United Verde RR/Woodchute Mtn.
This trail departs Chino Valley and heads nearly due east along a long and flat railroad grade once used by the United Verde & Pacific R.R. The trail climbs through a rough and narrow section before dropping down into the mining town of Jerome.
Permits: A State Trust Land Permit is required for this trail. Permits cost $15/individual or $20 for two people and are good for 1 year. Get permits here.
Where to go:
From downtown Prescott, head east on Highway 89. Stay left on Highway 89 where Highway 69 goes right towards Prescott Valley. Continue north along 89 for 17 miles, continuing straight through 2 roundabouts. Once in Chino Valley, turn right onto Perkinsville Road. The last services are located in Chino Valley. You could also do this trail starting in Jerome, but if you’re planning on using any kind of OHV (quad, bike, etc.) starting in Chino Valley will give you the best staging options.
From Highway 89 in Chino Valley, head due east along the paved Perkinsville Road. Follow this for 3.3 miles past private residences. The road turns to dirt after 3.3 miles – reset your odometer. Continue in an east-southeasterly direction on the wide graded road past several ranches. Take an important right turn after a cattle guard at 3.2 miles off the main road. The trail is now recognized as F.R. 318A. The lesser traveled track heads due south briefly before turning left at 3.6 miles. You are now on the former railroad grade of the United Verde and Pacific Railroad. The long, gentle grade extends for as far as the eye can see towards the mountains in front of you. This makes a great photo spot. Continue along the rough grade for an additional 4.4 miles. Be on the lookout for helicopters as there is a helipad and active training just north of the road.
At 7.0 miles, the trail loses its straight course and begins to twist through more ranching land before crossing under power lines at 7.3 miles. The trail continues to follow along the power lines as it begins in a northeasterly direction. At this point, the trail becomes rockier and less pronounced as before. Stay on the main track as the trail climbs through several creek beds and past several smaller forest roads. Make an important left at 10.4 miles. Going right is a difficult side trail (F.R. 9701V) that passes an electrical substation and several good camping sites before climbing a difficult hill. Continuing left on the main trail, the road passes through a narrow road-cut before entering the more challenging section. From here until the trail meets back up with F.R. 318, the trail follows the old railroad grade which is often only wide enough for 1 vehicle. It is also very rocky and slow-going but quite scenic. High clearance & 4WD required especially after any kind of weather.
Entering the moderately difficult section, the trail becomes narrow and rocky as it slowly continues north downhill. It becomes especially windy as the railroad bed weaves in and out of a series of hills to keep elevation change constant. You’ll pass several cattle tanks on the right including one at 12.0 miles. At 13.2 miles you’ll pass another tank and a gate. Pass through the gate uphill to continue on. The trail becomes especially scenic as it begins to climb towards Jerome through the Woodchute Mountains. The trail continues to zig-zag its way across the hillside before climbing to meet F.R. 318 at 17.0 miles. Stop for a breather here and enjoy a tremendous view of the Verde Valley. You’ll continue right towards Jerome, but left continues along an easy dirt road to the town of Perkinsville (Jerome-Perkinsville Trail).
Continuing east towards Jerome, the trail becomes easier and wider, but still zig-zags across the hillside. You’ll be back and forth as you continue to climb along the railroad grade into Jerome. Watch out for cattle since they like to congregate on the little flat areas the road provides. At 19.5 miles you’ll pass through a very dramatic road cut as you turn right and reach the top of the hill. At 21.1 miles, the trail begins to drop rapidly towards Jerome. You’ll lose almost 1,000 feet in the next 3 miles. Use caution and enjoy the view until you reach the paved road at 23.7 miles. The trail ends at 24.4 miles at Highway 89A in downtown Jerome. If you have time, check out Jerome. From here, you can continue south on Highway 89A to Prescott, north into Cottonwood and Sedona, or go back the way you came.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
Most of this trail is easy going. The only moderately difficult part is the 7 miles of narrow grade along the middle section of the trail. We’ve rated the entire trail a ‘5’ for the rough bit. Everything else is a ‘1’ to ‘3’ out of 10. High clearance is required and 4-wheel drive is recommended, but not required. To do the 25 miles from the end of the pavement in Chino Valley into Jerome, allow for at least 2 hours of driving, more if you want to stop and explore other things. Allow a full day if you plan to make this an out-and-back trip.