Prescott National Forest
Grief Hill, Yellowjacket Gulch, Lonesome Pocket, Blind Indian Creek, Battle Flat, and Horsethief Basin. These formidable place names of the Prescott National Forest are a heritage from harsher times. From here, more than a century ago, Arizona Territory was proclaimed in the middle of the wilderness. Trails and camps were made by intrepid frontiersmen, who bet their lives and sometimes lost. Stolen herds once healed fresh brands at Horsethief Basin. Five desperate cowboys held off 150 Indians in a furious gunfight at Battle Flat. Ten faint graves suggest the inspiration for Grief Hill. The colorful names are authentic.
Portions of the Prescott National Forest today are much the same as they were when Sam Miller reached for gold in Lynx Creek and was wounded by a wildcat, or when General Crook's flag of command fluttered over Palace Station.
Elevations within the forest range from 3,000 to 8,000 feet. This national forest lies in a mountainous section of central Arizona between forested plateaus to the north and arid desert to the south.
Within the Prescott National Forest there are nearly a million and a quarter acres just brimming with outdoor recreation opportunities. Their diversity is outstanding. High cool peaks of the Bradshaw Mountains contrast sharply with the sun-baked Sonoran Desert below. In between, desert grasslands, chaparral, canyon hardwoods, pinion and juniper woodlands, and vast ponderosa pine forests offer outstanding variety for Prescott National Forest visitors.
Recreation activities are equally diverse. The outstanding climate allows year-round opportunities for camping, picnicking, fishing, hunting, driving for pleasure, nature photography, mountain climbing, hiking, and horseback riding. Check at any forest office for information on these and many other activities.
For the hiker, backpacker, horseback rider, or trail biker the Prescott offers a variety of scenic trails totaling almost 450 miles. The forest contains one National Recreational Trail—Granite Mountain Trail, and a National Historic Study Trail—General Crook Trail. A mild climate allows the trails to be enjoyed year-round. However, it is recommended that adequate water be a high priority when planning a hiking trip since natural water sources are scarce and undependable throughout most of the forest.
There are eight separate areas, comprising almost 116,000 acres, which are officially designated as wilderness in the Prescott National Forest. From the upper Sonoran desert of Castle Creek Wilderness, to the tall cool pines of Pine Mountain Wilderness, to the breathtaking red rocks of Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, these areas represent a very significant resource.
Opportunities for hiking and camping are numerous in each wilderness area. Visitors seek out these areas for quiet solitude and naturalness, probably the most important characteristics for a wilderness.
Granite Mountain Wilderness, the Forest's only "urban" wilderness, is located just a few short miles by paved road from Prescott. This spectacular area offers beautiful vistas, pre-Cambrian granite boulder fields, and some of the best technical rock climbing in America.
Recreation opportunities are diverse and plentiful. The forest offers the closest relief from the summer heat in the "Valley of the Sun." Thousands of visitors each year come to camp in one of many developed recreation sites situated in the cool pines, to hike or bike the hundreds of miles of trails, to swim in the cool streams, and to interpret the rich forest history. Since winters are mild, many of these opportunities are available year round.
Prehistoric and historic sites are numerous. From Sinagua cliff dwellings along the upper Verde River, to historic stagecoach stops like Palace Station, to old gold mining sites and ghost towns, these unique resources offer visitors a rare opportunity to better understand prehistoric Indian cultures, and what life must have been like in the "Old West."
For the more daring visitors, the forest offers opportunities for hang gliding, technical rock climbing and bouldering, whitewater rafting, and excellent mountain bicycling.
For the recreation visitor there are 11 campgrounds, 4 group reservation campgrounds and 7 picnic areas, including two that accommodate reservations. Most of the developed recreation sites are located in the pines and 5 of the 11 campgrounds are situated near manmade lakes. With the exception of the group reservation sites, the camp and picnic areas are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some campgrounds have spaces that will accommodate recreational vehicles, but none of the sites are equipped with water, electricity, or sewer hook-ups. The main camping and picnic season in the forest generally runs from late May to early September; however, many of the developed sites remain open for use after the regular season.
Several developed sites offer barrier-free access for physically challenged citizens.
Many campgrounds are serviced by citizen volunteers?your help is needed to keep campgrounds clean. Campground hosts will help you find a campsite or provide information regarding camping or local recreation opportunities. Your host or any Forest Service employee will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
The Bradshaws, located south of Prescott, have long been known for being one of the most highly mineralized mountain ranges in the world. Mining as early as the mid-1800's first brought settlers to this part of Arizona. By the end of 1864, over 1,600 prospectors were camped in the Bradshaws. "Gold Fever" was rampant in those days.
Yavapai County, which encompasses the Bradshaws, has long been known as a rich mining area. The actual mineral production of gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc exceeded $400 million through 1928. This is an amazing fact when one considers that the area is less than 150 square miles.
Today visitors can experience gold panning along Lynx Creek much like the prospectors did in the 1800's. The Bradshaw Mountains self-guided motor tour of historical mining sites is also a favorite activity.
The Bradshaws offer cool relief from the desert below, with numerous developed and dispersed recreation opportunities available. Mount Union, in the Bradshaws, is the highest elevation on the forest, just a few feet shy of 8,000 feet. From 7,000 feet to 8,000 feet elevation along the Bradshaw Range, the vegetation changes from pure forests of ponderosa pine to mixed conifer forests of Douglas-fir and white fir.
The diverse habitats of the forest provide a home for a wide variety of wildlife species. Rocky Mountain elk and mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, javelina and black bear are seen by unsuspecting forest visitors. Small mammals calling the Prescott National Forest home include Aberts and grey squirrel, fox, raccoon and badger.
Forest dwelling birds are also plentiful. Wild turkey, band-tailed pigeon, dove, quail, waterfowl and numerous non-game birds abound throughout the forest. Birdwatching is a very popular activity among visitors and the many different species of song birds and cavity nesters will test the knowledge of even the most experienced bird watcher.
Trout fishing is available at Lynx Lake. Crappies, bluegill, largemouth bass and catfish can be taken from many of the water impoundments around the forest. The Verde River offers excellent fishing for channel catfish, smallmouth bass and bullheads.
The forest is also home to several threatened or endangered plant and animal species, including the bald eagle, spiked ace, gila monster and Arizona cliffrose. Management activities are designed to improve habitats for these species and assist their recovery in both population and distribution.
Truly one of Arizona's jewels, the Verde River passes through the east half of the Verde Ranger District and forms the southeast border of the forest. The mountains and creeks on the north end of the Chino Valley Ranger District make up the majority of the headwaters for this important Arizona river.
Recreation opportunities abound along the Verde. Whitewater rafting is a popular activity during peak flows in the spring. Camping, picnicking, fishing and swimming are favorite activities during the summer months when temperatures soar.
A portion of the Verde River is officially designated as one of America's Wild and Scenic Rivers. Management activities are designed to protect and enhance the soil, vegetation and wildlife habitats of this priceless resource.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication