Sycamore Canyon is that hike you could do over and over again.  Naturally, I get back to Arizona and the first thing I want to do is go hiking.  I don’t know what it is about this state that makes my legs restless, but hiking is what I needed to do.  So, I do what any sane person does, start asking around for amazing hikes in the Cottonwood/Sedona area.  Someone I trust, not just because he’s a pastor, but also because he treated me so well the last time I was in the area suggested Sycamore Canyon and promised I wouldn’t be disappointed.  He couldn’t have been any more right.  This hike ranks in my top 3 in Arizona to date.  Yeah, that says a lot since I’ve probably hiked at least 30 trails in Arizona.

I will give you a warning that wasn’t given to me.  The road down to the trailhead takes FOREVER if you are driving a Jetta.  This is a barely manned dirt, rock, rutted road and not advised to take a car but it’s what I have so I went.  If you are like me, be careful and move over for those who have bigger vehicles.  It’s not their fault you want to keep a Jetta and be an explorer.  Hahaha.

Immediately at the trailhead you will feel a sense of peace completely wash over you.  The view from the top is breathtaking, serene and unforgettable.  Yes, me saying that is a lot considering all the hikes I have done in all the different states.  Do yourself a favor and just take it in for a minute but beware, this will not be the last time your breath will be taken away.

beginning of the hike
sycamore canyon trailhead

To start, I should let you know the trail is actually called Parsons Trail and it goes along the Canyon.  It is considered a moderate 7.2 mile, out and back trail with the moderate really being the climb back up the canyon to your vehicle.  See, the first what seems like a mile is going straight down in to the canyon.  Please do yourself a favor and take in the views along the way, because once you get down there, the landscape seems much different.  After all, you are in the canyon at that point.

Once you get down in the canyon you will notice a sign to go left or go right, go right, that’s the hike you want.  Honestly, I didn’t go left, so I don’t know if it’s any good, but I can’t imagine a bad hike down there.  If you love the sound of running water, you won’t be disappointed here.  Almost immediately (it is Arizona so it might not be all the time but certainly after a rainfall) you can hear the faint sound of flowing water.  How can you not be at peace with that kind of background music?  Do yourself a favor and take out the earbuds and just let the sound of nature engulf you.

sycamore canyon hike
sycamore canyon water

It’s not much further before you start to see the water.  Take it in and enjoy it, but don’t worry, you are going to be hiking alongside the water and over the water for most of the trail.  Now, you may be wondering what I mean by over, well, there are about 6 places in the hike that you must cross.  Don’t worry, it is relatively clear where you need to cross, however, which rocks are loose is not clear, so, be careful and don’t be surprised if you get your feet wet.  I actually believe this piece of the hike is one of the best features.  You can’t beat the landscape, but you also get to play in it.  How’s that for an adventure?

About 1.5 miles in to the hike you will come in to a big open area and most likely there will already be people there if you are in peak season.  If you want to take a dip, dive in, it’s definitely big enough.  You could also jump off the boulders, I’m not that brave but people do it.  Here is where some people get confused and turn around.  This is the first water area you will have to cross.  Cross to the right of the big water hole.  DO NOT turn around here.  You will be sorry you missed what this trail has to offer.

sycamore canyon watering hole

Throughout the entire hike you will be seeing and hearing babbling brooks, taking in rock deformations, small cave holes and stagnant water spots.  These are all part of the beauty of this place.  Once you get to the end of the trail, it will be obvious.  There really isn’t any visual trail to go beyond the oasis you come upon.  I’ve suggested it before and I’m going to suggest it again, when you find ‘that’ spot, sit down, eat your lunch, read a book, relax and enjoy it.  Don’t just get there, turn around and go home.  That is precisely what I did here.  I went a little beyond the opening that a lady was camping at (you will notice a sign informing you that camping is now permitted) and climbed up on the rocks, took a seat and ate my lunch.  Who doesn’t want to eat their lunch while watching birds, fish and even turtles?!?!

Truth be told, the sky had started looking like rain about the last half hour of my hike, so unfortunately, I did not enjoy the area as much as I wanted to, but I was worried.  In case you forgot, taking a Jetta down there is not advised and if it started to rain, well, you could consider me stuck down there.  Oh, to top that off, there isn’t cell phone service.  I’m sure you already figured that, but hey, you just never know with some people.  And if you were wondering, yes, the views are just as beautiful going out as they were coming in.  It’s essentially the same landscape, just at a different angle.  Enjoy that too! Oh, and don’t forget to tell people where you are going because you are off the grid (no cell phone service).  Enjoy it, take it in, rinse and repeat.  Yes, this is a hike you can do over and over again and I fully intend to.

selfie at sycamore canyon
sycamore canyon
sycamore canyon notice

Fun Facts:

  • Second largest canyon in Arizona Red Rock Country
  • 21 miles long and reaches as far as 7 miles wide
  • It is located within 3 different US National Forests
  • Sycamore Canyon is one of the oldest designated Wilderness Areas in Arizona
  • Home to bear, mountain lion and deer