Overview: This trail should not be confused with the other Goldwater Lake Trail, which is within the City of Prescott's Goldwater Lake Park. This is a new section of the Prescott Circle Trail between White Spar Campground and the Senator Highway. The new Goldwater Lake Trail (#396) rambles through gentle pine covered hills, passing both Lower and Upper Goldwater Lakes along the way. This winding trail is well marked and easy to follow.
Hike: Beginning at the White Spar Campground trailhead along U.S. Highway 89, the Goldwater Lake Trail departs next to a locked vehicle barrier gate. Initially following a road up Schoolhouse Gulch, the trail quickly breaks to the left at a fiberglass sign post for trail #396, and climbs into low hills of mixed ponderosa and oak. Along the way, trails #372 and #374 break off to the left at 0.25 and 0.7 miles, respectively.
One mile in, there is a great view to the west of the Sierra Prieta and Thumb Butte from the top of hill 5935'. At this point, the Goldwater Lake Trail begins a descent through tall pines to the wooded floor of Bannon Creek, turning south to follow its course upstream. The Bannon Creek stretch crosses an old road (trail #61), before coming to a seasonal pool and small cascade, at 1.7 miles. This is a great place to take a break, or to just enjoy the cool water and pleasant surroundings.
Leaving Bannon Creek behind, the trail climbs the south bank to contour around pine covered hillsides, eventually passing near Lower Goldwater Lake, which is just barely visible through the trees.
At just over three miles, the trail reaches a low saddle, where it begins a lengthy u-turn descent to the broad basin where Upper Goldwater Lake lies. The Goldwater Lake Trail #396 approaches the lake from the south, but does not actually go to it. Instead, a short bypass trail travels to the lake shore, where it meets the shore line route of the Goldwater Lake Trail. The bypass trail rejoins the route of the Goldwater Lake Trail #396 within a quarter of a mile.
The Goldwater Lake Trail #396 continues east, leaving the lake area and crossing Bannon Creek once more, before ascending a bit through open forest and boulders to the east trailhead on the Senator Highway, at 4.5 miles. From the east trailhead, one can continue hiking by taking the Watershed Trail #299, located directly across the highway.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.