As the Arizona Territory’s first capital, Prescott enjoys a long and storied past. Its frontier heritage, the famous Whiskey Row and its distinction as Everybody’s Hometown have brought visitors to this mile-high city for decades. Prescott is set in a basin surrounded by the Bradshaw Mountains, Thumb Butte and Granite Dells, offering diverse opportunities for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
Prescott is located in the cool pines of northern Arizona and is the hub for several scenic loop tour drives and day trips to northern Arizona’s treasures.
While in Prescott spend a few days exploring Arizona’s first territorial capital. A historic walking tour of downtown Prescott will take you on a journey through time. Shopping, dining and entertainment are plentiful along Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott. Three museums, Sharlot Hall Museum, Phippen Museum, and Smoki Museum, boast informative exhibits on Arizona’s territorial history and native cultures. Over 450 miles of recreational trails wind through the Prescott National Forest offering enjoyment for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Be sure to pack your golf clubs because Prescott has five public courses to choose from. Stay in one of Prescott’s historic hotels, inns or bed and breakfasts.
The Prescott area has five lakes and more than 450 miles of scenic trails for hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, or mountain biking in Prescott National Forest. The forest also contains one National Recreational Trail (Granite Mountain Trail) and one National Historic Study trail (General Crook Trail). The mild climate allows the trails to be enjoyed year-round.
The Prescott National Forest is guardian of more than 100,000 acres of wilderness represented by 8 wilderness areas. Of these, Granite Mountain Wilderness is the most popular because it is only 20 minutes from Prescott by paved road. Travel is limited to foot or horseback in wilderness areas.
The more popular spots for climbing and bouldering around Prescott include the Granite Dells, Groom Creek, Thumb Butte and Granite Mountain.
While there are numerous trails to choose from, here are a few of our favorites. All are within a 20-minute drive of downtown Prescott, Arizona.
Thumb Butte-trail 33
Permitted Uses: hiking
Hiking Time: 1 hour
This Prescott, Arizona landmark is one of the most popular hiking areas, and is located just three miles west of downtown Prescott. Head west on Gurley Street 2.5 miles to Thumb Butte Road. Continue northwest for 1.5 miles to the recreation site and parking area. There is a day-use fee of $2.00 per vehicle. The 1.75-mile loop trail is paved and a bit steep at the start, but the views from the top are worth it.
Groom Creek Loop-trail 384
Permitted Uses: hiking, biking and motorized vehicles less than 40 inches wide
Hiking Time: 3.5 hours
There is little elevation gain (500 feet), so this is a great 6-mile loop hike for almost everyone. Maverick Mountain and Mt. Tritle provide a beautiful backdrop to this trail that winds through lush vegetation along the Hassayampa River’s upper basin.
From downtown Prescott, head south on Mount Vernon Avenue. Continue south from Prescott approximately six miles to Groom Creek. Just beyond Groom Creek turn right on the dirt road to Wolf Creek campgrounds. Trail 384 crosses the road within .4 miles.
Prescott Peavine Trail
Permitted Uses: hiking, biking, and equestrian
Hiking Time: variable
The “Rails to Trials” project helped form this winding trail that was once the route for the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix railroad. The trail covers some of the most beautiful scenery in Yavapai County. It meanders through lush riparian areas, through the beautiful Granite Dells, above Watson Lake, and towards open rangelands. Total length is 9.2 miles round-trip, however you can leave a car at Hwy. 89A, which will make the distance about 4.6 miles.
Drive east on Gurley Street from downtown Prescott to the Hwy. 89/69 intersections. Take Hwy. 89 north for 1.1 miles to Sun Dog Ranch Road and turn right. Continue north about 1.5 miles where a road turns left opposite the Animal Control headquarters. The trial is just .1 miles west of here.
Little Granite Mountain-trail 37 and loop to Granite Basin Lake
Permitted Uses: hiking, bicycling (non-motorized), and horseback riding
Hiking Time: 1.5 hours
This trail provides spectacular panoramic views of Skull Valley, Prescott, Sugarloaf Mountain, and the western end of the Sierra Prietas. For a loop hike, drop a car at Granite Basin Lake. Take trail 37 from Iron Springs trailhead to the Clark Spring Trail turnoff, which takes you to the lake.
From downtown Prescott head north on Montezuma, which will turn into Whipple Street. Follow Whipple to Miller Valley, Willow Creek, and Iron Springs road intersection. You will continue straight on Iron Springs road 6.2 miles. The trailhead is 3.2 miles west of the turnoff to Granite Basin Lake.