Granite Mountain Hiking Trail
★★★★☆ Moderate / Prescott Area:
Mild mountain temperatures and far-flung Prescott & Chino valleys views make this a quintessential weekend hike. Tucked into the easily-accessible Prescott National Forest, Granite Mountain Hiking Trail offers the best of Arizona’s middle plateau: minimal crowds, milder temperatures, pine-lined paths, a cool lake and incredible expansive views.
TRAILHEAD: North Granite Basin Road, Prescott, AZ • DIFFICULTY: Moderate • DISTANCE: 4.1 MILES (8.2 MILES RT) • APPROX. TIME: 4-5 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 1,600 FEET (114 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 1,230-1,395 • BEST TIME OF YEAR: SEPT. – July • PETS: YES • KID FRIENDLY: Yes (10 and up) • FACILITIES: YES (no water) • FEES: $5 day use (or annual National Park Pass)
The falcons soaring over Granite Mountain’s high cliffs, and ducks bobbing in and out of La Playa lake, make a perfect introduction to this picturesque mountain hike. Starting at the pine-lined Metate trailhead, the Granite Mountain Hiking Trail makes a gentle arc around the base of this boulder-strewn mountain, then up it’s westernmost slope to a rocky summit.
The hike’s first mile is crazy easy, traversing the base of the range under fragrant pines, hopscotching minor creek beds and snuggling up against green grassy meadows. Fleeting glimpses of brightly colored yellow, orange or red birds abound in this avian paradise (as do the nature photographers, who seem to roost in every meadow, surprising hikers with bizarre sounding bird calls).
At a metal gate, 1.5 miles into the hike (behind which both Little Granite Mountain and Clark Spring’s Trails can be accessed) the Granite Mountain Hiking Trail arches right and begins its gradual switchback up the mountain. Signs of the devastating 2013 Yarnell forest fire are apparent from this point on, where a wide swath of the mountain slope and valley were consumed by flames. In this surreal landscape, charred black tree trunks provide dramatic backdrops to technicolor flowers and spritely new growth making a comeback post-fire.
At three miles the trail mounts the crest and crosses a narrow saddle, with elongated views of the northwestern Chino Valley farmlands to the left, and the southeastern valley to the right, while the sculptural remains of scorched pines create a black framework. The hike’s last mile is relatively flat as it moves along the crest to the pinnacle. A tall granite peak signals the end of the trail. Although not an easy climb, some ambitious hikers scramble to the top for king-of-the-mountain quality 360 degree views. Even without the scramble, the plentiful granite plateaus on the summit offer inviting places to sit and take in the Prescott and Chino Valleys spilling out for miles below.
During Spring and Summer, Granite Mountain is a popular nesting ground for Peregrine falcons. Thus the odd sounding nature photographers on the trail, whistling to lure them (and other birds) into view.
Directions From the intersection of I-17 and AZ-69 (I-17 exit 262) take AZ-69 north, towards Prescott, for 34 miles. Then merge left/west onto AZ-89, towards downtown Prescott. Drive 1.4 miles on AZ-89 and then turn right/north onto North Montezuma Street. Continue 4.5 miles on North Montezuma Street (which becomes Whipple Street, and then Iron Springs Road) to the intersection of Granite Basin Road. Turn right/north onto Granite Basin Road and drive 3.5 miles to the Metate Parking Area on the left.
- Boulders, Central Arizona, Chino Valley, Dayhike, Moderate, Pet Friendly, Prescott, Views
- May 23, 2015