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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Little LO Spring Canyon, AZ

no permit
235 13 0
Guide 13 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff SW
4 of 5 by 4
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 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 6.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,801 feet
Elevation Gain -1,400 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,800 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-7 hrs
Kokopelli Seeds 15.2
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
27  2019-07-06 GrottoGirl
39  2014-08-30 GrottoGirl
17  2014-05-17 desert_boonie
28  2014-05-17 outdoor_lover
45  2013-09-01 GrottoGirl
3  2011-08-27 toddak
30  2011-06-19 Vaporman
46  2010-08-22 Vaporman
Author nonot
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 236
Photos 1,969
Trips 476 map ( 4,511 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:12am - 6:32pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Lookout, you may keep me forever!
by nonot

Likely In-Season!
An R rated technical canyoneering route into Sycamore canyon containing 1-2 keeper potholes.

Canyoneering involves slot canyons, be careful to check the weather before you go and do not if there is any chance of rain. Since this is a techincal trip, you will need: HELMET!, harness, and rappelling device. You may need up to 100 ft of rope, 1-7 rap rings, and 20-100 ft of webbing. In spring or fall, wetsuits will be desirable, however they are not needed in summer (July-September).

This is NOT a beginner canyon - you will also need specialize keeper exit technique (see below).

This canyon contains 1-2 keeper potholes, the first of which (when water is low) cannot be done alone. Furthermore, due to the make-up of the other side of the keeper, throw bags are very ineffective, being that they simply slide up the other side of the smooth chute. Since throw bags do not work, the current best recommendation is to travel with a group of 3 or more, using the partner assist technique. The last person may need ascending gear or else two strong buddies to dead haul his bulk (not easy!) when the keeper is low.

Canyon is described in Todd Martin's "Arizona: Technical Canyoneering". The author must have been a novice at his first attempt of this canyon, for he writes that he pulled his rope before realizing exit from the keeper pothole may not have been possible - do NOT repeat this error. The author indicates he may have been the first party to attempt the canyon.

From Kelsey TH, walk east and onto FR527A until it crosses a canyon headed northwest. Head down this canyon, which is a bit of a thrash until you reach a junction with Little Lookout Canyon. There are no technical obstacles on the way to the junction. The junction here is rather interesting and the slot forms nearly immediately. Begin descending into Little Lookout until you reach a chute that ends in a large pool. Stop here and drop your gear - heading a bit high on canyon right will let you get to a place that you can look down into the pool exit. If the water does not reach the rim of the pothole, the pothole is in serious keeper conditions.

On our visit, the water was 6 ft below the rim. Currently the exit has some rocks in the area underneath the water that may help to get a stance, but the lip was still well out of reach of a 6 ft man with outstretched arms.

Be cautious - if you are unprepared to deal with a keeper turn around now, or else consider bypassing the keeper by rappelling from a tree on canyon right past the obstacle. otherwise return to the slot and downclimb the chute into the keeper, the last 5-6 ft of which is too vertically sloped to allow for exit without a rope. (Note: in wetter conditions, the chute may be too slippery - making rappelling a safer option here). Do not pull the rope until your party has gained a stance out of the keeper! After you enter the pool, you must deal with the keeper (when water is low.) Throw bags proved ineffective due to the slippery slope on the other side. A partner assist currently works best for this obstacle.

Immediately on the other side of this obstacle is another semi-keeper - it is definitely a keeper at the exit, but a fault will also allow a scrambling exit out from the left side, making the keeper escape optional. Another chute can be downclimbed at the exit of this keeper (or rappelled in slippery conditions). From here there are numerous challenging downclimbs/rappels. There are many anchors, but we downclimbed all but one. Our one and only rappel in this canyon - a shear rappel of 18 ft into knee deep water - was an ankle breaker for sure if one thought to foolishly jump.

From here is more downclimbing (optional rappelling) until you reach the bottom of Little Lookout as it joins Sycamore Canyon. Shortly before Sycamore canyon itself is the exit trail (Little LO #6) on your left. Proceed 70 ft from the Little LO streambed to the trail junction and head up the trail. A little further along the trail (meaning you missed the place the Little LO #6 trail ascends) is the refreshing Geronimo Springs - a godsend on a hot summer day.

Head up the trail, you will come to the intersection of Kelsey Trail - turn left and climb. You will hit Babes Hole Spring - another nice cool-off spot on a hot summer day. Continue climbing to the rim and the TH.

