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Prescott, Arizona: Take The Long Way Around

Starting soon after Sea Otter and the Whiskey Off Road, a Project Manager from IMBA Trail Solutions headed to Arizona to help close the loop on the 54-mile Prescott Circle Trail that routes right around the city by building a 2.5-mile connector.

“You know how towns have their letter up on the hillsides?” said Patrick Kell, southwest regional director for IMBA. “This final section will be right underneath the letter P for Prescott on Badger Mountain to the east of downtown.”

The connector, though relatively short, is not without its challenges. Since it’s on the steep hillside of Badger “P” Mountain, builders require the help of heavy machinery. That’s why the Recreational Trails Program awarded IMBA and the Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance (PMBA) a $55,000 grant. With the funding, they hired the American Conservation Experience youth corps—to get the job done professionally, and the Yavapai Trails Association provided some matching funds.

This project is one of the final pieces in a loop that could attract plenty of mountain biking visitors and local riders alike. The Prescott Circle Trail is multi-use, open to riders, equestrians and hikers. It has 6,000’ in elevation gain, with some sections of downhill plunging for 3–4 miles of continuous flow and technical challenge too.  

One of the many people who have been driving trail-building efforts is Chris Hosking, City of Prescott Trails and Natural Parklands Coordinator and member of the PMBA board. Under his leadership, the community has designed, approved and built miles of trail. Volunteers have done most of the trail work and maintenance on this visually stunning loop and beyond. Notably among those groups is the Over The Hill Gang, made up of mostly retirees from the area as well as PMBA.

“I’ve been riding for 33 years and the way I see it, the mountain biking trails here are already outstanding—we have 400 miles,” says Hosking. “But the Circle Trail is special because it really links all the main riding areas together, kind of like a backbone trail. And the Circle Trail itself is really fun.”

The loop also passes through a number of campgrounds and access points, which means there are well-positioned water and rest stops for anyone hoping to take it all in in one sitting. “It took us about 11 hours to do it at a group pace,” said Kell. Hosking recommends doing it in two days, or bike packing the route. In fact, the inaugural bike-packing trip is planned for May 23 through PMBA.

The trail is never extremely difficult, and suitable for intermediate riders, especially if they have advanced-level fitness. For beginners, there are welcoming sections like the one crossing Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) land in northeast Prescott.

The Circle Trail is thanks to the vision of the Yavapai Trails Association, the drive of people like Chris Hosking and members of the PMBA, and the cooperation of Land Managers including the city, the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona State Land, the Bureau of Land Management, and ERAU.

“The beauty of the Circle Trail is that even though you have kind of a backcountry experience in some places, you’re always half an hour from town, said Hosking. “And it’s all downhill back into Prescott.”

Whether you ride or hike, the Circle Trail will be ready for your next epic early this summer.  Learn more at prescottrails.com

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