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Arizona’s Best Kept Secret: The Sycamore Wilderness Canyon

One of the most remote places Ariane and I have ever gong hiking in. The Sycamore Wilderness Canyon offers a adventure like no other. But you won’t find any roads, developed campgrounds or crowds in Sycamore Wilderness Canyon, just 55,937 acres of wilderness marked by colorful cliffs, and soaring pinnacles.

After getting lost in that Canyon back in April 2008, I need a redemption trip back into the Canyon. This time Ariane came with. It’s the second largest canyon to emerge from Arizona’s Red Rock Country and is lesser known but just as scenic cousin of famous Oak Creek Canyon.

The wilderness encompasses all of Sycamore Canyon from its forested rim near Williams, Arizona to its desert canyon mouth in the Verde Valley. This area is home to black bear and mountain lion as well as a number of less celebrated but just as notable creatures.

The last time I went backpacking in the Canyon, it was my goal to find Taylor Cabin which is on the National Historical Register and stay in it overnight. Never did find it.

Ariane and I found a awesome boondocking site right near Cottonwood, Arizona very close to the trail-head into the Sycamore Canyon. The trail-head is actually off 89A through Sedona and Cottonwood to the turnoff to Tuzigoot National Monument. Turn north across the Verde River, then left on FR 131. It’s about 11 miles to the trailhead.

Our Boondocking site was at intersection of AZ 260 and Thousand Trails Road (FS147)/Camino Real (FS360). Approx. 34.660993,-111.965153. It has amazing views of the Red Rocks of Sedona..and it’s free.

Backpacking the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon

We hit the trail early in the morning since the desert sun can get hot fast. We were on the hunt for agent Verde Hohokam Indian Ruins which we DID FIND.   It’s almost like a treasure hunt trying to find these ruins. You can easily day hike to the ruins. It’s about 6 1/2 miles there and back to the trail head.

The ruins are tricky to find. But they are off the Packard Mesa Trail (66) which you can connect to from the Parsons Spring Trail.  Once you cross the creek and get on the Packard Mesa Trail it leaves the canyon floor and heads up to the mesa.
This involves a nice climb, up, a short time level and up again, until you reach the mesa.

The trail is a bit rocky and the maintenance of the trail is a bit low. Once on the mesa the trail is less easy to follow.  The cows made a lot of parallel trails, but most of them are leading to the tank.

Once at the tank, go through gate 1, stay left and exit at gate 2. Turn right on a jeep trail, that follows the tank fence.

At gate 3, that’s the only one with a gate, that can be closed.
Don’t go through this gate, but go back 40 yards.
Now start hiking, North/East in a small sandy wash.
Try to follow the cowtrails wherever they are. Head more North, until you meet a jeep trail and than turn right.
Follow the jeep trail until it kind of ends. Look for trails that head up and follow these trails. THERE IS NO MARKING. This is where you want to go, between those hills is the trail, leading up to the ruins.

Once you find the ruins, stay the night and camp up on the hill near the trail signs and the jeep road. You can go right up that hill and find the perfect camp site to take in the amazing beautiful views of the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon.

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In 2003 I completed a Thru-Hike on the Appalachian Trail. Since then I have over 12,000 miles underfoot and 20 years of backpacking, and camping experience. Certifications include WFA, WFR, LNT Trainer, and belong to AORE. Have been guiding backpacking trips for over 10 years. The outdoors has taught me one thing. Trusting the Trail! really does provide everything a person needs.

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