Sycamore Canyon Wilderness encompasses the second largest canyon in Arizona’s red rock country. This trip into the Canyon will gain you more knowledge about Southwest Backpacking than anything you can ever do. Sycamore Canyon Wilderness contains more than 50,000 acres of colorful cliffs, soaring pinnacles, and one of the world’s rarest habitats. It is one of Arizona’s most dramatic and beautiful canyons.
This will be a 4 night and long 4 day trip. The total loop hike will be 26.5 miles. We start very near our Base Camp for the week. From where we get dropped off, the actual trailhead is 200 yards away. This is a very old ranching trail that the Cowboys of the past use to heard their Cattle on. It’s a dry trail with some amazing views later on the trail. It’s very rocky with moderate up’s and down’s. The first day ends at a National Historical Rock Cabin that can still be used today. Working wood burning stove, cast iron pans, and a place to sleep if you dare. We will camp at or near the cabin. Our trip includes remote Wilderness camping with red sand under your feet and amazing views that you will remember for a lifetime. Once we hike up and over the Mesa we will return to a natural Spring that offers one of the most spectacular swimming holes you will ever encounter. DON’T MISS THIS TRIP!!!
Our difficulty rating is based on a scale of 1-5, with a rating of 1 being least difficult, and a rating of 5 being most difficult
- Rating: 4 (only a small section of the trail)
- Backpack Weight:
- 30-35 pounds
- Ave Daily Hiking Distances:
- 8-10 miles
- Elevation: 4,851 to 4,158 feet
- Quality of Trails:
- Rough in some places. Carins are the only trail markers. Possible raging Sycamore Creek (highly unlikely) Very sandy in some spots.
- This trip follows old Ranching routes.
We will hike a total of 3 different trails. We start on the Dogie Trail which is approximately 5.7 miles one way. Sycamore Basin Trail, and the Packard Mesa Trail.
Highlights will be 100 year old RED ROCK Taylor Cabin (which you can sleep in) Ancient Indian Ruins (that we can walk in) and AMAZING Secenary (that will take your breath away)
We will start on the Dogie Trail. After almost two hours of hiking, you’ll come to a ridge that marks the final descent. The rest of the route winds through tall grasses and thorny brambles before arriving at Sycamore Creek, which is normally dry. The only perennial water is at the southern end of the canyon, where Parsons Spring feeds a 4-mile stretch At this crossing, the creek is lined with the canyon’s signature trees. And the bed is mostly rocks, ranging in size from cue balls to bowling balls to bigger than a bread truck. Although the creek makes an obvious turnaround point, the Dogie Trail continues up the opposite bank for another 10 minutes to an intersection with the Sycamore Trail. We connect with the Sycamore Trail. This trip turns right onto Sycamore Creek, leading to Taylor Cabin, which is 3.5 miles off. This is where we will camp.
We will camp at Taylor Cabin. This cabin is on the National Historic Registry. There are still Cast Iron pot's and pans that Backpackers can still use today. You can either sleep in the Cabin (which has a wood burning stove) or in your Tent.
Temperatures will average around high 60's to low 40's in November. There is NO WATER in the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon unless there has been rain. Sycamore Creek is a dry creek bed that supplies water when there is snow melt or hard rain/flash floods. We will have water cached as a resupply on this trip. Expect to carry One Gallon of Water Per Person Per Day.
There are options to buy food and supplies in Cottonwood, AZ. Cottonwood has all the amenities that you might need. Walmart, nice Motels, and excellent Wine tasting shops.
We start our hike on the Dogie Trail which is an old ranching trail from the Cowboy days. The trail ascends immediately from the trailhead until it reaches the sign-in, "register here" book, and a metal gate. After walking through the metal gate in the barbed-wire fence, the trail descends immediately. The trail continues down until reaching a level area. There is another gate in a barbed-wire fence, just before Dogie Tank at the 2 miles mark. Eventually, Sycamore creek comes into view. The canyon's final descent leads to a sandy area just before the river rock-filled sycamore creek bed, which is dry except for some pools (as mentioned previously, depending on the weather and season).
The trail crosses the creek bed and picks up on the other side. From here, the trail climbs and follows along a flat area with many nice campsites. Shortly, the trail encounters another gate through a barb-wired fence leads into an area of many cacti. Soon, the trail comes to the trail junction with the Sycamore Trail. This trip turns right onto Sycamore Creek, leading to Taylor Cabin, which is 3.5 miles off. After the trail junction, the trail descends, and there are good views of Sycamore Creek on the right side. The trail goes up and down some amount of times before ending up on a flat area called Airport Mesa. Airport Mesa has several good campsites, but no water supply. After a couple of miles, the trail drops down into a drainage, comes up again, and then descends into Jack's Canyon. After ascending the other side of Jack's Canyon, the trail goes through another gate in a barbed-wire fence. The trail continues for another mile or so, ascending and descending until you reach another trail junction. There is a gate and barbed-wire fence to the left through which is Taylor Cabin trail 66. To the right a short trail descends down to Taylor Cabin.
Taylor Cabin is where we will plan to Camp
After a good hearty breakfast we will begin our trek across some of the most scenic beauty you will ever encounter. It's a moderate climb up and out of the Sycamore Creek basin as we start on the Sycamore Trail (sometimes called the Sycamore Basin Trail) #63. We traverse the open Mesa with breathtaking views. We hike South back towards the Dogie Trail which this time we hike right past. We keep heading South and pass an old corral made from mesquite branches tied together with cable. Eventually passing through a barbed wire gate. This will be a short 4-5 mile day and we will camp up on a hill overlooking the Canyon.
This by far will be some of the most secnic views on this trip. This is also where we will cache water so we can all fill up. Since there is no water available on this trip, make sure you keep to the One Gallon Per Person Per Day rule.
