January 19, 2018
9 Top Prescott Trails to Hike, Run or Bike
There’s no better way to spend a beautiful day outdoors than hitting the trail and discovering gorgeous mountain vistas, local wildlife and connecting with fellow nature/exercise enthusiasts. Whether it’s hiking, running or mountain biking, trails are plentiful in the Prescott area. We’ve listed some favorites and included links at the end so you can further explore the trails near Talking Rock nearly every day of the year, thanks to our mild four seasons.
You’ll learn facts about plants and forest ecology from the signs along this popular trail in the Prescott National Forest. The steep trail climbs up to a ridge just below the crest of Thumb Butte. At Groom Creek Vista, there’s spectacular panoramic views of the Prescott area, Bradshaw Mountains, Sierra Prieta Mountains, Granite Mountain, Mingus Mountain, and, on clear days, the San Francisco Peaks. As an added treat, peregrine falcons nest on the basalt crags of Thumb Butte during certain times of the year.
It’s a heavily used trail, open to hikers only, and users are asked to obey posted signs to protect wildlife habitats. There’s a bypass for mountain bikers.
Bicycles: On the bypass
Directions: From downtown Prescott, travel west on Gurley Street (becomes Thumb Butte Road) for 3.4 miles to the Thumb Butte Picnic Area, on the right. The trail begins just across the road from the picnic area.
The trail around Watson Lake has excellent views and fun twisty turns. If you haven’t been in the area, the lake is surrounded by the gorgeous Granite Dells, multi-color boulders and rock formations unique to the area.
There are several hiking options, as climbing up and over the rocks can be a bit of a challenge. The Northshore trail is rocky and steep, the Over the Hill trail is slightly more moderate and the Peavine and Lower Granite Creek trails are relatively flat.
Bicycles: some areas
Directions: 3101 Watson Lake Drive, Prescott. There is a $3 parking fee.
Lynx Lake is another beautiful lake in the Prescott area, in the cool Ponderosa pine forest. There’s an easy trail that runs around the entire 55-acre lake with park benches and tables to stop and rest along the way. Lots of shade and a scenic view of the lake visible throughout the whole trail.
Directions: U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Bradshaw Ranger Station, 344 South Cortez Street, Prescott
Walk, hike or bike this historic trail built by the Santa Fe Railway in 1893. Excellent views of Watson Lake and Granite Dells. The Peavine connects with the Iron King Trail for another four-mile trek along more railroad bed. It’s a favorite for naturalists because of the wildlife, birds, plus a diverse assortment of flowers. Occasionally an eagle may be spotted.
Directions: Hwy 89A at Side Road, Prescott, parking at Peavine Trailhead off Prescott Lakes Parkway for a $3 fee, or from Prescott Valley Iron King or Granite Dells Road trailheads for free.
Granite Mountain Trail 261 is one in a network of trails serving Granite Mountain Wilderness. Close to the city of Prescott, it has a surprising diversity of wildlife, including javelina, deer and foxes, as well as snakes, lizards, and a variety of Southwestern birds.
The trail travels upward through open chaparral and boulders before it becomes steeper and enters the ponderosa pine forest. It’s a fairly difficult hike and only experienced hikers strive to reach the summit. Beautiful views of the Prescott area.
Directions: Heading out of Prescott on Iron Springs Rd, you will reach FR 374 at about the 3.5 mile mark, where you will make a right turn. This is a paved road for easy access to the Granite Basin day use area. After about 3 miles on FR 374, you will see an entrance area to the small lake on your right, then continue a short distance ahead for access at the Metate Trailhead.
This area offers plenty of hiking, biking, and horse trails with nice views of Granite Mountain. Choose the trail around Little Granite Mountain, a 7.2-mile hike in three stages. First phase is uphill, shady and pleasant. Second section is more challenging with not much shade. Third section is downhill, initially in the forest. Make it as long or short as you want.
Directions: Granite Basin Rd, Prescott
About 5 miles from Lynx Lake, Salida Gulch Trail #95 is a pretty loop trail a bit over 4 miles in length that crosses through a couple of stream beds. From the top you have a nice view of the Bradshaw Mountains. It’s a reasonably steep descent, but gradual and mostly shaded, taking you from cactus to Ponderosa pine. Along the way you might see deer, falcon and other wildlife. Although close to Prescott, it’s a solitary refuge from the busyness of the city.
This trail is open to hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bicyclists, but the Forest Service asks people to please be considerate of other users—slow down and know when to yield the trail. Refrain from using horses and bikes when the trail is wet.
Directions: If you turn east onto Walker Rd. off of Hwy 69 in Prescott, it is about a one-mile drive to the turnoff.
The Constellation Trails are a series of trail loops amidst the Granite Dells with trail surfaces that vary from packed earth to slick rock and offer views of beautiful wildflowers. Usage is marked for mountain biking and hiking. This trailhead is located on the west side of State Route 89 and just south of The Phippen Museum.
Directions: West of State Rt. 89, just south of 89A.
Pioneer Park Trail is a Hike/Bike/Running/Horse trail that is a series of color-coded trails by Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, ranging in length from 1.68 miles to 6.08 miles. It’s a beautiful walk or run in the park on a well-designated path. The trail width varies and it’s mostly short uphill and downhill spurts. You’ll find families hiking, athletes training and plenty of bicyclists enjoying this trail year-round.
Near 1200 Commerce Drive, Prescott, Free parking off of Pioneer Parkway across from the Pioneer Park ball field complex.