Not all of Arizona is desert. In fact several lakes are located around Prescott with Granite Basin Lake only 15 minutes away nestled in a Ponderosa Pine forest at the base of Granite Mountain, a towering pile of boulders. My first visit on a crisp January day didn’t entice me into much recreation yet I braved the cold briefly wearing many layers.
Just a three-mile drive off Iron Springs Road in the Prescott National Forest Granite Basin Recreation Area offers fishing, non-motorized boating, camping, hiking, horse riding, rock climbing and picnicking. I pass this turn off all the time on my drive back and forth to Prescott and didn’t even know it was there.
The man-made lake built by the Civilian Conservation Corp was completed in 1939. It is not stocked but allows fishing with a license. I don’t fish but the word is that patience may bring anglers bluegill, largemouth bass and catfish. Of course right now you’d have to bring tools just to break through the ice.
Yavapai Campground accommodates tents, and trailers up to 40 feet in length at a small fee. There are no hookups but water and toilets are available. I didn’t notice anybody camping but then it’s a little chilly in the mountains right now.
Come warmer weather I look forward to hiking some of the eight trails of 1.3 to 3.2 miles each way, or connect a few to lengthen the hike. The trails wind through Ponderosa and Pinyon Pine forest studded with granite boulders along seasonal creeks. During summer months wildflowers should add color to the landscape. The Forest Service rates these trails from easy to difficult. I’ll let you know.
Mountain biking and hiking are allowed on all the same trails and horses on some of them too. I’m not too keen on the multi-use trails under heavy traffic, bikes sneak up on you and I don’t like stepping around horse poop. No offense to anyone who enjoys these modes of transportation, I just like to see separate trails.
For the more adventurous than I, rock climbers tackle the steep cliff faces. But only from August to February as there’s a seasonal Peregrine Falcon closure from February 1 to July 15. While researching the recreational opportunities I saw one route described as “the Guillotine Flake, that requires the leader to enter the depths of a large flake/chimney feature and emerge out its top.” I know I won’t be tackling that.
And even if you’re not into this much exercise Granite Basin Recreation Area offers shade on a summer afternoon for a picnic and it’s not far from town. Picnic tables are available at Cayuse, Wekuvde, Boat Launch, Playa, and Metate day-use areas.
All recreational use areas on the Prescott National Forest requires a pass. Day use fee is $5 payable on site. Or use an Interagency Pass like the annual, senior or access passes. If you live nearby, like I do, think about purchasing the Prescott National Forest Pass annually for $40 or four months for $20.
Oh, I forgot to mention, if you’re into movies this place may look familiar as a segment of the movie Creepshow 2 was filmed here. If you watch this you might not want to visit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
After about 30 minutes of wandering along the lake shore taking photos my glove covered hands started to tingle. That’s my clue to get somewhere warm. However I’m glad to have finally checked out this local destination and look forward to returning for some future hikes. Sometimes it’s those places in our own backyards we visit last.
What local destinations offer you an escape into nature?
Capturing the present for future memories of the past.
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