After breakfast (and sleeping under the stars) we go on a morning day hike and make our way down the hill and explore Ancient Indian Ruins. These Ruins are not easy to find and there is a trail that connects along a gravel (ranching road) that we will hike on. The ruins are about 2 miles from where we camped for the night.
These Ancient Indian Ruins are crumbling. So please be careful when we explore and practice Leave No Trace. Remember, ruins are fragile and irreplaceable, please leave the area as you found it. It is also illegal to remove artifacts from these historic sites. This dwelling was built by the Verde Hohokam Tribe
“Archeologists believe that Indians positioned hilltop ruins sites atop high ridges, in sight of each other, intentionally, so that they could to communicate over long distances using smoke signals.”
After our exploration we will head back to camp, pack and head out to our next camping spot. We will have a short day and camp on top of the Packard Mesa which connects us to the Packard Mesa Trail #66. At the top of the mesa, the trail becomes flat and the rocks diminish (making for fast, easy walking) as it heads through the juniper grasslands. As you make the long trek across Packard Mesa. We will pass through another fence and probably see Bull Steer or Cows. This will be our last night to enjoy the Sunset and sleep under the Stars.
We start on the Packard Mesa Trail passing a Cow Tank and (probably more Cows). After a mile or so we start making our way down off the Mesa and head back into the Creek Bed. This part of the trail will be rocky and often steep going down. (only for a short distance) At some point we will be able to see the Parson's Spring Trail Head. After coming down into the dry creek bed we'll cross it and head back up to the trail head where our cars will be.
This is a suggested list of gear to make your trip successful!
*A fitted backpack than can carry 5 days worth of food – 65 Liter Backpack gauge though you can easily go smaller
*Pack Cover (covers your backpack if it rains)
* 30 Degree Down Sleeping Bag – (expect chilly nights, it can get down into the 30's in the desert)
*Headlamp (extra batteries as needed)
Hiking Poles are highly encouraged, as the terrain is uneven - rocky, sandy and muddy at times
*Good Hiking Boots or shoes with good traction
*Water Filtration (THERE IS NO WATER to FILTER unless there has been a heavy rain)
3 liter hydration or equivalent water bottle system. Enough water for ONE GALLON Per Person Per Day
*First Aid Kit – primarily for blisters, burns, cuts, and aching muscles. INCLUDE SUN SCREEN
*Cooking Stove MSR Pocket Rocket or stove that uses Isobutane Fuel
*Cooking Pot to boil water/ and eat in
*Lighter – purchased AFTER flights
*Food Storage Bag (we will have to hang food via “bear bag” system) MICE and Wildlife will be abundant.
All of these can be shared if you have a partner.
SmartWool NTS Mid 250 Zip-T Long Men’s Underwear Top
REI Lightweight Base Layer Half-Zip Top – Women’s
Long sleeve shirt (merino wool is a good option)
Arcteryx Men’s MX Hoody (great insulated soft shell)
Arcyeryx Men’s Delta AR Zip Neck Midlayer
Rab Microlight Jacket Men’s
Marmot Women’s Jena Jacket
CAMPING or Sitting by the Fire
A lightweight Goose down jacket is highly recommended and / or long sleeve Fleece jacket
Long sleeve shirt
Rain Jacket or Wind Breaker (should be same thing)
HIKING: (NO COTTON)
Base Layer Short sleeve or lightweight long sleeve (IT CAN GET HOT DURING THE DAY)
Long Pants that can unzip into shorts
Hat or Bandanna
**ALL CLOTHING LIST:
(2) pair of socks
(2) pair of underwear
(1) pair of hiking pants
(2) shirts (1) Long sleeve (2) Short Sleeves
(1) pair of long underwear to sleep in
(1) pair of shorts *unless your pants unzip into shorts
First Ascent Men’s Telemetry Freeride Pants Men’s
Marmot PreCip Waterproof Rain Jacket Men’s
Marmot PreCip Waterproof Rain Jacket Women’s
(1) hat or bandanna
(1) sandals or lightweight shoes for camp
*ALWAYS KEEP ONE LONG SLEEVE SHIRT AND ONE PAIR OF LONG JOHNS DRY.
Compression sack for sleeping bag **Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack Recommended
Compression sack for ALL clothing **Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack Recommended
Food Bag **Sea to Summit Stuff Sack Recommended OR Ursack Major Bear Bag
Plastic Zip Lock Bags for Food and Garbage
Camera and waterproof camera case (iPhones should be protected incase it rains)
small pad to sit on
If you have any questions e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are traveling to the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon there are a few things you should know;
The closest Airport is Flagstaff which is only 30 minutes from Cottonwood (Our Base Camp) The airport is serviced by American Airlines (SkyWest as American Eagle) and United Airlines (Trans States Airlines as United Express), and is also used for general aviation.
Phonix Airport which is 2.5 hours South of Cottonwood, AZ (Our Base Camp. Major Airport that is serviced by all major Airlines.
There will be plenty of logding available. Check for COVID 19 Policies at each Hotel or Motel. There are plenty of Air B and B's available in Sedona, AZ which is only a 15 minute drive to Cottonwood, AZ (Our Base Camp)
The View Motel
818 S Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326•(928) 634-7581
920 Camino Real, Cottonwood, AZ 86326(928) 634-9975
Super 8 by Wyndham Cottonwood
800 S Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326•(928) 639-1888
Camping is amazing in this area. You can camp for FREE (where we will be) off of Forest Rd 525A an C. You will need to bring enough water with you however. This is NOT a Campground but a place to RV boondock or car camp.
Additional Camping can be found at Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, AZ (nice park next to the Verde River) They also have a Dog Park very close.