Suburbia surprise: Panoramic views, petroglyphs and peaks, Prescott, AZ

PROS: Cool petroglyphs, mountain peak guide, and panoramic views all the way out to Humpreys Peak in Flagstaff

CONS: You’re surrounded by suburbia—it’s almost a stretch to call these “trails” as they intersect paved roads and housing developments and a golf course are always in sight. (Sigh.)

suburbia

If you’re into petroglyphs and /or just want to get some epic panoramic views of the area, it’s a must do. (Otherwise, you may not want to go out of your way for this one.) If you do, plan your visit at sunrise or sunset. (I wasn’t able to, but Ill bet the photo op would be epic.)

along the trail
Sweet single-track trail with Thumb Butte to the left in the distance

The Panorama Trail is a single-track trail that climbs steadily up from the park in the Prescott Lakes housing development towards a mesa. It crosses Solstice Drive and connects with the Petroglyph Trail, taking you to the top of a mesa, where you can find unprecedented views of the entire area and various petroglyphs. There’s an interesting guide to the petroglyph symbols.

Near the petroglyphs, there’s an exceptional etched metal guide to all the peaks you can see in the distance. It lists how many miles away they are and their elevation. I’ve never seen a peak guide so artfully done. Kudos to its creator. A nice surprise and great information.

Despite the inevitable housing development’s encroachment on the natural beauty here, they’ve compensated well with the perks on top of the mesa.

Stay tuned for my top picks of places to stay and eat and for more of my active escapades in and around Prescott.

Hiking:

Granite Basin

Spruce Mountain

Constellation Trails

Mountain BikingPrescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake

Restaurants: The Barley Hound Gastropub

Farm Provisions

 

Quickie nature immersion in the roadside granite playground of Constellation Trails, Prescott, AZ

Dramatic granite formations, easy terrain, and quick, roadside accessibility make Constellation Trails of the most visited areas in Prescott’s Mile High Trail system. It’s a great spot to meander through boulder framed passageways and take in the scenic views of the Granite Dells and the green hills over yonder.

 

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There’s a tragic history behind the trail’s name. In 1959, 5 U.S. Navy airmen were on a training mission flying a United States Air Force Lockheed C121G Super Constellation. Likely due to engine problems, the aircraft flew too low, crashing into the Granite Dells and killing the 5 airmen on board. An Eagle Scout, Cody Walker spearheaded the project of putting a memorial bronze tribute plaque in place to honor the airmen. It’s not unusual to come across remnants of the aircraft on the trails. If you find some pieces, please add them to the collection by the monument.

 

Distance: Short-there’s a series of loop trails here. Cover them all and you might get ~3.5 under your belt.

Dificulty: Easy

Getting there: 4701 AZ-89, the trail head is located on the west side of State Route 89, across from the Phippen Museum.

Notes: Free parking, hikers, leashed-canines and mountain bikers allowed.

Stay tuned for my top picks of places to stay and eat and for more of my active escapades in and around Prescott.

Hiking:

Granite Basin

Panorama & Petroglyph Trails

Spruce Mountain

Mountain Biking: Prescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake

Restaurants: The Barley Hound Gastropub

Farm Provisions

 

Hiking trail #307: Outlook excellent on Spruce Mountain, Prescott, AZ

If you hike around Prescott, you’ll notice that they name and number their trails, which is nice. The only problem you may encounter is when a local gives you a hiking tip by the number only and happens to be off a digit or two. Could be the Prescott way of telling you to “Go take a hike.”

Anyway, I found the high-country trail that leads up Spruce Mountain, which isn’t hard to find if you know the trail’s name and number. It’s the Groom Creek Loop Trail #307. Some (Prescott National Forest Service peeps) say that it’s “one of the most attractive trails in the Prescott National Forest. Despite the misleading moniker, there are no Spruce trees on the trail to Spruce Mountain, but that’s okay—it’s a lovely shady trek through Ponderosa pine, Gambel oak and Douglass fir. I chose the trail to the left as it was a hot day and this side of the loop is pleasantly shaded. On a cooler day, I’d go for the loop. Perhaps start with the opposite, more exposed side (on the right) and come down the shady side as it gets later in the day.

trail to spruce mountain

The trail begins with a gradual climb and easy terrain, ramping up to a steady climb with rockier and rootier terrain near the top. You definitely have an opportunity to get your heart rate up if you’re so inclined (pun intended). The trail is runnable—the deer I startled on the way up concurs.

wildflowers spruce mt trail
Views from the Spruce Mt Trail

On top, you’ll find a picnic area with an outhouse and a fire lookout tower. If the lookout-in residence is accepting visitors, you might just be lucky enough to soak in the panoramic views of Prescott’s lakes and forest from the tower’s vantage point as I did.

