PRESCOTT - With fall arriving Saturday, there is little doubt that this is the best time to explore trails in the Prescott area.
The annual fall Hiking Spree kicks off at the Highlands Center for Natural History on Saturday, then continues for two months.
Saturday starts with an early morning bird walk along Prescott Forest trails 442 and 305, leaving the Kiwanis Amphitheater at 8:30 a.m.
This walk will be followed by the kickoff event including a continental breakfast offered by this year's sponsor, Credit Union West, and then a second guided walk from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m.
New this fall is the addition of a small selection of guided walks with volunteer Highlands naturalists. The brochure and the Highlands Center website list the schedule. Each walk starts at 9:30 a.m. and is limited to
20 people, so pre-registration is required. Call 776-9550.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, the first guided walk will take place at Badger Springs on the BLM's Agua Fria National Monument. From Cordes Junction, drive south on Interstate 17 to he Badger Springs exit and drive east to the trailhead. The drive is well worth the effort.
Members of the Friends of the Agua Fria National Monument will be leading this walk, offering information on the people who inhabited the area as well as natural history stories along the way.
To join the two-month spree, pick up a brochure at the Highlands Center or one of three Prescott locations: the Forest Service's Cortez Street office, Manzanita Outfitters on North Montezuma Street, or the Grace Sparkes Activity Center on Gurley Street.
Together these 12 trails provide an opportunity to explore different areas of Yavapai County. People need to hike at least eight of them between Sept. 24 and Nov. 29 to be entered into the Hiking Spree drawing to win a $200 gift card from Manzanita Outfitters.
Additionally, participants can buy a limited-edition Hiking Spree 2012 collector's medallion, a wooden hiking stick, and/or a BPA-free aluminum water bottle with the "Take a Hike" logo all at a special price for participants.
This year's selection of trails venture as far north as Bull Spring in the Juniper Mesa Wilderness Area and as far southeast as Badger Springs.
Highly detailed maps are available for each trail, thanks to Nigel Reynolds, a volunteer in the GIS department with Yavapai County. He has been creating these helpful maps for the past few years and with his attention to detail, each map provides driving directions to the trailheads as well as points of interest.
All maps and informational articles are located on the Highlands Center website at www.highlandscenter.org and are printer friendly.
The Prescott National Forest office on Cortez Street will also carry packets of maps and information at the front desk throughout the duration of the Spree.
Thanks to volunteer efforts, more tech-savvy hikers will find downloadable guides at www.everytrail.com (search hiking spree). This website allows participants to download maps to a smart phone and track hikes and points of interest for others to view.
The Highlands Center for Natural History is located at 1375 S. Walker Road in Prescott, just 2 miles south of Highway 69 at Costco.