Prescott National Forest is located in north-central Arizona, and divided into three Ranger Districts: Bradshaw, Chino Valley, and Verde. The forest is fairly evenly-split to the west and east of Prescott, AZ. Established in 1908, it now encompasses approximately 1.25 million acres, and is administered by the US Forest Service. There are eight designated wildernesses within the forest.
Prescott NF includes a wide range of habitats and ecosystems, from Sonoran Desert to sub-Alpine at the upper elevations (Mount Union is the highest point within the forest at 7979′). There are multiple access points to the Verde River from the forest. It’s a habitat for scores of native plant species, including Apache lobelia and Arizona bladderpod, and home to many types of wildlife, from mountain lions and javelinas to burrowing owls and roadrunners.
This forest’s central location and proximity to multiple cities (e.g. Prescott, Cottonwood, Flagstaff) makes it easily accessible. For example, the White Bridge Picnic Area (which is also a popular starting location for boating) is located right across Highway 260 from the Verde Ranger Station in Camp Verde. I visited in early April with Onager to camp at a free dispersed spot just south of Cottonwood.
Access to most parts of the forest is free. However, a Prescott National Forest Pass ($5/day to $40/year) or federal interagency pass is required for day use in some areas of the forest, which offers a wide range of recreation opportunities including hiking, biking, boating, camping, climbing, and fishing. Additional fees may be required for expanded amenities, such as camping in developed campgrounds or utilizing a popular boat launch. Check the forest website for specific details regarding your activity and destination on the forest.
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