Friday, December 19, 2008
GROOM CREEK LOOP Prescott National Forest Topping off at 7,700 feet of elevation, the well-maintained Groom Creek trail heads steeply uphill through pine-shaded Wolf Creek drainage to the lookout tower on Spruce Mountain. Considered to be one of the most attractive horse/hiker/mountain bike trails in the Prescott National Forest, hikers are treated to a continuous smorgasbord of splendid panoramic views, gurgling streams and, (if invited up by the ranger), a chance to visit in the fire tower. LENGTH: 9 mile loop RATING: difficult ELEV. GAIN: 1,350 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, travel north on I-17 for about 65 miles to the Cordes Junction interchange. From there, connect with Highway 69 and go west toward Prescott. Continue on Highway 69 for about 25 miles into the town of Prescott. Once in Prescott, continue on Highway 69 as it turns into Gurley Street. Go south (left) onto Mt. Vernon Ave. and follow it for 6.4 miles as it turns into the Senator Highway. The trailhead is on the east (left) side of the road. There are restrooms at the trailhead and below the lookout tower.
DONAHUE TRAIL Tonto National Forest THE HIKE: From the trailhead, follow the Pine Canyon Trail #26 0.5-mile to the Pine View trail #28 junction. Bear right at the signed junction and continue for another 0.65-mile to the Highline Trail #31. Continue on #31 for roughly 0.40 mile to the turn off for Donahue Trail #27 on the left. From here, it’s all uphill for another mile to the top of Milk Ranch Point. Last mile to the top is steep and very rocky. Marked only by occasional cairns, the loose rock underfoot slows your pace, but that’s probably a good thing because the views of the Mazatzal Mountain range and the hamlets of Pine and Strawberry are exquisite. For it’s entire length, the trail alternates from shaded conifer forest to sun-drenched terraces of crumbling sandstone. Once on the top, the trail becomes difficult to follow because of many fallen trees and overgrown brush, but it’s still possible to continue on the primitive path for another three-quarters-of-a-mile to Forest Road 218 and the turnaround point for the hike. LENGTH: 6.5 miles round-trip RATING: moderate ELEVATION GAIN: 1,630 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) north for 90 miles to the town of Payson. From the intersection of Highways 87 and 260, continue north on Highway 87 for another 15 miles toward the town of Pine. Once past the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and “Control Road” 64, look for the turn off for the Pine Trailhead (FR 297) on the right side of the road. Follow FR 297 for one quarter of a mile to the trailhead. The roads are paved all he way and there’s a restroom at the trailhead.