How to get there: This trail departs Highway 89A from the town of Cottonwood. To get there from downtown Sedona (Highway 89A/Highway 179 junction), head west on Highway 89A for 21 miles. Follow the signs for Highway 89A as you pass through Cottonwood. Just past the airport, turn left onto Mingus Ave. and head southwest. Follow this for 1.2 miles until the pavement ends. Staging is available along the dirt road ahead.
The trail: Departing Highway 89A, Mingus Ave turns to dirt after 1.2 miles. Continue heading southwest on the wide, graded dirt road (F.R. 493). Ignore the numerous side roads (which make good staging spots) at 0.6 miles. Just after 1.0 miles, the road makes a few tight turns and begins its long climb. The road remains wide and in good condition for the first part as it crosses a few dry washes. Stay right at 1.7 miles where lesser roads go left. Cross a cattle guard at 2.6 miles. The trail narrows as it continues to snake its way west up a ravine. At 3.3 miles, the trail makes a sharp left turn, followed by a couple more curves. Stay right at 3.4 miles where a small spur trail to the left leads to a nice overlook of the Verde Valley.
The trail continues to head south remaining narrow but still easy. Stay right at 3.7 miles where mining roads lead to the Copper Chief Mine on the left. The trail makes many tight turns as it passes through the Copper Chief Mine – use caution and keep your eyes on the road. Obey posted signs around the mine. Sharp left at 4.4 miles where the trail switchbacks. From here, the trail becomes even narrower with a few rocky sections as it heads south. Another switchback, this time to the right at 4.6 miles. Around 4.9 miles, the trail levels out and becomes F.R. 413. The narrow road holds steady around 6,000 feet as you continue to skirt along the side of the hill. The pace will remain fairly slow as you make several tight turns to cross over drainage from the mountain above.
The climbing resumes at 7.7 miles. The trail remains narrow and the vegetation becomes denser as you climb. A long right turn at 8.2 miles as you now head southwest again. The trail remains moderately difficult, with a few rocky sections. Around 9.1 miles, the trail levels off again and heads briefly downhill through the thick forest. At 10.0 miles, it resumes its climb and at 10.8, reaches the southernmost point. From here on out, the trail heads west & northwest to the finish. From here on out, the trail also becomes wider and easier. Around 12.6, you’ll pass through a good area for camping as there are quite a few clearings and other forest roads branching off. Stay on the main trail – F.R. 413. At 15.7 miles, you’ll come to a junction with F.R. 104. This is the highest point of the trail (~7,500 feet). Stay left here. Continuing to the right takes you to the top of Mingus Mountain, past Mingus Lake and remains mostly easy to the top. Consider this if you have more time.
The main trail continues to the left as it joins F.R. 104. The rest of the trail remains fairly uneventful as it curves downhill where it ends at Highway 89A at 17.2 miles. Continuing right will take you to Jerome. Going left will take you to Prescott. Straight across the road is a developed campground should you want to spend more time in the area. If you’re not on a street-legal vehicle, return the way you came.
Summary/Trail Rating: This trail is easy on the ends near Highway 89A. In the middle, as it climbs narrow mining roads, it is moderately difficult. Several rocky sections require high-clearance and 4-wheel drive. We’ve rated it a ‘6’ out of 10. Most stock SUV’s will make it along this “average” difficulty trail. Allow for a good 3-4 hours to complete this 17 mile trail. Because of the high-altitude portions of much of this trail, snowfall can make this road much harder. Stay off the trail in the winter months unless you have a very capable vehicle and more time. The narrow shelf roads along the middle section can be very dangerous with snow or ice on the trail.
Status: Seasonal | Trail Type: Loop | Length: 17 miles pavement-pavement | Approx. Time: 3-4 hours
Take the long way around Mingus Mountain on this scenic drive over steep and narrow mining roads. The trail climbs most of its length, starting around 4,000 feet and ending around 7,500’ just south of Jerome.
Page last updated: 9/29/2015
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