PRESCOTT, Ariz. - Any hike is a great hike when you get to hold a California Sister. For those not keeping up with nature, a California Sister is a beautiful butterfly with many colors.
The Aspen Creek Trail has a few small springs along it. One of the springs had a bit of mud and the California Sister appeared as if it might be stuck. It gladly let me pick it up. I tried to photograph it in one hand while holding it in another. I found I wasn't that coordinated.
I put the California Sister on one of my co-hiker's walking sticks. That made for a couple photos and then it flew back down onto the ground for a couple more photos. While this was the highlight of the trail, it wasn't the only good point: There were numerous flowers including penstemons and thistles as well as the red blooming flowers on the cactus. This attracted more butterflies including swallowtails.
Woodpeckers and songbirds will keep birders happy along the Aspen Creek Trail.
Aside from the springs, Aspen Creek has running water in it at the beginning and the end of the trail. While most of the trail does not provide water, it offers great views of the surrounding mountains, especially the Bradshaw Mountains.
This trail is rated as a six mile moderate hike with some uphill, but one of the members of the Prescott Hiking Club decided to start north of the trail and lead a bushwhack. This led us straight up the mountain and caused some major huffing and puffing for those along on the trek. But this led us to the top right under the radio towers.
The hike starts at an elevation of 6,400 feet and tops out at about 7,000 feet.
The Aspen Creek Trail goes around the east side of Mount Francis. Hikers get shade cover from oaks and pines. The trail drops down into a drainage before climbing back up another ridge. Alligator junipers are found along the way. This is where it joins Trail 260, which can add four more miles to the hike.
At this point, hikers can head back the way they came or continue on the loop around Mount Francis. Those taking the loop will get on Trail 260 and follow an old jeep road. Eventually the trail will loop back up to Aspen Creek Trail 48 as hikers find their way back to the parking lot.