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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
8:33 PM Tue, Nov. 20th

Sightseeing<BR>Sycamore Canyon brings water into the high-desert hiking mix

This past week, many of the trees wore a full array of autumn colors. The red walls of Sycamore Canyon wind for 20 miles along Sycamore Creek, and at places the canyon stretches seven miles from rim to rim.

Sycamore Canyon is actually a massive area that encompasses nearly 56,000 acres. Parsons Trail in the Verde Valley is just one of the trails into the area. Other access points are available south of Williams and off Perkinsville Road near Drake.

Parsons Trail is perhaps the most user-friendly, though, because it lies at the end of a maintained dirt road, and the hike to the creek is short.

Even so, the nearly 10 miles of dusty roads to get to the trailhead apparently deters crowds. One day this past week, the trail was deserted, except for two out-of-state backpackers.

And that is the way it is supposed to be. Dorothy Baxter, recreation planner for the Prescott National Forest, emphasized that Sycamore Canyon is a wilderness area, which brings with it a mindset and a set of rules that are not in effect in other forest areas.

For instance, the wilderness designation means that hikers must be especially careful to leave no trace of their presence in the area. The Forest Service limits travel within the wilderness to foot or horseback. Vehicles and bicycles are prohibited.

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness area straddles several national forests, including the Prescott, the Coconino, and the Kaibab. The Parsons Trail area is near the border of the Prescott and the Coconino forests.

About five or six miles from the trailhead, a roadside sign indicates that drivers are entering the Coconino National Forest.

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness features a variety of terrain, including the forested rim near Williams and the desert canyon mouth of the Verde Valley. The Parsons Trail follows Sycamore Creek just before it joins with the Verde River near Clarkdale.

According to Forest Service information, Sycamore Canyon is home to black bear and mountain lions.

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness area is just one of eight such areas that lie within the boundaries of the Prescott National Forest.

Other wilderness areas in the forest include: Granite Mountain, Apache Creek, Castle Creek, Cedar Bench, Juniper Mesa, Pine Mountain, and Woodchute.

Contact Cindy Barks at cbarks@prescottaz.com.

IF YOU GO. . .

Parsons Trail in Sycamore Canyon lies about 50 miles from Prescott in the Verde Valley. Because of the condition of the roads, the trip takes about an hour and a half.

From Prescott, take Highway 89A over Mingus Mountain and through Jerome to Clarkdale.

At the bottom of the mountain on 89A, continue through Clarkdale to Main Street. After passing Clarkdale Town Hall on the left, veer right on Broadway. Continue on Broadway for about a half-mile to the turn-off for the Tuzigoot National Monument, and turn left. Immediately after crossing the bridge over the Verde River, turn left again on Sycamore Canyon Road.

The road is paved at first, but it turns to dirt after about a mile or so. The dirt road is maintained, and it is in reasonably good shape for much of the way. Continue on the dirt road for about nine miles. Signs for Sycamore Canyon will guide you. The winding road gets fairly rough for the last mile or two.

The overlook to Parsons Trail is well-marked, and the trail is well-established. After a steep drop into the canyon, the trail veers to the right and continues to Parsons Springs, where the creek and the trail end.

Expect the temperature to be about 10 degrees warmer in the Verde Valley than it is in Prescott. Take plenty of water and wear sunscreen.