Victorian architecture amid buttes
Downtown Prescott boasts over 500 historic buildings, none very distant from the lovely county courthouse and grounds that define the center of town. Walking around the central part of Prescott is a tour past many lovely Victorian houses with glimpses of Arizona buttes and hills in the background. Prescott is flat enough to be easily walkable with just enough topography for some decent views.
Much of the charm you find around you stems from the fact that Prescott was the original territorial capital of Arizona from 1863-1867 and again, after a sweaty interlude in Tuscon, from 1877 and 1889. With the completion of the southern transcontinental railraod in 1881 it would not be long until the capital was finally moved to Phoenix, just off the line, in 1889.
Based on my experience in Prescott I'd recommend the following list of state capitals and former capital cities as a pretty nice US itinerary for the historically inclined.
Williamson Valley Trailhead
Many of the hikes around here are foresty and shaded, at least off and on. If you want a hike with minimal tall tree cover and full sun exposure, try the Williamson Valley Trailhead off Williamson Valley Road, about 6 miles north of the intersection between that road and Iron Springs Road. It offers varying views of Granite Mountain, as it circles around at the base. Part of the trail is what used to be a river or wash of some sort, as you can see the erosion on the remaining rocks and soil. Many people take their horses on this trail, as it is available for use by pedestrians, mountain bikers and equestrians. It would be a good mountain bike trail, for the most part.
"Welcome to Prescott ( locally pronounced Preskitt)"
Tall pines from the nearby Tonto national forest guard the residents of this quintessential sleepy American town. That is until the last 15 years or so - major major development has taken place on the outskirts, i.e. COSTCO, Walmart, SEARS, etc., and has somewhat altered this small town feel. However, it is simply a reflection of how popular it has become to live in the cool friendly pines(oh and home speculators have driven up the cost of housing so much that locals claim they can barely afford to live there.) Prescott still has historic town square, with a functional courthouse over a century old, and the true locals are as friendly as can be. Any visit to Prescott isnt complete without having a night out on "Whiskey Row" where you are bound to run into a few cowboys/cowgirls. As a temporary resident for 6 summer as a camper at a local camp, Prescott is a place that will always be special to me.
"Prescott Rodeo Days"
During the week of July 4th, Prescott has a famous rodeo. The town is very crowded that weekend as people from all over the state come to watch and participate in the rodeo. Bull riding, horse riding, calf roping, etc are all on display.
"Rodeo Days, Part II"
Also a big part of the rodeo is the parade that happens on Saturday of the rodeo. This picture was right after the parade. There is usually a "boot race", a competition for people of all ages, where there is a running race (100 yards) while in cowboy boots. All age groups, this young girl looks like she might be a big winner! (If you look closely, you can see the kids are wearing cowboy boots)
Small town, Big charm
If you want a place to go in Arizona that isn't sweltering hot (e.g., anything Phoenix or below), nor too cold (e.g., Flagstaff), and yet you're also looking to find a sense of culture, historical preservation, and community activities, Prescott is the place to go. If you've never experienced a town with its own charm, just go to the downtown section and park anywhere and walk around, browse the myriad of little shops, push open the old-fashion saloon doors to the Palace on Whiskey Row, step in and sit at the original wooden bar that is probably Arizona's oldest, and where the wait staff still dress in 1800s garb. Or drive almost any direction from there and you'll find yourself traversing a winding road to one of Prescott's many natural summits and surrounding mountains, with unique names that modify their shapes, like "Thumb Butte."
Often when people think of Arizona, they think of dirt and desert and cactus. At least I did. But Prescott is much more than that. In fact, cactuses are much less common than pine trees here in this "mile-high city." If rocks are more of your interest, Prescott again has plenty of different boulder structures, some like the Granite Dells, that are truly unique to this area, and encourage appreciation for natural erosion, or nature's own sculpting hand that carved a petrified history along the way.
Prescott encourages natural preservation and enjoyment; with 5 lakes, several campgrounds, and countless hiking trails, every outdoor-lover can find something to fill a day's time, ... and much more. For those who prefer to relax and watch the views from the car, Prescott affords many scenic drives to invoke serenity. If you've ever heard the description of "whispering pines," but have not experienced it for yourself, come to Prescott and go to any area of the Prescott National Forest. Step outside the car and you'll hear what it truly means for the pines to "whisper."