Groom Creek Loop Trail #307 Features Views, History, Wildlife, and Lots of Trees for a Satisfying Hiking Experience
By Amanda Lane, Owner, The Hike Shack
Often referred to as the Spruce Loop, Trail #307 is actually named the Groom Creek Loop and is probably one of Prescott’s best and most famous trails. It’s one of my personal favorites, and every time I hike it, I fall in love with it even more. The Groom Creek Loop is great adventure for the slightly more advanced hiker, but well worth the extra effort.
The trailhead, which features a large parking area with restrooms, is located about 6.4 miles up Senator Highway on the left (the road is paved all the way to the trailhead).
Trail #307 is a nearly-nine-mile loop to the Spruce Mountain Fire Lookout tower (where there are more restrooms) and back down. It climbs more than 1,400 feet, topping out at 7,693 feet. Taking the trail to the right creates a longer adventure to the tower and a more gradual climb with a steeper descent back to the parking lot.
The trail can be rough and rocky in sections and it has lots switchbacks and tons of water bars, which create steep steps in either direction. The trail has little shade on the lower ends and tons of cover once you start to climb the mountainside. There are a few exceptions where bark beetles and microburst storms took down sections of Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Fir.
My favorite part of the hike is crossing the saddle between the peaks. The two-mile stretch between the fire tower and the Trail #377 intersection contains tons of old growth trees and historical remnants. The lookout tower itself is a nice picnic area with a few tables and breathtaking views.
During the summer months, the fire tower is still used to monitor the forest. When occupied by a Forest Service employee, hikers can sometimes get a peek of the view from inside the tower (I remember doing so once when I was a child).
Coles Cabin, at the end of its own rough and rocky trail, not far from the southern side of Trail #307, is another highlight.
The lower section of trail crosses Wolf Creek in several places and contains at least a little water most of the year. It can also flow heavily just after a storm.
All kinds of wildlife can be spotted on your journey so be on the lookout—you will not be disappointed.
The Gamble Oaks make this a great fall hike when they start to change color.
This trail has seen lots of improvement over the years. Remember, it is a long haul so take plenty of water and snacks. I highly recommend taking your trekking poles, as this hike can be rough on the ankles and hard on the knees.
Because the Groom Creek horse camp is directly across the road, the trail is very popular with equestrian users most of the year and it’s also open to hikers and mountain bikers. Just remember the rules of the trail and if you forget there are several signs in the area to remind you. Both areas are a pack it in pack it out. The parking area is also a popular bouldering site so the parking lot may be full, but you might not see as many people on the trail as you may think.
Stop by The Hike Shack at 104 N. Montezuma Street in Prescott or call 928.443.8565 or visit www.thehikeshack.com.