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Wed, March 20

Column: For a really long hike, go in a Circle
'Hiking Arizona'

I spoke last time to the issue of hiking beyond 50, as in 50 years. Now I want to speak about hiking beyond 50, as in 50 miles.

The Prescott Circle Trail offers a close and convenient opportunity to hike over 50 miles, whether you are beyond or below 50 years of age. While this Circle may be sliced in any number of ways, I’ll discuss my most recent approach, in the context of being beyond 50 years of age.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I have completed this trail in its entirety 13 times. The last four times I did so, I did it in sections and that is how I am doing it again this year. I now divide the trail into two main divisions.

Wild is the portion on the west and south sides, about 22.33 miles. It is a forested trail, hillier, with some surface water in wet seasons. Civilized is the portion on the east and north sides, about 33.22 miles. It is open, less shaded, and less hilly, with views of streets, rooftops and lakes.

Having done the trail in September 2007, July 2008, January and May 2009, May and August 2010, March and October 2011, May 2012 and in piecemeal fashion in the summer of 2012 and the spring of 2016, I prefer spring.

Breaking up the Circle Trail into segments, accentuates the individual character of each part. In the days before the trail was complete, I had to be more creative and used nearby trails to complete the Circle, such as School House Gulch instead of Trail 396. Back then I also used the Peavine and Iron King Trails around the east and north sides of Glassford Hill.

The first section I did this year, was Trail 396 between Senator Highway and Highway 89, past Goldwater Lake. This trail section is posted with a warning to pay attention, as it is highly used. Therefore, headphones are discouraged. I thought hikers wanted to tune in to their surroundings, not tune them out.

As my group started down the trail, another group was coming out and they advised us that a rattlesnake was up ahead. As we filed past the snake, it “said” nothing. By about the third person in line, it started to rattle. No one had noticed it up to this point. It was not loud and could have easily been missed by someone wearing headphones.

Since it was just off the trail, that would not have been a problem, but if such a hiker stopped for a break and stepped off the trail at that spot, unable to hear the warning, things could have ended badly.

Another tip for this section of the PCT, with its high traffic, is to not stop on the trail, even for a moment. I came across a bull-snake a couple of days later sunning itself on the trail. Bad idea. That’s a good way to get run over as quite a few trail users on 396 are bikers.

Therefore, I would not even stop to chat, admire the view, or get a drink unless I stepped off the trail.

The other sections I have done so far this year include the segment between Copper Basin Road and Thumb Butte Road and the northern segment past Willow Lake between Highway 89 and Pioneer Parkway. Each was about 10-11 miles round trip, for a very nice day hike close to home.

Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at


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