Watson Lake – Prescott, AZ

Prescott, AZ

This past Sunday morning we pulled out of our site in Apache Junction and drove about a hundred and forty miles north to the beautiful town of Prescott.  The temperatures in the Phoenix area were getting a bit high so we look forward to cooler temperatures, since Prescott is over five thousand feet of elevation (compared to the seventeen hundred at Apache Junction).  We are now enjoying a nice site in the Point of Rocks RV Campground just north of town.

Site 57 in Point of Rocks RV Park

The park is located in the middle of an area known as Granite Dells.  The Dells consist of exposed bedrock and large boulders of granite that have eroded into an unusual lumpy, rippled appearance.

The view out the front windshield

Right behind us is one of two reservoirs in Granite Dells.  Watson Lake was formed in the early 1900s when the Chino Valley Irrigation District built a dam on Granite Creek.  The City of Prescott bought the reservoir and surrounding land in 1997 to preserve it as recreational land.  The city maintains a large number of hiking/biking trails all around the area and by connecting four of the trails we were able to hike completely around Watson Lake for six miles including side trails .

Our first view of Watson Lake from the trail

While there is a severe drought in the west this reservoir is filled to capacity, as shown in the photo below taken at the south end of the lake (the dam is at the north end).

At the south end of the lake you are out of the rocks of the Dells, so the hiking is very easy.  As you round the lake and head back to the north you re-enter the rocks of the Dells.  This is where the hike becomes very interesting.

The trails are also used by mountain bikers so the path within the rocks is marked with painted white dots, making it easy to follow across the open rock areas.  The views through this area are very impressive.

Lunch with a view

Enjoying the sunshine

At the north end of the lake as the trail turns back to the south, it goes down into a couple of canyons with creeks at the bottom.  Boulder Creek was pretty full and presented a bit of a challenge as we crossed it since the water was moving quite swiftly.

Heading down into one of the canyons

As we hiked our way south, we came to the base of the Watson Lake Dam.  Built in the early 1900s, this dam blocks Granite Creek creating the lake.

We continued south on the trail as it made its way steeply up to the top of the dam.

The top of the Watson Lake Dam

The day after hiking around the lake we decided to get on to the water for a different view of the rocks of the Dells.  So we inflated our Sea Eagle kayak at a nearby boat launch and headed out on a beautiful sunny morning (OK, it was late in the morning).

Another view of the Watson Lake Dam

Watson Lake has entertained us nicely for the past two days.  But there is another lake in Granite Dells that is nearby.  So our next mission is to explore that area.

More on that later . . .

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48 Responses to Watson Lake – Prescott, AZ

  1. explorvistas says:

    That pink granite reminds me of Acadia NP in Maine. Very beautiful!

  2. Sherry says:

    What an interesting area. Smart move for Prescott to buy it all. Very nice to see so much water in the west. That is one scary steep incline heading down after the picture of Boulder Creek crossing. I especially love an area you can hike and kayak. We just did that at River Rise. LOVE those flashy water shoes too!

  3. Only about an hour’s drive from our house in Congress we have yet to make it to the Dells. Looks like a nice place especially with all the water. We’ll have to make it a point to get up there next winter. I especially like the kayaking idea

  4. paul weaver says:

    The picture of Pam heading down into the canyon is deceiving. The illusion is she is walking down a vertical cliff…..or is that just my vision 🙂

  5. Karen says:

    What was the drive like getting to Prescott? We are in a 34′ motorhome with a jeep like yours minus two doors. The road looks a little wiggly on the map.

  6. LOVE Prescott and Point of Rocks and the boulder strewn lakes! That inflatable is coming in handy, giving you two a nice variety…and your leg a rest. Glad to see you in cooler temps.

    • placestheygo says:

      So very glad you and Hans had a nice visit here, Lisa, because that is what brought us to see the area for ourselves:) Watson Lake was perfect for our inflatable with nothing sticking up from the bottom!

  7. Amanda says:

    Every time I come across a blog post from someone who has visited this lake I am reminded again how much I want to see these very cool rocks for myself. Sounds like spring is the perfect time to visit. Maybe next year we’ll make it priority. Glad you got out on the lake in the Kayak – looks like fun!

    • placestheygo says:

      Do put this area on your list, Amanda. The rocks have the neatest designs in them. I struggled with photos because of the cloud layer. It was the rocks surrounding the lake that brought us here, also. This seems to be a good time to visit because southern Arizona was getting way too warm. We’ve been in the high 60’s low 70’s here which is so much better for hiking.

  8. pmbweaver says:

    What a great site!

    I love those large boulders of granite! What a different hike compared to what you did in Phoenix. I can’t get over how lovely those boulders look coming out and around the Lake. Gorgeous!

    Watson Lake is beautiful. You captures the best reflection photos I have ever seen. What a gorgeous day to be out on the water.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Marsha! You need to add this to your list for future visits out west. The hiking variety is amazing and Bella will just love exploring the rocks right out her door.

