|South Fork of Willow Creek spills over the Javelina Trail.|
constantly evolving and growing system of woodsy trails surrounding Thumb Butte
in Prescott National Forest has a new darling. Although the former social trail
(a user-built, unsanctioned path) had been around for a while, it was only
recently adopted, rerouted, signed and officially named the Firewater Trail No.
325 by the forest service and group of
Prescott-area volunteers known as the Over the Hill Gang.
|Wild candytuft blooms along the trails Feb-Aug.|
|An edgy section of the Firewater Trail.|
2017 debutante is located inland from trailheads, it’s necessary to build an
outside-in plan to reach it. There are many options for tying it into a day
hike circuit including a loop that begins at the new White Rock trailhead off
Thumb Butte Road just 5 miles from downtown Prescott.
|Signs at the beginning of the loop portion of the hike.|
stimulating blend of water, far-reaching vistas, historic artifacts and several
bio-zones, the moderate, three-trail circuit is bound to become a classic.
|Corral on the Javelina Trail.|
|Creek crossing near the Javelina-Firewater junction.|
Start on the
West Trail No. 318, which is also part of the Prescott Circle Trail— a 55-mile
route that wraps around town. Ponderosa-pine-shaded
and replete with gigantic granite boulders and trickling drainages, West Trail
is an effortless 0.5-mile traipse up to the Javelina Trail No. 332
junction—the beginning of the hike’s loop section. Veer left and follow
Javelina Trail through an undulating terrain flanked by alligator junipers,
manzanitas, oaks and mossy ravines. Much of this deeply forested segment traces trickling drainages and the South Fork of Willow Creek.
|Granite Mountain seen from the Firewater Trail.|
Roughly 1.4 miles from
the junction, the trail bends right into a rocky, willow-cluttered corridor, crosses the creek and heads uphill
into a clearing with an old corral. This
rustic pastoral scene culminates at a clearing with ruins of an old stone
chimney where the route heads right, crosses the waterway again then swings
right (avoid the social trail that goes left) and connects with Firewater Trail
|Javelina Trail passes by Thumb Butte.|
The 1.2-mile leg begins with an edgy climb on the slopes above the
creek that plows through some of the most stunning scenery of the loop. Deep
canyons, steep drop offs and lots of shade make the twisting course a joy to
hike and an all-too-short dip into a rich pocket of Prescott National Forest.
|The route crosses several drainages.|
Where the route leaves the deep woods and bumps back into Trail No. 318, head right for
the view-centric return leg. Here, high ridge vantage points showcase
multi-level mountain vistas.
|Granite boulders on the West Trail.|
foreground, the massive hulk of Granite Mountain commands the landscape.
|Prescott Valley seen from West Trail.|
Farther out, a dim chain of peaks that includes Bill Williams Mountain,
Kendrick Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks appear as vague humps jutting
above a sea of pines and the plains of Prescott Valley. At several turns along the final mile, Thumb
Butte peeks out from breaks in the pinion pine cover, signaling the end of a
short but multi-faceted trek.
|Part of the Javelina Trail flanks the So. Fork of Willow Creek.|
|White Rock trailhead on Thumb Butte Road opened in 2018.|
ELEVATION: 5614 – 6010 feet
Courthouse Plaza in historic downtown Prescott, go 5 miles west on Gurley
Street (turns into Thumb Butte Road) to the large White Rock trailhead on the
right. Roads are 100% paved. No fees or facilities.