Monday, December 6, 2010

Exploring Sycamore Canyon

I forgot to mention my recent explorations of Sycamore Canyon in my previous blog post so I decided to dedicate a new post exclusively for it. Sycamore Canyon is one of two major canyons that flank the Sedona area in central Arizona. The other is Oak Creek Canyon, by far the more popular and crowded of the two. In comparison, Sycamore Canyon is like the shy little sister that never gets any attention and likes it that way. While steep walled and narrow Oak Creek Canyon has a beautiful perennially flowing stream and a car-choked road leading right up its gut, Sycamore Canyon only has a seasonal stream (with the exception of the southernmost three miles where it is perennial) and no roads whatsoever. It's a designated wilderness and is THE place to be in the Sedona area if solitude in a beautiful red rock canyon is your thing and you don't mind working for it.

Over the last few weeks, I've explored this canyon a few times at various entry points in an attempt to bask in the scenery that few casual visitors to the region will ever see. My first couple of ventures involved day hiking along the only perennially flowing stretch of Sycamore Creek up to Parsons Spring, taking in a gorgeous swimming hole along the way. This hike takes you along a stretch of the creek that is bordered by inner canyon walls, thus you never get to see the entire scope of the outer canyon. Regardless, it's a beautifully riparian canyon hike that is very different from what you see in rest of this wilderness. I did this hike twice because I wanted to photograph it both with green foliage and then again with fall colors lining the creek's banks.

A Swimming Hole Along Sycamore Creek

Autumn View From Parsons Spring Trailhead

My next adventure involved a backpacking trip deep into the heart of this wilderness. My buddy, Greg Rynders, and I originally planned for this to be a three day trip starting at the Dogie trailhead on the east rim of the canyon. From there we planned to backpack the Taylor's Cabin to Casner Mountain loop, some 21 miles that descends down to the creek bed to an out-of-commission (but restored) rancher's cabin and ascends back up via the Taylor Cabin trail to Casner Mountain. However, it being late November and all, the weather usually has the final say on all plans and it turned out to be far too cold (for our liking) to consider camping atop Casner Mountain. As it was, we awoke to a snow covered tent on our overnight at Taylor's Cabin which is nearly 2000 ft below Casner's summit. We opted (wisely, we both agreed) to shorten the trip to a single night out and back from the cabin. To change things up a bit, we did choose to come back a slightly different way by hiking the dry creek bed (instead of the official trail, which followed a bench high above the creek) back to the intersection with the Dogie Trail. While this boulder hopping route was tough on my chronically bad ankles, the new viewing perspective it afforded us definitely made it worth the while.

Taylor's Cabin - Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
The target of my final adventure involved finding some Sinagua Indian ruins that I had read about when researching for the above-described backpacking trip. These spectacularly set ruins were a must see from everything I read and I had really wanted to incorporate them into the backpacking trip, but we decided that was best left for another day. Well "another day" turned out to be a week later. After doing a little research, I discovered that I could actually drive to a trailhead located less than a mile from their location. Of course, this drive would be no walk in the park. While these ruins are located about 25 miles as the crow flies from my house, it took close to three hours to get there. It was a drive that involved 20 miles of washboarded shelf road followed by 12 more miles of bone jarring 4x4 road. In the end, the payoff was worth it though. In my opinion these ruins rate right up there with the False Kiva ruins in Canyonlands National Park for their scenic surroundings. It was a great way to cap off my Sycamore Canyon experience...for now!

Sinagua Indian Ruins - Sycamore Canyon Wilderness


  1. Hey Guy. Great to see you blogging again! Looks like you have found some nice stuff down in your new "neck of the woods". Gorgeous images! I will need to get down to visit you sometime. Happy holidays!


  2. Hey Monte! Good to hear from you. You definitely need to plan a visit out here sometime soon. You may not have heard, but its somewhat photogenic down here!! ;-)

    Happy holidays right back at ya!