The Highlands Center for Natural History began offering the Hiking Spree in 2008. In recognition for ten years of hiking, this year’s spree includes ten hikes from previous years and two new hikes. Maps for all eleven hiking sprees are available on the Highlands Center website.
One of the new hikes is in an area called Storm Ranch. Like the Constellation Trail, Storm Ranch is a large loop trail with smaller loops within it. It is accessed from the Peavine Trail, which you may already be familiar with. The parking lot for the Peavine Trail is off of Prescott Lakes Parkway on Sundog Ranch Road. Once you reach the Peavine Trailhead, hike north for about two miles to Boulder Creek. If you have a bike, you can ride it to the Storm Ranch area and lock it in the bike rack. The Boulder Creek Trail will be on your right (not the lake side of the trail).
Boulder Creek is usually dry, but two days before my hike we received quite a bit of rain from Huricane Rosa. It was delightful to hike along a gurgling stream—a rare experience in Arizona.
The Hiking Spree hike included a half-mile of the Boulder Creek Trail and three-fourths of a mile through a section named Easter Island because the rock formations look like statues. I decided to explore some of the additional trails. So I continued through Dino Canyon to the Bedrock City Trail. I never saw any dinosaurs, but that doesn’t mean they were never there.
As I was running out of time, I took the Pebbles Trail as a shortcut back. (Further up was BamBam Trail, another shortcut.) This led me to Quartz Canyon. I was at a loss to understand how it got that name as all I was seeing was granite. Then I noticed a ribbon of quartz running through the granite and decided that was what the trail was named for. Boy! was I wrong! Suddenly I found myself in an area full of quartz–large and small. From there, I reached the Easter Island Trail that would take me back to the Peavine.
I hope to go back again and try some of the other trails I didn’t get to on this hike, and new ones as they are completed. By the time I finished my hike, I had covered about six miles. It took me a while to recover from the strenuous hike, but it took me even longer to get the Flinstones theme song out of my head.
As a native Arizonan, I’ve done plenty of hiking. I’ve been to the top of Picacho Peak and Piestewa Peak. I’ve been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and Havasupai Canyon. But there is no better place to hike than Prescott. With over 80 miles of hiking trails and more being added, I could never run out of places to hike. Except for July and August, Prescott has the perfect hiking weather. Even in the summer, the monsoon rains can cool things off enough for an early morning hike.
My husband Craig and I were introduced to hiking in 2008, when the Highland Center started the hiking spree. We picked up a flyer and decided to try it. When we finished the hiking spree, we just kept on hiking–all through the winter and the spring. We’ve done the hiking spree every year since and continue to hike year round.
The hike pictured above is the Watson Dam/ Flume Trail in the spectacular Granite Dells. It’s amazing the wonders contained in only one and a half miles of trail. The hike begins with a narrow passage through huge granite boulders. It follows a ledge above a dry creek bed before suddenly plunging down into a small valley. Private property abuts both sides of the trail and homes can be seen through the trees. Reaching the loop portion of the trail, we usually go to the right, up into the rocks. Here the trail crosses solid granite. It is marked by blotches of white paint. Following the markings sometimes requires walking like a mountain goat up the slanted rock face. Vegetation is sparse consisting only of a few scrawny trees that dare to germinate in the crushed granite within the cracks of the rocks. Continuing over the top the trail goes steeply down where everything suddenly changes.
Now the landscape is lush with greenery. The narrow moss-covered flume is bordered by tall reeds. We follow the flume to the right and cross a narrow metal foot bridge. The roar of a waterfall can be heard. As we continue on, the back side of Watson Dam comes into view. A huge spray of water is gushing from the dam. The water pools below the dam among the flat granite walkways. Gigantic granite formations, at least three stories high surround the area.
We explore the many pools, watching dragonflies skitter across the water. Then we return to the flume and continue along the trail to the left as it climbs up a steep cliff above the flume. Wooden bridges provide passage across deep narrow gorges. Continuing on we see Granite Creek below us. The water babbles as it rolls over rocks in its path. Both sides of the creek are lined with trees.
As the creek bends to the east, we travel west until we reach the end of the loop. Back across the meadow, we climb up along the dry creek bed. Soon we are squeezing through the rock entry leaving behind the magical world it hides.