The city of Prescott is only fifty miles north of us on Rte 89. We found that we really liked the area during a week stay there last year and looked forward to a return visit. We knew the highway between Congress and Prescott has a steep gain in elevation and many sharp curves as it meanders through Prescott National Forest. Vehicles longer than forty feet are prohibited from that section of the highway and must take another route around it. Since we might someday want to take the motorhome between the two towns, we decided to check out both routes and drive up to Prescott on the main route, then return on the alternate route.
Just a few miles north of Congress Rte. 89 begins to climb into the Weaver Mountains. It is an interesting highway as the northbound road is two lanes, while the southbound road is one lane and is located far above the other lane.
After the steep climb up the mountains the road flattens out for about ten miles through Yarnell and Peeples Valley. Just before entering the Prescott National Forest there is a sign directing large vehicles on to Rte. 15 toward the tiny community of Skull Valley (the alternate route to Prescott). We continued on Rte. 89 and soon learned why large vehicles are banned from this part of the highway.
We arrived in Prescott and immediately drove to the Starbucks on Rte. 69, one of the nicest stores of the many we have visited in our travels. After enjoying a warm drink we drove north of town along beautiful Watson Lake for a little hiking.
We just wanted a short hike to stretch our legs so we drove north of the lake and turned right on to Granite Garden Road. Just off the highway is a parking area before the road goes through a creek.
We parked in the dirt lot before the water and crossed the creek on a short bridge.
Up the road about a hundred yards on the left is the beginning of the Stairway Loop Trail.
This short trail takes you right up into the beautiful rocks of this area, known as the Granite Dells.
After a short hike you discover why it is called the Stairway Loop Trail.
Combined with a short loop called the Castle Rock Trail, the Stairway Loop Trail is less than a mile long. You can take a path back to the parking area at that point or continue up on to the Rock Stacker Trail, then go on to the Grotto Trail. These combined trails add another half mile to the hike. But they go sharply up into the rocks, presenting some great views, before winding back down. Just before the end the trail takes you through the Grotto, two areas where you have to go between and under some large boulders.
At one point we had to move one of the boulders to get through!
Although a bit short, this hike is great if you don’t want to spend all day hiking but wish to see some beautiful scenery and experience the rock formations in the Dells, while getting a nice workout.
Before heading back south we stopped in the town square in Prescott and enjoyed lunch with some cold liquid refreshments at the Prescott Brewing Company. The chocolate porter was delicious!
For the return trip we took the alternate route around the Prescott National Forests (Ironwood Road to Skull Valley). Although not as scenic, this route is much straighter and only adds five miles to the trip. Big rig trucks take this route and it would be do-able in a motorhome.