On a beautiful Sunday morning, I found myself struggling to leave my warm comfy bed and cup of coffee. Some days it is just hard to keep your chin up. I finally convinced myself not to waste the day and go for a hike to clear my head. I found myself heading to the Ranch Trailhead parking area just down Walker Road about a ¼ mile. I heard it had recently received some much-needed love. I tried to do this trail a few years back and found it to be so terrible I had to find another hike to write about because there was no way I was going back. I definitely could not send anyone else there.
I jumped out of the truck with my Camelbak and little hiking partner, Pipp. The parking area on Walker Road had picnic tables and a restroom near the 62 trailheads. The west side of the Ranch Trail was redone several years ago but the east side from the Turley Junction was only recently rerouted. I was instantly impressed with the amount of work that went into fixing up this very old trail and giving it new life. It once was a terrible climb filled with water bars that had been so washed out they were suspended in the air over the drainage! Now the trail gradually climbs the hills with ease. Y
ou will encounter many small markers along the way, noting where the old trail crosses the new, making sure to keep you on the correct path, and letting you know the old trail is healing and soon to disappear. The trail was about 3 miles to the Boyscout Trail. Now it is more like 4.5 miles. The changes in the trail not only make it more usable but are also more sustainable; causing less erosion and fewer man-hours to maintain. The trail signs have not been updated so don’t be caught off guard.
The first few miles are pretty exposed and the climb is about 1000 feet over the 4 miles, so take plenty of water. I ran into a hiker on the trail that was a little confused by the distance so we double-checked the Prescott City trail map and found the distance had not been updated on both sides of the map. The trail is perfect for biking and hiking and I found it moderate for difficulty. The Ranch Trail now spans almost 10 miles from Walker Road to Senator Highway. If you are planning to do it end to end, you will want to know that east to west is going to be more of a climb.
As Pipp and I strolled down the trail, I found myself laughing at the countless signs around so many corners: “healing in progress”. Apparently, I needed to remember that not just the trail was healing today, but so was I. Sometimes things need to be rerouted; we have to change our path and start to heal. I found myself reflecting on a year filled with good and bad memories and reflecting on the fact that I too am healing in progress. Getting outside has always been my preferred form of therapy. I may have begrudgingly left my warm bed this morning, but I found myself in a better place upon my return. It felt good to be outside, breathing some fresh air, exercising a body that needed to move, and freeing a mind that needed a little peace. People always ask if I hike alone. Yes, I do more often than not actually. Today I needed space, I needed to breathe, and apparently, I needed a sign. Things always seem better after I have had some time to get outside. Some days it takes a little more just to get moving, but I can’t remember ever regretting it. The Ranch Trail is quickly becoming one of my go-to adventures.