It was a couple of years ago that I first found this beautiful hike in the Granite Basin Recreation Area. I had been struggling with some personal challenges, and been pretty depressed during that time. In order to stay upbeat and positive I was trying to get out and do as many things as I could instead of just moping around the house. That was when my friend Pam, knowing how much I enjoy hiking, asked me to go on a hike she knew I would really love. Let me tell you, this hike was not at all what I expected and was incredibly beautiful! So beautiful that I went back again just a few days later to show my son Andrew this amazing area.
The hike was Granite Mountain Trail #261 near Prescott, Arizona. We met for breakfast in North Phoenix early in the morning. It was the first week in September and high temperatures would still be in the triple digits in the Valley of the Sun, so it would refreshing to get out of the heat for the day. After a quick bite to eat, we put the top down on the convertible and cruised up to Prescott. The weather was perfect for a day trip, and this was just what I needed to clear my head and lighten my mood.
“In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.”
— John Muir
The Granite Basin Recreation area has several day use areas and trailheads, and offers not only hiking trails, but also camping, picnic areas, boating, fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding trails. There is a small day use fee per vehicle, and a self pay station located at the parking area. On my last visit, the fee was only $5.00, and was well worth it. On that trip we just hiked Granite Mountain Trail #261 approximately 2.6 miles to Blair Pass where it meets Clark Spring Trail #40 and continued on Clark Spring Trail approximately 0.5 – 0.75 miles more before turning back. This made it about a 7 to 7.5 mile round trip, out and back hike.
The trail started up heading up a slight incline through a bouldered area, skirting between Granite Mountain and Little Granite Mountain. Apparently there had been a fire in the area a few years ago (the Doce fire in 2013) and you can see remnants of the burned trees left behind. My friend told me she had heard that after the fire wildflower seeds were spread in the area to help prevent erosion. The result was an incredible display of wildflowers that lined the trail and the hillsides, giving us a spectacular show of color. This was something I would have expected more in springtime, and was a very pleasant surprise and summer was coming to a close and fall was on the horizon.
“The earth has music for those who listen.”
I had seen on the sign at the parking area that there were several hiking areas and it looked like this made a loop, so before heading back with my son Andrew and his friend Matt, I mapped it out so we could do the loop around Little Granite Mountain.
On that trip we started from the same Metate Trailhead, but took Little Granite Mountain Trail #37 and connected to the opposite end of Clark Springs Trail #40, following that back to Granite Mountain Trail #261, and from there to the trailhead to complete the loop. This trail winds uphill through pinyon, juniper and ponderosa pine forest to several vistas that offer incredible views of the surrounding area and San Francisco Peaks. before dropping back down onto the vast bouldered chaparral below. We crossed a couple small spring fed creeks along the way that offered a welcome cool down for my daughter’s puppy Boomer who was excited to join us on this adventure.
According to the Prescott National Forest, the whole loop should be about 6 miles. I’m not sure how accurate my GPS is, but it showed closer to 8 miles by the time we were done.
There is a lot of wildlife in the area and if you are lucky you may get to enjoy some of it, including Peregrine Falcons that nest on the south side of Granite Mountain in winter and spring. Watch out for snakes, because they are out this time of year. We did see a rattlesnake on Granite Mountain Trail as we were almost back to the trailhead.
From Prescott drive Northwest on Iron Springs Road for approximately 3 miles. Turn right onto Granite Basin Road and drive another 3.5 miles to the Metate Parking area.
Granite Mountain Trail is within the Granite Mountain Wilderness and is only open to hikers and horseback riding. Mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are not allowed on this trail.