sunrise from my campsite on Thumb Butte Road

Happy Hiking: Thumb Butte

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After my visit to Sedona and Camp Verde, I traveled south to Prescott.  I swung through briefly ten years ago on my year long road trip around the USA, and wanted to revisit.  Thanks to a National Geographic guide I met on a Mongolia trip, I had insider’s information on where to camp.

Camping on Thumb Butte Road

Liam, who went to college in Prescott, suggested I camp anywhere on Thumb Butte Road.  It is just outside of Prescott and was a great suggestion!  Small, designated pullouts lined the potholed dirt road.  And it was just steep and rutty enough to keep the big rigs out.

While I almost pulled into the first spot I saw due to limited spots in Sedona, I kept going up, and I’m thankful I did!  Monday afternoon seems to be a prime time to find good locations. I parked in a spot with a nice view and lots of space off the road where Annie could run around.  Despite having a rug and bed for her, she opted for the dirt when she wasn’t taking over my bed.

The only downside to the campsite, which I noticed later, is car and tent campers didn’t do a very good job of burying their waste!  Fortunately, it was behind rocks, where I didn’t spend my time. I just had to keep Annie from sniffing around there.

As with Sedona and Camp Verde, my T-mobile cell service was sporadic.  Sometimes two bars provided perfectly fast and clear reception.  Other times, two bars dropped my hotspot connection regularly.  And I had to be about 10 feet from the Prescott Library front door for their internet to work.  But, honestly, these challenges weren’t significant to me. I felt the trade off for this amazing location was worth it.

Thumb Butte Trail 33 Ascent

Thumb Butte Road is also popular among hikers, and very popular among mountain bikers.  After a big day of hiking to the Chapel of the Holy Cross yesterday, I elected for a shorter hike today.  I planned to hike the moderate Thumb Butte to Cowboy Prayer Loop for 2.5 miles without the extension that makes it 5.8 miles on AllTrails.  Unfortunately, I hiked up the wrong trail despite expanding the map to see if I was headed the right direction.

thumb butte

Sometimes I notice the iPhone GPS is slightly off and it was so today. With the selection of three paths culminating at the trailhead without signs, I didn’t notice my mistake until later.  I ended up on Thumb Butte Trail 33.  It is a 2.5 mile loop with the ascending grade to Thumb Butte regularly measuring above 30%.  In a few places it measures 78% and 91%!

Needless to say, I used the word “unfortunately” above as my post knee surgery and post winter body was clearly out of cardio shape.  Additionally, the path up is paved.  I can’t stand paved paths in the wilderness.  Sadly, in the end, I was thankful, because it would have been that much harder ascending to Thumb Butte and its views. At least there is a reward!

The View on Thumb Butte Trail

The best place to take in the views is on the last bench, before reaching the top.  Someone was there checking his email so I didn’t stop.  The off-trail path to the butte was closed and the military memorial removed.  At least ascending, I would call this portion of the trail a local’s workout spot.  Several folks had their headphones in and exercise pants on as they pressed up the hill.

view from thumb butte

The Descent

The return, however, was more gradual and peaceful.  The dirt trail wends through pine forest as it descends to the parking lot.  I highly recommend the AllTrails app as several trails intersect at the top and they go by number, not name, so it can be confusing. I may have been more confused than normal as I was taking calls while hiking.  I rarely ever do that, but closing on a house and organizing my 50th birthday trip to St. Lucia took priority while I had cell service. I finally hung up so I could enjoy the outing.

cuties sticker on tree
Someone left their “Cuties” sticker.

In all, I wouldn’t call this particular loop the most relaxing, but it would be easy to connect the network of trails at this Prescott National Forest location with a big parking lot, pavilion and bathrooms for a better hike in the Thumb Butte area.  At least I got some exercise! ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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