Tag Archives: hiking

Winter Hiking in Prescott, AZ

IMG_0518Winter is a special time for hiking in Prescott. Cooler temperatures allow longer, less sheltered hikes. Sunny days with temperatures in the upper forties to upper fifties are best, but I’ve hiked when temps were in the thirties.  You soon warm up as you hike along.

Snow creates its own challenges. Recently we hiked the Centennial trail. It is named for the Arizona Centennial and was opened in 2012. We hiked it in September of that year. It was beautiful with flowers still in bloom. This time we hiked it after a snow. The beginning of the trail was muddy, but there were plenty of boulders on both sides of the trail. In most cases we were able to step on the boulders and avoid the mud. As we came around to the north side, the trail was still covered with snow. Making our way up the north face, we tramped through snow most of the way. The snow had melted in some places, leaving  very gooey mud.  In other places it had refrozen into slippery ice flows. At various spots along  the trail we had to cross small streams. Again, strategically-placed boulders provided a way across.IMG_0522

After our climb, we descended into a secluded valley–very mystical and delightful.  After climbing out of the valley–on snow-packed trails of course– we were treated to petroglyphs and magnificent homes in Enchanted Canyon. You can reach this trail off of Gail Gardner Way. Turn onto Westridge and go about a half mile. There is a small parking lot on the right. Then walk along Westridge for about 100 yards to the trailhead.

To avoid the snow and mud, we have elected to hike the trails along Pioneer Parkway and Williamson Valley Road. Many of the trails in that area are part of the Circle Trail that goes all the way around Prescott. You can begin the Legacy trail at Kuebler Field just off of Commerce Drive. Vegetation is sparse in places which makes it great for winter hiking. The trail goes under Pioneer Parkway three times by way of nicely lighted underpasses. There are great views of the Granite Dells, Granit Mountain and Glassford Hill. You can also begin this trail off of Williamson Valley Road. There is a small parking area on the east side of the road just after the intersection with Pioneer Parkway.

IMG_0521The trails around Watson and Willow Lakes are also good choices for winter hikes. Most of the time you will be walking on boulders, and snow melts away quickly there. We usually try to avoid the trails off Walker Road or Senator Highway after a snow, but otherwise they are also good for winter hiking on warmer days.

The important thing is to get out there and hike. Spring is just around the corner and you’ll be ready as the snows melt up north and the flowers begin to bloom.

The Highland Center for Natural History–Something for Everyone

IMG_0461Visitors who come to Prescott and those moving here, may be fortunate enough to discover one is our greatest treasures–The Highland Center for Natural History. Located a short drive down Walker Road from Highway 69 (by Costco) the Highland Center offers something for everyone.

My husband and I first came to the Highland Center because we were looking to add some more physical activity to our lives.  In September of 2008, the Highland Center began the Hiking Spree. Participants are provided with maps for a dozen hikes in the Prescott National Forest. The requirement is to complete eight of the hikes. This entitles the participants to purchase an emblem appropriate to put on a wooden walking stick (Which you can also purchase at the Highland Center). Craig and I have completed the Hiking Spree every year.  We are just three hikes away from earning our 2015 emblem.

In 2008, I was still teaching at Bradshaw Mountain High School, but I considered volunteering at the Highland Center once I retired. As retirement came closer, I put volunteering on my bucket list. For the past two years, I have been a docent for second and fourth graders who come to the Highland Center on school field trips. I have learned a lot from the docent training, but I also learn a lot from the kids. I love their enthusiasm and curiosity. Sharing my love of the outdoors with them has brought me many hours of enjoyment.

The Highland Center has much to offer. Besides the school programs for second and fourth graders, there are programs for preschool, kindergarten and seventh grade. During school breaks children can enroll in day camps where they become even more immersed in learning about our special Central Highland ecosystem.

Families come to the Highland Center to enjoy the many hiking trails. The trails connect with other places in the Prescott National Forest, such as Lynx Lake and the Lynx Creek Ruins. Throughout the year, there are programs for families. Bug-a-Boo Bliss is an opportunity to take a look at our tiniest creatures. Imagine studying specimens of insects or even holding and petting large cockroaches, or taking a hike at dusk with a guide who knows just where to look for bugs and spiders. At Halloween Happenings, families can participate in scavenger hunts, crafts, and fireside stories.

For adults the Highland Center offers many educational opportunities. There are guided hikes, bird walks and interesting classes. Whether you just want to know a little about our beautiful home or you are serious about becoming a certified naturalist, you’ll find what you’re looking for at the Highland Center.

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.

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