|Granite Mountain seen from Vista Trail|
routes, which were adopted and developed over that last few years, are located
less than 5 miles northwest of historic downtown Prescott and are accessible by
way of paved roads. While the trails can
be reached through connecting routes that extend north from Thumb Butte, the
Spence Springs trailhead that opened in 2019 offers direct access to the heart
of the system.
A boulder passage on Juniper Gate Trail Ponderosa pines shade the Noodle Loop
30-mile maze of Spence Basin’s loopy, hilly single tracks speak to their
mountain-biker origins. Tightly woven,
with dozens of ways to customize both length and difficulty levels, the trails
roll out in the varied terrain around Spence Creek. The signage along the routes is among the
best you’ll find anywhere, making it simple to find your way around. Junctions are outfitted with
you-are-here-style map signs that show mileages, connecting routes, GPS
coordinates, emergency location codes and smart phone app codes. Deciding where to begin exploring the
convoluted trail cluster is the only dilemma.
For first-timers, an introductory loop using the Noodle, Vista, BLM and
Juniper Gate trails is a great way to experience some of the best bits. Here’s how.
Snowy Sierra Prieta Mtns seen from Vista Trail
trailhead, cross the road and begin with a short walk on Noodle Loop #760. At the first junction (emergency marker sign
SB03), turn right onto the Vista Trail #706.
This leg of the hike starts by delving into a sunny juniper-dotted
drainage area with patches of shady ponderosa pine and oak woodlands. Vista Trail makes an easy climb on slopes at
the northern edge of the system. Exposed
highpoints reveal views of Thumb Butte and the Sierra Prieta Mountains to the
south and fleeting glimpses of Granite Mountain and Williamson Valley to the
Spence Springs Trailhead opened in 2019 BLM Trail cross a drainage in Spence Basin
At map sign SB18, pick up the BLM trail #729 which spirals off the high ledges into the rough-cut drainages of Spence Creek.
Alligator junipers are abundant along the trails
Tracing the creek and major runoff areas, this segment of the hike winds through forests thick with water-loving shrubs and soaring pines. Next up, connect with the Juniper Gate trail #714 at map sign SB05 and get ready for yet another flavor thrown into the mix. True to its name, this leg is heavy on the junipers with a side of edgy traverses and cool boulder passages above the rocky creek bed.
Snow lingers in crevases in Spence Basin
Follow Juniper Gate back to the Noodle Loop, which spools out like limp fettuccine with hairpin turns wrapping around inclines and scoured ravines, and follow the signs back to the trailhead.
Trails cut through coniferous woodlands
After scratching the surface with this sampler hike, download the map app to see more ways to enjoy one of Prescott’s newest hiking hubs.
Thumb Butte seen from Vista Trail
LENGTH: 4.6-mile loop as described here
ELEVATION: 5,490 – 5,936 feet
Spence Springs Trailhead:
From Courthouse Square in downtown Prescott, go north on Montezuma Street which will turn into Whipple Street then Iron Springs Road (County Road 10) for 4.8 miles to Spence Springs Road on the left. This is located just past the turnoff for Granite Basin Recreation Area. The trailhead is on the left a few yards down the road.
At this writing, the trailhead has a port-o-potty and map kiosk but no water.
Future plans include the addition of a vault restroom and picnic tables.
INFO & MAPS: