Granite Dells Trails
by Ron Smith

The abundant rain and snow earlier this past spring had filled our normally dry washes and creeks, producing some dramatic changes to the landscape in the Granite Dells area. I visited one such area this a couple of months ago to a seldom visited portion of Granite Creek immediately below the Watson Lake dam. I've been baack to the area several times since. What was usually a difficult, though short trek through and over rocky bluffs and crevices has been made accessible via relatively new hiking trails into that remote corner of the Dells.

Through the efforts of the “Over the Hill Gang” a volunteer crew of trail builders, and planning by City of Prescott Trails Manager Chris Hosking, there are now twin access routes to this beautiful spot. On one of those subsequent visits to the area and accompanied by my son and two of his friends, we explored this trail on a bright and warm March morning. The route I will describe here is a loop of a mere 3 miles, but don't let lull you into what you might think is a "cake walk." It is a combination of a wide footpath, rock scrambles, and even a slightly treacherous stream crossing. But the rewards are some spectacular vistas, streamside paths, and a visit to other segments of the Peavine Trail.

To reach this area, travel north on Hwy 89 from Prescott to where the highway approaches the rocky palisades on either side of the road. Watch for “Granite Dells Road” on the right. Take this road for approximately 0.3 miles to a disturbed spot on the right that is being developed as a parking area and trailhead. The easily recognized path heads east from here, passing through a series of clefts in the rocky landscape. Continue on this path for another 0.3 miles, being on the lookout for an unmarked divide in the trail. The right branch contours up and around a granite bluff and returns to the creek bottom near the Granite Creek bridge crossing. This route is shown on the attached map as the Watson Dam Trail. To enjoy more of the brim full creek, continue straight at this junction on the Flume Trail. After hiking this easy path for about 1 mile, things get more interesting as you begin a scramble along the rocky gorge bordering the creek. You will come to a spot where recently constructed twin foot bridges give access through the granite cliffs. Continue scrambling and climbing to where the trail finally descends to the creek. This charming spot is immediately below where water cascades down for perhaps 100 from the dam spillway. By the time you read this the spillway overflow will be greatly diminished.

 

For the shortest possible loop hike, return to Granite Dells Rd via the Watson Dam Trail. The junction with the Flume Trail is just a short distance north of the dam.
A narrow girder currently serves as a bridge over the creek and access to a connection to the Peavine Trail. Continue downstream for just a few yards through the flattened sedges but now emerging with recent growth. Watch carefully for rocks on the right that have been marked with white circular paint spots. Follow the markers on what is called the Over the Hill Trail to the crest of the ridge overlooking the creek. Continuing in this fashion for a total of about 1.6 miles, you will encounter a trail junction and a trail map and marker. This is the Lakeshore Trail portion of the Peavine Trail. Turn left (north) here for a short distance to where this segment joins the wide main part of the Peavine. Continue north on the Peavine for another 0.4 miles to the four-way stop signs.

Watson Dam

Watson Lake Dam

Turn left onto Storm Ranch Road (private) for  a short distance to another road. Turn right here until you reach Granite Dells Road. Go left to the creek, then left again to the bridge crossing and access to your vehicle on Granite Dells Road. The total roundtrip distance is just barely over 3 miles.


trail map

Watson Lake Dam Trails

RETURN TO HOME PAGE