Hike Johns Tank Trail for Eagle-Eye View

by Blake Herzog | Photo by Karen Shaw

The Johns Tank Trail is notable for its short yet moderately challenging path up and down a ridge in the Bradshaw Mountain foothills and verdant surroundings.

But it’s perhaps best known as the trail that traverses the bald eagle nesting area adjacent to Lynx Lake. It is subject to closures from December through June to protect their offspring.

Anyone hiking this trail throughout summer and fall will understand why these majestic birds favor this particular slice of the forest. Towering ponderosas, junipers and oaks wave over a floor of grass and soil that support numerous species of wildlife.

The trout-laden lake beckons just to the west while a gentle incline leads to higher ground with panoramic views. After summering up north, the eagles start to return to the area in the fall so keep your eyes peeled!

This mile-long route links the popular Lynx Recreation and Salida Gulch trails, which draw nature lovers into the dense vegetation and chapparal grasslands that are both featured in the Greater Prescott area.

Starting from its western origin at Lynx Lake, it starts out easy before starting to head uphill while swinging to the south, all in densely vegetated soil and pine-scented air.

After reaching the Salida Gulch Trail, trekkers can turn right and hike a few steps before reaching a short path to the left taking them to Johns Tank itself, a shallow, muddy hydration source for forest animals.

They can then choose to turn around and go back down the lovely slope to the lake or take the Salida Gulch’s tour through habitats ranging from high desert to woodlands.

The Lynx Recreation (a.k.a. Lakeshore) Trail is also a worthy destination, hugging the banks of this especially pretty reservoir for more than 2 miles. But the Johns Tank Trail, particularly because of its limited availability, clearly justifies a visit by itself.

This is an “internal trail” within Prescott National Forest, which means it can only be reached from other trails, but it is still quite accessible. Drivers can take State Route 69 east from downtown Prescott or west from Prescott Valley to Walker Road, then turn south. After about 2.2 miles, turn left on Lynx Lake North Shore (Forest Road 611). Drive into the Lynx Lake Recreation Area until you reach a parking lot. The sidewalk leading to the Lakeshore Trail (No. 311) is on the southeast side. Turn left (north) when you reach the trail and hike until crossing a concrete spillway and the beginning of Johns Tank Trail, about one-tenth of a mile. The trail connects the northeastern corner of Lynx Lake to the southeast corner of the looping Salida Gulch Trail No. 95, which is another access point. Johns Camp Trail is designated only for hiking, as is the Lakeshore Trail. The Salida Gulch is approved for mountain biking and horseback riding. 

Parking fees: $5; free on Wednesdays 

Uses: Hiking only

Distance: 1 miles (one way) 

Level of difficulty: Moderate 

Elevation: 5,550 to 5,800 feet