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To say that the connected rail-trails of Prescott are oases in sun-baked, north-central Arizona is no exaggeration. Wherever water touches this arid landscape—and it does along the Peavine and Iron King trails—jade cottonwoods cluster, popping out against the desert's pale yellow and burnt brown palette. And, at 5,300 feet above sea level, with cool breezes tempered by hot sunshine, Prescott is an ideal place for trail trips in the late winter and spring.
The 5.5-mile Peavine Trail begins just south of Watson Lake at the gravel parking lot by the lush Watson Woods Riparian Preserve. The crushed stone and dirt trail runs through a sea of green as it traverses the preserve. Through the trees you may even hear the rush of nearby Granite Creek, swollen after a bout of rain.
A mile in, the trail leaves the preserve and curves around the southern end of Lake Watson to reach the Granite Dells, massive mounds of weather-beaten rock. This natural formation is a big tourist draw, and you'll see the majority of fellow trail users here. It's no wonder: As you pass through the cool cuts in the granite, you're enfolded in a kind of castle of desert stone.
All along this route water leaches from cracks in the rock walls and improbable, hearty flowers—red and yellow—pop from the crevasses. The temptation to scramble up the smooth, stony inclines for a scenic vista is keen, but no sight is more arresting than the perfectly framed view of far-off Granite Mountain over Lake Watson.
Once you've pulled your eyes and your camera away from the view, continue heading northward. The trail follows the former Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix Railway corridor that fed into Prescott, once the territorial capital of Arizona and famous for its copper mining. Wooden decking and railroad ties lie scattered along the trail. At mile 3 and the Point of Rocks, the railroad's ghost is impossible to miss. Here the trail passes through a cut made for trains in a tall, sheer rock cluster. A trailside historical marker shows a photo of the identical view, taken some 100 years earlier. In the photo a hulking engine chugs through the pass.
Beyond Point of Rocks, you reach a fork in the trail. Head left to continue on the Peavine Trail for 1 mile to its end point atop a gravel-covered railroad bridge. A two-lane country road runs beneath you, and private property spreads in vast tracts beyond. As tantalizing as the call of the open range might be, don't consider trespassing. Instead, head back to that fork in the road, turn right and hop on the 4-mile Iron King Trail.
There is a large paved parking lot at the trail's northern terminus at the north end of Side Road off Centerpointe East Drive. Take Pioneer Parkway/89A to Centerpointe E. Drive. To reach the southern trailhead, take Route 69 east out of Prescott and turn (left) north onto Prescott Lakes Parkway. Follow the parkway to Sundog Ranch Road and turn right. There's a large parking lot on the left. You can also take Route 89 north out of Prescott and turn right onto Prescott Lakes Parkway. Follow the parkway to Sundog Ranch Road and turn left.
There is a $2 fee to park at the Sundog Ranch Road trailhead, except on Wednesday, which is free. Use the machine, which takes credit cards. The northern trailhead is free.
It took a bit for me to find the North parking lot. Take the granite Dells exit off 89A and E Centrepoint Drive will be on the right. It's a great parking lot. Number one it's free and the second perk is on the way back to your car the grade is downhill! Not really much of a grade. But made for a fast ride back to the car. Great Trail for biking. Beautiful scenery wildflowers, the Dells, Watson lake, streams, trees, benches and bike racks to explore the trail on foot. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day!
Trail is well maintained and really smooth.
Great views! Well maintained trail, neat antique rail cars, and plenty of room for hikers & cyclists to share the path.
We had a little trouble finding the northern trail head, but when we found the connection of Highway 89A it was as described. The wind was gusting rather strong, which was good news and bad news. The good news it was hot and the breeze gave some welcome relief, but it was a head wind. With all that said, it was a great trail with some beautiful scenery. The Iron King started off very scenic but turn into less scenic and very open before the end.
This was my next to the last trail in my quest to ride all the Hall of Fame Trails. My wife and I really enjoyed Prescott as we were from Virginia.
After parking, trail head, might pay for parking - Wednesday it was free, but what you get is well worth it! The city park & rec., and others (boy scout) did a great support of this gravel trail w/ old western story boards along the way. Get ready to be surprise as the red rounded boulders look like the background from Disney the Big Thunder mountain railroad ride.
It really takes you back in time. A must go ride.
We road our mountain bikes on this trail in early May 2011. The trail is crusher fines and packed dirt and is in great shape. We saw many people biking on hybrid bikes on this trail.
The scenery is outstanding - the granite dells are very unique and interesting. There were also many types of cactus and bushes blooming along the trail. Unfortunately we forgot our camera, as the views along the trail were great.
There is a large paved parking lot at the trailhead, but there is now a $2 a day fee to park, except on Wednesdays which are free. There is a machine that takes credit cards that you can use to pay the parking fee.
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