Partner News – Prescott National Forest

The development of Spence Springs Trailhead, which does not accommodate vehicles towing trailers and the resulting closure of parking on the forest past the private community is part of the Greater Prescott Trails Plan (GPTP) Midterm #1 decision that was approved in January 2017. The process is the result of years of community collaboration on trails and trailheads in the area with numerous public meetings and notices requesting public comment. The Forest Service understands that prohibiting parking along the dirt section of road between the private community and Emmanuel Pines Camp restricts easy equestrian access to the Spence Basin Trail System. Our intention was not to unfairly restrict equestrians from accessing these trails. The Forest Service does not have legal public access through the private community as Spence Springs Road is a privately owned and maintained road from the cattle guard just past the TH to where it turns to dirt. This road has been signed as private for years and that sign has been ignored by many trail users well before the nearly 30 miles of unauthorized trail was redesigned and brought into the official system. Implementation/construction of the Spence Basin Trail System began in Fall 2017 and was completed in Fall 2018 due to the extremely mild winter of 2017/2018, which resulted in a dramatic increase in trail users accessing the system from unofficial parking areas in the Spence Springs Road area, causing concern from local residents along the road as pavement was being deteriorated as vehicles pulled off and traffic increased on their small one lane road. These factors made construction of the new TH and prohibiting parking along the road a high priority. The Prescott NF is an adjacent land owner/manager to thousands of private landowners across the forest and strive to be good neighbors by developing plans that reduce the negative impacts of recreationists and other uses of the forest to our private landowning neighbors and so the result is there is no longer equestrian/trailer access along Spence Springs Road. The best access point is White Rock TH on Thumb Butte Rd, which is along the Prescott Circle Trail and allows equestrians to access the Spence Basin Trail System by riding 2.4 miles. Plans to enlarge the Iron Springs TH to accommodate equestrian parking have recently become difficult due to recent traffic studies showing the large daily volume increase and high speeds at this location that has a less than ideal sightlines for vehicles with trailers and it is the general consensus that it would be irresponsible/unsafe to develop this TH for vehicles towing trailers. Initial thoughts are that an alternative location for access in this area will take years and come at a very large expense.

The good news:
The Greater Prescott Trails Plan approved 6 additional THs throughout the Greater Prescott Area and 4 of these will improve equestrian access to the trail system.

Whitespar TH: We are in the final stages of design on a new TH behind whitespar Campground that will have equestrian designed parking. The GPTP also authorizes new trails from the circle trail in this area that will connect to the trails around the groom creek horse camp.

Copper Basin TH: Nearly complete design that will provide Equestrian parking about 1 mile above the current hiker/biker TH at Aspen Creek. This TH will have new trails accessing the Aspen Creek Trail and over to Sierra Prieta Trail and West Spruce Trail via the currently under construction Williams Peak Trail

Contreras TH: Although this TH currently is large enough for equestrian parking it is un-designed and gets muddy when wet and would provide better parking with some construction.

Goldwater TH: We have not begun design on this as of yet, but it is intended to provide equestrian access to the trails in the Senator Hwy area. This is the large dirt pullout before getting to the turn off for goldwater lake.

The Greater Prescott Trails Planning effort is an ongoing effort and we encourage all who are interested to engage. We hold annual meetings in May and would be happy to add anyone to the list of interested people to be notified of the time and location of the next meeting in May 2020. Just have them email me with their contact info and I will add them to our list.

Please feel free to call me anytime to discuss trail and trail access issues.

Jason Williams
Trails & Wilderness
Forest Service
Prescott National Forest
p: 928-777-2220
c: 928-925-6472

344 S. Cortez St.
Prescott, AZ 86303

Caring for the land and serving people