The massive granite formations that make up the area’s Granite Dells surely seemed close enough to touch as the old Santa Fe Railroad passed by the iconic Point of Rocks and the many other massive granite formations lining the route.
The Peavine – so named because its route reportedly was as twisty as the vine of a pea plant – once carried passengers and freight between Ash Fork, Arizona to the north, and Phoenix to the south.
Abandoned as a train route decades ago, the railroad bed now serves as a recreational trail, and regularly carries hundreds of walkers, cyclists, runners, and equestrians.
Stick to the main route, and you will get none of the twists and turns of the old Peavine. The six miles that are part of Prescott’s trail system largely skirt the tortuous grades and turns, and instead offer a wide, flat trail with a gradual rise.
That is if you stay on the Peavine and opt not to divert off onto the network of trails built recently to take hikers and cyclists into the midst of the rocky Granite Dells.
For those who do venture off the beaten track – and you should, if you’re able – the single track trails weave through gorgeous orange-tinted granite and flirt with the shores of the nearby Watson Lake.
The Dells trails come with names like Lakeshore, Over the Hill, and the Flume, and traverse rugged terrain, heading up sheer rock faces and through cactus-strew gorges.
Worried that you might lose your way in the acres of rock formations? You shouldn’t be; Prescott’s parks and rec department and a army of volunteers have marked the trail well. A series of white dots appears on the rocks at regular intervals to guide hikers and cyclists along the way. Every time I think I’m lost, I look around and spot the next dot.
Another benefit of going off the Peavine: The ability to do a six-mile loop around Watson Lake. The loop takes in a variety of trail types and terrain – from the easy Peavine, to the rocky white-dot trails, to a relatively flat section through the shady Watson Woods at the southern end of the lake.
On weekends, the trail can get busy, with mountain bikers picking up speed on the smooth Peavine. But I recently did the loop on a Thursday afternoon and had many sections of the trail all to myself.
Beautiful scenery, a cool breeze, and a strenuous workout – all of the makings for a wonderful spring outing.