Prescott Round-Up: 3 days of fun and adventure

I spent 3 incredibly fun days exploring the Prescott area and covered a fair amount of ground on foot and on bike sampling the local trails.

Downtown, historic Prescott, Arizona is charming, clean, friendly and fun. Lots of historic buildings, galleries, shops, restaurants, hotels and old-time saloons. I’m sure glad my road trip took me here. I had a blast exploring the area—hiking and mountain biking in the nearby Prescott National Forest by day and kicking up my heels on the saloon dance floors by night. As a solo woman traveler, I felt completely safe my entire trip. Nightlife – yes! Live music – yes! Dancing – yes!

Downtown Prescott
Whiskey Row at Dawn

WHAT I DID

Hiking:

Granite Basin

Spruce Mountain

Constellation Trails

Mountain Biking:

Prescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake

Roadtrip to Jerome

WHERE I ATE

Restaurants: 

The Barley Hound Gastropub

Farm Provisions

WHERE I STAYED

Good night’s sleep on the “cheap” – basic, clean, quiet accommodations

Got into town late the first night and just needed a clean, quiet, safe place to stay. Here at the Rodeway Inn, I found friendly staff, a clean room, and comfy bed. Just basic was just right for that night for me. I left before the complimentary continental breakfast, but nice that they offer it.

Prescott Resort and Conference Center

Not quite on the same scale as a California “resort’, but nice enough. It certainly has stunning sunrise and sunset views across Prescott and a wonderful patio where you can enjoy them with a cocktail if you’re so inclined. The rooms were cozy, comfortable and clean and I’m guessing that most have great views too. I ate a decent, inexpensive meal in the casino and was pleasantly surprised by the quality. (The casino restaurant has daily specials so it’s worth checking out the restaurant there compared to the “resort restaurant” if you don’t care about ambiance.) I was traveling solo and had been hiking all day so it was just fine with me.

Sunset from the Prescott Resort and Conference Center Patio with Thumb Butte in the Distance

Hotel Saint Michael, Downtown/ Whiskey Row, Prescott, AZ

Location, location, location. On my final night in Prescott, I kicked up my heels and checked out the live music and saloon scene on Whiskey Row. If it’s a busy weekend you might need to pick your poison – some interior rooms with a super noisy generator or exterior room with rowdy crowds. Yes, the rooms and bathrooms are super dated – this is a historic (and word has it, haunted hotel – I expected that much. I didn’t expect the roar of the generator. Disclaimer, I’m a “sensitive sleeper”. But the noise was so LOUD, putting pillow over my head didn’t help. They should probably hand out earplugs here. Maybe they’re hoping you’ll come back from Whiskey Row so sloshed that you won’t hear a thing.

l in lobby saint michael hotel
The Lobby of the Hotel Saint Michael

Much left to explore. I’ll be back!

Dipping my toes into the Aspen Creek Trail #48, Prescott, AZ

aspen creek trail sign

It’s a pleasant hike along the miniature creek under the shade of Ponderosa pines and Juniper and Manzanita trees. Some say it’s one of the prettiest trails in Prescott. Keep a lookout for the rock formations. If you’re lucky, and look carefully enough, you might see the “secret waterfall” hidden there. (No water was running when I went.) After a mellow climb, you’ll reach a crest that yields expansive views of the surrounding ranges— the Sierra Prietas, the Bradshaws, and the San Francisco peaks. Here you can retrace your steps or continue on trail 48 to the southwest or explore trail 94115 to the north east. I read some reports that there’s an 11-mile hike that takes you to Thumb Butte. (Sounds like a car shuttle might be in order for that one unless you’re mountain biking or up for a marathon hike.)

Prescott’s dedication to their extensive trail system is admirable. Over my 3 days here, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring a sampler of them by foot and wheel (Thumb Butte, Spruce Mountain, Granite BasinGoldwater Lake, Petroglyph Trail, Constellation Trails, and the Peavine/ Iron King Trails .) Just beware that the disparate systems, naming conventions and maps can be confusing. People mistakenly refer to trails by the wrong numbers. Different city and national forest websites may provide conflicting information on hike mileage and other details. I couldn’t figure out what the mileage was for this one. Oh and it’s another double misnomer hike – there are no Aspen trees on this trail despite the name and the creek is only a dribble. Perhaps it’s more of a creek in the spring?

Trail details: The first mile of the trail is part of the Prescott Circle Trail – it takes you up to a junction for trail 48 to the southwest or trail 94115 to the northeast. I’d rate it as easy. The Prescott Circle Trail is a network of city and Prescott National Forest trails that combine to make a 54-mile loop around Prescott. I’ll have to investigate more of these trails next time I’m in the area.

Getting there: 20 minutes from downtown Prescott. The Aspen Creek trailhead is on Copper Basin Road ~ 2 miles after it changes from blacktop to dirt. Parking is on the right and the trail head is on the left.

Notes: Mountain bikes & leashed dogs allowed

Suburban 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.