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Thu, June 27

12 Prescott-area hikes for diehards and meanderers

School House Gulch

School House Gulch

The Highlands Center for Natural History has kicked off its 2016 Hiking Spree program. This year’s list of trails takes in 12 from the Prescott area*, none of which require a trailhead parking fee.

People who complete at least eight of the 12 trails before Dec. 31 – all on their own time – are eligible to purchase the 2016 collectors medallion and enter a prize drawing for $200 from The Hike Shack.

Maps are available at the Highlands Center at 1375 S. Walker Road, The Hike Shack at 104 N. Montezuma St., and at the Prescott National Forest (PNF) office, 344 S. Cortez St.

Highlands Center Executive Director asks hikers to send a brief email as they complete, or hike a portion of, the trails. Completing a trail is optional. Place the name of the hike in the subject line, for instance, 1. Embry-Riddle, and give your name, the number of people you usually hike with, a brief comment on what you liked/disliked about the hike and how many Spree hikes you’ve done so far this year. Email to: HikeSpree@HighlandsCenter.org.

Here’s a look at a few of the popular and the less well-known trails.

Willow Lake south: Total out and back hike is 4.6 miles, moderate difficulty. The trail is almost level, with good views of the lake most of the way. There is no shade so go on a cloudy day, or later in the season when it’s cooler. Th e Willow Lake trail is part of the Prescott Circle Trail.

Goldwater Lakes Loop: Trail 330 (Feldmeier) was completed in 2015. The second half of the loop is on Trail 396 – part of the Prescott Circle Trail. Both trails undulate and wind through the pines, with occasional glimpses of the lakes between the trees. Be aware of mountain bikers. Park on the left (east side of Senator Highway) on dirt lot just after MP 4. Trails 62 and 299 are at north end. Trail 396 is across road. Total loop hike is 6.8 miles, with strenuous with elevations between 5,270 and 6,160 feet.

Upper Pasture Loop: Total loop is 6.5 miles, rated strenuous. To reach trailhead, drive 8.4 miles out Iron Springs Road to the junction with Contreras Road on right. Drive north on Contreras Road for 0.8 miles to FR 9261U on right (open area), and 0.8 miles on FR 9261U. Park by wash on left. NOTE: FR 9261U is rough in places – low clearance vehicles can park at start of this road.

Optional hike (out and back) is 4.2 miles with moderate difficulty rating. Add 1.6 miles if you park by Contreras Road. Starting elevation 5,340 going up to 5,990 feet. The trail is along an old forest road. After about 0.7 miles, you will go into the burn area from the 2013 Doce Fire. At the junction of trails #38 and #39, hike the loop counterclockwise. The loop undulates and has little shade. On the west side of Granite Mountain, there are some huge granite boulders with interesting shapes.

All maps with descriptions of and directions to the hikes and more information on the Hiking Spree program can be found at www.highlandscenter.org.

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