New lake trail offers challenge for hikers
PRESCOTT - For hiker Kaye Shriver, the benefits of a Thursday morning trek along Prescott's new lake trail were twofold: new scenery and a good workout.
"I loved it; it was a nice challenge," Shriver, a member of the TrekAbout Walking Club, said of the new Willow Loop Trail. "You get a lot of bang for your buck."
With its fairly steep up-and-down grades, the trail got the walking club's highest rating - a four, which indicates that it is one of the club's tougher hikes.
And because it only recently opened to the public, Shriver said the trail had the added benefit of opening up a new area for the seasoned hikers in the TrekAbout group.
"It is very rare for some of us to find a new trail," said Shriver, a 10-year member of the group.
More than 20 hikers gathered at the Willow Lake boat ramp for the TrekAbout's weekly Thursday morning hike.
City Trails Specialist Chris Hosking was on hand to lead the group along the meandering route that he and a crew of volunteers recently completed.
Also on hand for the hike were representatives from the Yavapai County Health Department, which co-sponsors the TrekAbout group, along with the city's parks and recreation department, and the Prescott YMCA.
For Hosking, providing access to the beauty of the Granite Dells around the city's Willow and Watson lakes has been a goal for several years. Earlier, Hosking and volunteers built other lakeside trails in the area, such as the Canyon Loop Trail and the Basin Trail.
In addition, volunteers, including the Over the Hill Gang, have developed similar trails through the Dells in the Watson Lake area.
"My goal is to really show this place off and get people into these places," Hosking said Thursday, as he followed the white paint dots that direct hikers along the Willow Loop Trail.
The new stretch of trail, which covers about 2.9 miles, wanders south of the existing trails through a section of the city open space that surrounds Willow Lake.
The trail route mixes numerous overlooks of the lake with passes over steep rock formations and gullies where cottonwood trees flourish. One portion of the trail skirts an intersection with Willow Creek, while another passes the spillway for Willow Lake.
Eventually, Hosking said, the city would like to have the trail system completely circle Willow Lake, although he acknowledges that goal is still off in the future because of the amount of resources it would take.
In the current economic downturn, he said, the trail work is occurring mostly through the efforts of volunteers. The new Willow Loop Trail, for instance, cost only about $40, because the labor and most of the materials were donated.
Along with the help of the Over the Hill Trail, Hosking said the effort also had help from Yavapai College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students, who helped with the walking bridge and stairs in one steep area of the trail. A number of local businesses also supplied materials.
Leslie Horton, community health education program manager and public information officer for the Yavapai County Health Department, said the new trail fits well into the TrekAbout group's goal of reducing cardiovascular disease among local residents.
The club offers two guided hikes per week, and regularly takes hikers to favorite spots such as the Granite Mountain area, Walker Road, Thumb Butte, and Pioneer Park. Hikers pay $12 a year to be a part of the group.
"It is good for people who don't want to be out there alone," Horton said. "It's nice to have someone to guide you so you don't get lost. We go on some really beautiful hikes that most people would never know about."
While the Thursday hikes last two hours, the Tuesday hikes feature shorter hikes of about an hour. The group rates the difficulty of all of the hikes on a scale of one to four, with four being the toughest. The TrekAbout group is open to all adults.
More information about the new Willow Loop Trail is available on the city's website at www.cityofprescott.net/services/parks/trails, under Willow Dells Slickrock Trail Loops.
Access to the new Willow Loop Trail is at Willow Lake Park, 1497 Heritage Park Road, near Heritage Park, which is off Willow Creek Road in northeast Prescott. Signs direct hikers to the various loops through the Dells. The city charges a $2 for parking at the lake.