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Fun Things to Do in Prescott Arizona

Prescott Arizona may not be as well known as sunny Sedona or Phoenix but it’s an appealing vacation spot. The beauty of Prescott is that there are so many things to do nearby.

One big plus for Prescott is the abundance of beautiful lakes close to town, making it a popular weekend getaway from Phoenix.

Hiking, fishing, kayaking, biking, and camping are popular activities in Prescott and at nearby parks, like Prescott National Forest.

Founded in 1864 as the first territorial capital of Arizona, Prescott is small compared to other Arizona cities. The Arizona capital moved from Prescott to Tucson, back to Prescott, then finally to Phoenix.

With a population of around 43,000 and mild winters the city of Prescott is attractive as a retirement destination.

In this post I’m sharing over 25 fun things to do in Prescott Arizona, including day trips from Prescott.

 

Prescott Arizona 25 Fun Things to Do

 

1.      Constellation Trails

A short drive from Prescott you can experience the Granite Dells rock formations at Constellation Trails. Although there is a small parking fee it’s worth it to walk among these cool rock formations.

 

Constellation Trail on a sunny day in Prescott AZ

Hike the Constellation Trails

 

2.      Watson Lake

Watson Lake is my favorite of the lakes around Prescott. You can hike around the lake, go kayaking or canoeing using the lakeside rentals, or have a picnic by the water.

There’s a beautiful hike to Watson Dam that features a couple of waterfalls, it’s especially nice to visit on hot days because there is some shade near the dam and falls.

 

Granite Dells view from Watson Lake Loop hike

Hike around Watson Lake

 

3.      Willow Lake

Willow Lake is wonderful for birdwatching and kayaking. No gasoline powered motorboats are allowed on the lake. There are several picnic tables and ramadas with beautiful views of the lake.

 

Granite Dells at Willow Lake Prescott

Willow Lake is beautiful and serene

 

4.      Wolf Creek Falls

A wonderful day hike from Prescott is the Wolf Creek Falls trail in the Prescott National Forest. This hike through the forest down to the creek is good when you want to cool off.

You can stand right under the small waterfall and then relax by the creek listening to the water flow and birds singing.

 

5.      Goldwater Lake

Goldwater Lake is great spot for family outings. Kids love the playground, and you can rent canoes or kayaks for fun paddling around the lake. Fishing is popular at Goldwater too.

Enjoy a picnic under the shaded ramada or go for a hike around the lake.

 

6.      Thumb Butte Hiking Trail

Thumb Butte Trail #33 is a popular hiking trail, especially since it’s only a 10 minute drive from downtown Prescott.

$5 day use fee

Free on Wednesdays

Grab a copy of the Thumb Butte brochure or the Thumb Butte trails map and descriptions to help you plan your visit.

 

7.      Lynx Lake

Take a walk around Lynx Lake or enjoy getting on the water for kayaking, paddle boarding, or fishing. Lynx Lake is a good place for birdwatching.

There’s also a couple of campgrounds nearby, restaurant, store, and boat rentals at the lake. Read my post highlighting lakes around Prescott for more info and hours/parking fees.

 

Kayakers on Lynx Lake Prescott

Hike around Lynx Lake or go kayaking

 

8.      Lynx Creek Ruins Trail

Shortly before Lynx Lake there is a sign marking the Lynx Creek Ruins. This short easy hike to a small set of ruins is an enjoyable side trip on the way to Lynx Lake.

 

9.      Fain Park

Fain Park is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing Sunday by the water, watch the birds, maybe do some fishing, and walk around the park before settling down to a picnic feast.

 

10. Greenways Trail

A beautiful hiking trail in downtown Prescott that tracks along Granite Creek and Miller Creek. It’s a nice place to cool off along the water with lots of shaded areas. Popular with locals and visitors to Prescott.

 

Granite Creek trail in Prescott

A pleasant walk along the Granite Creek trail

 

11. Try the Local Beer

Enjoy a refreshing beverage at one of the local breweries in Prescott. A couple of local favorites:

Lazy G Brewhouse at 220 W Leroux St featuring happy hour on most weekdays (closed Tuesdays) and food menu featuring pub grub for lunch and dinner, Sunday breakfast. Beer and wine.

Prescott Brewing Company at 130 W Gurley St offers up two happy hours, 3 – 6 Mon – Fri and late night happy hour daily from 10 pm to close. Extensive food menu from appetizers to desserts. Beer taps rotate weekly and various Scotch flights on the booze menu.

 

12. Prescott National Forest

If you want to get away from the concrete jungle, head out to Prescott National Forest for camping, fishing, and hiking to rejuvenate your mind and body.

