Explore the best of Arizona with our guide to top Trails in Prescott National Forest! Discover scenic routes, stunning vistas, and hiking tips.
Attention, trail enthusiasts! Welcome to Prescott National Forest, a sprawling wonderland boasting over 500 miles of pathways, each promising a distinct, memorable adventure.
Whether you’re seeking a leisurely stroll amidst whispering pines or a heart-pounding ascent to some of Arizona’s most jaw-dropping vistas, this forest delivers in spades.
And, oh, those views! From sweeping mountain panoramas to the serene reflections on pristine lakes and rivers, every trail here gifts you postcard-worthy moments.
Ready to unravel the forest’s best-kept secrets? Lace up and dive into our handpicked list of the top 10 trails in Prescott National Forest, where every turn is a visual treat!
Thumb Butte Trail
The Thumb Butte Trail is one of the most popular trails in Prescott National Forest, and for good reason. The trail takes hikers to the top of Thumb Butte, where they can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The trailhead for the Thumb Butte Trail is located just off Highway 89, about 10 miles north of Prescott. From the trailhead, the trail winds its way up to the top of Thumb Butte, gaining about 1,000 feet in elevation along the way.
The hike to the top of Thumb Butte takes about 2 hours and is considered moderate in difficulty.
Once at the top of Thumb Butte, hikers are treated to stunning 360-degree views. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Sedona and beyond.
Prescott National Forest is home to a variety of wildlife, and it’s not uncommon to see eagles or other birds of prey soaring overhead while enjoying the views from atop Thumb Butte.
If you’re looking for an outstanding vista and a moderate hike, look no further than the Thumb Butte Trail in Prescott National Forest.
Granite Mountain Trail
The Granite Mountain Trail is a strenuous hike that takes you to the top of Granite Mountain. The views from the top are breathtaking, and you can see the Bradshaw Mountains in the distance. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow.
There are some steep sections, but they are short and manageable. The trail is about 4 miles round trip, and it took us about 3 hours to complete.
The trailhead is located off Highway 69, and it’s easy to find. Parking is available at the trailhead. Be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen for your hike. There are some great photo opportunities along the way as well.
Granite Mountain Trail is a great hike for anyone looking for a challenge and amazing views. The scenery is breathtaking, and you can enjoy the peacefulness of nature away from civilization.
Lynx Lake Loop
The Lynx Lake Loop is a moderate trail that circles Lynx Lake, offering beautiful views of the water and the surrounding mountains. The trailhead is located at the Lynx Lake Campground, and the trail can be accessed from both the north and south shores of the lake. The loop is approximately 5 miles in length and can be completed in a day. Along the way, hikers will have the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, eagles, and osprey.
The Lynx Lake Loop is a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. The trail is mostly dirt, with some sections of loose gravel and rock. Hikers should know their footing, as the terrain can become slippery when wet.
The loop also offers several scenic overlooks that afford stunning views of the lake, surrounding mountains, and distant horizons. There are plenty of areas to stop and enjoy lunch or take a break along the way.
Spruce Mountain Trail
Prescott National Forest offers many beautiful trails with scenic vistas. One such trail is the Spruce Mountain Trail. This challenging hike takes you to the top of Spruce Mountain, where you can enjoy sweeping views of the forest and the surrounding area. The trailhead for this hike is located at the north end of Thumb Butte Road.
The trail starts off with a steep climb, taking you up and around the sides of Spruce Mountain. After about two miles, the trail begins to level out. Along this section, hikers will find themselves surrounded by tall pines, oaks, and other foliage.
After another mile, the trail reaches its highest point at the summit of Spruce Mountain. Here, hikers can take in spectacular views of Granite Mountain and Thumb Butte to the north and Watson Lake to the south.
This hike is great for hikers looking for a challenge as well as those just wanting to take in some beautiful scenery. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks as there are no water sources or services along the way. Also, remember to wear proper clothing for hiking in northern Arizona’s climate – layers are key!
Watson Lake Trail
This moderate trail circles Watson Lake, offering beautiful views of the water and the surrounding cliffs. The trailhead is located on the north side of the lake. From the parking lot, follow the signs to the start of the loop trail.
The loop is approximately 3 miles long and takes about 2 hours to complete. Along the way, you’ll enjoy stunning views of Watson Lake and the Prescott National Forest.
The trail is mostly flat and wide, with some rocky spots. There are plenty of opportunities to take in the scenery, as well as a few benches and picnic tables along the way. At the midpoint of the loop, you’ll reach a viewpoint overlooking Watson Lake where you can stop and enjoy the view.
Watson Lake Loop is an excellent choice for families or groups looking for an enjoyable day hike with stunning scenery. The trail is well marked, and it’s easy to follow even if you’re new to hiking. So if you’re in Prescott and looking for a great outdoor adventure, head out on the Watson Lake Loop!
Willow Lake Trail
The Willow Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails in Prescott National Forest. The trailhead is located at the north end of Willow Lake, and the trail follows the shoreline for about 2 miles before looping back around.
The trail is relatively flat and easy to hike, making it a great option for families or those looking for a leisurely stroll. Along the way, you’ll enjoy stunning views of Willow Lake and the surrounding mountains.
The trail is open year-round, but you should note that some sections may be closed at certain times due to seasonal flooding. Pack plenty of water and appropriate gear if you plan to hike this trail. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the way, including a variety of birds and mammals.
