The Prescott National Forest is located in the mountainous
section of central Arizona and is comprised of 1.25 million
acres. The northern part of the Forest is forested while the
southern section is arid desert. There are sixteen developed
campgrounds of which eleven meet the selection criteria.
Prescott National Forest reaches from the cool peaks of the mineral-rich Bradshaw Mountains to the sun-baked Sonoran Desert. It crosses Chaparral flats to Pinon and Juniper woodlands over desert grasslands to Ponderosa pine forests. This environmental diversity is reflected in a wide variety of recreation opportunities and camping locations. Camping, hiking, fishing, driving for pleasure, photography, mountain biking and exploring an area with a long and colorful history are all available in the Prescott (pronounced so it rhymes with "biscuit").
There are several prehistoric ruins visitors can visit. Montezuma Castle (so named when it was thought to be of Aztec origin)and Tuzigoot National Monument, and Lynx Creek Ruin offer an interesting glimpse into the life of the ancient Sinagua farmers. The Forest Service reminds us all to respect our heritage and leave things the way we found them. Montezuma and Tuzigoot National Monuments are managed and maintained by the Park Service. The Forest Service has kept Lynx Creek Ruin, near Lynx Lake and Hilltop campgrounds, in it's tumbled-down condition and includes a Nature Walk identifying plants important to the pre-historic people of Lynx Creek.
More recent history can be found at Fort Verde State Park in Camp Verde. Considered to have been one of the more "civilized" Army outpost of its day, Fort Verde reflects a frontier elegance. Volunteers, dressed in period clothes, answer questions and provide a sense of what life was like in Arizona during the late 1800's. (Ask at the front desk about a recipe for "Teeth Dullers," better known as "Hardtack.") A visit to Camp Verde is a recommended for any family camping vacation.
Northwest of Camp Verde is the magnificent Mingus Mountain with Mingus Mountain and Potato Patch campgrounds. To reach either campground visitors from Camp Verde must pass through the mountain-hugging town of Jerome and follow the Mingus Mountain Scenic Byway. The many curves of the Byway provide spectacular views of the Verde Valley far below. Jerome transports visitors from a turn-of-the-century mining town to an artist community. A special treat in Jerome for all who use their garage to store everything (including their old cars) is the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town.
The Ponderosa pine covered Bradshaw Mountains, considered the richest of all mineral-laden ranges in Arizona, is dotted with places with names that reflect the area's colorful past. Places like Tip Top, Big Bug, Oro Belle, Bumble Bee, Cordes, Cherry and Crown King spark the imagination. With new road systems many of these towns were by-passed and became ghost towns. But, some have been rediscovered for their natural beauty.
The Powell Springs campground, a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) project, is just up the road from the community of Cherry. Wild roses form natural hedges at several of the houses add to the town's interest, special charm, and rustic beauty. (Incidentally, the chains found at the base of some Ponderosa pines in the campground do not designate buried treasure. It was a method used to replace minerals in the soil.)
Crown King, high up in the Bradshaw Mountains, has retained much of its rough and tumble mining town appearance. Although horses and mules are usually no longer tied up at the hitching rails, today, 4X4 pick-up trucks and quads wait patiently in front of the Post Office/General Store or the town's saloon. The road is still dirt, ruts indicate the downhill direction and most buildings cling to the side of ravines. Patches of color indicate a number of summer cottages in the loftier reaches above town but Crown King gives little indication of being much more than an isolated, sleepy little hamlet.
To reach Horsethief Basin Recreation Area, with its pretty little lake and the car and tent camper friendly Hazlett Hollow campground, visitors must pass through Crown King. The campground, a CCC project, provides examples of the CCC enrollees' excellent workmanship. Each site features a solid wood constructed shelter and beautiful stonework.
Conveniently located for day-hikes into the Granite Basin Wilderness and day-trips into the historic town of Prescott, Yavapai campground is recently renovated and one of the more RV-friendly campgrounds found in the Prescott National Forest. A day trip into the town of Prescott might include: a visit to the old County Courthouse, built in 1916; a stroll around the Town Square to admire the Rough Rider (immortalizing Arizonan, Buckey O'Neill) and other statues; meander along Whiskey Row; or, visit the Shallot Hall Museum, "one of the finest historical institutions in the entire state."
As in most of Arizona, water is a powerful draw for recreation. Places like Horsethief and Granite Basin recreation areas have small, pond-size lakes that only offer fishing. Beasley Flat, on the Verde River, attracts both fishing people and kayakers. The 55-acre Lynx Lake, with its two nearby campgrounds, Hilltop and
Lynx Lake, is probably the most popular location in the Forest for a variety of recreational opportunities.
The Prescott National Forest has not forgotten those folks who prefer to experience the forest from a saddle or mountain bike on trails that cris-cross the forest, often using old logging roads. For example, the Forest Service opened Groom Creek Horse
Camp for the exclusive use of horse people. An 8.7-mile loop trail leads from the campground along the Wolf Creek Drainage to Spruce Mountain and back to the campground. This scenic trail offers some panoramic views of the Crown King area, Prescott area, and on clear days, the San Francisco Peaks.
No matter your preference, mountains, meadows, water, or desert, the Prescott National Forest has something for everyone. Experience Prescott National Forest's diversity and you'll want to visit again and again.
2971 Willow Creek Rd.
Prescott, Arizona 86301
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
344 S. Cortez
Prescott, Arizona 86303
300 East Highway 260
Camp Verde, Arizona 86322-0670