Kelly canyon is a beautiful canyon located about ten miles south of Flagstaff.
You'll want to do this hike in the spring through late fall due to snow in the winter months.We did this hike in June to take advantage of the cooler temperatures near Flagstaff. To get there take I-17 south out of Flagstaff about 10.5 miles and take the Kelly Canyon Rd. Exit. Turn right onto Kelly Canyon Rd. and drive for half a mile until you are at a stock tank. Take a right (north) off the main dirt road you are on and proceed until the road splits. Here, if you take the road to the right you will drive about .2 miles till you come to an old cabin on top of a hill, you can park here like we did and walk down into the drainage leading to Kelly Canyon. Another option is when the road splits is to keep going straight until the road starts to go up and park here, this will save you about an eighth to a quarter mile in distance you'll have to hike to get into Kelly Canyon. After following the drainage north, you will come into Kelly Canyon. Take a left and start down, there's a game trail just when you come into the canyon on the north side, but I wouldn't recommend it because it takes you up and away from the canyon. There is a trail through the creek bed that peeks out here and there. The trail does get better a little ways down the canyon and eventually becomes a mountain bike trail that crisscrosses the creek.
Upon doing some research before we set off to this canyon we found that it is also home to "Rock Jocks" and the evidence albeit slight is there, you'll notice the chalk on some of the walls when you head down the canyon. This presence is less and less as you head down the canyon. I guess this place is pretty popular for rock climbers, but we saw no one there and no trash, just some repelling rope stashed in a small cave. As you make your way down the canyon try at least some of the time to stay in the bottom otherwise you miss some of the cool rock features along the way. Water is scarce here unless you're here in early spring with the snow melt fed creek. There were some small pools of water, but you'd have to do some filtering if you wanted some.
You'll know you're at the end of the canyon when it ends at the confluence of Pumphouse Wash, which you can head to the right and meet up with FR237 or take a left and continue down Pumphouse Wash all the way to Oak Creek canyon. You could also meet up with James Canyon as well on your trip down. If you have a good eye you can see some very old pictographs and petroglyphs on some of the rock walls along the canyon.
The canyon floor was full of wild flowers, wild rose (Fendler Rose),Morning glories,Rocky Mt. Iris, Yellow Columbine and more. The greenery was beautiful, Lady ferns formed a carpet between the Ponderosa Pine trees and Douglas Furs. Some Aspen trees were along the canyon floor. Lizards, to numerous to mention scrambled everywhere. In the pools you will find Salamanders, Crayfish, and Tadpoles. At the confluence of Pumphouse Wash, we found Garter snakes in and around the pools of water.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay
To canyon trip Take I-17 south out of Flagstaff about 10.5 miles and take the Kelly Canyon Rd. Exit 331. Turn right onto Kelly Canyon Rd. and drive for half a mile until you are at a stock tank.
HAZ adds: It may be easier to find this canyon from the west confluence with Pumphouse. Look up "Pumphouse Wash (Upper)"
AZ-Outdoorsman adds: After traveling the .5 miles to the tank/pond from I-17, I would suggest parking here. You can drive a little further, but the road gets much rougher, (you can walk just as fast), it's less than 1/4 mile before you would have to park anyway and there is limited space. So after parking at the tank, head down the road on the west side (far side) of the tank and follow it north behind the tank and down the road. After only 100 yards or so the road forks and you can see the old cabin up on the hill of the right fork, take the left fork and continue down the road/drainage. After another 100 yards or so the drainage crosses the road (rough spot) this is your drainage. You can get in now or just 50 yards or so further as the road starts to climb. You are still heading north in a side drainage that starts from the tank. After another 100 yards you come to the Kelly Canyon confluence, take a left (west) heading down stream.