Packard Trail to Sycamore Tank out and back. This is a description of the
hike to Sycamore Tank and back along with a description of circling behind the
tank back down into Sycamore Canyon. This trail has no drinkable water so bring
your own. - Dec 09 2001 GTG_AZHCoconino FS Reports
This hike starts at the Sycamore Canyon trailhead. Take the left at the trail
junction at the bottom of the hill. "The left option crosses the creek and
heads up for a long venture over Packard Mesa." Sycamore Canyon calls with its
water and beauty, but you have a climb ahead of you friend. My pictures were
taken in late September and late November thus explaining the different foliage
colors and inconsistencies.
At the intersection of Parsons Trail (144) and Packard Trail (66) hang a left
and go west across the boulders. Getting across the creek during low water is
fairly easy. Sycamore Creek makes a big pool here so
cross at the spillway, you will see the cairns. Once across the creek head
north along the barbed wire fence until you come to a pass-through in the
fence. This section of the trail is fairly brushy for a bit so you may want
long pants or gaiters for this. Go ahead and on up to the
of the mountain, to Packard Mesa. The trail doubles back towards the
parking-lot and then takes off for
miles up the mountain. This climb is great, I compare it to one and a half
to two Squaw Peak ascents with no concrete trail. The trail goes up and up for
a while until it finally flattens out on
Packard Mesa. Hiking across the mesa gives some great views east into
upper Sycamore Canyon and if you look close enough you can see the
From what I can surmise, Packard Ranch would use this trail to move their cattle
up to graze and so forth up on the mesa, letting the cattle roam further north
into higher, cooler ground. The Packard Trail follows a cow path for 3 miles or
so across the mesa headed north. The trail meanders back and forth between
juniper, pinon pine and low growing prickly pear. The trail can become confusing
at times as the worn paths are from meandering cows that don't always go the
same way. Just keep an eye out for the cowboy sized cairns. I suppose these
large cairns were made by cowboys to be easier to spot in a moving herd. I can
only guess that the prickly pear grow so low because of the wind they get up
here. If you have time, bring a kite, I guarantee it will fly. This area also
seem like it would be very cold in winter months as well due to the exposure you
get up there.
Continue north across the mesa to Sycamore Tank, which is basically a cow pond.
I would not recommend drinking the water here at all due to the cattle fouling
it. You will know you're at the tank when you see the
gate. When the tank is low you can take a break under the
cottonwood. It's one of the nicer specimens that I have ever seen. It must
do well because of the water and fertilizer it gets. Out the
back gate around the east side of the tank is a
corral and a couple of metal storage boxes. Sycamore Tank makes a good
turn-around spot. Return the way you came in for a 10-mile roundtrip day hike.
If you are adventurous and wish to explore the steep canyon going back down into
Sycamore Creek then read on.
Warning! This portion of the hike can be dangerous due to the ruggedness of the
canyon. This is also a major drainage from Packard Mesa down into Sycamore
Creek. Do not enter the wash or the canyon if you suspect the slightest hint of
rain. There are
boulders that have been pushed around by some pretty strong water in here.
The canyon starts as a
wash, quickly becoming a canyon with
steep walls. At about a mile from Sycamore Tank down into the canyon you
first drop-off. It's about a 70 foot high cliff that you must skirt around
the edge of down to the bottom.
This thing is huge. I took the east side down. Continuing on down the
canyon you will encounter many more cliffs like this. Some you can boulder down
to the bottom, others I had to go high to the side to make it down. I was solo
on this one so things were a little scary with the cliffs sometimes. You will
encounter numerous pools and
small caves along the way.
Plan your time accordingly. I got to within a few hundred yards of Sycamore
Creek and couldn't go any further. All that far and no donut! I could even see
Parsons Trail! You may be able to complete the loop I was trying to complete
the loop and return via Parsons Trail. I believe the loop can be done and I
will complete it someday. On this day I couldn't find a way past this
of pools. I underestimated my time and wanted to be out of the canyon by
dark so I had to bushwhack up to the top of the west side of the canyon. There
is a break in the cliffs at the top and I was able to get to it and make it out
of canyon in an hour or less. Then I hiked cross-country until I ran across
Packard Trail and headed back. From the beginning of the wash to my turn around
point with one small break took 2.25 hours. It took me 45 - 50 minutes to climb
out of the canyon through the brush straight up. You can see my
reference points on my map.
1. Entered wash into canyon.
2. Encountered first cliffs.
3. Turned around.
4. Exited canyon.
5. Hiked cross-country.
6. Returned on Packard Trail.
This trail serves mainly as access to other Sycamore Canyon Wilderness trails. It also provides access to this area from the Cottonwood-Clarkdale area. This is strictly a recreational trail and is used by both hikers and horseback riders.
Maps, other resources: Prescott National Forest, east half; U.S.G.S. topographic 7.5' quad for Clarkdale and Sycamore Basin.
Trail layout: The trail climbs immediately from Sycamore Creek to Packard Mesa to an elevation of about 4,800 ft. This is the only moderately difficult portion of the trail. The trail then stays on the mesa to where it intersects TR #63. Riders continuing north on TR #63 will find water for horses at Sycamore Tank, just 0.5 miles north of the trail junction. The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness trailhead for TR #63 lies another 0.5 miles north of the tank.
Precautions: There is no drinking water along this trail.One-Way Notice:
This hike is listed as One-Way. When you hike several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example