I accompanied a group of about a dozen hikers from the Payson Packers on a beautiful hike along Woods Canyon Lake. With my new Global Positioning System (GPS) in hand, a camera, and plenty of water and snacks, I was set for a morning hike in the woods.
Our entire hike was about six miles. It would be very difficult to describe in writing, as we climbed over boulders, crossed the creek numerous times, made a left at a tree that I think only our leader could again point out. Not everyone wants to mess with a GPS, so I'll explain a hike that is easy to follow and fun for people of all ages.
One member of our group that day was 76-year-old Loretta Ritter -- who had little trouble crossing the creek.
Start out at the parking lot at Woods Canyon Lake. There are bathroom facilities there. You can make this about a one mile hike to the dam and back or 10 miles long. It's up to you.
Follow one of the two dirt trails that run parallel with the lake. You'll pass by the Spillway Campsite (which, by the way, is a wonderful place to camp). Follow the trail all the way around (about one-half mile) to the spillway, or dam. Walk over the top of the dam and down below to a marshy meadow.
Walk along the little creek there and enjoy the scenery. Gorgeous ponderosa pines, lush, green grass and a trickle of water that gets a bit wider as you meander upstream. You can follow this hike back into what's called Woods Canyon for a few miles. Along the way, you'll probably encounter lively butterflies and see huge rock formations that jut out of the sides of the canyon. There are plenty of places to stop along the way for photo opportunities, and you can have fun with the kids playing in the creek.
About two miles in, if you walk up a trail on your left, out of the canyon, you'll eventually end up in a meadow where you'll see lots of elk tracks. I even ran across some signs of bears and was told there are black bears in the area.
Take the trail back down to the creek. Stay on it and just walk back the way you came in, along the dam, near the campsite and along the lake to the parking lot.
AT A GLANCE
Where: Hike around Woods Canyon Lake.
Directions: Take Highway 260 to Woods Canyon Lake (about 25 miles east of Payson).
What you'll see: Beautiful lake, ponderosa pines, flowing creek, lots of butterflies and some birds, elk and deer are plentiful in the area.
Time: You can walk any distance you wish on good, dirt trails around the lake. There is also a paved, hiking trail that leads from nearby campsites, runs along the main access road and ends by the lake, although walking along the lake and through the trees is far more interesting.
Open: Spring, summer and fall. The forest service closes the road into Woods Canyon Lake in early winter, usually in November, and reopens it around April.