled for Copper Canyon Trail.

At this point there are a couple of different ways that you can go as the trail leads in both directions. One trailhead is outside of the parking lot to the right and the other you can see at the far end of the lot as it is marked by a cattle guard gate. If you go outside of the parking lot, the trails runs along a dried up creek through brush and goes on for about a mile and a half.

If you take the other route it leads up to a fork in the trail. If you go right it leads you over a small hill that will give you a view of SR 260, I-17, and the Town of Camp Verde. This trail goes on for a long time and connects with the Hayfield Draw Trail that you might see if you were to head towards Cottonwood.

At one point the trail runs under a roadway and continues on, this is about at the 2.5-3 mile mark. If you take the trail to the left it leads you back towards the parking lot but meets up with the trail that starts outside of the parking lot. If you are looking for a short hike, I believe that this is the trail to hike as it leads to a somewhat waterfall at the end.

As it hadn't rained in a while when I was there, there was not too much running water but it is a very secluded area that could be very relaxing after a hike on a hot day as there is plenty of shade at the base of the waterfall.

There are other trails that extend off of this trail up a mountain to the left of the trail but I left those to be explored another day.

I thought that this was a nice relaxing trail to hike as it didn't provide too much of a challenge but it provided for a nice stroll and sights in the town of Camp Verde.

Macdonald Trail

Other than my hike to the Sedona Overlook on Wilson Mountain, this is my favorite hike so far and because of the length of this trail it is one you can do over and over again. I have used it on a daily basis to exercise, and if you visit the top of the trail between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on any given night you will be witness to a beautiful sunset. In my opinion it is one of the best sunsets I've ever seen, and I have seen a good amount of beach sunsets.

To get to the Macdonald trail if you are coming from I-17 you head towards Payson on SR 260 and the trailhead is on the left hand side before you hit Verde Lakes Dr. and after you pass Sierra Verde Lane. It is not hard to miss, but there is a small area to park and the trail is enclosed by a gate, you will see a Macdonald trail sign at the entrance.

The trail is pretty well defined at the beginning and splits into two before climbing up the mountain. On the way up you want to stick to the right as the trail is much easier to climb this way. You can take a left but it leads up a very steep rocky part that would make your hike that much more difficult. If you stick to the right the trail stays well defined the rest of the way up the mountain. The trail runs along a dried up creek bed all the way up the mountain. As the trail gets steeper, more rocks start to appear and at one put you climb up a flat rock face.

As you reach the top there are old caverns, your hike can stop here if you choose but the best place to watch the sunset is on the ledge above the caverns as the sun sets on the opposite side of the trail. To reach the top, I was able to find two rocks that were close enough together where I could hoist myself up to the higher ledge. This is probably the best place to watch as the sun sets down over the mountains that run along I-17.

As you head back down, follow the trail until you reach the flatter part and try to stick to the left as it will lead you down the way you came up. If you stick to the right you will run into the steeper trail on the way down that could be difficult if not taken slowly. Both trails lead directly back to the starting point where you can find your car, or means of travel waiting for you.

Fossil Springs

This trail is located outside of Camp Verde, and you will be able to find the trailhead by traveling on SR 260 towards Payson. Once you reach 87 you want to head towards Strawberry where you can take a right onto Fossil Creek Road. Follow Fossil Creek Road until you reach FR 708, turn on this road and follow it to the end. You can either park at the trailhead which is the first parking lot you will see, or you can head to the Waterfall trailhead, which is a little farther up the road. The Waterfall trailhead was closed when my college roommate Kyle and I were there so we parked at the first parking lot and hiked down. We tracked the hike to be between 8 and 9 miles round trip depending how far you walk when you reach the bottom of the trail.

We got there around 10:30- 11 a.m. and there were not many cars there yet, but we did see a couple hikers making their trek up the mountain as they had stayed there overnight.

It only took Kyle and myself about 45 minutes to reach the bottom as most of the trail on the way down is very flat or a downhill incline, this makes for a steep hike back up the mountain though.

It was a very easy hike down the mountain and you see a bunch of campsites, there are also a couple of lookouts for photo opportunities on the way down. As we reached the creek at the bottom of the trail you can either go right or left off the trail. If you go right, you can walk up the creek and run into a swimming hole that is not too deep, but deep enough to cool off in and enjoy your surroundings.

If you head to the left and walk far enough you will run into the waterfall I spoke of earlier. This area, from what I've heard, is what Fossil Springs is known for as many people come here to relax and enjoy the weather by the swimming hole.

Other than walking down to the waterfall Kyle and I adventured around the area a little more, we found a stone table set, saw a couple animals and it was a very peaceful, relaxing hike, until we started back up the mountain.

The hike back up is steep, and tiring, it took Kyle and I somewhere around two hours to make it back to the top. I would suggest finding the shade spots on the way back up the mountain to take your breaks. Overall, I thought this hike was a great hike if you are looking for a long challenging excursion. Bring plenty of water though, and sunscreen, it wasn't too hot when we went but the sun is a lot more intense than it may seem when you are there.

Be on the lookout for more hiking trail stories in the future as I start finding more hidden gems around the Verde Valley that I look forward to sharing with you. Until next time folks!!

-- Follow Greg Macafee on Twitter @greg_macafee and Instagram @VerdeValleyNews

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