I finally made it to Prescott, the fairly well-known “Wild West” town situated in the pine forests of central-western Arizona, to ride a mountain bike. What I did not know prior to arriving to the trailheads is how much I was going smile while on the trails. Sure, The Whiskey Off-Road race is perhaps what Prescott is famous for with regard to mountain biking. But after going there, I would argue that it is going to become better known for its 100+ miles of fast and fun trails that extend around town, making it a destination riding place.
Let’s be clear though, if you are going to ride Prescott’s trails, you have to like pedaling. It is classic cross-country riding, with loads of flow trails. As the locals concurred, “you have to pedal here,” and after a weekend of pedaling they also added, “you barely scratched the surface of what is here” and “you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.” The local riders are hands down the most laid back, unpretentious, easy-going camaraderie that I have experienced on trails in years.
At the White Rock parking area/trailhead, known locally as Painted Rock, I got my things together and quickly set out for a spectacular morning of riding. In the parking lot, the advice was simple; use Thumb Butte as your landmark. There are trails galore out there, and when you’re ready to return, look for Thumb and make your way back. I did exactly that, jumping on 318 and taking it to Firewater/322. It was such a blast going down that I made my way back three hours later so that I could ride it again. The second time was even more fun than the first because I knew what was coming down the trail.
Before that, all I had done for two hours or so was to simply turn wherever/whenever “the spirit” guided me. I had no map of any kind, knowing that if needed, I could turn on my phone. I did not. After all, Thumb Butte was out there guiding me. The spider web of trails undulated seemingly forever, with highlights including Javelina, Noodle, Vista, BLM, Tunnel Vision, Happy Ending, Tatanka, and Ridgetop.
Back at the parking lot, it was recommended that I cross over the road and take Garden Party, a quick, rollicking downhill with a technical rock section that spills out onto double track. The suggestion was that I could get on the road from the double track and then climb back up to the car via the road, which is what I did.
The Circle Trail connects 50+ miles of trails that circumnavigate the town. I decided to park over by Goldwater Lake another morning. First, I went down Feldmeir, as everyone in town suggested doing it (yep, I am glad I did). Named for a local legend trail builder, it served up two miles of purpose-built downhill riding that could not have been a better start to the day. Logging was going on, so I had to take Deer Blind around to then climb back up to #396, occasionally hike-a-biking through the downed trees and having to scan the land to find the trail, making the morning romp a little more adventurous.
From #396, I worked my way over to the Ranch Trail, which is part of the Circle Trail. Ranch was so easy to ride (again, if you like to pedal) that I kept going until I reached the junction with Boy Scout Trail, at which point I turned back around and returned the way I came.
On the way back, I noticed way off in the distance the snowcapped mountains of Flagstaff, gleaming like beams of white in the blue sky.
Squeeze the brakes. Hold up. Enter the kicker of the entire trip: on the way back, I crossed paths with a 71 year old man riding a single speed! Hell, yes! As one who rides single speed, I felt a bit foolish on my big, full suspension bike.
He said, “I ride thousands of miles on the road every year to keep my ticker ticking, but I get out on the trails because it helps my balance. Single speed—at this point in my life, I want everything to be as simple as possible. Less stuff to worry about.”
I was inspired and pedaled on, knowing that the descent to the road was going to be a blast.
You can read more from James Murren’s travels on his website www.jamesmurren.com.
Prescott Local Information:
Food & Drink:
- Prescott Brewing Company – Award-winning brewery on the town square with standard pub fare that has pretty much what you want after a ride.
- Granite Mountain Brewing
- Copper Top Ale House
- Rickety Cricket Brewing Tap Room
- The Palace is a saloon on Whiskey Row that is well-worth walking into to check out the bar. Put on your time travel glasses and imagine what it might have looked like in the yesteryears.
- Raven Cafe – Go here for superb coffee, healthier food options, and an extensive draft beer and wine list. Live music happens many nights a week, as well.
- El Gato Azul – Eclectic, indeed, with really good food, it is a nice dinner option, if you’re wanting something a little more “upscale.”
- Soul Ride – Women who ride and own their own bike shop. ‘Nuff said.