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Monday, March 5, 2012

Escape to "snowy" mountain

WOLVERTON MOUNTAIN-WHITE SPAR PEAK
City of Prescott-Prescott National Forest
Summit of White Spar

In Prescott-- the town where the streets have multiple, morphing  names--the same confusing moniker-muddling  applies to  local trails and geographic landmarks.   Case in point: the Wolverton Mountain Trail.  This lovely, pine-chaparral trail is also dubbed the Sierra Prieta Trail, forest trail #9415 and is now also part of the City of Prescott  Circle Trail System.  Confused?  Don't be—the trail is meticulously signed, heavily-traveled, and not-too-far from civilization, so there's little chance you'll loose your way.
Snow on Aspen Creek trail: March 3, 2012
Anchored by two easy-to-access trailheads, we chose to begin the hike at the Aspen Creek lot on Copper Basin Road.  From here, the hike begins across the road on trail #48 (Aspen Creek Trail). Hike steeply uphill 0.4 mile to  the turn off for “9415” (Wolverton Mountain Trail) at the second junction.   Note that the “9415” signs are located a few yards past the intersections---so make sure you locate them before making any turns.  Along the way, two side trips make for interesting exploration.  First up--just past the a gate near mile 1.2--there's a short 0.5 mile dirt road heading left that leads to a weather station below a high ridge on Wolverton Mountain where nice views of Prescott's  Thumb Butte area shine below.  The second detour is a highly-recommended  trip up to White Spar Peak (a.k.a. Quartz Mountain). At roughly 2.5 miles, turn right onto trail 9415A and follow a maze of old roads to a point just below the  top of the snowy-white quartz massif.  Here, it's easy to pick out informal footpaths that lead to the summit.  Hint---you should not have to scramble or use your hands to climb to the summit—if you find yourself doing so, locate an easier  route.  Well worth the extra effort, the hike up White Spar rewards with 360-degree views of  Flagstaff's  San Francisco Peaks, Bill Williams Mountain in Williams, the Verde River Canyon, and of course, the local lakes, woodlands and granite dells. We hiked this trail on March 3, 2012—a couple of days after a storm dusted the forests with a few inches of snow. Waning drifts in the south-facing canyons and a veil of frost on the peak made this trek all the more enjoyable.
Approaching White Spar (left) from Wolverton Mtn. trail

LENGTH: 5 miles one-way (7.6 miles with side trips)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  5,600' -6,694'
FACILITIES/FEES: none
BEST SEASON: year-round, but best October – May
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 118 miles one way
GETTING THERE:
WEST: Aspen Creek trailhead:
From the AZ69/89 junction in Prescott continue 1.25 miles west on 69 (becomes Gurley St) to Montezuma St.. Turn left (south) on Montezuma (turns into AZ89/White Spar Road) and go 1 mile to the light at Copper Basin Road.  Turn right and go 4.6 miles on  Copper Basin (turns to good dirt after 1.6 miles) to the trailhead on the right---signed Aspen Creek Trailhead. 
EAST: White Spar Campground trailhead:
From the AZ69/89 junction in Prescott continue 1.25 miles west on 69 (becomes Gurley St) to Montezuma St. Turn left (south)  south on Montezuma (turns into AZ89/White Spar Road) and go 3 miles to the parking lot on the left.  Trail access is south of the campground on the west side of  AZ89.
INFO & MAP: http://www.cityofprescott.net/services/parks/trails/?id=44

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