Recreation on the Prescott Forest
The Verde River is one of Arizona’s only two Wild and Scenic Rivers (as designated by the National Wild and Scenic River System), yet it remains relatively undiscovered as a recreational resource. That doesn’t mean this clear desert stream has little to offer. It’s an excellent place to fish for a number of species including trout, which the Arizona Game and Fish Department has begun stocking on a put and take basis. The Verde is also becoming more and more popular for recreational boating. Some stretches provide scenic canoeing among long pools and manageable rapids. Other sections become exciting whitewater runs during the spring snow-melt or after late summer thunderstorms.
Summer visitors seeking relief from the hot weather of the desert come to Prescott to camp, fish, picnic, hike and ride. The main recreation season generally runs from May to October; however, winter daytime temperatures are moderate and the Prescott National Forest can be enjoyed all year.
The forest contains 10 campgrounds, 4 group reservation campgrounds, 7 picnic areas, and 2 group reservation picnic areas. Most of the developed recreation sites are located in the pines with 5 of the campgrounds and two of the picnic areas situated near man made lakes. Several developed sites offer barrier-free access for users experiencing disabilities.
Nearly 450 miles of scenic trails for hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, or mountain biking are offered on the Prescott National Forest. The forest also contains one National Recreational Trail (Granite Mountain Trail) and one National Historic Study trail (General Crook Trail). The mild climate allows the trails to be enjoyed year-round.
For the more daring visitors, the forest offers opportunities for hang gliding, technical rock climbing and bouldering, whitewater rafting, and excellent mountain bicycling.
The Prescott National Forest is guardian of more than 100,000 acres of wilderness represented by 8 wilderness areas. Of these, Granite Mountain Wilderness is the most popular because it is only 20 minutes from Prescott by paved road.
Items you might need: river map, hat, sunscreen.
Pine Mountain Wilderness
At 6,814 feet, Pine Mountain is the highest point on the Verde River Rim, which slashes across this area from northeast to southwest. On the mountain’s southeastern side, the unmistakable steep and rocky Skeleton Ridge falls toward the Verde River, a National Wild & Scenic River. On the rim, you’ll find an “island” of tall ponderosa pine and Douglas fir surrounded by desert mountains and hot dry mesas covered in pinion and juniper, cut by rugged canyons. The rim overlooks the Verde River with fine views out across the desert. Despite scant water, wildlife abounds here on forested slopes and in the canyons, especially game animals. This area was first protected in the 1930s by the Forest Service; the effects of over 80 years of protection are apparent to the careful observer. The processes of nature are unhindered here.
Pine Mountain Wilderness straddles the boundary between the Prescott and Tonto National Forests. Backpackers will find plenty of solitude on the area’s 37 miles of trails.