An ambitious trail-building project that began in a Prescott living room about 25 years ago has come nearly full circle.
The 54-mile, multiuse Circle Trail that will encircle all but about 1.5 miles of Prescott is nearing completion. Segments of the trail already existed a quarter century ago when members of the Yavapai Trails Association met at the home of member Jan Alfano, laid out some maps and started drawing lines to represent potential connectors.
Crews were expected to punch through the last part of a trail segment a little over 3 miles long that traverses Badger Mountain — the mountain with the large white "P" on it — making the trail passable by May 23. The work is expected to be completed by the end of May.
Then, the only missing link will be the 1.5-mile gap in the northwest quadrant between the Williamson Valley Road trailhead and the Ho-Kay-Gan trailhead. There is no firm plan to complete that stretch, which would have to cross a private ranch.
"In the short term, there is a bypass that takes you onto some residential streets," Baynes said. "For the long term, we are in some preliminary negotiations with the property owner."
Baynes said most of the trail building has been done by the volunteer Over the Hill Gang, many of whom are retirees who use the trail.
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"You'll have a retired truck driver working next to a retired Ph.D.," Baynes said. "Some are hikers and some are mountain bikers, and some are just people who want to get off the couch and do some physical labor. It's a lively bunch."
Members of the Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance also have been instrumental in building the trail.
"One of the unique features of the Circle Trail is that it goes from about 5,000 feet up to about 6,700 feet at the highest point in elevation," Baynes said. "You go from ponderosa pine to scrub oak, to Granite Dells to the Riparian Preserve. The diversity in that 54 miles is probably unparalleled."
I recently explored several segments of the trail. The routes I sampled were in pristine condition and well-marked. They included forest, grasslands, chaparral, juniper and a double-track dirt road along the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve.
First, I hiked and ran on the Peavine Trail, which is part of the 9.1-mile segment that includes the newest trail on Badger Mountain.
The trail travels through natural grasslands, offering views of Watson Lake as one gently ascends before dropping down to an underpass at Arizona 69. That's where the newest segment on Badger Mountain begins.
The single-track segment of the Peavine that I jogged and hiked is less than a year old. Like the other new segments, it was designed to be user-friendly.
Prescott Circle Trail
- The trail is for hikers, runners, mountain bikers and equestrians. No motorized vehicles are allowed.
- Leashed dogs are welcome.
- The loop will serve as a hub for more than 400 miles of trails in and around Prescott.
- Parts of the trail are in Prescott and some trailheads require a $2 parking fee (free on Wednesdays).
- Parts of the trail are in Prescott National Forest and some trailheads require a $5 parking fee.
- The Yavapai Trails Association has produced a booklet that includes maps, trailhead directions, hike descriptions and an overview of the trail's history. The Guide to the Prescott Circle Trail sells for $10 at Prescott biking and hiking shops. Or send a $10 check made out to Yavapai Trails Association PCT Fund to YTA, P.O. Box 403, Prescott, 86302.