Water Sources
Babes Hole Spring and Geronimo Spring make the practical water sources for this trip - Kelsey Spring is a swampy area.

On the rim - several options near Kelsey TH.

Strong, experienced parties can do Little LO and Babes Hole in a single day (7-9 hrs total)

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your canyon trip to support this local community.

2011-08-28 nonot
    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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Little LO Spring Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Ken and Scott picked a good one!

    After Ken and Jake arrived in the Morning, we set off...It wasn't long before we started the Steep Descent into the Side Drainage that would take us eventually to the Main Event...I can honestly say that it's been awhile since I've done this much extensive Boulder Hopping. 1 1/2 Miles felt like 3 before it was all said, done, and we got to the Main Canyon. There was no easy Slick Rock Walking through here and there was no getting out of the "Creek" either. Solid small, medium and large Boulders the whole way and let's throw in some Logs and Log Jams just for Kicks...I actually had to work pretty hard to get my Leg and Foot back at one point...:sweat: I slowed the Team down quite a bit as I no longer feel like the Knees can take jumping down onto Rocks like they can, but the guys were more than patient... It didn't help that I forgot the Ibuprofen, but Jake probably really saved me on that one... : app :

    We get to the Main Canyon and down in we go...A couple of us decided on Wetsuits, but it could have gone either way as the Water was really low and infrequent. It was also Sunny and plenty Warm out. Almost immediately, we are at the Keeper and it was definitely in Keeper Mode on this Day. Partner Assist was a Must on this one and everyone did great! We went right from that one into another Semi Keeper. I made Friends with a Frog in that one, but opted not to Kiss him...These Pools were definitely "Stewy".... :sweat: Ken and Jake were able to muscle out of that Pothole, so we were good there too... :y:

    We continued on down the Canyon, Downclimbing most of it, which was fun. My Skills in that Department are getting better, and I am more comfortable with some of it, but still needed some assistance in a few Spots. Hopefully, I'll keep getting better at it. This was definitely a good Canyon to "practice" in...

    We opted to do 3 Rappels. One into the Keeper, another one that we rigged a Handline for, but that I opted to use my Device on and then one using a Dead Man's Anchor that we rebuilt. Just a great Variety of Skills utilized on this Day, it was awesome!

    The Canyon was really nice. It had Narrows, then it widened out and then it would Narrow up again. Even with the Potholes, Downclimbing and more Boulder Hopping, I don't think it took nearly as long to do the 1+ Miles of Canyon as it did the Approach... :sweat:

    And then, we were at the Exit. I knew when I started up the Trail, that I was really running out of Gas. It was steep and I was extraordinarily slow. I think the Boulder Hopping took a lot out of my Legs and I was also struggling from the Elevation. I kept insisting to the Guys to go on ahead, but some of them didn't listen very well...Ken knows me well enough to know I'll be fine, but Jake insisted keeping me company to Babe's Hole Spring and then Scott took over from there... :A1: Luckily between the Two Springs, there is some respite before the next and final Uphill. :sweat: By the Time I hit the TH at the Top, I was pretty done. I had to rest even walking the Road 1/2 Mile back to Camp... :| It probably didn't help that halfway up the last Hill my Leg Muscles started Spasming... :sweat:

    But with more than a little help from my Friends, I got it done and it was worth every Mile. I actually recovered quite nicely after Resting in Camp awhile, but I still felt a little Fatigued the next morning. The Soreness didn't really settle in until the Drive Home... :sweat:

    Thanks for the Invite Scott and Ken! Once again, I am grateful to have such good, patient, understanding Friends that are willing to take me to these Places...Without them, these Places would only exist in my Mind through the Photos of others...You. Guys. Rock. Jake, welcome to the Party, you fit right in and were awesome as well! : app :

    I would like to do this Canyon again sometime...I would like to do it better. I think this Canyon was great, but I think it would be awesome with some good running Water through it. Until next time.... 8)
    Little LO Spring Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    First half of daily double!

    Keeper was 6 ft below the rim and did not yield to pack tosses. It is quite a serious/dangerous obstacle at this time!

