Myron Hartz pauses along the steep Seven Mile Gulch Trail. Far below, Lynx Lake barely is visible past the green belt of pines. Photo by Cheryl Hartz
Starting at more than a mile high, Seven Mile Gulch Trail gains nearly 1,200 feet in elevation over three miles in the Prescott National Forest. It's a steep climb and one of those that keeps you wondering when you'll reach the top. You know what I mean - every time you think you're at the top of a rise there's another one. But spectacular views come with each rise, making you want to discover how much farther you can see.
You'll spot Lynx Lake to the east, Prescott Valley to the northeast, the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff to the north and Spruce Mountain to the south. If you make it to the top, you'll head down towards Prescott.
The trailhead begins in the gulch among the pines and gambel oak, but you don't go far before you start to climb and the vegetation changes. The trail levels out for a bit, paralleling the gulch. Very little shade exists here, except for an occasional alligator juniper. The terrain is mostly thick manzanita, mountain mahogany and scrub oak.
You'll head down a bit to a naturally fed pond - the Seven Mile Tank - then climb again through Ponderosa pine and back to the scrub.
Still building my stamina after pneumonia, I pushed myself but didn't get to the Ranch Trail intersection, nearly 2.5 miles in, before we turned around and settled under a juniper for a rest and light lunch. Although the temperature was around 60 when we started early Friday afternoon (March 18, 2011), clouds rolled in and the wind strengthened as we neared the top, so sweatshirts and windbreakers felt good.
My husband, Myron, called it a good cross-training trail. Our round-trip took about four hours, and I seriously was sucking wind during much of it. We were wishing we'd taken extra T-shirts to change into for the cooler trip down.
The trail is rocky but wide enough for two people to walk abreast. Horses, bicycles, motorbikes and 4-wheelers are allowed. We met only one pair of horseback riders that afternoon. The male rider was wearing a Man vs. Horse T-shirt. (That's an annual 50-mile endurance race on Mingus Mountain.)
Take plenty of water and some snacks. The trailhead and trail have no restrooms or drinking water available.
The trailhead is near Lynx Lake. Take Highway 69 and turn south on Walker Road (between Prescott and Prescott Valley: turn toward Costco, Forest Villas hotel is on the opposite side of the highway), drive just past Mile Marker 2 and turn right into the parking area.