Butte Creek Trail Follows Riparian Wonderland

Photo by Jessica Turetzky

by Blake Herzog

Butte Creek on the west side of Prescott is especially green and lively following a wet winter like the one we just had. But even during dry years the banks are a green ribbon through the forest flanked by towering cottonwoods that shade oaks, willows, box elders and golf course greens accompanied by signs warning users to “duck” if a ball should come whizzing by.

The Butte Creek Trail is a beautiful path, with the eastern half of its relatively short length in the City of Prescott and the west half in Prescott National Forest.

It links into the Thumb Butte Recreation Area’s trail system (within the national forest it’s known as Trail No. 321) and also is perfect for an easy out-and-back family adventure that’s not too rigorous, but lets everybody get more steps in while enjoying dramatic vistas.

The Prescott trailhead is in Stricklin Park, a smallish preserve with an archeological site and a dragonfly-embellished bridge across the creek into a small, shady canyon strewn with boulders and trees.

Another bridge marks your entrance into the Hassayampa Golf Club as the creek winds past its last three holes.

Here there’s still plenty of native trees and shrubs as you thread through a small canyon, but you also get to see freshly trimmed grass and luxury homes peering onto the fairways. Golf cart paths come within view of the trail you’re on, and if you happen to have brought a hard hat along, this is the time to doff it.

After you pass this section the elevation starts to climb and Thumb Butte and surrounding peaks come into view, giving you an excellent vantage point for admiring them and the surrounding terrain. After crossing the forest boundary, you find more pine trees and manzanitas than cottonwoods as the elevation gains continue and the trail intersects with No. 323, which ends at the base of another butte, and ends at No. 327, which can form part of a customized loop and is also part of the Prescott Circle Trail.

This path made possible by collaboration by the City of Prescott, Prescott National Forest and the Capital Canyon Club is beautiful and accessible year-round, though it can get slushy and muddy in the winter. Most of the trail surface provides a good, soft-enough base for boots and hooves, but a few sections are somewhat rocky and a few users have found hiking poles helpful. To reach the trailhead at Stricklin Park from downtown Prescott travel about 3 miles toward Thumb Butte on Gurley Street (turns into Thumb Butte Road) and turn left on Sherwood Drive (just past Hassayampa Village Lane). Go approximately a tenth of a mile on Sherwood and park along the street.

Parking fees: None
Uses: Hiking, horseback riding,
mountain biking (City of Prescott does
not recommend bikes on its segment)
Distance: 3.1 miles (one way, city and
national forest segments combined)
Level of difficulty: Easy to moderate
Elevation: 5,450 feet to 5940 feet
(City segment)