Spruce mt lookout tower
L in Spruce MTN outlook tower

Distance: ~6.5 miles, if you do the loop it’s ~8 miles

spruce mt

Elevation gain/ loss: ~1,400 ft (starting elevation is about 6300 feet and the top is 7693 ft)

Getting there: ~15 min drive from Prescott, AZ: Take Mt. Vernon Avenue south for 6.4 miles. It becomes Senator Highway and passes through the small community of Groom Creek. Look for the trailhead on the left side of the road.

Notes: Free parking. MT Bikes & Dogs allowed.

Stay tuned for my top picks of places to stay and eat and for more of my active escapades in and around Prescott.

Hiking:

Constellation Trails

Granite Basin

Panorama & Petroglyph Trails

Spruce Mountain

Mountain Biking

Prescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake

Restaurants: 

The Barley Hound Gastropub

Farm Provisions

Top Pick: Farm Provisions, Prescott AZ – this foodie’s delight.

Over the 4 days I was in Prescott, I went to this restaurant not 1ce, not 2ce, but 3 times. Once you find perfection, it’s difficult to stray. (Also, it’s one of the few spots with outside seating and I like eating and being al fresco – in case you haven’t figured that out by now.)

I ordered a simple Caesar salad topped with salmon. Just realized that this farm to table restaurant’s tagline is “Simple Food Elevated”. Well yes, I’d say so. I’ve eaten a fishload of salmon in my life, and this was by far the most perfectly cooked salmon I’ve ever had. (You see, I’m using that word perfect again, and it’s not for lack of imagination.)  I took my friend from Phoenix to lunch here, and starting salivating over his scallop beet salad. He was nice enough to give me a bite, which of course, only made me salivate more.

salmon saladscallop beet salad

Farmer Provisions is one of the best restaurants in the area and, as such, they are also one of the busiest so reservations are advised.

It appears that I have a discriminating palate; it turns out that Chef & Co-owner Ryan Peters graduated from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute/ Le Cordon Bleu rand his impressive resume includes working and managing restaurants in three different 5 star, 5 diamond resorts.

I had the pleasure of meeting co-owner, Brittany Peters, on 2 of my 3 visits. She made me feel welcome  as a “party of 1”, went out of her way to accommodate me despite a full house, and gave me some tips about things to do in the area. If it weren’t for her, I might not have had that lovely afternoon in Jerome.

And guess what? If I ever make it Prescott again, one of my first stops will be Farmer Provisions , and I highly recommend that you make it one of yours too.

Hours          11:00 AM – 9:00 PM Wednesday – Sunday   Closed Monday & Tuesday

Location     148 N. Montezuma St.  Prescott, AZ 86301

Reservations            Lunch reservations for groups of 6 or more. Dinner reservations                                              begin at 4:00  for groups of any size.

Phone                          (928) 776-3001

Jerome, AZ: Where the journey is as good as the destination. Epic views and fun times await!

Howdy partner, if ya’ll are in the vicinity of Jerome, you must visit and be sure to take the historic & hairy (158 crazy switchbacks) scenic route 89A.

The Journey

Jerome is just a 35-mile drive from Prescott (27 miles from Sedona, 71 miles from Flagstaff). You might want to make it an overnighter from Phoenix (110 miles). You’ll want to take Historic State Route 89A to Jerome, it’s one of Arizona’s most beautiful drives. You’ll know when you get to the 12-mile scenic portion as you climb up Mingus Mountain, navigating the 158 switchbacks and curves as epic panoramas stretch before you. It’s definitely challenging to keep your eyes on the road so use those pullouts and gawk to your heart’s content. The spellbinding views stretch across the broad Verde River Valley with Flagstaff, the San Francisco Peaks, and the iconic red buttes of Sedona in the distance.

The Destination

Located upon Cleopatra Hill, the historic copper and gold mining town of Jerome was founded in 1876 and, at its boom, was the fourth largest town in the Arizona Territory with a raucous (known for its saloons & brothels), wild west population of ~15k. The mines here produced over a billion dollars’ worth of gold, copper, silver and zinc during a period of over 70 years When the last mines closed in 1953, the town became more of ghost town. In the 60s and 70s, artistic types began to populate Jerome.

