Hiking in Prescott National Forest: Bannon Creek Trail to Trail #396

In Prescott, Arizona, where there are pine trees and fresh mountain air, you can discover a tranquil and peaceful hike that takes you around many pine trees and bodies of water. The Bannon Creek Trail to Trail #396 gives you many perspective views of Goldwater Lake, one of Prescott’s known lakes. Goldwater Lake is a reservoir formed by a dam on Bannon Creek and serves as a recreation lake for many outdoor enthusiasts.

Goldwater Lake

This trail is wonderful for that peaceful and quiet escape that you crave in your workdays that gets you becoming a busy bee. There are many trees and bodies of water to discover in and out of the forest. This trail is safe if you choose to do is solo too (safety and practical tips on solo hiking here). It also makes a great trail for mountain biking, but if you’re hiking here, watch out for these bikers and make some space for them as the trail is pretty narrow to walk on.

Watch me hike this

About this trail

Distance: 5.1 miles
Elevation gain: 649 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Route type: Out and back
GPS coordinates: 34.49848, -112.44708

There is a fee of usually $3.00 for its parking. At this time, during the COVID pandemic, the fee is waived.

Hiking this trail

Before I started this trail, I like using my AllTrails app to help me reference where to park and where to get started. As I entered into Prescott National Forest using the GPS coordinates, it directed me to enter through a few parking lots.

Starting at the trailhead, you will automatically start to get confused about which way it is since this trail has many connecting trails and that there are some ways on how to get to this trail. As I turned on my AllTrails map from walking to the parking lot, I made a right and went straight.

You will pass by Goldwater Lake a few times and some small creeks ahead. By the time you pass by a tiny wooden bridge built on top of streams, you should keep straight. By the way, you may see some trees that are fallen down and may be in the way of the trail ways, you would have to just take big steps over those trees and don’t let it make you think the trail is not there.

You are now walking towards inside the forest, it’s going to be a straight path for a while until you make it to a barbed-wire fence. There, you will find a wooden sign that points to different trails, you want to go to the right of it. Walking straight through, you start to loop around all the trees. 

It’s quiet and beautiful and at the time, I saw leaves falling with leaves being orange and brown-colored as if it was fall time all over again. The weather in Prescott is cooler, so it’s going to feel like it’s stuck in fall during spring (I visited at the beginning of May).

You will feel like you’ll be walking for a good while through these trails and not exactly know where it’ll end. The trail ways do get more narrow halfway, so be careful and don’t stay too close to the edge.

There are some scenic views of the mountains in the backdrop through the forest trees to see and it makes perfect photo opportunities just like below here.

You will probably keep hiking and thinking when and where it’ll end, but in the end, it’ll lead you to huge boulders with a small creek and a good place to sit down at too if you want to relax from this hike.

A close up shot of Bannon Creek

As you go back around the same way you went, you may feel more worn out and tired by your workout and can feel more challenging and steeper to get back. That is because you are hiking at some high elevation (5,980 to 6,000 feet). Remember to take your time and drink plenty of water. 

If you’re around the area, check these places out!

If you’re visiting Prescott for a day, here are other places worth checking out in the city of Prescott for the day (as shown in my YouTube video below): Sharlot Hall Museum, Whiskey Row, and Courthouse Plaza.

Tell me what you thought below!