Some people like to get to know a place by visiting the tourist hot spots and museums. If you're ready to see more of Prescott, pack your hiking boots or trail shoes and come on up for another visit! To help you choose the best Prescott hike for your experience and time constraints, here is a rundown on the hiking culture in the Prescott area.
You'll find all kinds of people on the trails surrounding Prescott, my hometown. The hardiest may just be the endurance people. They're out there training for triathlons and marathons. These people aren't hiking Prescott's trails: they are running them, when they aren't cycling or swimming. They are incredibly fit and focused, sport technical shoes and clothing, and are out there solo in all kinds of weather. Taking advantage of Prescott's mile-high altitude, this kind of workout might be perfect for you if you're a competitive runner yourself.
Next (and just as serious) are those who are training for a "rim-to-rim" hike at the Grand Canyon or some other equally arduous backpacking trek. These folks wear boots or Tevas or high-performance trail shoes. They might be out there alone or with a hiking partner, and they are building up distance and endurance on the up-and-down rocky terrain of some of Prescott's most challenging trails.
Prescott, AZ has several active hiking clubs. These groups often attract people new to Prescott (many retired) who prefer an active lifestyle. They take full advantage of the natural setting by exploring trails with other like-minded people. They are ardent and frequent hikers, hiking all over Arizona and beyond. To that end, they are well turned out with suitable clothing, hats and even walking sticks. They hike somewhere new all the time, in social groups of varying sizes, so you might meet such a group spread out over a mile or so on some or the more remote and/or challenging trails.
Birders are out on the Prescott trails, too, lugging binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras, field guides and logs. They are quiet, whether solitary or in small groups, and become very animated when they spot a species they've been tracking.
And now the category to which I assign myself: those out for a nice walk for exercise and fresh air, with or without canine buddies or walking partners. We wear just about any old thing on our backs, heads and feet. Walking outside is simply a part of this group's fitness routine. Sure, you can accomplish this goal with treadmill work, but when you are lucky to live in a place like Prescott, with beautiful weather, views, and air you can actually breathe, walking outside is a reward in itself.
When I first got my dog, Chester, I branched out and explored trails I might not have felt safe on without a dog at my side–-we'd often go somewhere new every day. After about a year, I settled on a less adventurous routine that can be accomplished whenever I have time to take a break from work.
I can't speak for other walkers, but when I head out, I am looking for a trail that's easy to access, with adequate parking, gentle elevation changes, some shady areas for hot summer hikes, and a tolerance for canines.
I tend to prefer trails where I won't run into too many people, but I do expect to encounter two or three individuals or groups during my outing. I prefer a hike of thirty to ninety minutes' duration. It's worth mentioning here that Prescott has a number of popular, heavily hiked trails, such as Peavine and Thumb Butte. Personally, I avoid those because they are so heavily traveled. Still, they are very popular and you may want to give them a shot.
When you hit the trail, please be mindful of common sense hiking safety. Carry water, don't go alone, use sunscreen and a hat, dress for the prevailing weather conditions, and let someone know your itinerary. Don't presume you'll have cell phone reception everywhere, either; it's pretty sporadic around this area. Remember to take Prescott's elevation into account, as well as having an awareness of hunting seasons. Regardless of type of hiker you are, and depending on the type of trail you prefer, you may be rewarded with wildlife sightings or great views.
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