by blake herzog
People come to Prescott, especially from the desert, to see tall ponderosas, shady trails, creeks with running water, colorful wildflowers in spring, maybe some snow in the winter, lots of wildlife and a cheery hometown feel.
Spruce Mountain is the ideal place to find almost everything you’re looking for in a Prescott trip, all of it accessible through the popular Groom Creek Loop Trail No. 307. Its circular path brings users up to its summit, which affords spellbinding views of Prescott, Granite Mountain, Chino Valley and many other expanses of our beautiful region.
It’s also one good workout, with a 1,200-foot elevation gain and lots of challenging surfaces to test your core and balance. Despite its popularity, there are other times (particularly during the week) where it’s a perfect place to find some peace and a refuge from the busyness of everyday life.
As with many loop hikes that go up the side of a mountain, the direction you decide to hike will have a big impact on your experience. From the trailhead, if you head to the right you’ll be heading in a counterclockwise direction that will give you a more gradual, meandering ascent to the top with opportunities for wildlife and horizon watching, which will take you through the majority of the loop.
Hikers and runners looking for a more intense cardio workout heading uphill and mountain bikers looking for longer downhill action can turn to the left for a steeper uphill climb. Either way you see lots of ponderosas and Douglas firs, the latter of which may have been mistaken for spruce by whoever named the mountain.
Whatever way you get there, the views from around the base of the watchtower are splendid and get even more so if the tower happens to be open for public use.
Groom Creek Loop Trail No. 307
You reach this gorgeous trail by taking Mt. Vernon Street in downtown Prescott south for about 7 miles as it becomes Senator Highway, passes Goldwater Lake and rolls through the picturesque community of Groom Creek. The trailhead sign will be on your left, across the street from Groom Creek Horse Camp.
Given its location it’s not surprising a lot of horseback riders use the trail along with hikers and mountain bikers, so you need to be mindful of how to interact with these users in particular. Horses should always be given the right of way, with other users slowing down and pulling to the side of the trail. Say hello and ask the rider what you should do if you’re not sure.
Don’t stand silently, but you also shouldn’t speed past the horse, yell or do anything else that might spook the horse. If you’re approaching the horse from behind, announce yourself well in advance and ask the rider what you should do.
Parking fees: None
Uses: Hiking, mountain biking,
Distance: 8.7 miles
Level of difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Elevation: 5,500 feet to 7,700 feet