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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Liquid gold of the backwoods


In the grand scheme of things, gold may be precious, but here in Arizona, water is like gold.  Although we have our fair share of creeks, lakes and rivers, it's not like say, Seattle where it’s so damp, moisture is taken for granted. Our water is as rare and beloved as any gem that ever  adorned Elizabeth Taylor. This relative scarcity of surface wetness means that water hikes are an especially big deal here in the Grand Canyon State.  And, with the annual onslaught of dreaded triple-digit heat now smothering the Valley, more of us will be craving luscious creek side escapes in the coming months.  Of course, some of the best water-themed hikes require navigating miserable roads and planning meticulously timed arduous treks into the backwoods of the Mogollon Rim and beyond.  However, there are a few places where water flows just yards from maintained beaten paths.  One good place to try is the gold-panning area north of Prescott's Lynx Lake.  Here, footpaths and two short trails thread among creek side willows, fragrant pines, dredge tailings from former gold mining operations and trickling rivulets heading toward the Lynx Lake dam. The water here is shallow and flow varies with snowmelt and rain but the area's nice shade, easy access and proximity to myriad recreations opportunities make this a sweet kick off spot for a day of exploring. 

Trail 444:  0.5 mile one-way
Highlands Trail 442: 1.2 miles one-way
ELEVATION: 5425' - 5656'
RATING: easy, exploratory
FACILITIES: vault toilet at site
HOURS: day use only
From Phoenix, go north on I17 to the Cordes Junction interchange for AZ69.  Head west toward Prescott on AZ69 to the stoplight at Walker Road which is just past the Costco and milepost 293. Turn left and follow Walker Rd 1.2 miles to Lynx Creek Road (FR9401, signed Lynx Creek Ruins/Salida Gulch), turn left and continue 0.4 mile to the "gold panning" trailhead on the right.  
Bradshaw Ranger District, Prescott National Forest


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