By Amanda Lane, owner The Hike Shack
Balancing Rock Trail is recommended for all seasons depending on snow, but we decided hot summer days might be too sun exposed. Keep temperatures in mind if you hike on extremely warm days. We chose to take this trail on a 55 degree Prescott day that turned out to be crazy windy! We were protected at times and had to adjust our layers throughout the hike. To get to the trailhead, you take Iron Springs Rd. to Granite Basin; turn right on Granite Basin for about 2 miles to the Cayuse Day Use Area on the right. There is a $5.00 fee and restrooms are available. The trailhead starts at the south end of the parking lot. You will follow Balancing Rock Trail #349 to the right.
The total loop is 4.2 miles with little elevation gain. Hiking, cycling, and horseback are permitted. If you are on a horse and going off this trail, be sure to check signage as some trails that connect to this one limit horse travel. At 0.75 miles, the trail crosses the Granite Basin paved road and continues on the other side.
The 1.2 mile mark is a junction with the Surprise Spring Trail #350. Stay on the Balancing Rock Trail #349 to the left. This loop crosses multiple streams and offers juniper, oaks, and manzanita throughout. The manzanita were actually blooming and even more beautiful than normal on our springtime hike. This section offers the most unobstructed views of Granite Mountain and beyond to the north.
There is another junction at the 2.8 mile mark. Here you take the West Lake Trail #351. Leading up to and just past this junction are many outcroppings of large granite boulders. At 3.0 miles you will come to the Metate Trailhead parking area. Across the road toward the east one way road, you will see a sign on the right for Trail #350. Take that through the picnic area and past the see saws on your left. Your last junction is at the 3.7 mile mark where you go right on Trail #351. This trail parallels a small creek and the paved road, completing the loop to the Cayuse parking area.