Bobbi Jane Tucker (Published in Fribtuer Gazette 2011) www,WayOutWestPhotos.com
Searching for fall color and a unique backdrop, I was led to a trail near Willow Lake by a friend of mine. The hike begins on the east side of Willow Lake, a small man-made reservoir off Willow Lake Road. Just east of the boat ramp on Willow Lake lies a maze of trails that will take you through another time. The official name for the trails are the Willow Dells Slickrock Trail Loops. The entire loop is 1.8 miles if you follow the trail markers and maps. These trails are part of the City of Prescott’s Mile-High Trail System that contains approximately 28 miles of trails throughout Prescott. There is a $2.00 parking fee unless you have a yearly pass for the city parks. This trail is more suited for hiking then mountain bikes.
If you are not from the area you need to remember Prescott is at a higher elevation and this trail is just over 5,000 feet. The sun is more intense so you can still sunburn on a clear winter day. And water is a must as dehydration can seek up on you in this dry climate.
On a scale of mild – moderate – extreme, I would rate these trails as moderate. You do have to step up on some of the flatten boulders and follow the trail off the dirt over granite rock outcrops. (Tip: When the trail goes off the dirt over the rocks follow the white dots painted on the rocks.) I was able to keep pace and wander through the trails for 2 hours taking over 200 photos along the way. Once you are among the great boulders it can become disorienting. Just follow the trail maps and markers along the trail. I was following my friend who had been on the trail numerous times so I was able to just tag along and enjoy the scenery.
Now the scenery is from another time. Magnificent groupings of boulders mixed with aging trees. You stop and ponder names for the boulders hanging off the edge, smashed together or just standing grand by themselves. This fall day we could not have timed it better with the noon sun hanging above with swirls of clouds. It was about 72-degrees with a slight breeze. The trees were still a mixture of green, yellow and red. The mountain grape vines were just starting to fade. My favorite manzanita trees are found back here with their rich red trunks and low to the ground formation. Some rocks looked inviting for a picnic while others offered shady spots to rest. Up above in the sky or among the cliffs you may see the same pair of bald eagles we saw. The pair was sitting on top of a boulder that was settled in the Willow Lake. Willow Lake has been designated by the Audubon Societyas an “important birding area".
Where did these grand boulders come from? The website, Wikipedia.com, sums it up simply, “The Granite Dells consist of exposed bedrock and large boulders of granite that have eroded into an unusual lumpy, rippled appearance underground magma that was pushed up over time from geological pressure. “
When the weather is perfect and you seek a place to explore with just a few minutes or few hours to spare, this trail will soon become your favorite hiding spot in Prescott.
For more information on City of Prescott trails: http://www.cityofprescott.net/services/parks/trails/