A quiet, cool, leisurely stroll along Sycamore Creek through Sycamore Canyon offering a stunning variety of riparian wildlife and even a swimming opportunity in an Olympic sized swimming hole along the red rock cliffs.
Sycamore Canyon was carved by Sycamore Creek into the eroded edge of the Colorado Plateau at the northwestern ends of the Mogollon Rim. Sycamore Creek rolls out of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness west of Sedona and pretty much defines the world of Riparian wildlife habitat in Northern Arizona.
The canyon includes a wide array of vegetation including oak, Manzanita, hackberry, honeysuckle, wild grapes, poison ivy, cottonwoods, Arizona walnuts, Sacred Datura and, of course, Sycamores. Songbirds flit through the tall cottonwoods and thick mesquite bosques.
Fed by springs, the creek forms pools along the way providing dazzling reflections of the verdant canopy above and suitable for blue herons, river otters, badgers, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, rattlesnakes and golden eagles.
The limestone layer just above the streambed is riven with small caves. Flat ledges of red sandstone extend to the water's edge. At a number of points additional springs flow from the canyon walls through gardens of columbine and watercress
THE HIKE .. .
The trailhead is just above where Sycamore Creek meets the Verde River. The trail drops down 180 ft. to the creek right at the start (within 0.1 mile) and then continues upstream toward Parsons Spring.
The trail along the creek is fairly level. After several creek crossings the largest pool of the hike will come into view. It is off the trail about 100 feet. Although It varies with the weather, generally it will be at least as big as an Olympic-sized swimming pool. So swimming is a likely option.
Our hikes are generally at a pace conducive to social banter of interest to heathens, and allowing for time for photography of the local geology and wildlife. However, since this is an out-n-back trail route, hikers may choose their own pace and distance. We will likely all turn around and return at the “swimming hole” about 2.5 miles from the trailhead. However, a mile or so farther is Parsons Spring represented by an unimpressive pool of still water which the spring feeds from underneath. Expect this hike to last 3-4 hours
See photos from our 8/12/12 trip here:
See photos from our 7/30/11 trip here:
Links for more photos, trail maps, and other information:
Most of the walls of Sycamore Creek are Redwall Limestone laid down 354 to 323 million years ago. The limestone is riddled with caverns produced by groundwater flowing through and dissolving the rock.
The Martin Formation (417 - 354 mya) crops out here and there beneath the Redwall. It consists of interbedded limestone, dolomite, siltstone, and sandstone.
Remnants of basalt flows (about 4.6 million years old) that once coursed down the canyon are preserved along the walls, where they form ledges about 80 feet above the floor, often with prominent columnar jointing.
Supai Sandstone forms most of the skyline above the Redwall. The Supai stains the Redwall, which is actually light grey limestone. Supai Sandstone is the lowest and oldest of the Sedona red rocks. It consists of alternating layers of sandstone and mudstone which were laid down from coastal plains adjacent to shallow seas between 316 and 287 million years ago. This was just before the supercontinent Pangaea formed….Incidentally the red rocks at Bell Rock and Submarine Rock in Sedona were laid above the Supai, 280 million years ago.
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 3- 4 hrs.
Trail: smooth and sandy and easy on the feet
Elevation: [masked] ft.
change: 180 ft.
Parking: dirt/gravel lot
Tailhead GPS: [masked] [masked]
34° 51'50.792" -112° 4'10.412"
Entry fees: no
Always carry and drink plenty of water!
Sunscreen and insect repellant is advised.
Supportive footwear is also advisable.
Water shoes can be helpful around rocks and water.
Swimwear and towels could be useful on this hike.
Have light rain gear available.
(Scattered afternoon thunderstorms are common at high altitudes July – September.)
SAFETY FIRST… we have no medical provisions
To get there …. From Phoenix take I-17 north to exit 287 to AZ 260. Then take AZ 260 about 17 miles northwest through Cottonwood on Main St./Broadway to Tuzigoot Rd. (about 4.7 miles from 89A/260). Turn right onto Tuzigoot Rd (the Tuzigoot Monument turnoff) and follow this road across the bridge over the Verde River. Immediately after you cross the bridge, turn left on Sycamore Canyon Road (FR 131). Follow this DIRT road as it mostly follows the Verde River 11 miles to the trailhead. This road is passable in a sedan, but the last two miles are a little rough. The trailhead is 15.7 miles from 89A/260
Google says this trail head is about 2 hr. 15 min. from the intersection of the 101 and I-17. … but remember, there is some fairly slow dirt road involved. Perhaps allow another 15 minutes.
Following the hike…. We will likely visit a rehydration restaurant in Jerome or Cottonwood.