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

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

Skimming the surface: Goldwater Lake, Prescott, AZ

Ok, some adventures just don’t go as planned. This was one of those. I spent at least 35 minutes hike-a-biking trying to find the mountain bike trail. Granted someone with better technical skills than me (just about anyone) probably could have biked much of what I had hiked. At one point, my phone fell out my bike jersey without my knowing. (Luckily, when I retraced my steps I found it with the screen in tact—thank goodness.)  That’s how it started.

log bridge and bike goldwater

I’m sure Han’s No Way Rey and Missy Giove, the MTB legends I met on my Catalina mountain bike adventure would have popped over this little bridge no problem— not me.

When I finally jumped on the single track trail I’d originally intended, I had to keep jumping off the bike to navigate over rocks or roots.

Goldwater Lake Trail Sign My downfall When the trail opened up into a rough fire road, I thought, Ok, this should be doable for me now. Well, apparently not. After another 35 minutes of navigating loose gravel and pot holes, my tire slipped out from under me and I wiped out and landed hard

 

Sometimes knowing when to surrender is better than ruining your vacation or life with an injury, especially if you’re out there alone as I was. Sure I was tempted to get my bruised butt back on the bike and see where the bumpy fire road would take me, but I had a work conference call coming up and other places to explore on foot before nightfall anyway. Was glad that I didn’t have my Garmin to tell me how few miles I’d covered. After I wiped the dust off my backside, I pedaled away, grateful for the climb up the hill back to the car (at least a partial workout).

Fishing sign

I didn’t run into any hikers or other mountain bikers, but there were about half a dozen people fishing at the lake. (None of whom knew the surrounding trails.) From what I can tell, 15-acre Goldwater Lake is a good spot for a family outing with summer kayak and canoe rentals, picnic tables, a playground, a horse shoe pit and a volleyball court. You’ll have to ask someone else about the trails.

Long story short, that’s why I only skimmed the surface of what the Goldwater Lake trails offer. I’ll give it another shot if I return to the area (most likely by foot or with a mountain biker that knows the trails).

Getting there:  2900 S. Goldwater Lake Road, from Prescott,go south on Mount Vernon Street, which becomes Senator Highway.

Fee: $3 for Parking

Ever had an adventure that just didn’t go as planned? Share your experience.  

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

Restaurants: Farm Provisions

Barley Hound Gastropub

 

Thumbs up for the Thumb Butte Loop Trail #33, Prescott, AZ

The iconic, natural landmark of Prescott, Thumb Butte hosts a short trail (#33). It’s quick and pleasant and a great way to start your day while it’s glowing in the dawn’s light. Unfortunately, the trail doesn’t take you to the top of the Thumb, but your hike to the ridgeline will reward you with panoramic views of the Prescott area, Bradshaw Mountains, Sierra Prieta Mountains, Granite Mountain, Mingus Mountain and out to the San Francisco Peaks.

Thumb Views

With ~ 3k visitors leaving their footprints every month, Thumb Butte is the most heavily used trail in the Prescott National Forest. Go early and you’ll only run into a few locals taking their morning constitutional walk or runs.

Trail Notes:You ascend either the paved eastern section of the trail or the unpaved eastern section of the loop trail to reach a ridge just below the rocky crest of Thumb Butte. The eastern paved section is very uneven / “lumpy”, requiring careful footing, especially if you’re descending. paved trail and thumb shadow

The western side is a double-wide trail. A dozen interpretive signs dot the route, identifying various vegetation and explaining forest ecology.

thumb hike scenery

 

thumb from the backside
Backside Views

Distance:  <2 Miles RT

Elevation: The Thumb’s elevation is 6,514 ft. The trail has a~688 gain/ loss – it’s runnable if you’re into hills and ok with uneven footing.

Use: Hikers only, Dogs ok on leashes

Fee: $5, Wednesday are free

Getting there: From Prescott take Gurley Street West (it becomes Thumb Butte Road) for 3.4 miles to the Thumb Butte Picnic area and parking lot on the right. Trail begins across the street.

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

Constellation Trails

Spruce Mountain

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

Goldwater Lake

Restaurants: The Barley Hound Gastropub

Farm Provisions

 

From Prescott Valley To Prescott: Mountain Biking the Iron King and Peavine Trails

Years ago, the Prescott East Railroad trains ran through here to the Iron King Mine and towns of Poland Junction and Crown King. Today, you can take in the area’s quintessential southwestern scenery and spectacular granite rock formations by  horseback, two (or 3) wheels, or by two feet. It’s ~4 miles down to the Peavine Trail connection and then you can continue on for another ~6 miles to arrive at Watson Lake, Prescott (~20 miles RT).

The Iron King  path is by far one of the easiest, smoothest, most family-friendly mountain bike “trails” I’ve ever encountered. Apparently they went to great lengths to convert this rail to trail and create its excellent surface. First they undercut and evened out the trail to eliminate the “washboard” effect and then they topped it with a blend of coarse and fine gravel. The path is so smooth and flat that a kid on training wheels or a tricycle could ride it. You could take a wheelchair on it (electric or person powered – if you were up for it) too. It all translates to fun times and cool scenery for all.

For me, the most scenic sections of the ride are in the middle where the Iron King and Peavine trails intersect and along the gorgeous Granite Dells and Watson Lake at the Prescott end.

 

 

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Check out the video below of a hiking trail in the Granite Dells.

 

 

Keep an eye out for resident javalina, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions. I didn’t see any of them and only saw 2 other cyclists during my sunset pleasure tour. (Not sure if the hot weather (90+ degrees) – was keeping people away or what. I expect when the housing development in Prescott Valley completes, this will get much heavier use so enjoy some solitude while you can.

encroachment.jpg

Getting there: The Iron King Trail begins in Prescottt  Valley west of Glassford Hill Road, north of Spouse Drive – at the base of Glassford Hill. Unfortunately, that’s also where a new housing development is going in so the first mile or so is a bit of a bummer. Truth in advertising picture below. (Heavy sigh.). The Peavine Trail begins at the south end of Watson Lake in Prescott. Take Hwy 89 to Prescott Lakes Parkway, then to Sundog Ranch where you can park along the road .

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

Restaurants: Farm Provisions

Barley Hound Gastropub