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Approaching "Point of Rocks" on the Peavine Trail © Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.Near the Granite Dells © Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
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Trail of the Month: July 2010
Arizona's Peavine and Iron King Trails

This trail is a recipient of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame Award. Click to learn more. To say that the rail-trails of Prescott and Prescott Valley are an oasis in sunbaked, north-central Arizona is no exaggeration. Wherever water touches this arid landscape—and it does along the Prescott Peavine National Recreation and Iron King trails—jade cottonwoods cluster, popping out against the desert's pale yellow and burnt brown pallet. And, at 5,200 feet above sea level, with cool breezes tempered by hot sunshine, the two communities are ideal for trail trips in the late winter and spring.

The 5.2-mile Peavine Trail begins just south of Watson Lake at the gravel parking lot by the lush Watson Woods Riparian Preserve (just off Prescott Lakes Parkway). The preserve is teeming with green along the crushed stone and dirt trail. Through the trees you may even hear the rush of Granite Creek after a bout of rain.

Past the preserve, you curve around the southern end of Lake Watson to reach the Granite Dells, a mile into the trail. These massive mounds of weather-beaten rock are a tourist draw in Prescott; you'll see the majority of fellow trail users here. It's no wonder: As you pass through the cool cuts in the granite, you're enfolded in a kind of desert castle of stone.

All along this route, water leaches from cracks in the rock walls and improbable, hearty flowers—red and yellow—pop from the crevasses. The temptation to scramble up the smooth, stony inclines for a scenic vista is keen, but no sight is more arresting than the perfectly framed view of far-off Granite Mountain over Lake Watson.

Once you've pulled your eyes and your camera away from the view, continue heading northward. The trail follows the former Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix Railway corridor that fed into Prescott, once the territorial capital of Arizona and famous for its copper mining. Wooden decking and railroad ties lie scattered along the trail. At Mile 3 and the "Point of Rocks," the railroad's ghost is impossible to miss. Here the trail passes through a cut made for trains in a tall, sheer rock cluster. A trailside historical marker shows the identical view, some 100 years prior. In the photo a hulking engine chugs through the same pass. It's a humbling reminder of how, in some places, time does stand still.

Beyond "Point of Rocks," you reach a fork in the trail. Head left to continue on the Peavine for one mile to its end point atop a gravel-covered railroad bridge near State Route 89A. A two-lane country road runs beneath you, and private property spreads in vast tracts beyond. As tantalizing as the call of the open range might be, don't consider trespassing. Instead, head back to that fork in the road, turn right, and give the four-mile Iron King a try.

The Dells dwarfed you with their massiveness, but the Iron King makes you feel small in an entirely new way. You're immediately engulfed in scraggily, desert woods. A fenced-in bull grazes near a lonely pond and grunts as you pass. Off-shooting trails disappear in the underbrush and every mile or so stands a haunting railroad relic.

Rusted, gutted, but plainly beautiful old train cars, smaller than most, are mounted at intervals along the trail. They're striking in their isolation, especially against the pale desert backdrop. For the Iron King soon breaks free of the forest and deposits you in an expanse of prairie.

While no view is as singularly stunning as the Dells, the vistas on this stretch of trail are just as impressive in scope. The trail meanders downhill and, on both sides, the land simply lays itself bare. Low, cream-tinted hills, bent prairie grasses and a haze of dust reach out toward distant mountain ranges. A tumbleweed rolls by, so perfectly placed you look around for the Hollywood props master.

In the distance, the town of Prescott Valley comes into view. About a mile before trail's end (and the miles stretch out deceptively on this trail) the railroad corridor merges into an extra-wide dirt trail to reach Glassford Hill Road and Iron King's somewhat unspectacular finish. But no worries—you have all that stunning trail behind you and nothing but time to soak it in. If this is how Arizona does rail-trails, you'll never want to leave., powered by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy For more information, maps, photos and user reviews of these trails, or to post your own comments, please visit

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Related Links

City of Prescott, Ariz.

Town of Prescott Valley

Prescott Parks and Recreation


Trail Facts

Name: Prescott Peavine National Recreation Trail and Iron King Trail

Trail Web site:

Length: Total of 9.2; Peavine (5.2 miles) and Iron King (4 miles)

County: Yavapi

Start Point/ End Point: The two trails make a rough "T." The three end points are Prescott Lakes Parkway, State Route 89A and Glassford Hill Road.

Surface type: Crushed stone, ballast, dirt and cinder

Uses: Walking, running, bicycling and equestrian.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Access and Parking: The city of Prescott maintains trail information and maps for both the Peavine and Iron King trails, including downloadable maps.

You can also log into for free to explore an interactive GIS map of each trail, as well as reviews, images and loads of other info to help plan your trip.

Nearby Attractions: Age is no object in Prescott this August, when the city will host the 2010 Prescott Senior Olympic Summer Games. With events from August 6 to 29, and at locations throughout the city and surrounding area, you can come celebrate the "Young at Heart." Participants need only be 50 years old and up, and they can compete in a variety of individual, team and co-ed sports. For more information, contact Prescott Parks and Recreation at 928.777.1122.

Competition is the theme in Prescott this summer. On July 17 and 18, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., the city is hosting the 12 Hours at Night mountain bike relay, in which solo racers and teams of two or three complete as many eight-mile laps as possible in a 12-hour period. The course includes a mix of smooth wide track, twisty single-track, steep climbs and tunnels, and all of it at night—which, at this time of year in Arizona, is rather a blessing. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Prescott Kiwanis Foundation Endowment Fund.

Of course, if you'd like someone—or something—else to do the work, you can pay a visit to Granite Mountain Stables. Located just outside of Prescott, these western outfitters can saddle you up for guided horseback trail rides. They specialize in first-time and beginning riders, but everyone is bound to enjoy the wildlife and remote countryside on a variety of back-country pathways. Visit their site for more information on rides and pricing.

View of Granite Mountain and the Granite Dells © Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Iron King Trail © Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Tumbleweed just off the Iron King Trail © Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

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