Watson Lake Loop: a natural cure for the wintertime blues
Seeing a waterfall anytime of year is cool. Seeing one in January makes winter seem a bit less harsh.
The recently completed Watson Lake Loop Trail made it possible to see a bit of a waterfall as part of the trail comes out below the dam. Not right below the dam, but close enough for a good view. On this day in early January, icicles had formed on the dam so the water was melting off, but some water was being released from the dam as well.
The water coming out of the dam fills the canyon bottom sustaining a lush riparian area that includes cottonwoods, sycamores, ash and willows.
The Watson Lake Loop Trail is 4.8 miles. Don't expect to find it in many hiking books yet because the trail was recently completed. But this popular trail will find its way into hiking books soon, so enjoy the lack of people on it for now. The trail is also steep in spots so some folks will avoid it for that reason.
If you can stand the steepness, this is a great trail because of the scenic views of the blue Watson Lake and the famous Granite Dells. Then there are the birds. The Audubon Society has made this an Important Birding Area because of the diversity of birds in the lake. Great blue herons and tons of ducks are here year-round. White egrets and a white pelican were visiting in early January. Eagles and owls are sometimes seen.
The Granite Dells are beautiful formations of smooth granite boulders that take unique shapes. Rock climbers love it.
The Watson Lake Loop Trail has good signage, but at places where it goes over the boulders, there are large white dots for hikers to follow. These white dots may be hard to follow in the snow.
For ardent hikers who don't think that 4.8 miles is enough, this trail links into the Peavine Trail. Those just doing the loop can go to the right and return to their vehicles. Those who want more can go to the left and go as far as they want. A couple miles up, the Peavine Trail links into the Iron King Trail that goes all the way to Prescott Valley. The Watson Lake Loop Trail also links into other shorter trails such as the Lakeshore Trail.
There is also the Cove Trail and this is where photographers find paradise at sunset. This is an inlet with the granite boulders and at sunset this can touch anybody's soul.
There are several benches where people can rest along the way, possibly to enjoy the wildlife. During years of hiking the Peavine Trail, this hiker has seen deer, javelina, turtles and once a bobcat that was sunning itself. Quail has been spotted at sundown.
Directions: From Prescott, take 89 north to Prescott Lakes Parkway on the right, then turn left onto Sundog Ranch Road. Park at the Peavine Trailhead. There is a $2 fee. Those wishing to avoid the $2 fee can park at the scenic overlook on Highway 89.