Surrounded by mountains and lakes, and comfortably mild year-round thanks to its mile-high elevation, the town of Prescott, Arizona, naturally draws outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. The oasis-like town itself is threaded with trails that connect to the surrounding national forest, and three lakes for fishing and boating are within the city limits.
Favorite destinations nearby include Granite Mountain, Mingus Mountain, and Thumb Butte for vertical challenges by foot, bicycle, snowshoe, or carabiner; and the Granite Dells, an area of boulders and rock formations that contains two popular lakes, Watson and Willow. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at these and Goldwater Lake on weekends. Summer camping offers relief in the cool ponderosa pine forest at Granite Basin and Lynx Lakes in the Granite Mountain Wilderness area.
The Bradshaw Mountains and Prescott National Forest offer hundreds of miles of recreational trails for hiking and mountain biking, in environments ranging from slick rock to granite boulders to alpine forest. Horse camps dot the area, and wildlife enthusiasts will find evidence of elk, deer, wild boar, and many smaller forest denizens, including songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors—the area is popular with birdwatchers. Local outfitters offer equipment rental, instruction, and guided excursions. Maps are available at the Forest Service office in downtown Prescott at 344 South Cortez Street.
For families, picnicking, barbecues, boulder-scrambling, volleyball, and horseshoes are popular at the Granite Dells and at more than 18 parks and preserves within Prescott itself. A map of city trails, including some of historic significance, is available at the City of Prescott website.
Mild winters, cool summer nights, and sunshine more than 300 days a year make Prescott a haven for golfers. Five 18-hole public courses (plus three private) offer varying degrees of challenge, and are affordably priced besides.
Rated one of America’s Best Adventure Towns by National Geographic, Prescott hosts two legendary contests that attract thousands of competitors: the Whiskey Row Marathon (one of the nation’s toughest) and the three-day endurance event known as Whiskey Off-Road Bike Races, a strong draw for athletes who want to test themselves against the high elevation and rugged natural terrain. Small wonder that Prescott was ranked the third “skinniest city” in America by the AARP!