Sunday, August 16, 2009
SMITH RAVINE Prescott National Forest There are no spruce trees on Spruce Mountain. The elegant conifers with blue-green needles that line the mountain’s eastern flank are actually white firs that were misidentified by early explorers. The Smith Ravine trail #297 leads to the Spruce Mountain fire tower where panoramic views of the mountain lakes and green forests of Prescott Valley roll out to the horizon. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 30-foot-high cabin was constructed in 1936 to keep watch over the Bradshaw Mountains. One of several trails that lead to the tower, trail #297 begins in an area that was recently charred by fire. After roughly a half-mile, the trail leaves the fire-damaged hillsides and dips into Smith Ravine— a deeply wooded drainage cluttered with elder, pines and a smattering of velvet ash and thin leaf alders. Larger than a gully but smaller than a canyon, a “ravine” is a narrow passage in mountainous terrain that was carved by running water. The official trail ends at the 3-mile point where it intersects Forest Road 52A. From here, go left and follow the dirt road 1.4 miles to the lookout tower. HIGHLIGHTS: historic lookout tower, great views of Prescott Valley LENGTH: 8.5 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION RANGE: 6,200 – 7,693 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 120 miles GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to exit 262 for Highway 69. Go west (toward Prescott) on Highway 69 to Walker Road (County Road 57 which is just past the Costco center). Follow Walker Road south for 5.7 miles to the Smith Ravine trailhead at milepost 5 on the right side of the road. INFORMATION: 928-771-4700 fs.fed.us/r3/prescott/recreation/trails/pdf/rec_trai_b_smra297.pdf KNOW YOUR CONIFIRS: Here’s a simplified field test for determining is a tree is a pine, fir or spruce. Look at the needles and use this “P-F-S” cheat sheet to identify the tree-type. PINES have long Pony-tail-like clumps of needles FIRS have short, Flat needles SPRUCE have short Square needles.