Today, Jerome draws visitors from around the world who take in the town’s dramatic views of the Verde Valley, explore the historic buildings, visit the galleries and shops, and enjoy the wine bars, saloons and restaurants.

Downtown Jerome 1.jpg
Biker’s like Jerome too

Downtown Jerome 2

Flagstaff fire
Smoke from the Flagstaff fire across the Verde Valley from Jerome

 

 

Jerome homestead
The mansion in the middle is for sale: 8 Beds, Baths 12,398 Sqft. $6,200,000 Since it doesn’t have a pool or tennis court, I’m going to pass on it.

When in Jerome, there is plenty to do, including visiting the Jerome State Park Mining Museum, getting bedazzled at Nelly Bly Kaleidoscopes, the world’s largest kaleidoscope store, getting spooked at the haunted Grand Hotel, or simply sitting back and enjoying the spectacular views over lunch or dinner.

Two interesting and somewhat destabilizing facts about Jerome: Jerome is located on the Verde Valley fault and over 88 miles of excavated tunnels lie beneath the one square mile of town.

Attractions near Jerome

With its 7 wineries and 8 tasting rooms, the Verde Valley Wine Trail through Cottonwood, Jerome, Sedona, Clarkdale and Cornville is a must do for oenophiles.

The Verde Valley Canyon Railroad (Clarkdale and Perkinsville, AZ) transports passengers to a simpler time as it takes them on a 20-mile excursion through quintessential Southwestern back country.

 

Top pick for dog-friendly dining and imbibing:Barley Hound Gastropub, Prescott, AZ

To say this place is dog friendly is an understatement. You could say the aptly named, Barley Hound, caters to canines.

Harley Hound dog menue

In fact, the dog menu looked quite enticing—steak & rice, chicken & rice served on a Frisbee. How cool is that?

I stopped in for some afternoon refreshments after a full day on the trails (Goldwater Lake MTB and Granite Basin hike). It seems they take care of their human patrons too—the salmon lavash and margie did not disappoint. I’ll have to return with a canine companion for a full meal sometime soon.

Harley Hound refreshments3

The Barley Hound Gastropub is near courthouse square at 234 S. Cortez Street, Prescott, AZ. Check it out when you’re out and about in Prescott.

Stay tuned for my top picks of places to stay and eat and for more of my active escapades in and around Prescott.

Hiking : Thumb Butte

Granite Basin

Mountain Biking: Prescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake

 

Granite Basin Recreational Area, Prescott, AZ

Just a stones throw from downtown Prescott (an easy 6 mile drive), Granite Basin is a gorgeous section of the Prescott National Forest. Here, you can choose from more than a half dozen hikes.

 

Normally, I’d opt for the higher ground and head up Little Granite Mountain, but the day I visited was a scorcher. I chose an easy out and back on one of the lower creek-side trails, hoping that the ponderosa pines would shelter me from the blazing sun. Even with the shade, it was still HOT, too hot for hiking.  And since I’d already beat myself up on the mountain bike at Goldwater Lake that morning, my mojo was a bit sapped too.

Granite Basin is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including snakes, lizards, coyotes, foxes, mountain lions. I didn’t see any of these critters most likely because they were all in siesta mode as I probably should have been too. Thinking back on it, a hammock under a shady tree by the lake with a refreshing beverage would have been made for an idyllic afternoon.

It was a pleasant hike, but not particularly scenic per se, except for the start and finish at stunning Granite Basin Lake. And I must say, it’s a bit tortuous on a hot day to look at a beautiful lake and be prohibited from jumping in it. Guess that’s mostly the case in Arizonia…Bummer, I guess you can’t have everything.  I did spend some time on this hike day dreaming or hallucinating (not sure which) about my Eastern Sierra’s splash in Valentine Lake.

I’d like to come back to this area sometime when it’s cooler to explore some more and take in the views from Little Granite Mountain. And next time, maybe I’ll bring a hammock for that post-hike siesta too.

Granite Basin Sign

More info: Granite Basin Recreational Area, Prescott National Forest

Fee: $5 day use (Wednesdays are free.)

Use: Hiker, mountain bikers, horseback riders

Amenities: Restrooms & picnic tables

Granite Basin Campground: Yavapai Campground

Stay tuned for my top picks of places to stay and eat and for more of my active escapades in and around Prescott.

Hiking : Thumb Butte

Mountain Biking: Prescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake