In my search to explore new areas in Arizona for kid-friendly hikes, especially to escape the summer heat of the Phoenix area, Prescott eventually bubbled up as a possibility. I've driven past these lands a few times and never given it serious consideration, more interested in the destinations around Flagstaff. Curious about Prescott and the general Bradshaw area we headed up, late compared to our usual predawn start, and reached Potato Patch at 9am, starting our hike with sub-seventy temps under ponderosa pine shade.
Thomas immediately had some feelings, fighting with his hiking stick and not wanting to hold hands while walking on the initial road section between the parking lot and trailhead, so he lost his stick and some freedom. I braced myself for a long day of big feelings. However, he couldn't stay grumpy with the pleasant hiking conditions. The first mile was a long, steady uphill, steep for their little legs and with plenty of scenic distraction. We stopped a few times to enjoy some off-trail play, which helped brighten up everyone's day.
We took a break after two miles. Today's route was a lasso, with the loop including the summit of Spruce Mountain, the third highest peak in the Bradshaws, as well as a short creek section. The two mile mark was both a good spot to take a snack break and the point where our lasso looped, so I asked the boys to remember the area and tell me if we ended up returning to it.
The next few miles was a dance along and next to a forested ridge. There was some bike traffic here, and the kids began to whine a bit, so even though the pines were nice, it did drag a bit. We saw a few horny toads and some old fences. I was much more interested in the small picnic area that we eventually reached, sitting below Spruce Mountain, and dispersing lunch.
With a lighter pack we zipped up to the summit next, a narrow path with at least a dozen other hikers along it, the only congested hiking we had all day. The peak was a disappointment. The views were nice, sure, they were just hard to view with the fire tower hunkered on top, its foundation hacked and cemented into the rocks. I let the kids scramble around for a few minutes before recalling them down to a less-busy trail.
Our route dropped suddenly off the forested ridge, following the cut of Wolf Creek. After so much uphill all day, all three kids took off at full speed down the rocky trail, and within five minutes I was treating two separate subjects with bloody abrasions. For the next few miles I instituted a strict walking policy to avoid further casualties.
The next leg was an interesting one, a use trail that cut across the creek and climbed back up to the ridge. It wasn't marked and was overgrown compared to the manicured trails that we had hiked all morning, even having a few deadfall obstacles, though my kids didn't mind too much. They were just happy to find a little waterfall at the crossing, so I gave them an extra break here to splash around a bit before the climb.
Our last three miles were under a warm afternoon sky. There was that climb to deal with, the steepest climb of the day, which I let Charlotte lead us through, then the long descent down the leg of the lasso. There was some crabbiness shared, some promises made to keep legs moving, and somehow we all returned to the Jeep in decent spirits.
Nine miles and 2000' elevation is pretty darn impressive for all three of them, especially lil' Charlotte, so we stopped by Culver's for ice cream on the way home. Prescott turned out to be a pretty cool area for hiking, even if it means driving through the Phoenix Metro, and it's been added to the rotation of hiking destinations.