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

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.