  9. jimandbarb says:

    It has been a while since you have been on the water! Good call to move to the cooler/higher elevation, what a beautiful spot. We posted a picture on our latest blog with you two in mind, can you guess which one it is?

    • placestheygo says:

      Haha!! Your lunch with a view photos is the best ever! Daisy did such a great job posing for the shot. We both got a great laugh over that one:) Yes, this is the time of year to head to higher elevation for sure! It has only been two years since we’ve had our kayak out but a year since we’ve been out in a rental. I guess we aren’t big kayakers:)

  10. Mary says:

    LOL…We have been at the other end of town since Monday. We are at the White Spar campground going out on 89. We stayed at Point of rocks a few years ago and loved it. Such an interesting area.

  11. cathy says:

    Great post! What a pretty area…enjoy the cooler weather! We may have to turn on the AC today..time to head north!

  12. colibabas says:

    Awesome looking area…just added it to our to do list.
    Safe travels!

  13. harleyhawk43 says:

    Nice! We will add to our list. Check out our Angel’s Landing hike at Zion at harleyhawk43.WordPress.com

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks! We’ve spent a month at Zion two years ago but decided that we didn’t need to do Angel’s Landing. We had great views from the West Rim trail and Observation Point. Someday if Angel’s Landing is free of other people, we would do the hike. Others make me nervous.

  14. Ingrid says:

    Love Watson Lake. We may have to stop there again on our way north. We have a couple more weeks in Phx before starting our trek and yes, it’s getting warm so we’ll be ready for some cooler temps. Can’t wait to hear about the next lake… new to us 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      I hope the temperatures come down a little while you are still in the Phoenix area. The 90’s were way too warm for me. Adding a few thousand feet sure helped bring the temps way down:) Willow Lake is just a 1/2 mile next door to Watson Lake. We’ll be visiting it before we leave.

  15. Dave & Skruffy (GoingRvWay.com) says:

    I love that RV park, when we stay in Prescott to visit my Library friend (he is the Library Director for the Public Library there), we stay at that park. –Dave (GoingRvWay.com)

  16. Nancy says:

    The reflections of the rocks onto the water is fabulous! Another spot I have not been to. We love the Prescott area… so I will go one day soon!

  17. Lisa W says:

    Beautiful reflection photos in todays post. I’ve lived in AZ since 1989 and have never heard of the Dells. Very interesting, will have to add it to the list of places to go when we finally get moving.

  18. Laurel says:

    Those rock formations around the lake are absolutely beautiful! And even better that there’s both hiking and kayaking there. I did a double-take at you coming down that sheer wall of rock — I know slick rock is easy hiking, but STILL!! Your pinched nerve must be all better. Hope so. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      This is a neat area and the lakes are high in the spring and the rocks are so beautiful. My nerve is getting better but my right leg doesn’t always operate so I don’t hike without my poles to add to my support when descending. I don’t have any pain in my leg just occasional collapse when the nerve isn’t working. But all is much better:) Thanks, Laurel, for asking!

      • Laurel says:

        No pain is good, but your leg collapsing sounds a bit worrisome! I trust the nerve will continue to heal well with no lasting effects. You’re a trooper. 🙂

  19. Gay says:

    Looks like an awesome destination which is now on our list…thanks to you both! Beautiful photos as always and great descriptions of the hike!

    • placestheygo says:

      Gay, you and Joe would really love the area. Also, we passed the best dog park ever. It was an entire playground just for dogs. It was large, with beautiful grass, and lot to play on. The tan gang would love it!

  20. Leigh says:

    You should put this post on Campendium!! Great photos!

  21. allisonmohr says:

    How long is your RV? We drove through the park and weren’t sure we could get ours in there. It’ 40 feet, but with very low ground clearance. Did you have any issues going in to that park?

    • placestheygo says:

      Allison, we didn’t have any trouble getting in to the park at all and we are 40′. The place does look small but amazingly it is mainly filled with larger units. There was even a 40+ Prevost bus and a few extremely long toy haulers. Our spot has room for us and our Jeep in the front. So you should be fine:)

  22. Jodee Gravel says:

    Love your lunch shot – it captures so much. Looks like a perfect day on the water – no wind! Will definitely have to spend some time there in the future. Can’t wait to see the next lake!!

  23. LuAnn says:

    This was a very interesting post for me as we have not really done any hiking around Prescott, although Terry’s sister lived there years ago. Beautiful photos, especially that header shot.

    • placestheygo says:

      LuAnn, the city of Prescott has done a great job creating a large trail system. It is called the Prescott Circle Trail and has 52 miles of trail for hiking and mountain biking. The trails in the granite dell rocks are so beautiful and a great workout. Trails are all different levels. Right now the lakes are especially gorgeous because the water level is so high. You’ll have to revisit the area!

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