Our family went up to Granite Basin Recreation Area in Prescott, Arizona for a picnic and a hike last month. I wasn’t sure what to expect since the area offers a wide variety of activities – hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, and boating. I had visions of a very crowded lake with a small ring of hiking trails around the lake. But I’m happy to report that I was dead wrong! Granite Basin Recreation Area is absolutely beautiful and there were no crowds.
The restrooms were nice and clean and there was running water. My kids loved it because it’s an old fashioned pump.
Day use fees do apply ($5) and are payable at the self service pay station. If you’re heading here mid-week – there was a note that said Wednesdays were free. If you happen to have an America the Beautiful or Interagency pass – these work at this site as well. Or if you happen to have a fourth grader – you can get an Every Kid in a Park pass for FREE.
The best part is that the picnic area is down by Granite Basin Lake so you get to eat with a lovely view. We saw only a handful of people the whole time we were there. There’s also a decent view of the Boat Launch Day Use Area from the very first set of picnic tables you encounter on the trail (you can see the red truck parked at the Boat Launch area in this picture.)
Here’s a shot of the trail leading down from the parking lot.
And here’s the picnic table we settled on. There’s another picnic table immediately to the left of the one we’re at, and there were several more just a short distance up the trail.
Once our picnic was done and packed up, we got hiking. The area has quite a few trails, but we were looking for something around 3 miles. We settled on a combination of Balancing Rock Trail #349 and West Lake Trail #351. From the Playa parking lot we walked up the paved road until we got to this sign.
Nearly immediately as we were walking along the road, we saw the Metate Trailhead (which provides access to the Granite Mountain Wilderness) and its parking lot.
We continued on and soon were on a dirt trail instead of the paved road.
The paper map we had with us was pretty tiny (from the USDA website) so we got a little mixed up at this point. We were on Trail #261 but ended up choosing the wrong fork and got pointed towards Trail #40 and #37 rather than #349. Luckily, we realized our mistake quickly and got turned around and on the right track. This is the sign we saw that made us go “oops!”
After we got righted, we walked by this area where the ground was absolutely covered with juniper berries. The ground was so covered it looked like it had hailed berries.
The wildflowers that were still in bloom were amazing. We stumbled across this Palmer’s Penstemon that was just gorgeous.
The trail continued on with lovely fall leaves turning.
We nearly missed this sign, but I’m glad we spotted it because it finally let us know we’d found our way back to the correct trail.
The trail continues on with little slope and lots of turns. Plus we got to see a bunch of fall colors which we don’t see much of back home.
I was a little paranoid that we’d get lost because I questioned how much signage we’d find, but from then on there was great signage.
We nearly stepped on this little Tussock Moth Caterpillar. Isn’t it just beautiful?
Here’s the first view of Granite Mountain that we could see from the trail.
And more signage!
As we started to climb in elevation just a tiny bit, we got some great views of Granite Mountain with little tree obstruction.
Here’s a shot looking the opposite direction of Granite Mountain.
The trail was smooth and easy to handle – even with small kids.
We were excited when we got to the balancing rock! Isn’t it just awesome?
And I nearly stepped on this guy too – a Grand Canyon Black Tarantula (Aphonopelma marxi). Lesson learned – really look at the ground in this area because there’s lots of wildlife on the ground.
This shot shows you how forested the area is – but with lots of big boulders just sticking up.
Notice how many juniper berries are just laying on the ground – they were everywhere!
I couldn’t figure out what this bird of prey was, I’m guessing a raptor of some sort.
Then you cross the road and continue on Trail #349. Also, in case you were wondering dogs are allowed on these trails (on leash.)
I couldn’t figure out what this purple wildflower was either. Did some hunting on the internet, but no conclusive evidence. But it sure is gorgeous isn’t it? (If you recognize it, let us know in the comments below)
This is the point at which we changed direction and turned towards Cayuse Trailhead (which would connect us to Trail #351.)
Here’s a shot of the parking lot at Cayuse Trailhead.
And here are the vault toilets at the Cayuse Trailhead.
Our family had a great time exploring the Granite Basin Recreation Area. We hiked for about 3 1/2 hours and estimate that we went around 4 miles. It’s a gorgeous area with a ton of views and wildlife!
For more information – please visit the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service site for Granite Basin Recreation Area.Guest Post by Robin Laulainen. Robin writes about camping and other outdoorsy stuff at Trek Southwest, pets every dog she meets, and drinks more coffee than she should. She blogs about her other passion - creating - at Make It Yourself Girl.