With 850 miles of trails, Prescott is a natural destination for Arizona hikers. The challenge in March, when sunshine and invigorating temperatures from the high 50s to low 60s make you want to strap on your hiking boots, is knowing which trail to choose.
For a start-of-the-season workout, as well as sweeping views that justify the steady climb, try Granite Mountain Trail #261 ( www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott or 928/443-8000). This 8-mile round-trip hike winds among mammoth boulders that bring to mind the setting for Lost in Space.
Your motivation to reach the top: a possible up-close view of endangered peregrine falcons (they nest in the cliffs) and more rock formations. From town drive north on Montezuma Street (it becomes Whipple St.), go west on Iron Springs Road for 3 miles, then take Forest Road 374 north 4 miles to Playa Day Use Area parking ($2 per car), which borders the lake.
Refuel in town at Murphy's ($$$; lunch and dinner daily; 201 N. Cortez St.; 928/445-4044), an 1890s mercantile turned restaurant featuring grilled fish, steaks, salads, and five dozen beers.
INFO: Prescott (