by Blake Herzog
Prescott has the famed 100-mile network of scenic multiuse trails, but the Town of Prescott Valley has one of the shorter but tougher treks around in the Glassford Hill Summit Trail.
It’s 4.2 miles round-trip and carves a path along the scrubby surface of this landmark of central Greater Prescott, with a nearly continuous incline punctuated by eight switchbacks. Each has a bench for those who need to take a break on the way up or down. Many users appreciate its convenient location and quick turnaround for a strenuous workout.
The trail is well-graded, though rocky in spots, and wide enough for you to comfortably pass other users when needed. It’s labeled as a “primitive” trail by the Town but does have a few interpretive signs about its geologic and civilizational history, plus three iron horse sculptures grazing on the grassland. There is a restroom facility at the trailhead.
The trail’s first mile isn’t as steep as the second as it proceeds toward the north face of the hill, providing a close-up view of the grassland that for too many is just drive-thru country on the way to Interstate 17. After you pass the Town’s water tower the incline really kicks in, presenting a true fitness challenge for those who hike, and especially those who run, the remaining mile.
Those who reach the summit are rewarded with 360-degree views of Prescott Valley, Prescott and the surrounding mountains, helpfully labeled with metal signs cut to mimic their shapes. There’s also a historical display and, at trail’s end, a couple of picnic tables where the vistas are the most outstanding.
The lack of shade on most of the trail makes carrying water and wearing sunscreen a necessity year-round. The trail is also popular with night hikers seeking cooler weather and starlight, but users should be aware of the wildlife at all times of day — rattlesnakes on the trail, yes, but also pronghorn and antelope, plus lizards and other smaller critters.
This trail winds around the side of Prescott Valley’s tallest hill, a volcanic cone active some 12 to 14 million years ago, according to geologic evidence. Archeologists have traced settlements by the Mountain Patayan people in the area surrounding the hill as far back as 14,000 years ago. After being known by white settlers in the 1800s as “Bald Mountain” for its near-complete lack of trees, it was formally named after Col. William Glassford. He used a heliographic station on the hill to communicate via Morse code as part of a sophisticated regional network, and a replica stands today near the summit. The trailhead is off Castle Drive just south of Antelope Lane and is accessible from Prescott East Highway via Antelope or Sunset lanes.
Parking fees: None
Distance: 2.1 miles (one way)
Level of difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Elevation: 5,183 feet to 6,123 feet