Hiking Yavapai by Stan Bindell
Among the best kept hiking secrets in the Prescott area is the Yeager Canyon Loop.
For some reason this hike has not made it into some of the hiking books, and there aren't usually many hikers on this trail, but it's one of the best hikes in the area because of two great panoramic overlooks, a spring that surprisingly greets hikers in this otherwise dry area, and the remnants of an old stagecoach.
One reason that this hike isn't well known may be that the trailhead doesn't jump out at you — it's not really hard to find, but you have to be paying attention.
Yeager Canyon Loop is part of the Mingus Mountain trail system, so from Prescott you drive to Mingus Mountain on 89A and look for milepost 333. After the elevation sign for 6,000 feet, follow a guardrail on the right to the pull-out, and park there.
The loop is only about six miles long, but it climbs from 6,000 to 7,300 feet. After a bit more than the first half-mile, the climb begins. Near the beginning there's a catchment basin to collect rain for wildlife use, frequented by birds, coyote and deer.
About 800 feet of the climb happens next, ending at a natural overlook offering a vast panorama. Mt. Union and the Bradshaw Mountains, as well as Granite Mountain, can be seen from various parts of this trail.
After a break to enjoy the view, the second uphill trek begins, climbing another 300 feet or so to another great panoramic view. Soon after comes a large alligator juniper tree, which many are tempted to hug or smell. Most of the trees along the trail are Ponderosa pines or junipers, but there are also some oaks and ash trees. An array of flowers and good shade make Yeager Canyon Loop enjoyable. Lupines and penstemons were some of the flowers we found along the way. After the second overlook, this hike doesn't change much in elevation. Past the two-mile mark, the spring comes up. It's not large, but this is a good place to find butterflies. From here there's some easy walking as it flattens out for a bit before the switchbacks that make the downhill easier. The trails are good and mostly easy to follow. The last part of the trail provides good views of Prescott Valley and the Bradshaw Mountains. Look for the remnants of the old stagecoach off to the right about five miles in.
Due to the heat, Hiking Yavapai became Hiking Coconino over the past month, as the Prescott Hiking Club took several trips to Flagstaff. We did three hikes with varying degrees of difficulty, and all are high-elevation trails. They are all in-and-out, so you can turn around at any point. The San Francisco Peaks Trail runs about 15 miles, but the hike is rated as easy, with one club member saying it was the easiest hike he could remember. There are plenty of aspens to enjoy, and one part of the trail overlooks the Nature Conservancy's Hart Prairie Preserve. Kachina Trail is 12-14 miles long and much rockier than the Peaks trail. The many rocks and roots make proper footwear a must — no sneakers, you'll need your hiking boots. Aspens, fern forests and some small caves make this trek one of my favorites. Weatherford Trail is about 15 miles, but it also climbs about 3,000 feet, going up to just under 11,000 at Doyle Saddle. Arizona Highways rates Weatherford as a moderate hike, but you'll need to be in good shape for this climb.
Photos by Stan.
Stan Bindell is always looking for good hikes. If you have one, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.