Granite Basin Lake is a small but exquisite spot for a lazy day of fishing, bring your kayak and float about on the water in a serene environment.

For information on campgrounds and hiking trails visit the Prescott National Forest website. Be sure to bring water, snacks, sunscreen, and a wide brimmed hat while hiking.

 

Prescott National Forest sign

Prescott National Forest is a great place for hiking and camping

 

13. Historic Downtown Prescott

You must visit downtown Prescott and walk down Whiskey Row, even if you don’t want a drink the architecture is beautiful and welcoming.

But if you do get thirsty (or hungry) stop by The Palace Restaurant and Saloon. This historic saloon first opened in 1877, making it the oldest bar (and business) operating in Arizona.

Walk across Montezuma Street and visit the Historic Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza and the beautiful fountain and bandstand.

You’ll also find the Welcome to Prescott mural downtown in the Whiskey Row Alley

 

Prescott Courthouse Plaza

Courthouse Plaza in downtown Prescott

 

14. Museum of Indigenous People

147 N Arizona Ave

1 pm – 4 pm from Friday – Sunday

Formerly known as the Smoki Museum and housed in a beautiful building the museum features Native American artifacts and educational panels and important information on cultural appropriation.

The mission of the Museum of Indigenous People is to instill understanding and respect for the indigenous cultures of the Southwest.

 

15. Sharlot Hall Museum

A cultural center and heritage site with open air exhibits in downtown Prescott.

415 W Gurley St

In 1928 Sharlot M Hall opened the museum as the Gubernatorial Mansion Museum to preserve the history and culture of the area.

Today the museum includes several historic buildings including the Old Governor’s Mansion, built in 1864. Fort Misery (oldest log cabin in Arizona) built in 1864, moved to the museum grounds in 1934.

 

Sharlot Hall Museum, founded in 1928

Sharlot Hall Museum in downtown Prescott

 

16. Phippen Museum

Phippen Museum features art and heritage of the American West. The museum has a permanent exhibit as well as special exhibits throughout the year. If you love cowboy art this is the place for you.

10 – 4 from Tuesday to Saturday, and 1 – 4 on Sunday, Closed Mondays

 

17. Fort Whipple Museum

The former United States Army post served as the first Arizona Territory capital. Named after Lt. Amiel Whipple, the fort transitioned to a US Army hospital before finally becoming a history museum.

Fort Whipple Museum is located on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center grounds off AZ-Hwy 89

10 am – 4 pm from Thurs – Sat

Free admission

 

18. Historic Jerome

35 miles – about 50 minute drive

History buffs will enjoy exploring the former copper mining town of Jerome, a fun day trip from Prescott, located in the Black Hills of Yavapai County.

Explore the Jerome State Historic Park, Douglas Mansion and the carriage house. Also visit the Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum then take a Ghost Tour in Jerome and find out why it is known as the ‘Wickedest Town in America’.

 

Jerome Historical Society Museum in Jerome Arizona

Learn about the history of Jerome Arizona, a former mining boom town

 

19. Tuzigoot National Monument

40 miles – about 1 hour drive

Tuzigoot is near Cottonwood, northeast of Prescott. This pueblo of the Sinagua people consisting of more than 100 rooms is an interesting historical site.

The word Tuzigoot is derived from the Apache word for ‘crooked water’ and was named at the suggestion of an Apache member of the excavation project.

The Sinagua people were farmers, with crops of beans, corn, cotton, and squash. They built the living quarters from limestone and sandstone between 1000 and 1400 CE.

Enjoy walking the short trail through the historic ruins with beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. On the other side of the visitor center take a stroll on the boardwalk to Tavasci Marsh to do some birdwatching.

 

20. Montezuma Castle

45 miles – about 1 hour drive

An interesting day trip to the Verde Valley region of Arizona and a well preserved cliff dwelling you’ll find Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well a unique experience. This is another pueblo of the Sinagua people.

A short walk from the visitor center brings you to the amazing dwellings built into the stone overlooking the creek.

Take a short drive from Montezuma Castle to visit the Montezuma Well, a natural spring fed lake with a walking trail and more cliff dwellings. You can still see some of the old canals the Sinagua people used for irrigating crops.

 

Montezuma Castle cliff dwellings

Learn about the Sinagua culture at Montezuma Castle

 

21. Cottonwood Day Trip

45 miles – about 1 hour 10 minute drive

If you are into birding be sure to make time for a day trip to Cottonwood and the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Cottonwood is a cute town in the Verde Valley and the oddly named state park is a few minutes from town.

