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Monday, September 26, 2011

GROOM CREEK-ISABELLA LOOP

GROOM CREEK-ISABELLA LOOP
Prescott National Forest

Located just a few miles south of downtown Prescott’s main drag, this loop trail is a premier hiking destination in the Bradshaw Mountains.
The trailhead is easy to find and--with minimal application of common sense—it’s nearly impossible to get lost along the route. Unlike other nearby trails, this one is closed to noisy motorized vehicles like dirt bikes and ATVs---a high-value treat for those in search of a calming outdoor experience.  It’s easiest to hike the loop in clockwise fashion—beginning on the Groom Creek trail #307, which heads north (left) from the trailhead sign.

A substantial but steady ascent follows natural drainages through a wonderland of mica-flecked granite boulders flanking the path in sentry-like formation. 
Woodlands flush with broadleaf and coniferous trees shade the way framing continually changing vistas including glimpses of Prescott’s Granite Mountain.  Near the half-way point, a small clearing with picnic tables, restroom and a short spur trail to Spruce Mountain fire tower makes for a handy place to take a lunch break and do some exploring.  From here pick up the Isabella trail #377—to find it, stand with your back toward the restroom so that the fire tower is to your left. You’ll see a road directly ahead (this is NOT the trail), and two other roads off to the right.  Take the narrow middle road (go right) which is signed 377---if you do not see the sign, you’re on the wrong path.  Follow 377 back to the trailhead.
Oak trees cluster along Isabella Trail
LENGTH:  8.7-mile loop
ELEVATION: 6,400’ – 7,750’
RATING:  moderate
BEST SEASON: year round
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 120 miles one-way
GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to Cordes Junction.  Exit onto SR 69 west and proceed through the towns of Mayer, Dewey and Prescott Valley to the town of Prescott.  Continue on SR 69/Gurley Street through Prescott to Mt. Vernon Ave.  Turn south (left) onto Mt. Vernon Ave. (which will turn into Senator Highway) and continue 6.4 miles to the Groom Creek Trailhead on the left.  Roads are 100% paved.
INFO: Bradshaw Ranger District, Prescott National Forest, 928-771-4700

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