I love the swimming holes of Slide Rock and the roaring Havasu Falls. These not-so-secret escapes are gorgeous, must-see destinations.
But, if you want something a little more private, I found it: the little natural wonder of Wolf Creek Falls hiding in the mountains of Prescott.
Wolf Creek spends most of its summer trickling very little water through its streams. It takes a good amount of rain or snowmelt to bring the creek to life in a big way. By big, I mean 90-foot waterfalls pouring over granite cliffs. But even when the falls aren’t in full swing, it’s still a beautiful hike.
This portion of Wolf Creek Loop Trail 384 — about 1 mile roundtrip if you hike out and back — is a small piece of a larger picture. It connects with a 6-mile loop. The part I share here is my easy-access shortcut for you to see the falls without the long trek.
The area is covered with tall pines and offers breathtaking views into the mountains. As I hiked, I saw large patches of white flowers and tiny purple butterflies that I captured with my camera. The water was so clear in the swimming holes and streams that I could see small fish and tadpoles.
The area also holds the history of an old mining site. In fact, I took a small gold panning kit with me and sifted a few flakes of gold from the creek bed.
During the winter, when there has been just enough snowmelt and the temperature is just right, you can often find a frozen waterfall.
The hike is a moderate, downhill route from the trailhead to the creek. There is loose gravel that is easy to slip on, and water can make surrounding boulders slippery. Prickly plants line the creek, so make sure that you are wearing long pants and shoes with good traction.
The trail will level out on flat ground once it reaches the creek and will branch out in different directions. Head right and hike along the creek, where you will find obvious footpaths leading down to the falls.
Following the creek to the falls requires some maneuvering around fallen trees and bushes, and some scrambling up, down and around a few boulders and small canyons. Some spots can be fairly steep, but you can work your way around those areas and find easier ways down.
Although it’s just a short half-mile hike to see the biggest waterfall, you can continue along the creek to find swimming holes and small cascades carving their way through the boulders on their way to the Hassayampa River. There are many trails that branch off of this particular trail, so exploring is always an option. I like to hike to the falls, turn around, and hike out on the same trail I hiked in on.
To get to the trailhead from downtown Prescott, take Senator Highway about 5 miles past Sky Y YMCA camp. Not long after the road turns to dirt, take a right at the sign for Pine Summit Camp and Upper and Lower Wolf Creek. Go past Pine Summit Camp and Lower Wolf Creek Forest camp site. Immediately after driving around the first bend to reveal high, beautiful views of the mountains to the left, the trail will be on the left. A sign reads Wolf Creek Loop Trail 384.
From Prescott, the drive is about 8 miles.
Once you arrive at the sign for the trailhead, pull to the side of the dirt road, out of the way of passing traffic. You will notice that other vehicles will be parked along the same road for different trails around the area. No pass is required.
For information, call Prescott National Forest at (928) 443-8000 or visit Fs.usda.gov/recmain/prescott/recreation/hiking.
• Nichole, a senior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org