By Amanda Lane
I was recently asked where a person can go to see some of the Prescott National Forest Old Growth Junipers. Well I have your answer, The West Spruce Trail. To access this trail, head up Gurley toward Thumb Butte, go past Thumb Butte and turn left on the FR 373 toward the Sierra Prieta Overlook. Travel on this dirt road for approximately 3 miles. You will see a cattle guard sign on your right; the trail head marker is just behind it on the right side of the road. There is a small parking area off the road. There are no services at this trail head, so bring plenty and remember to pack it in and pack it out!
The West Spruce Trail is about 7.5 miles in length and divided into an east side and west side. The east side of the trail is moderate to strenuous and the west side is considered more strenuous to difficult, due to the steepness of the trail. I thoroughly enjoyed my east side adventure, and turned it into a simple out and back. The Juniper trees start to appear only minutes down the trail and continue to get more magnificent the further you travel. The views are epic and the Gamble Oaks, Pinion Pines, Manzanita, and Douglas Fur decorate the mountain sides. The settlers mistakenly identified the Douglas Fur as Spruce, which remains the namesake of the mountain. The trail travels along the ridge of Porter Mountain and winds across and around several peaks. Clear views are offered all the way to the San Francisco Peaks in the northeast, as well as the rolling hills to the southwest. The trail is rough and rocky, and I recommend bringing your trekking poles. Several trails split off the 264 and follow the drainages down toward Dearing Park to the east. The 264 terminates at the FR 9271A, but I decided to save that half for another day. I turned around where the trail intersected FR 47B. This made for about a 6 mile out and back adventure. This trail is actually suitable for a much shorter out and back too. This is very rewarding adventure even if you only travel a short distance. There are tons of epic places to stop and enjoy the view and a peaceful moment under one of our many legendary Junipers trees that seem to be as old as the hills themselves.
For more information about loccal hike or gear visit The Hike Shack at 104 N. Montezuma in downtown in Prescott, call (928) 443-8565 or visit www.azhikeshack.com