Running Prescott: Granite Mountain to Thumb Butte

Summary:  We interrupt the normal posting of Running Oahu, to bring you this special posting from Prescott, AZ.  Prescott is home to a fantastic network of trails, some made and maintained by the City of Prescott, and the rest by the US Forest Service.   Using USFS trails, I was able to string together a good run from Granite Mountain to Thumb Butte, cutting cross country for a nice 10.1 mile point-to-point run.  It’s an unsupported run; you’ll need to bring everything you’re going to need.  But the rewards are great; it’s beautiful, and you’ll likely not encounter another person during the run.  From the Granite Basin Lake, it’s Trail 345 to 351 (and the Cayuse Equestrian Trailhead), to Trail 346 which links to 332; when I got near Thumb Butte, I opted to turn left onto Trail 318, before arriving at the base of Thumb Butte.

The Good:  The weather can be great; if you make this run at any time between October and May (when it’s not actively snowing), you’ll like have great weather as the daytime temps average in the 60’s and 70’s during that time (and only goes into the high 80’s during the other months).  The trails are fantastically marked; you won’t wonder on which trail you’re running.  And prep work is a snap; between the city and USFS websites, you’ll find tons of data on the trails, the area, and the options.  And the trails?  Well, Trail 332 is due for some love and maintenance in 2010 from the USFS, but it’s still a great trail for running.  I had expected worse conditions on the trails, given the heavy snows this year, but they’re in good shape (probably in large part to the USFS crews maintaining them).

Granite Mountain Lake — a good place to have the family drop you off.  Nice place for lunch, too — clean bathrooms.

Getting out of the basin takes a few miles of uphill running.  Not too many, and not too steep of a run.

This is actually an uncommon characteristic for this run — long and straight.

The Bad:  There’s lots of info on the trails, and lots of markers with the trail numbers along the way, but there are very few maps out in the woods showing the whole network.  Running here is not a place to wing it.  And did I mention the altitude?  Granite Basin Lake is at about 5600 feet elevation, and the high points — all three of them — are up close to 6000 feet.  If you’re acclimated, great; if not, well, prepare to run slower and deal with it.

Looking ahead to Thumb Butte.  This is from the top of the ridge of the basin, on Trail 332.  “Just keep heading towards Thumb Butte,” I was told.  But do you see a trail leading there?  I sure don’t.

Here’s the view looking back towards Granite Mountain, from close to where Trail 318 splits off from 332.  Granite Mountain just seems a loooong way off, looking at this photo.

The Ugly:  No water once you get past the Cayuse Equestrian Trailhead.  It’d be nice to run into a faucet here and there, but that’s just me.  At 10 miles, a 100 oz camelbak will get you through this, though.  Of all of the trails along this route, the northern half of 332 is in the worst shape (and it’s not that bad), but the planned 2010 renovations should fix this.

Trail 332, in the middle.  High water forced me to find a new crossing place — there are worse things in the world than that, though.

Even in the winter, Trail 332 can be a hot and dry place.  With no water along the way, be sure to bring plenty.

Type of route: Trail run, point to point.
Good to run in the rain? Yes.  The water levels are up right now, thanks to all the snow, and there’s still a good amount of mud on north-facing slopes, but yeah, I’d run this in the rain.

North facing sloped hang onto their snow and moisture the longest.  Here, north-facing portions of Trail 318 have stayed muddy the longest.

Length:  10.1 miles

Options for the route:  Not really.  For a point to point run, 332 is really the only way.

Elevation change on the run:  5600 to 6000 feet.  Nothing too steep or crazy.
Water used: 100 ounces.  I could / would have used more if I’d had it.

Little if any parts of Trail 332 are anything even close to flat.  It’s all up or down.

Where to start: Granite Basin Lake Recreation Area.
Where to park: Same
Point your car’s GPS towardsHere.

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

This is actually one of the wider parts of 332, just before it links up with Trail 318.

Water? Nope
Toilets? At Granite Basin Lake, and at Thumb Butte.  And I gotta say — in both cases, they were clean.
Medical care? Nope.
Ranger / park folks? Yep.  At Granite Basin Lake, and at Thumb Butte, and sometimes out on the trails.
Picnic areas? At Granite Basin Lake, and at Thumb Butte.  Nothing along the way.
A place to change afterwards? Yes, at Granite Basin Lake and at Thumb Butte.

Rewards in the area:  Casa Sanchez, but really, I’d make the drive to In-n-Out Burgers afterward.

There are long stretches when the butte is out of view.  Sort makes for a nice treat when it comes back into view.

You’d run this route when?  When you want to do a point to point run.  When you want some rolling hills.  When the snow is melting and you want to see the snow and mud and full creeks.  When the sun isn’t brutal yet.

My rating:  7

Music:  The Eagles.  Desperado, Hotel California, Tequila Sunrise.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (not required)

More reading: here and here and here. Flickr: here and here. More photos: here and here.   State Park Info: here and here.

One thought on “Running Prescott: Granite Mountain to Thumb Butte”

  1. Water at the Thumb Butte Trailhead parking lot. Outside water fountain and also inside the restrooms. The restrooms don’t have soap but do have toilet paper. There is also a volunteer ranger (look for the trailer) near the bathrooms at the East end (closest side heading back down Thumb Butte Road to downtown) that can help if needed.

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