Tag Archives: hiking trails

Hiking Spree 2015

IMG_0927On Sunday, Craig and I finished our eighth and final hike to complete the Hiking Spree for this year. As it was a cold, cloudy day, we chose an easy 1.7 mile hike at Thumb Butte. Driving there, I felt a little bit of de ja vu, recalling the last time we had hiked that trail. It was the first year of the Hiking Spree, and time was running out. We needed to complete two hikes in one day. The choices of hikes included two at Thumb Butte, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone so to speak. It was a cold, cloudy day, much like last Sunday but we were undaunted by the weather.

Reaching Thumb Butte, we decided take the hike to the top first in   IMG_0466case the weather went bad. The rain began just as we started up the trail. As we continued, we encountered hikers running down the trail, but we were the only ones still going up. That should have been a clue, but we pressed on. Soon the rain changed to snow. Thunder and lightning was all around us as we struggled to reach the top of the mountain, hoping we would be sheltered on the trail back down. Wind was whirling the snow around as we reached the top. The steep switchbacks that lead back down the mountain are paved and a rail is provided for safety. Since we didn’t have gloves and there was lightning all around, we were afraid to touch the metal rail.

As is typical of Arizona, the storm ended just as we finished our hike. Cold and wet, we sat in our car and warmed up. Then we hiked the second trail as the sun began to peek through the clouds.

Fortunately for us, the weather held out on Sunday and we enjoyed a lovely hike with beautiful views of Thumb Butte. This year’s Hiking Spree included many trails along the Prescott Circle Trail–50 miles of trails that go all the way around Prescott. One of those is the Longview trail, beginning on Williamson Valley Road, just past the light at Pioneer Parkway. Along the hike, we were treated to views of Glassford Hill, Granite Dells, and Mingus Mountain.

I was surprised to discover a wonderful trail tucked neatly into the middle of Prescott at Aker Park. To get there, you simply drive south on Virginia Street until it ends. We took the longest trail–only 1.6 miles long–and took our daughter, Kirstin, along for the fun. We even had time left over to explore the Odd Fellows Cemetery in the southwest corner of the park. I was unable to find the famous Prescottonians buried there,(James Aker, James Cleator, and Barlow-Massick) but not from lack of looking. Kirstin was anxious to get home to do her laundry and so I was forced to give up my search.

IMG_0100 (2)We did enjoy some of the longer, 4-7 mile hikes. John’s Tank is a hike near Lynx Lake–trail 94 just east of the dam. I had seen that trail before and wanted to try it, but it was closed at the time because eagles were nesting there. It was a nice hike with views of the lake, creeks and lots of ups and downs. Goldwater Lake West is a hike that goes around the While Spar Campground and finishes on the old Schoolhouse Gulch Road. Though it doesn’t go near Goldwater Lake, it is still a marvelous hike through the pines.

We only lost our way once this year, which is probably a record. When we hiked the Southwest portion of the Ranch Trail (The Rancho Vista Trail in book three is based on the Ranch Trail.), we decided to take the longer route that was a loop back to our car on Senator Highway. Unfortunately, we made a wrong turn when we were circling back.  The trail we took south was a very steep, rocky old jeep road. It seemed like we were going the right way until we reached the bottom of the trail which suddenly turned east toward Walker Road. Fortunately, we ran into a very kind fellow hiker we had encountered previously. She suggested that we continue to Walker Road and then she drove us back to our car on Senator Highway–saving us about four miles of additional hiking.

If you live in or near Prescott, I highly recommend the Hiking Spree, a program of the Highlands Center for Natural History. It is a good way to get in the habit of hiking regularly. If you are planning to come to Prescott to do some hiking, I suggest you check out the Highlands Center website. (highlandscenter.org) Not only will you find maps for this year’s Hiking Spree, but also maps from previous years. These are very detailed maps with driving directions and points of interest to look for on your hike.

Happy Hiking!

It’s hikin’ time in Prescott, AZ.

IMG_0786Almost any time of year is a great time for hiking in Prescott. But springtime is especially nice. The temperature is in the sixties, the sky is a bright blue with puffs of white clouds, and signs of new growth are visible everywhere.

A trail I would recommend to you is the Granite Gardens. I call it 1.2 miles of awesome! To reach the trailhead, drive north on highway 89 through the Granite Dells to Granite Gardens Drive. It is across from Granite Gate Senior Living. From the parking area, walk east and use the bridge to cross Granite Creek. The beginning of the trail will be on your left as you walk up the road and goes sharply up. As you reach the crest of the hill and go over the top, you will have an excellent view of a small dam. It was used to divert water into a pipeline that carried water to the Chino Valley Irrigation Project. Another dam farther downstream provided water for a freshwater swimming pool at the Dells Resort. My mother has many memories of that pool. I think I might have gone there with my aunt and uncle as a child, but I don’t really remember it. The pool was closed in 1971.

IMG_0285Continuing along the trail, you will come to a stairway. Reaching the top, you will enter the majestic granite portion of the hike. Following the white dots across the rocks, you climb over and down the granite face.




IMG_0320From there the trail leads to Castle Rock. Views are spectacular in every direction as you continue along this loop of the trail.

On the next part of the trail, we became a little lost, but were glad we did. Otherwise, we would have missed the room built into the rock. The metal door said, “IMG_0302Do not come in,” but who could resist?

As the trail continued, we climbed up the side of what is called the Rock Stacker. It didn’t really take a great deal of imagination to figure out why it was called that.

From there, the trail led to an underground grotto. Giant boulders were wedged tightly into a crevice. The trail took us under the boulders, any one of which could have easily crushed us to death, had they not been so firmly in place. For part of the trail we had to squeeze between some rocks.  It was a daring adventure that no one should miss.

IMG_0334After wiggling our way out at the other end, we were treated to more spectacular views of the granite rocks as we climbed back down. From there, we walked across a meadow and back to the creek. We left our little refuge and returned to civilization, still amazed at all that we had seen on the short but incredible hike.

I love hiking in Prescott, Arizona.

IMG_0311 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.