Column: Finding the best trail for a great outdoor experience

'Switchback'

Sometimes all it takes to have a new outdoor experience here in Prescott is to choose a direction and see where the trail might lead you. One of my favorite places to explore is south of town into the Bradshaws.

The maze of gravel roads intertwine with forgotten ATV tracks to lead the adventurous deep into the unknown backcountry. Steep and loose climbs offer some of the greatest views we have in the area … and Mount Union is probably one of the best examples of this.

With an elevation of 7,988 feet, Mount Union is the highest point in the Bradshaw Mountain range as well as Yavapai County. While there are more than a few ways to reach the summit, the following is a description of a reasonable route to get you started. It can easily be extended by changing where you begin from and this loop can be combined with other options once you get more comfortable with navigating the area.

My suggested start point is at the Senator Highway and the Walker Road intersection. Take Mount Vernon south until it turns to dirt. Simply stay on Senator Road as it winds through the mountains. Along the way, sharp eyes will see several historic buildings, ruins and related forgotten mining shafts. It’s a good idea to allow some extra time to check out these spots.

Once parked, continue on your bike up Senator Road. It’s a consistent climb with some sections steeper than others but generally not too strenuous. After a few miles you will come to a cattle guard. Look for a sign here and take the left fork towards Mount Union.

The road will be less used now and sections will become more challenging. Shift down a few gears and enjoy the view as your pedals spin, eventually passing Camp Kipa on your left.

Shortly after this you will see yet another left blocked by a gate and signed “Mount Union.” Pass under the gate and begin the toughest part of the climb. Once you make the tower you will have a chance to catch your breath. At the summit, look for the wooden helipad facing south. This is the best spot to have a rest and take in the almost 360-degree views of the area. If you are lucky, the fire tower may be open and let you stop by for a visit.

From here you can return the way you came or for a more technical and inspiring loop, look for T284 heading towards the east. T284 is extremely rocky and forgotten so be prepared. At the crossroads of T285, head left down into Potato Patch. Look for the arrastra and water filled mine shaft after the series of steep switchbacks down. Once in Potato Patch, take Walker road west around Hassayampa Lake back to your car.

Mount Union is one of my favorite view points in the area. More than worth the effort. Don’t forget to bring a lunch and your camera … for you will surely want both at the top.

Steve Reynolds is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Instagram at @Prescottopia. Contact him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.