Isn’t it time to take a break from Central Arizona’s scorching summer heat? Lucky for us, getting out of the desert sun doesn’t mean we have to travel far. This weekend, consider heading out to Prescott National Forest, a diverse and enchanting area of wilderness encompassing 1.25 million acres of land. With a wide array of recreational opportunities, camping adventures and special sites to adventure to, Prescott National Forest is an easy day trip from the Phoenix area and one that you are sure to return to again and again.
Choose an Area
One thing is for sure, you can’t take in all of Prescott National Forest in a single weekend. This vast preserve encompasses eight separate wilderness areas and is divided into three main ranger districts: the Chino Valley Ranger District to the north, the Bradshaw District to the southwest, and the Verde Ranger District to the southeast. While each district has many opportunities to offer, the Bradshaw Ranger District is the most developed for visitors and is a great place to begin exploring the National Forest.
With so much land, Prescott National Forest offers a wide variety of terrain. From rugged mountains to peaceful lakes and bountiful rivers, the landscape of Prescott National Forest moves from arid desert in the south to mountain forest in the north, closer to Flagstaff. For a summer road trip, visiting one of Forest’s numerous bodies of water is a great way to cool off and experience nature.
Staying in Prescott National Forest
Throughout Prescott National Forest are a range of undeveloped campsites, ideal for experienced tent camping. Campers at the undeveloped sites should be prepared to bring their own water and pack out all trash, as there are no facilities or potable water in most locations. For a less rugged camping trip, a range of family and RV sites are also available throughout the park, you’ll want to be sure to confirm the services you need are available at your site when reserving it. The Prescott National Forest also offers some unique lodging opportunities such as the historic Sycamore Cabin which has been outfitted to include modern amenities alongside gorgeous scenery. Lodging is also available in the town of Prescott.
Have an Adventure!
If you want to make your trip truly memorable, Prescott National Forest is home to some unique adventure experiences. The mountainous terrain provides ample sites for rock climbing and bouldering at all levels from beginner to pro. Additionally, thrillseekers will find great opportunities in the park for mountain biking. By planning ahead you may even be able to take a thrilling whitewater rafting trip through the park. For those who want to hit new heights, Prescott Forest offers great mountain climbing and even hang-gliding experiences.
…Or Just Relax
While there are plenty of ways to adventure in Prescott National Forest, it is also possible to have a great time without signing a waiver! Clear lakes and streams make for excellent fishing opportunities throughout the region. Horse rental and equestrian trails make for a wonderful family-friendly activity. Not to mention the more than 400 miles of trails to explore throughout the park.
Rockhounds and mineral speculators will be intrigued by the rich mineral composition of the Bradshaw Mountains, and some campsites even allow for gold panning! Prescott National Forest is also home to many, many historic and cultural sites to visit, to witness firsthand the history of the region.
As with any trip, a little preparation goes a long way. While most of Prescott National Forest is out of the sweltering heat of urban Phoenix, drinkable water is scarce, so be sure to hike with plenty of water and bring enough supplies with you for the duration of your trip. Always be aware of local fire and wildlife warnings. Nature can be unpredictable, so respect park warnings and be adaptable to changing weather and conditions.
Don’t hike alone – always bring a friend and carry a reliable map. Don’t venture into areas where you could get lost and let others know your hiking and travel plans. Stay safe and have fun exploring a tremendous natural wonder in our own backyard: Prescott National Forest!