Sat 31 Oct 2009
Written by Mary
Photos by Jeff
Thumb Butte Trail # 33
(Prescott, AZ 86303)
Directions to Trailhead: From Prescott travel Gurley Road westward for about three miles until it changes to Thumb Butte Road which ends at the trailhead (day use) parking lot. Cost is $5 per car; Golden Age Passports Accepted. Wednesdays are free (at the time of this writing).
Thumb Butte Area is a is one of the most popular destinations in the Prescott National Forest and Trail # 33 likely heads the list of the hikes there. Thumb Butte is an impressive towering isolated hill that rises steeply nearly 600 feet from surrounding woodlands. The trail begins with stoned steps that ascend to the start point of Trail # 33, which is described as 1.75 miles and rated “moderate difficulty”.
Advice: The trail leads right or left….. for an aerobic workout go left and ascend the paved walkway that quickly rises (sometimes at a 45 degree angle) towards the massive butte. I’d challenge that description and say it is fairly difficult or at least mildly unpleasant; I had to rest several times; even the occasional switchbacks are not flat and there are many berms (likely for water run-off) that require careful footing.
That said, the woods are glorious! We hiked in late October, and the reds and golds of the low bush and wildflowers were a welcome change from our Phoenix home. And although this is a popular trail, we passed no more than a dozen or two hikers on this sunny weekday.
At the top, the pavement ends, and the butte still beckons several hundred yards ahead in the distant. At the crest of the trail, we succumb to the temptation of a narrow dirt path that leads off to the left up toward the Butte. This path snakes gently upward about 300 feet towards the Butte, and provides great vistas of the Sierra Prieta Mountains to the southwest. We opt to turn back when the path becomes less discernable; and feel a bit guilty in light of the signage directing hikers to remain on the path.
Trail 33 is basically a loop, and the trip back is an incredibly pleasant path (mostly hard packed) that provides a more gradual slope….hint…consider this leg of the loop for the upward trek!!!). Mid way down, the Butte disappears from view but manzanita, common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and alligator juniper prove a worthy substitute.
If you are interested in a short trek to view the beautiful mountains of Arizona’s high country and enjoy Prescott, “Everybody’s Home Town,” Thumb Butte will not disappoint you!
Gardening on the Moon, www.gardeningonthemoon.com, originally published this post