There’s no “right” time to visit the Highlands Center for Natural History, an admission-free, 80-acre “classroom without walls” that is open year-round, weather permitting. But as spring rises and warms into early summer it brings a special energy to the ponderosa, oak and juniper woodland.
It’s teeming with wildlife, plants and wildflowers bursting with growth, and schoolkids from throughout Greater Prescott are streaming through on field trips.
Visitors of all ages explore trails, attend classes, programs and events and just revel in the beauty and vitality of the Central Arizona Highlands.
“It is a really spectacular place because you’ll see hummingbirds and other pollinators in our riparian area,” says Education Director Sarah Vincent.
“We have a lot of birds visiting because of the water resource, and then all of the mammals that tend to be more active in the late spring/early summer frequent the trails, as well as the garden occasionally — anything from a mountain lion to an Abert’s squirrel.
“We get all the animal visitors but just with the plants and the gardens, it’s a really lovely time.”
Since the turn of this century, the nonprofit center has been drawing students of all ages to its verdant campus on the bank of Lynx Creek, a gateway into Prescott National Forest with 3 miles of interpretive trails, the James Family Discovery Garden, amphitheater, programs and special events, plus one indoor classroom and the Benson Family Nature Store inside the LEED-certified James Learning Center.
The garden is another spring highlight, especially for families. Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, “It’s a lovely stroll for people to come to kind of get to know us, spend some time outdoors, go have a cup of coffee with a friend,” Vincent says.
It also incorporates a nature play area for kids and learning circles about the different types of habitat found in the region: woodland, forest, riparian, chaparral and grassland.
Trails include the quarter-mile Stretch-Pebble Loop, which is ADA-accessible and offers a spectacular view of the formation of the rod-like rocks it’s named for.
The Highland Loop is a more challenging 1.5-mile trail traversing the outer borders of the property and links to the national forest’s trail system, which takes users to adjacent Lynx Lake and beyond.
You can learn much more about what’s happening now and year-round at www.highlandscenter.org or by calling 928.776.9550. It is located at 1376 S. Walker Rd. in Prescott.