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Pumphouse Wash (Upper), AZ
no permit
137 15 0 0
Description 15 Triplogs  0 Topics
RatedFavorite   Wish List Region
 Munds Park - Southwest
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,400 feet
Elevation Gain -200 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Author joebartels
Descriptions 208
Routes 692
Photos 8,918
Trips 3,110 map ( 16,057 miles )
Age 46
Location Phoenix, AZ
Viewed All Mine Following
23  2015-09-28
James and Kelly Loop (technical)
3  2013-11-05 Gecko Tracks
20  2012-10-20 DaveB96
3  2010-08-28
James Canyon
20  2010-05-19 cbear111
48  2010-05-09
James Canyon
25  2009-07-18
James Canyon
12  2009-06-03 hippiepunkpirate
6  2000-01-18 joebartels
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Forest Coconino
Backpack   No
Preferred   Apr, May, Oct, Nov → Early
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  5:15am - 7:45pm
Alternative Routes
Nearby Hikes Area Water Sources
direct air miles away to trailhead
0.8  Fry Canyon - Coconino NF
1.5  Kelly Canyon / Aloha Wall
1.5  Kelly Canyon / Cake Wall
1.5  Kelly Canyon / Lower Wall
1.5  Kelly Canyon / Main Area 1
1.5  Kelly Canyon / Warm Up Wall
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     Arizona Sister Butterfly
     Mexican Spotted Owl
     Basaltic Columns
     Coconino Sandstone
Oak Creek, the beginning!
by joebartels

On one of the warmest days in January I decided to take the plunge into Pumphouse Wash. Having read about the area for years I finally had a chance to explore. Pumphouse Wash is the upper end of Oak Creek! This is where it all begins. Along the way Kelly and James canyons enter from the east. It's just under four miles hiking distance from the northern end of Pumphouse down to the confluence with Oak Creek. Although possible, the full canyon out and back would take six to ten hours. Therefore I opted for a more relaxing day and choose to explore the upper section only. Flooding occurs often in Pumphouse Wash. If rain is in the forecast stay out of this canyon.

From the parking area head down into the wash. There is no trailhead marker. The canyon is wide and shallow near the beginning. No trail actually exist. Follow the main obvious canyon south and you shouldn't have any problems getting lost. For a short distance the creek bed has striking contours etched by the forces of erosion. In about a quarter mile Kelly Canyon enters from the east. A very small cave is passed. Most likely you will miss it and catch a peek on the return trip. The canyon will start turning to your right and up along a mid bank terrace several campsites and fire rings are passed. Sad to note the area appeared to be somewhat trashed on this day.

Continue following the canyon. On to the falls most or all of the gradual turns are to your left. The creek bed is rocky with small boulders most of the way. Be careful hopping along the small boulders. Jumping onto a huge boulder I was very surprised as it gave way. Needless to say I was a bit more careful after the incident. Near the final left turn watch out for the prickly bushes that cover the wash. On the return trip I took a fair beating and scratched up my legs pretty bad.

Approaching the falls area be careful not to walk off the ledge. There shouldn't be much problem of this actually happening, though I did slip right near the edge. This was more of a personal problem as on this trip I wore hiking boots. May sound funny, but I rarely wear boots. I have hiked nearly everything in Teva sandals. Even on a warm, near sixty degree, day in January as much as I wanted to wear the Tevas the snow was too cold. And yes I tried it for about a hundred yards. From the falls a beautiful canyon is seen looking ahead. This is the turn around point. You can hike on down the canyon if your up to it. To the left of the falls is your only hope of getting down. Though very steep it is possible. Further down James Canyon enters from the east. The canyon walls get steeper and to be honest the canyon is more exciting after the falls. The upper section of Pumphouse Wash as mentioned above is ideal for getting to know the area. It's easy to see with the width and length of this canyon how flooding can occur in a flash. Once again if rain is probable please stay out of this canyon

All in all this was a great adventure. A rare treat to hike a beautiful Arizona canyon without passing a sole. Not that I dislike anybody. Sometimes it's just nice to enjoy the outdoors in pure peace.
© 2000 - 2016

    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.

    Permit $$
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    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To canyon trip
    From Flagstaff go South on 89A just south of mile marker 392 and turn East onto FR 237. Follow FR 237 about a mile just past the first wash. There is a small parking nook on your right immediately after crossing the wash.

    GPS readings taken from field

    Trailhead Top of 14 foot falls
    N35 03.703'

    W 111 43.208'

    N35 02.829'

    W 111 43.489'

    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
    stay out of the scorching sun
    prehydrate & stay hydrated
    © 2016 HAZ