Special to the Independent
If you're looking for a rigorous, aerobic hike in Yavapai County, you won't go wrong on the Little Granite Mountain Trail in the Prescott National Forest near Prescott. With its ups and downs, it's a great way to train for a trip into the Grand Canyon, if you're so inclined. (Pun intended.)
There's very little level path. Little Granite involves a gradual climb, followed by a descent heavy on the brake muscles, then a return uphill trudge followed by a gravity-aided stroll back to the trailhead.
Hiking 1.5 miles steadily uphill gets you to the intersection with the Clark Spring Trail No. 40, and a 2-mile route to Granite Basin Lake. This also marks the southern boundary into the 9,799-acre Granite Mountain Wilderness, but the Little Granite just skirts its western boundary, so bicycles are allowed.
From this vantage point, you'll get a glimpse of Prescott Valley and, in the distance, the San Francisco Peaks at Flagstaff.
The Little Granite continues around Little Granite Mountain and downhill for another three miles into Skull Valley, on a steep, narrow trail. It's hard to choose between watching your footing and gazing in wonder at the valley vista before you.
Monumental, rough granite boulders jut from the landscape in shades of gray but sporting coats of green and orange lichens. Rose quartz litters one section of trail, almost as though the stones had been seeded there.
Vegetation is heavily chaparral (scrub oak, manzanita, mountain mahogany), with alligator juniper, ponderosa pine, pinon pine, as well as lots of cacti such as cholla, prickly pear, yucca and century plants.
Ravens and hawks soar on thermal air currents while songbirds flit from bush to bush and sunning lizards scuttle off the path. Large wildlife includes mule deer, javelina and mountain lions.
At one point or another, the trail manages to provide sweeping views of much of Yavapai County, including Prescott to the south, Prescott Valley to the east, Skull Valley to the west, and north to Chino Valley.
As you hike, be kind to the environment - stay on the trail and pack out what you pack in.
Directions: Take Iron Springs Road west out of Prescott to the Little Granite Trail No. 37 parking area on the right side of the road. It's 3.2 miles past the turnoff to Granite Basin Lake (Forest Road 374). Take plenty of water and watch your step. Loose, decomposed granite on the trail makes for tricky footing.