Best Hikes in Prescott National Forest (AZ)

Prescott National Forest Overview

Despite being less than 2 hours from Phoenix, Prescott National Forest is the least visited National Forest in Arizona; overshadowed by its brethren to the east: Tonto, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Coconino. The forest lies in between the Northern Arizona’s plateaus and Southern Arizona’s deserts creating a mountainous region that can provide a cool refuge from the Phoenix heat. Described below are the best hikes in Precott National Forest!

Nearest Metro AreaPhoenix, AZ
Area Size1,250,000 acres
EstablishedMarch 4, 1907
Hiking Trails450 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Prescott National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Prescott National Forest)

Constellation Loop – 2.4 mile loop
Constellation Trails in Granite Dells
Constellation Trails in Granite Dells, Photo by Chanel Wheeler

Not technically within any of the Prescott National Forest districts, but just north of Prescott. This is a fun, family-friendly hike with lots of bouldering and rock formations on the way.

Granite Mountain Trail #261*** – 8.2 miles out and back
Granite Mountain, Granite Basin, Prescott, AZ, Photo by Chris English

One in a network of trails serving Granite Mountain Wilderness, Granite Mountain Trail #261 is the first leg of a 6-mile loop starting near Granite Basin Lake and traveling counter-clockwise around Little Granite Mountain using Little Granite Mountain Trail #37 and Clark Spring Trail #40. Granite Mountain Trail #261 also provides a day trip from the Granite Basin Recreation Area up to Blair Pass and into the heart of Granite Mountain Wilderness. Despite its proximity to the city of Prescott, this area is a sanctuary for a diversity of wildlife.

Groom Creek Loop #307 – 8.7 mile loop
20151123_Prescott NF, AZ_R3_Trail #307 Trailhead_001 (US Forest Service Photo)
#307 Trailhead, Photo by Prescott NF

Rewarding hike through the area’s forested high country. This trail passes through idyllic stands of ponderosa pine and Gambel oak as it climbs to the top of Spruce Mountain.

Lynx Lake Loop Trail #311 – 2.3 mile loop
Lynx Lake
Lynx Lake, Photo by Kevin Dooley

This popular hiking trail, located in the Lynx Lake Recreation Area, travels around Lynx Lake. The man-made, 55-acre lake attracts a diversity of wildlife. The birdwatching here is particularly excellent.

Thumb Butte Trail #33*** – 2.1 loop
Thumb Butte 23
Thumb Butte, Photo by Scott Blackwell

Due to its proximity to downtown Prescott, Thumb Butte Trail #33 is one of the most popular and heavily used hiking trails in the area. It is without a doubt one of the best hikes in Prescott National Forest as well. The trail climbs steeply to a ridge just below the rocky crest of Thumb Butte. Here, Groom Creek Vista offers spectacular panoramic views of the Prescott area, Bradshaw Mountains, Sierra Prieta Mountains, Granite Mountain, Mingus Mountain, and, on clear days, the San Francisco Peaks.

Watson Lake and Flume Trail – 4.5 mile loop
Watson Lake
Watson Lake, Photo by Kevin Dooley

This is another hike just north of Prescott but not within any districts, this loop trail still has plenty to offer. There is a fair bit of difficulty for a lake trail as you’ll be scrambling over some rocks but nothing too strenuous. Best enjoyed when the water level is high!

Featured Image: Senator Highway, Photo by Prescott NF

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