The park features a couple of lagoons and beautiful cottonwood trees along the water. If you have more than a day to spare this is a good place to go camping and fishing.

 

Historic old town map and info Cottonwood Arizona

Cottonwood is an excellent day trip destination from Prescott

 

22. Granite Mountain Hot Shots Memorial State Park

50 miles – about 1 hour 10 minute drive

The park was established as a memorial to the nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who died on June 30, 2013, while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.

You can hike the Hotshots Trail to the observation deck and a little further to the Journey Trail. Along the hiking path there are 19 granite plaques honoring each firefighter.

This is a difficult hike at 7 miles round trip with 1,200 ft elevation gain. There is limited parking so best to arrive early in the day. Also note there is no shade on the trail so bring plenty of water and snacks, wide brimmed hat, sunscreen, sunglasses. Plan for a 4+ hour hike.

 

23. Sedona Day Trip

65 miles – about 1 hour 20 minute drive

Sedona is world renowned for the energy vortexes and spiritual rejuvenation. The red rocks of Sedona have abundant hiking and biking trails such as Little Horse Trail and the ever popular Cathedral Rock.

Sedona is an excellent one day trip from Prescott, and even better if you can spend a few days exploring outdoor adventures around Sedona. If you enjoy off road jeep trails there are plenty near Sedona.

 

Red rocks of Sedona Arizona

Take a day trip to the red rocks of Sedona

 

24. Oak Creek Canyon Day Trip

70 miles – about 1 hour 25 minute drive

A family friendly and easy hike close to Sedona makes a wonderful hiking trip from Prescott. The trail follows along the West Fork of the Oak Creek and it’s a great place to cool down on summer days.

You can relax by the creek for a while or wade in the water for a refreshing reprieve from the heat. This hike features a beautiful red rock canyon and lots of shade along the trail.

 

25. Slide Rock State Park

73 miles – about 1 hour 30 minute drive

Just a few miles north of Sedona on scenic Route 89 you can slide down an 80 ft natural sandstone rock waterslide in Oak Creek Canyon.

Slide Rock is super popular and it’s on many Top 10 lists for best swimming holes in the United States. Get there earlier in the day before the crowds arrive especially in summer months when it gets crazy busy at the park.

 

26. Phoenix Sonoran Preserve

79 miles – about 1 hour 20 minute drive

The only place in the world that Saguaro (pronounced: Sa-WAH-ro) cactus grow is found in Arizona and Mexico’s Sonoran Desert. Saguaros are the largest cacti in the United States – they can grow to over 70 feet tall and hold as much as 4 tons of water.

Take a beautiful drive from Prescott’s pine forests to the Sonoran Preserve for a walk among giant cacti. From April to June is blooming season for the Saguaro, with bright white fragrant blooms appearing at the top of the cactus trunk and arms.

 

27. Flagstaff Day Trip

95 miles – about 1 hour 35 minutes

Another fun city to visit in Arizona for the abundance of things to do in every direction is Flagstaff, and it’s an easy drive from Prescott. Although it’s best to spend several days in Flagstaff it’s also a good one day getaway from Prescott for a change of scene.

Flagstaff is located on the Route 66 historic highway with great hiking and biking trails, several nearby historic ruins, a lava tube, Sunset Crater, and no shortage of groovy coffee shops. Read more about things to do in Flagstaff.

 

28. Grand Canyon South Rim

125 miles – about 2 hours 15 minute drive

Of course, it’s best to spend more than one day at the Grand Canyon South Rim, but if you only have one day, then why not explore one of the most amazing places in the world?!

Park in the Grand Canyon Village, near the south entrance, then walk a portion of the Rim Trail for spectacular views of the Grand Canyon and visit historic buildings such as Kolb Studio, Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, and Hopi House.

Enjoy a meal at one of the rustic lodges in the park, then walk down 1.5 miles of Bright Angel Trail to the first resthouse and back up to the rim.

 

Grand Canyon South Rim view

Grand Canyon South Rim is a grand adventure from Prescott

 

More Things to Do in Arizona

Here are a few more places to see in Arizona. All of these would make excellent weekend trips from Prescott or connect them all and do a big Arizona road trip.

Grand Canyon North Rim gets fewer visitors than the South Rim

Winslow Arizona is close to the Petrified Forest National Park

Horseshoe Bend in Page Arizona is a marvelous hike

Saguaro National Park is in Tucson Arizona – an excellent place to spend a few days

Wave Cave Hike is a great hike near Phoenix, in the Tonto National Forest

 

Welcome to Prescott mural

Welcome to Prescott mural is in the alley behind Whiskey Row

 

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