Hoot Owl Trail #745: a Mellow Trail in the Trees
By Amanda Lane, Owner, The Hike Shack
I recently found myself in a search for hike in the shade. I needed to get outside, but when the temps in Prescott reached over 100 for several days in a row, I wanted to get out of the scorching sun. I had heard about a new trail up Walker Road and decide to give it a shot. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The Hoot Owl Trail was constructed in 2020 with funds from the state OHV tags proceeds, as well as some extra muscle form the Prescott Dirt Riders and other volunteers. It is a motorized 50-inch trail that is open to all users.
The trail begins at the 7 Mile Gulch Trailhead located two miles out Walker Road on the right. Watch for the 2-mile marker; the trailhead is a little hidden. The parking lot has room for 20 or so cars but has no facilities. The five-mile Hoot Owl begins on your left, just after the cattle guard down the 7 Mile Gulch Trail. It parallels Walker Road and takes you on a shaded journey through the Manzanita, Ponderosas and Junipers. I ran into a herd of deer and I have heard of both mountain lion and black bear sightings in the area. The trail ends at the Smith Ravine Trailhead on Walker Road across from Bannie Mine Road. The trail is wide, has little to no rocky sections, and the elevation gain and loss were very mild. It would make a great mellow trail for any user.
There are many signs reminding guests of blind corners or service road crossings. There are single track trails that split off from the main trail. At this point many of those aren’t yet legal or marked, but if you are in question as to whether to go right or left at any of these intersections, choose the wider of the two options.
Even with the road nearby, it was very quiet, and I could hear the wind in the trees for most of the journey. This is one of many beautiful features of well-designed trail. The Hoot Owl dips into several seasonal creeks, offering a burst of green foliage, and I am sure during monsoon season, offers a cool splash in the water. It was very dry when I was out in June, which reminded me of how important it is to bring extra water. I went through more than I expected with the heat and was glad I had my extra gallon in the truck (in the summertime when I adventure, I always keep an extra gallon at the vehicle for the unexpected. It is an easy thing to do and has come in handy more times than I can count).
The Hoot Owl Trail can be used in many ways: as an out and back, an end to end, or as a loop with the Homestead Trail if you cross over Walker Road. It could also be connected to an all-day moto adventure. This trail is even something I would consider off-road stroller friendly. No matter what adventure you choose, I am sure you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was. Enjoy!
A quick note: There are many spots on this trail where corners have been frequently cut. This is trail damage. Cutting corners destroys vegetation, causes drainage issues, and is just bad trail etiquette. Trail building and maintenance take an immense number of hours, most of which are volunteer hours. When a corner has been cut and a new trail is formed the erosion caused can have serious damaging effects on the rest of the trail. If you are in such a hurry that you feel you need to cut the corner, you probably should be out on the trail at all.
Stop by The Hike Shack at 104 N. Montezuma Street in Prescott or call 928.443.8565 or visit www.thehikeshack.com.