By Blake Herzog
Salida Gulch is a ravine through the Bradshaw Mountain foothills that incorporates high desert prickly pear, riparian willow and walnut trees, mountain ponderosa and views of grassy chaparral hillsides just a few hundred feet of elevation change, plus etchings left by an ancient civilization.
All this makes the trail that loops through it one of the most interesting you can find in Greater Prescott.
Once you get to the trailhead, it’s a short walk from a large parking lot to an unbridged crossing over Lynx Creek’s bed. If it’s running too fast, you’ll need to try again another day. You can choose to see the petroglyphs early on by going to your left or save them for the end by bearing right, which gives you a heart-pumping ascent and more gradual descent.
These rock carvings could be related to the Lynx Lake Ruins, which you likely drove past on your way to the trailhead, a Native American settlement last occupied around the year 1300. The symbols and figures are remarkably prominent, clustered on a single boulder near the 1-mile mark.
As you proceed farther into the gulch, the trail follows the stream bed that formed the ravine, which rarely contains more than a puddle or two, as the vegetation gradually shifts to juniper and manzanita. The pine trees begin to sprout as you approach the trail’s high point after just over 2.5 miles, after the route has doubled back along its narrow loop.
Don’t forget to look for your favorite peaks along the way and especially at the top. The horizon extends along the Bradshaw Mountains to Granite Mountain and over to Mingus, and with any luck extends to those vaunted San Francisco Peaks.
The final section goes down the gulch’s wall quickly, using a few switchbacks beloved by mountain bikers as they glide back to the entrance. Whichever direction you take, the Salida Gulch Trail gives users a sweeping glimpse of the region’s natural and human history.
SALIDA GULCH TRAIL NO. 95
This is a loop trail you reach from Prescott National Forest’s Salida Connector Trail No. 9263. To get there, take State Route 69 to Walker Road (Costco is at the intersection) and turn south toward Lynx Lake. Continue for 1.2 miles until you see the Lynx Lake Ruin sign and then turn left onto Lynx Creek Road. Go past the day use area and travel just under a mile to the end of the road, bearing right going down the hill until reaching a large lot with parking for single vehicles and horse trailers. Go to the trailhead and take No 9263 over Lynx Creek, after which you’ll quickly come to a gate and see Trail No. 95 on the right.
Salida Gulch is within the Lynx Lake Recreation Area, with its trailhead about 2 miles northeast of the lake, and hikers (but no bikers or horses) can go down to the lake by taking Johns Tank Trail No. 94, which branches off near southernmost end of the loop and goes for 1 hilly mile until reaching the shore.
Parking fees: None
Uses: Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding
Distance: 4.2 miles
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5,350 feet to 5,770 feet