    Canyon was pleasant though a little hot! Hot weather made me take many breaks on the climb out - the springs help greatly with this! Even so I still cramped up badly, unable to bend my legs for awhile with 200 ft left to hike. :sweat:
    Little LO Spring Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After doing Illusions Canyon and the steep AB Young trail the day before, we slept in this Sunday morning and downgraded to an easier canyon. :) Thankfully my car was able to take the forrest roads all the way to within a mile of the Kelsey TH. We walked the rode a bit before cutting cross country towards the side canyon of Little LO canyon but this time I made a point to stay on the side of the canyon longer to make for a shorter rock hop down that canyon. I knew that with this dry spell there'd be a slim chance the canyon was flowing so I wasn't surprised to find that upper mini narrows rather dry. ;) After some hot & dry rock hopping, we hit the beginning of the narrows and I sent her down first to evaluate the water level. When she said it was good, I splashed some water on the slide and slide in. :D This potential keeper was 1-2ft below the lip but we were able to exit using buddy boasts & pulls. :sweat: I second Todd's recommendation in not soloing this canyon unless you know for sure that the pools are close to full... The next pool required the same techniques to exit and we slide into the third smaller hallway pool. The pools from here on out where 1-3ft below being full but posed no difficulty in exiting other than being slippery. :) Even with the water being down, we were able to avoid doing any rappels by doing tricky down climbs and slides into shallow pools. :y: Once at the lower narrows, we dropped the gear and made the steep hike up the Little LO trail. :sweat:
    Little LO Spring Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    2B or not 2B? That is the question... :lol: The canyon was lightly flowing, the keepers were plenty full so we slid down the chutes, and the tricky down climbs had pools below them to drop into so we ended up not even doing a single rappel. :y: The canyon was actually more enjoyable since we didn't get slowed up with anchors and rope work and ended up just taking my rope for a walk until we did the sidetrip down Babe's Hole Spring canyon. ;) But I'd bring a 100ft rope just in case the keepers & pools below all the down climbs & chutes aren't full...

    From the TH, we trekked NE to drop into the eastern fork of Little LO canyon. That canyon started off kinna pleasant in its upper reaches but it quickly turned into another rock hopping, bushwhacking, downed tree bypassing canyon. :sweat: After 1.5 hours of tediously descending that side canyon we finally reach the confluence with the main canyon and know that the real fun is about to begin. At the confluence, we took a snack break while admiring a flowing chute down below & gear up for the potential keeper not too far off. Little LO canyon starts off as a wide, brush-free, rock hopping, dry canyon with a few avoidable pools with a down climb above one of them but it soon narrows up with a slippery chute down to a large pool. Sweet! The canyons lightly flowing so most likely the potential keeper is full. My buddy slides down the 40ft chute to examine the keeper while I stay up with the rope next to the anchors in case I need to setup the rope for a retreat if we can't get out of the keeper. But he calls up that the pool is full to the brim as well is the next pool in the next chamber with another slide on the other side. Woohoo, wait for me! :y: I slide down that long chute, wearing a couple holes in the bottom of my pack, swim across to the other side, get out and hop into the next large pool, and then examine the next slippery chute before sliding down into yet another swimmer. Sweet, I don't think canyoneering gets much better than this! :D Soon afterwards the canyon opens back up with some more rock hopping for a bit before and some pools to wade before narrowing back up some and throwing the first tricky chockstone down climb at us. There's chest-high below it so we could have slipped off and still probably been fine, but we gracefully lowered ourselves over the boulder and swam our way to the other side of the pool. This was followed by another small chute that drops into a deep pool followed by another tricky down climb into a another swimmer. This sweet section of canyon stays fairly narrow as we traverse over slickrock, around boulders, and thru many pools of various depth until we unfortunately neared the confluence with Sycamore Canyon. We took a lunch break down there in the sun before hopping on the trail near Geronimo springs and making the steep climb up the trail to Babe's Hole Spring. We took a sidetrip down that canyon where we finally got to use the rope before hiking back up to those springs again and making the final sweaty climb back to the Kelsey Springs TH. :sweat: Wow, what a sweet canyon & fun narrows to play in though its too bad its such a long drive to get up here and an unpleasant hike down to the good stuff. :roll:

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To canyon trip
    From Flagstaff - head west on route 66 and then south on Woody Mountain Rd. At the junction of FR538 and FR231 (WMR) turn right onto FR538. At the sign that points to Kelsey and Dorsey TH, turn right onto FR538E and towards Kelsey TH, staying straight onto FR538G. Arrive at Kelsey TH (sometimes called Little Lookout TH.) Once you leave FR538 the last few miles are high clearance.
    page created by nonot on Aug 28 2011 8:52 pm
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