Trail of the Month: January 2005
Iron King Trail, Arizona
The Iron King Trail runs nearly four miles long and radiates with a quintessential southwest flare. It passes through lovely grasslands, rustic sandstone rock formations and enchanting dessert while capitalizing on unique foliage and its historical background. The rural dirt path is a hotbed for mountain bikers as well as hikers and equestrians.
Begin your trek at the eastern trailhead, located north of the Glassford Hill Road stoplight and Spouse Drive in Prescott Valley. Parking is available on the left side of Glassford Hill Road with trail access across the street. A note of advice before venturing out on the trail, make sure you have packed plenty of water and sunscreen. The Iron King Trail does not have any water stops and very few places to find shelter from the harsh sun. From the trailhead course south for one mile among lush Arizona terrain sprinkled with colorful indian paintbrush, tall pine trees and vibrant desert globemallow. It is here, at mile post one, that you will experience the first of many references to the trails railroading history.
The Iron King Trail follows a majority of the former Prescott & Eastern (P&E) railroad line. The P&E was established in the late 1800s and was once used for mining and ranching purposes, carrying both cattle and iron in Arizona. While the railroad no longer services stations along this route, its history is still a major presence along the trail. A unique track maintenance rail car can be found at each mile point providing users with necessary shade and an interesting observation point. The track cars themselves were donated by Phelps Dodge, and range from 80 to 100 years in age. Eventually, the town of Prescott Valley plans to erect signs detailing the history of each rail car. Other distinct railroad references accompany the cars along the Iron King Trail. Railroad switches serve as mile markers and actual flat bed cars were used for three different bridges located along the trail.
Before leaving the first mile post make sure to check out Glassford Hill, an extinct volcano named after Lieutenant William Glassford. According to the Hike Arizona Web site, he was chief signal officer during the 1880s and responsible for 27 heliograph stations—which used signal mirrors to send Morse code—throughout the southwest. Glassford Hill provided communication for three separate forts during the Indian campaigns.
As you navigate 2.7 miles from Glassford Hill to Granite Dells stay alert to wildlife that could be lurking among the fertile terrain. Pronghorn antelope, eagles, rattlesnakes, kangaroo rat, javelina and even the occasional mountain lion can be found along the trail. Signs located at each trailhead provide information on how to handle any close encounters with native animals.
Granite Dells is home to numerous giant boulders that have weathered over time and taken on irregular and attractive shapes. Ruins and artifacts indicate Native Americans lived here in the early 1800s. This area is popular with avid rock climbers as well as family picnickers out for a scenic lunch.
From this point you will notice a distinct change in terrain from grasslands to desert as you pass Granite Dells. Trail users will travel a short distance through Lonesome Valley on their way to the southern trailhead. While this area does seem very lonesome, it's the best spot to absorb Arizona's infinite blue skies that are interrupted only by fluffy clouds and massive mountains in the distance. Those interested in continuing their southwest adventure beyond four miles can jump on the 3.2 mile Peavine Trail which connects with the southern terminus of the Iron King Trail. The Peavine takes trail users towards the town of Prescott. Picnic benches near the trailhead offer a chance to rest and take in the picturesque scenery surrounding the trail.