OverviewHyde Creek Mountain summit is a remote mountaintop, the highest point of the Santa Maria Range about 40 miles northwest of Prescott. A well-maintained trail leads to the summit, on which sits a lookout that appears to still be in use. The lookout is part of the National Historical Lookout Register. The trail to the top covers about 3 miles each way through mixed transitional flora of ponderosa pine, grasses, cactus, and scrubbier desert plants. The summit is one of the higher peaks in the immediate region, and on a clear day you can have hundred-mile views in all directions, including Humphreys Peak.
The trailhead is easily reached via the Williamson Valley Road out of Prescott, then Camp Wood Road west to the Camp Wood area in the Prescott National Forest. Williamson Valley Road is paved, and Camp Wood Road is graded hardpack dirt, usually passable to passenger cars in good conditions. Sturdier high-clearance or 4wd vehicles can drive in a bit farther and cut off some mileage from the hike (assuming one starts at the Stringtown Wash area).
Getting ThereFinding Williamson Valley Road in Prescott may possibly be the trickiest part of the journey! On Gurley Road in downtown historic Prescott, also signed as US-89, go north on Montezuma then west on Whipple, which will become Iron Springs Road at a slight dogleg at Willow Creek/Miller Valley Road. Williamson Valley Road leaves north off of Iron Springs about a mile west. (We got hopelessly lost for about 30 minutes, so buy a street map of Prescott and bring it with you.)
Stay on Williamson Valley Road for 20+ miles keeping an eye out for Camp Wood Road (Forest Road 21). Then proceed west on Camp Wood Road about another 20 miles to its junction with FR-95. I apologize for the somewhat vague mileages, but the way is fairly straightforward, with some attentiveness.
Small cars may have to park here. High-clearance vehicles: go north about a quarter-mile to the junction just north, this being "Camp Wood" according to the map. Then head west on the main road (FR 95C) about 2 miles. The road is tight and rocky here; don't chance it with a low-clearance vehicle. Park where you feel comfortable. You are in the general area called Stringtown Wash.
Red TapeNo restrictions bar access to the trail or peak itself. However, there are some private land inholdings here, so be aware that at some points along the road you may be on private land.
Prescott National Forest
West of the Santa Maria Mountains is the Baca Land Grant Float, approximately 150 square miles of land granted to the Baca family who steaded in what is now New Mexico back in the 17trh Century. When the United States came into being, there were some trades in which the Baca family gave up some of its holdings in New Mexico, in rteurn for some non-contiguous parcels of land, called "floats", such as this property. It has never been surveyed as part of the usual township/range/section mapping of the western states, and has remained in private control since the 19th century. It is called the O-RO Ranch today. The only good web information I could find is from the Degree Confluence Page. The local papers occasionally feature stories about this place. Public access isn't allowed nor desired. You can peek into it from the summit, though; this is about as close as you'll ever get onto it unless you have a few million dollars to spend.