Goldwater Lake Trail
The Goldwater Lake Trail is a moderate trail that circles Goldwater Lake. The trail offers beautiful views of the water and the surrounding forest. The trail is about 2 miles long and takes about 1-2 hours to complete. The trail is open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.
The trail is fairly easy and there are several benches along the way for those who want to take a break. The trail winds through mixed conifer forest, offering glimpses of wildlife, including birds and small mammals. At the end of the loop, hikers have the option of crossing a bridge to access an even more scenic area around the lake’s edge.
For those who are looking for a longer hike, it is possible to connect with other trails in the area and make a loop or add on additional mileage.
Overall, the Goldwater Lake Trail is a great option for anyone looking to enjoy some nature in Prescott National Forest. The views are beautiful, and it’s fairly easy. Plus, it’s open to multiple users so everyone can enjoy it!
The Peavine Trail is one of the most challenging trails in Prescott National Forest, but it is also one of the most rewarding. The trail takes you to the top of Peavine Mountain, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding forest and the Bradshaw Mountains in the distance.
The Peavine Trail is a great option for those who are looking for a challenge, and it is also a great choice for those who want to enjoy some of the best views that Prescott National Forest has to offer.
The Peavine Trail is one of the most challenging trails in Prescott National Forest. It takes you to the top of Peavine Mountain, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding forest and the Bradshaw Mountains in the distance.
The trail is very steep and rocky in places, so it is not recommended for beginners or those who are not in good physical shape. However, if you are up for a challenge, the Peavine Trail is definitely worth checking out.
The Aspen Trail is a moderate trail that takes you through a beautiful aspen grove. The changing leaves in the fall offer beautiful views of the surrounding area. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow.
Along the way, you will come across streams, waterfalls, and a variety of wildlife. You can also spot beaver ponds and other signs of animal activity in the area.
The trail is great for hikers of all ages and skill levels. It offers plenty of opportunities to take pictures or just relax in the beauty of nature. The trail ends at a scenic overlook where you can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
No matter what time of year you hike this trail, it’s sure to be an enjoyable experience!
Granite Basin Loop
The Granite Basin Loop is one of the most popular trails in Prescott National Forest. The moderate trail circles Granite Basin, offering beautiful views of the water and the surrounding mountains. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, making it a great option for hikers of all levels.
The Granite Basin Loop is a great option for a day hike or a longer backpacking trip. There are plenty of places to camp along the trail, so you can make a weekend out of it. No matter how you choose to explore the Granite Basin Loop, you’re sure to be rewarded with stunning views.
Whether you’re looking for a challenging day hike or an overnight backpacking adventure, the Granite Basin Loop is sure to provide an unforgettable outdoor experience.
10 Tips When Hiking in Prescott National Forest
- Check the Weather: Prescott’s elevation results in cooler temperatures than the lower deserts of Arizona. Depending on the season, you might encounter snow or afternoon monsoons. Always check the weather forecast before setting out.
- Familiarize Yourself with Altitude: The forest ranges from about 3,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation. If you’re coming from sea level, give yourself time to acclimate to prevent altitude sickness.
- Stay on Designated Trails: The forest is home to fragile ecosystems. Stick to established trails to minimize your impact and avoid trampling sensitive habitats.
- Watch for Wildlife: You might see animals like elk, deer, and javelina. Always view from a distance, keep your food secure, and be especially cautious during dawn and dusk when many animals are active.
- Know the Trail System: Prescott National Forest has a vast network of trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging hikes. Research your chosen trail ahead of time, ensuring it matches your fitness level and desired experience.
- Pack Out Trash: With its popularity, there’s an increased impact from visitors. Make sure to practice Leave No Trace principles, packing out all trash and waste.
- Stay Hydrated: Arizona is arid, and you’ll need more water than you think. Carry at least one gallon of water per person per day, and be aware that natural water sources can be scarce.
- Respect Fire Restrictions: The region can be prone to wildfires. Check for fire restrictions before you visit, and never leave campfires unattended.
- Beware of Flash Floods: If hiking in a canyon or wash, be aware of the potential for flash floods, especially during the monsoon season (typically July-September).
- Take Precautions Against the Sun: At high altitudes, the sun’s rays are more potent. Wear a hat, apply sunscreen, and consider long sleeves to protect against UV radiation.
With these tips in mind, your adventure in Prescott National Forest will not only be enjoyable but also safe and environmentally conscious. Happy hiking!
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking to experience the beauty of the outdoors, these trails are not to be missed. So pack your hiking boots, bring plenty of water and snacks, and hit the trails – the breathtaking vistas of the Prescott National Forest await!
Prescott National Forest is home to some of the most spectacular vistas in the country. From winding rivers to towering mountains, there’s something for everyone in this outdoor paradise.
Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll or a multi-day trek, you can find a trail that suits your needs and level of experience. With its diverse terrain and stunning scenery, Prescott National Forest is guaranteed to provide a memorable hiking experience.
When visiting the Prescott National Forest, it’s important to take safety precautions such as telling someone where you are going, bringing enough water and snacks, and wearing appropriate clothing and footwear. Additionally, be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out what you pack in and leaving no trace of your visit behind.
Prescott National Forest offers something for every type of hiker, from novice adventurers to experienced mountaineers. While these 10 trails provide some of the best vistas in the area, there are many more waiting to be discovered. So get out there and explore!