A Drive to Prescott

Congress, AZ

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.

Winding through the Prescott National Forest

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.

Watson Lake

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.

Water Crossing on Granite Garden Road

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.

This hiker didn’t notice the stairway to his right!

The views in the Dells are impressive

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.

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34 Responses to A Drive to Prescott

  1. Such muscles. We are eager to return to Prescott to ride our mountain bikes on the Prescott Circle Trail. Looks like a nice walk.

  2. geogypsy2u says:

    I hardly ever drove the “Spar” route over the mountains, yet I do like those views. But then I think the Iron Springs Rd quite nice too. Gotta’ love those boulders at the Granite Dells.

  3. Mary says:

    One of my favorite towns, That’s good to know about the alternate route, if we ever need to go that way. We will be in Prescott over Memorial weekend for the Phippen Museum art show on the town square. I will have to remember the chocolate porter.

  4. Debbie L says:

    That was a fun adventure! But I’d also be the one who skips the stairs. I can hike up and down mountains but my knees hate stairs. 😀
    What editing tool do you use with your pictures? Your “arrows” are great to point out distinctive features!

  5. montanaclarks says:

    We climb the hill with our motorhome pulling that gigantic trailer–made me nervous the first time! Glad you guys are enjoying our neck of the woods and that Al was your tour guide!

  6. pmbweaver says:

    Yea for the Weaver Mountains. lol
    For a short hike, it looks like a beautiful one. The scenery is gorgeous. Awesome boulder scrambling. Is that hiker sight impaired? He also is very strong!

  7. Larry says:

    Looks like a good day trip and nice to get these road reports.

  8. Ahhhhh Prescott and those granite dells! Love the shot of John “lifting” the rock!

  9. Carin says:

    Oh oh. We must not have seen the signs. We drove our 36′ motor home from Prescott to Brenda, AZ a couple of months ago. It is twisty but there are lots of turn outs. It was fun!

  10. LuAnn says:

    We haven’t been to the Dells in many years. They are still as lovely as I remember.

  11. Laurel says:

    That was definitely a good workout hiking and lifting those big boulders! I can’t wait to spend some time in the Granite Dells — it looks so gorgeous. Maybe next fall, because it’s not fitting into our plans this spring. But we’ll be going cross country again in the fall…..

  12. Sherry says:

    Good idea to check out both routes. Your hike had me laughing all the way through at the hiker who didn’t notice the steps and can lift large boulders out of the way. You really did have to go between and under. Looks like fun.

  13. Love those rocks and trails around Prescott. The chocolate porter sounds great!

    • placestheygo says:

      The Granite Dells are very unique and so much fun to hike around in. The chocolate porter was one of the first I’ve in awhile that had such a strong chocolate smell and taste…yum!

  14. Kim Nowell says:

    Looks awesome to check out, thanks for sharing the information on the roads, always enjoy reading your posts and seeing your pictures.

  15. Jodee Gravel says:

    Always a good idea to keep ones eyes on the ground when hiking! For such a short distance, that hike has a lot going on – and still warm enough for shorts! A Starbucks and a good brewery – definitely all bases covered 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      It was the perfect day for Prescott with the temps heading to 80 down below. We appreciated 70 degrees up at 5500 ft. Yes, it was the jackpot day…hiking, Starbucks and a chocolate porter:)

  16. girlonahike says:

    I love the Prescott area and Watson Lake – so pretty! It’s been about 5 years since I was there. -Alicia @ http://www.girlonahike.com

  17. Gay says:

    Since we have too many pups to stay in Prescott, I sure hope we can do this trail(s) when we are in Camp Verde in a few weeks. It is so beautiful in your pictures…I want to see it in person!

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