Happy Hiking: Watson Lake

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After a long uphill hike yesterday on Granite Mountain Trail, I planned a short 4.5 mile loop on the Watson Lake and Flume Trail.  Watson Lake is located at Watson Park right off Highway 89 which is a scenic drive to Sedona. 

Both Watson and Willow lakes were created as reservoirs by the Chino Valley Irrigation District.  Each resulted after the damming of Granite and Willow creeks, in 1916 and 1935, respectively.

The City of Prescott purchased the lakes and the surrounding land in 1998 for $15 million in a widely supported bond election.

The Watson Lake is popular among hikers, camper, wake free boaters, and bird watchers.  Additionally, the ecosystem attracts many waterfowl and shorebirds migrating in the winter.

The Hike Around Watson Lake

The lake includes several parking areas and when I first arrived in a small pullout lot right off the highway, I thought I had made a mistake about coming here.  It felt like I was at a pond in the city rather then out in nature.  But that soon changed.

I’m absolutely fascinated by rocks, so naturally from the parking area noted on AllTrails, I took the Watson Lake and Flume Trail toward the giant boulders, known as the Granite Dells.  This resulted in a clockwise direction.

All I can say is, I’m glad I went that way first.  I’m not sure if my legs were spent from yesterday or what, but the short 4.5 miler took a lot more energy than I expected.  With only 367 feet of elevation gain, it seemed like it would be a walk in the park.

The Granite Dells

I failed, however, to look at the topography map.  For 2.5 miles I walked up, down, over, and through rocks!  Just from the view, I expected some of this, but at times it felt endless.  I’m not complaining, because if I had had more energy, I would have been exploring all over.  The granite dells are magnificent. 

Going clockwise, the first half mile was relatively straight forward and I saw a few people enjoying views at a nice overlook by the main parking area with bathrooms.

11 second video view

The next mile of the trail took me over countless boulders via painted white dots which marked the trail until I reached the dam.  None of the hike required scrambling, but it did require watching your step as it would be easy to twist an ankle or slip on a wet day. 

I crossed paths with a few folks, but not many.  Soon I dropped down below the dam to remnants of the creek and then climbed back up.  The placid lake featured reflections of the rocks in the inlets.

About half-way around the lake, I ran into an older group.  The gentleman said, “Well, I’m glad to see someone out here.  You are the first one!”

By then, I’d seen ten people or so, so I guess I didn’t get the memo to go counterclockwise.  Counterclockwise would leave more of the climatic views and drama for the end, but I was happy with having my energy for this part as for some reason 70 degrees seemed sweltering hot!  Perhaps, I got used to the Denver blizzard temperatures.

The Flat Section

While the trail is marked pretty well, it can still be confusing at times, so I highly recommend using the map on AllTrails.  You could get lost in there for days while explore. The dells extend in every direction! After 1.5 hours in the boulders, I finally emerged to flat land.  Many walkers and families were out enjoying this flat section.

Watson Lake would be a great place to spend the day, lounging on the boulders, kayaking and exploring the granite dells.  I would definitely return with a group of friends to enjoy its natural beauty.  It’s definitely a good place to wear out a crazy dog too! After a few days of hiking, Annie was kaput. 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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