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Goldwater Lake (gasp) Trip Report
May 13, 2017
by Jim Buyens
  GPS Map 
Twenty-four Trailblazers ready to go at the Watershed Trailhead. [photo by Bill]
This spring at about the half-way point
always seems to have water. [photo by Tom]
This hike is one of my perennial favorites: hiking in the pines, mostly good surfaces, moderate climbing, two lakes, a spring, and water and restrooms at the turnaround point. What’s not to like?

Twenty-four hikers signed up, and with that many I decided to break the groups in half. So at the meeting point at Fry’s I asked the faster hikers and the slower ones stand in two different areas and then arrange carpools among themselves. Everyone was happy with that arrangement. Dave agreed to be the deputy hike leader and guide the fast group.

The fast group left the trailhead first and the slow one a few minutes later. Everything went fine at first but after about a mile we started to encounter quite a few mountain bikes approaching us from the rear. Seeing a few is normal, of course, but not group after group after group. And a few were angry with us for blocking the trail. “Don’t you know there’s a race going on today?” a few of them scolded us.

Enjoying life at the turnaround point. [photo by Tom]
Great weather, lots of pine trees, a smooth trail,
and great company. What more could you ask?
[photo by Tom]

That’s when we noticed the entry numbers each cyclist has on their chest. And some of them were in the 1600-1800 range! Did we really have 1700 mountain bikers bearing down on us? And to make matters worse, we were on a narrow section of trail cut into the side of a fairly steep hill. When the bikes came, we ended up tree-hugging to keep out of the way!

By the time all this became evident the fast group was nearly off the narrow section of trail and so they kept going until they found a place to stop and decide what to do. My slower hikers essentially refused to take another step forward though, and so we headed back to the trailhead. Along the way we veered off to hike along Upper Goldwater Lake, and in fact explored a some extra sections of trail. I’d seen reports of it being possible to hike around the whole lake but it turned out this required some cliff-climbing on each side of the dam but still we enjoyed the extra views.

At the east side of the lake we discovered a nice city park with restroom and a nice large Ramada where we stopped for lunch.

When we got back to the trailhead our distance was only 6 miles, less than the 10 miles everyone was expecting. I’d been curious for some time about the White Spar Trailhead, so that’s where we went. From there we hiked east on the Schoolhouse Gulch Trail until my GPS said we were two miles short of the wished-for ten, so at the point we turned around.

The faster group considered leaving the Goldwater Lakes Trail and taking a junction to the Banning Creek Trail nearby. But then they found that all the bikers were going on the Banning Creek Trail, so our folks stuck to the original plan.

In Arizona, hiking next to water is always a special treat. [photo by Bill]

As it turned out, once our group had turned around, we saw very few additional bikers. Eventually we met a small off-road motorcycle, which was quiet a surprise on a non-motorized trail. But I guess he was the sweep for the racers. Apparently, the 1600-1800 entrants were for a variety of events, most of which weren’t on the Goldwater Lakes Trail. So actually, both groups could have kept going and seen no more bikers than they did. But who knew? And we did get to explore the Schoolhouse Gulch Trail, which was new to everyone.

The grand finale to a great hike! [photo by Tom]

After the hike most of the entire group met at Lonesome Valley Brewery, the only craft brewery in Prescott Valley. This turned out to be a new restaurant made to look old and they had good food, good beer, and lots of character. What a great ending to a great day!

Goldwater Lake Hike Statistics
Total Distance:9.6miles
Starting Time:10:47AM
Moving Time:4:02hrs:min
Stopped Time:0:11hrs:min
Finishing Time:3:01PM
Avg. Speed Moving:2.4mph
Avg. Speed Overall:2.3mph
Starting Elevation:6,167ft
Minimum Elevation:5,488ft
Maximum Elevation:6,217ft
Total Ascent:1,762ft
Starting Temperature:58°
Finishing Temperature: 68°
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated May 16, 2017