Michael Fusco, Copy Editor
Granite Mountain, the mountain jewel visible to the west of campus, offers access to many day hikes and is a short drive away. There are three convenient entrances to reach the hiking trails in the area surrounding Granite Mountain.
Going westbound on Iron Springs Road from Willow Creek Road, the first, and arguably the best, entrance is a right turn into the Granite Basin Recreation Area, a fee area. The Metate and Cayuse Trailheads are picked up from this area. Continuing on Iron Springs Road for another mile is a gravel parking lot where parking is free. Access to Trail 37 is available here, but otherwise this location is not recommended given its isolation from other trail options.
The third entrance is located on Williamson Valley Road heading north from the junction of Pioneer Parkway. Pick up Trails 308 and 347 from this location, which are both part of a short loop about four miles long.
No trails reach the summit of Granite Mountain, but Trail 261 winds through the valley between Granite Mountain to the north and Little Granite Mountain to the southwest. This trail starts from the Metate Trailhead. Keep right at Blair Pass, the junction of Trail 37 and Trail 261, to scale part of Granite Mountain before it comes to a cliff face.
One can circumnavigate Little Granite Mountain on a five to six-hour hike. Start at Metate Trailhead and travel on Trail 40 to its junction with Trail 37, then head northwest. This junction offers great views of Skull Valley and the mountains south of Prescott. Continue on Trail 37 for about 2.5 miles, down a steep incline that eventually levels out. At Blair Pass, hike east on Trail 261 to reach the Metate Trailhead.
This route offers an interesting trek through several biomes unique to the high-desert location. Near Granite Basin Recreation Area, there are large pine trees lurking over leafy underbrush, home to chirping birds. In the juniper forests scattered in the drier areas, prickly pears root themselves along the trail. To the west of Little Granite Mountain, the landscape is categorized mainly by small plants, shrubs, and, depending on the time of year, wildflowers vibrant in magentas, purples, reds, yellows.
If interested in a hike that only takes a couple hours, park at the Cayuse site and start on Trail 348. Continue onto Trail 352, which leads to Mint Wash, where a large presence of the herb brightens the air. Turning north onto Trail 345 leads to Trail 347, which can be reached at the Williamson Valley Trailhead, while turning south onto Trail 345 leads back to Granite Basin Lake and the Recreation Area. From the lake, take Trail 351 to return to the Cayuse Trailhead.
Hiking near Granite Mountain is limited to what each person desires- strenuous or easy, long or short, for meditation or for exercise. Regardless, remember to hike safe and bring sunblock, ample water, snacks or perhaps lunch, and a map of the area. Enjoy the unique climate that Prescott has to offer and its excellent trail system!