When you’re looking for a sunny winter hike on a trail that might get a little too sunny in the summer, give the Little Granite Mountain Trail (No. 37 in the Prescott National Forest’s inventory) a chance.
It takes you past some spectacular boulders, rock formations and vistas on the western slope of the mountain while connecting with with several trails offering forays into woodsier, more lush terrain on the east side.
Beginning your trek at the trailhead at its southern end, just off Iron Springs Road, you take a gradual climb past shrubs and cactuses mixed with low-rise to mid-size junipers and pines. This is where you encounter some of the most impressive and improbable boulders you’ll find in the Prescott area, some sprouting like trees out of the ground.
After approximately a mile you reach the highest point in the trail and the junction with the Clark Spring Trail 40, which will be on the right. Continue straight to stay on No. 37 and follow the southwestern rim of the Granite Mountain Wilderness.
You’ll see rock-strewn hillsides and find plenty of boulders you might want to scramble on if you’re so inclined, but it’s best to stay on the trail. You’ll see peaks all around you, including Granite and Little Granite Mountain in the immediate east and north, Sugarloaf Mountain in the southwest and the Sierra Prietas to the south.
You’re likely to see a wide range of wildlife from snakes and other reptiles to rock squirrels and at the least evidence of larger mammals traveling through the area.
Trail No. 37 ends at Blair Pass as it meets Granite Mountain Trail No. 261 — if you keep going straight on 261, after a steep ascent you’ll reach the summit of Granite Mountain. Note that you’ll be entering the wilderness area, which prohibits bicycles along with motorized vehicles.
LITTLE GRANITE MOUNTAIN TRAIL NO. 37
This trail can be traveled as an out-and-back line for a total of about 8.5 miles, but many users take advantage of the others it intersects with to create a loop of about 10 miles that showcases a variety of landscapes.
After hiking the first mile in on No. 37, many recommend continuing on that trail until reaching No. 261 and turning right to continue the loop, with the climb to the top of Granite Mountain an add-on for those prepared for it.
Trail No. 261 crosses several small streambeds before reaching a stand of tall pines that block some of the surrounding views but provide some welcome shade. After a little less than 2 miles you’ll reach another junction with Trail No. 40, which features boulders and woods as you climb back up to its junction with No. 37 before descending the same mile that started the loop.
To reach the trailhead take Iron Springs Road through Prescott; about 3 miles past Granite Basin Road you will see it on your right.
- Parking fees: None
- Uses: Hiking, biking, equestrian
- Distance: 4.2 miles (one way)
- Level of difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation: 5,976 feet to 6,557 feet