Photo by Chris Hosking
by Blake Herzog
It’s a less than .5 mile, rocky hike, a couple of miles away from the nearest parking lot.
It challenges hikers to scramble over unforgiving granite surfaces and ledges while rewarding them with a trek through a riparian cottonwood grove to the lush greenery and occasional waterfall at the base of Watson Lake’s dam.
The Over the Hill Trail is an essential piece of the 4.8-mile Watson Lake Loop trail network that allows people to circumnavigate Prescott’s most popular and widely known lake, ringed by the stone walls and boulders of the Granite Dells.
It links the Lakeshore and Watson Lake Dam trails just past its northeastern edge through some of the most rugged terrain to be found along the shore, where you’re likely to see some rock climbers in action along the way.
If you take the Over the Hill trail east from Watson Dam, you’ll start out in the greenery as the trail follows Granite Creek from its sometimes-muddy origins at the dam and proceeds into the lovely, tree-studded watershed.
Your path will be tricky in spots, but you’ll still enjoy the foliage and the wildlife it shelters.
Enjoy the shade while you can because the rest of the trail, once you move away from Granite Creek, has very little of it — for this reason it’s a great choice for winter hiking!
Mountain bikers use it, too, but you should be prepared for the technical nature of the rocky portion. The City of Prescott suggests hiking it first, so you’ll know what to expect.
The rocky Dells section will test and hone your balance skills as you gradually gain elevation; hiking boots with good treads are a near-necessity in this area, and trekking poles are a great idea for those who are a little less sure-footed.
However you go about it, you’re going to see some tremendous sights on this piece of the trail as you walk past soaring granite ridges and enjoy a stand of cottonwood trees along Boulder Creek.
The Over the Hill Trail packs a lot into its short distance, and you’ll feel pretty good about yourself once you’ve completed it.
Maintained by the City of Prescott, this trail shares a name with the Over the Hill Gang, a mostly retiree volunteer group that’s helped build out the Greater Prescott trail network since the 1990s. It was established by Prescott National Forest and the Yavapai Trails Association, and anyone interested in joining in can call Chris Hosking, the City’s trails coordinator, at 928.777.1590. This trail is reached from the Watson Lake Dam Trail, accessible from the Granite Dells Road trailhead and the Lakeshore Trail on the east, which connects to the Prescott Peavine Trail.
Parking fees: $3 at Watson Lake Park,
none at Prescott Peavine trailhead lot
Uses: Hiking, mountain biking
Distance: 0.4 miles
Level of difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Elevation: 5,076 feet to 5,194 feet