register help

Sycamore Canyon Trail #40, AZ

Guide 27 Triplogs  1 Topic
  3.5 of 5 
307 27 1
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 9.9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,000 feet
Elevation Gain 1,022 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,699 feet
Avg Time One Way 5+ hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.56
Interest Off-Trail Hiking & Perennial Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
13  2021-05-01 ShatteredArm
9  2020-09-06 FriendsWithRocks
15  2018-08-26 GrottoGirl
14  2018-07-07 DarthStiller
5  2017-07-15 gummo
26  2017-02-14
Pajarito Mts Sycamore Creek North Portion
18  2015-08-23 Pivo
19  2015-08-23 GrottoGirl
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Lizard
author avatar Guides 15
Routes 0
Photos 403
Trips 17 map ( 75 miles )
Age 41 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Oct, Nov, Feb, Mar → 9 AM
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:40am - 7:22pm
Official Route
1 Alternative

by Lizard

remove free decal offer
When most Arizona hikers hear the words "Sycamore Canyon," a particular red rock canyon near Sedona usually comes to mind. Sycamore Canyon Trail #40 is in the Pajarita Wilderness on the border with Mexico. It's spectacular with a few unique attractions all its own.

From the trailhead, follow the trail (an old jeep road) across a small field and a wash. Very quickly, you will come to an FS interpretive sign telling you about the Hank and Yank Ruins. On this site were the ranch of John (Yank) Bartlett and Henry (Hank) Hewitt, two trappers, and army scouts. In 1886 the ranch was attacked by Indians, who killed a neighbor and injured Hank. Yank's son Johnny made a daring escape and brought help from nearby Oro Blanco. All that remains is a crumbling adobe wall.

Continue on the trail past the ruins. It quickly drops into the canyon. The trail through the first part of the canyon is overgrown and somewhat tough to follow. It is not an actual designated and maintained trail, but rather a use trail that has developed. The trail disappears whenever the canyon slots up and fades in and out otherwise. However, route finding is no hassle. Just stick to the canyon, and you should be fine.

After about 1/2 mile, Sycamore Canyon begins to reveal its wonders. You will come into a large basin type area. A small waterfall trickles down into a pool filled with dozens of minnows. The craggy canyon walls reveal many pinnacles and hoodoos. The trail scrambles on top of a small outcrop with a small campsite and a nice view. Just past this outcrop comes the first slot of the canyon. A fallen tree welcomes you in. To get past this part, you must be willing to do a small bit of climbing/scrambling on the right canyon wall. This canyon does place a premium on agility. However, hikers who are not so sure-footed can avoid all this by simply wading in the knee-deep creek. The canyon stays rather narrow for awhile past this point, so rock-hopping is necessary, but the scenery more than makes up for it. After a few more twists and turns, the canyon opens up again, and the walking becomes easy along gravel stream beds. You will encounter your first of this canyon's white-barked namesake. This segment is protected by wilderness status and designated as the Gooding Natural Research Area. Sycamore Canyon is the habitat for rare and unusual plants and fish too numerous to list. So, please, tread lightly!

At 2.7 miles, the canyon enters another narrow bottleneck. This one is easier to navigate than the first. After scrambling through rocks, the canyon opens up yet again. This is a decent turnaround point, or, if you want, you can continue down the canyon to the Mexican border. The creek is flowing through small foothills at the border, and a barbed-wire fence impedes further progress. Turn around and go back the way you came.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2002-02-24 Lizard
  • View Map
    guide related
  • book
    area related
  • 100 Classic Hikes - 2007
    area related
    100 Classic Hikes - 2007
  • Map
    guide related

Coronado FS Details
Most of those who come to visit in this area are drawn here by the unique environment of Sycamore Canyon. Home of one of the few perennial streams in extreme southern Arizona, it supports such a diverse plant and animal community that part of it has been designated the Goodding Research Natural Area. Over 625 species of plants have been identified here, many of which are rare and/or endangered. Sycamore Canyon's animal life is extremely diverse as well, especially its birds. Over 130 species have been identified as frequent visitors here. Among those are colorful vermilion flycatchers and various warblers, raptors and herons. The trail starts out at the Hank and Yank Ruins. The remnants of an old adobe wall are all that's left of a Civil War-era homestead that was pioneered in this canyon by Hank Hewitt and Yank Bartlett. The trail itself exists only in a few places along the floor of Sycamore Canyon. More generally it just follows the stream, crossing it and recrossing it via stepping stones and gravel bars. As the canyon meanders toward Mexico, pinnacles and sheer rock cliffs that form the canyon walls occasionally crowd the stream so that a little fancy footwork is required. A number of pools in the inner reaches of the canyon usually hold water year-round. About 5 miles downstream of the trailhead, the canyon opens out and crosses a barbed wire fence that marks the Arizona/Mexico border. Here, you can either turn around and return the way you came or turn east and travel along a little-used pathway called the Border Trail. This foot and horse path was put here to provide access for maintenance of the international boundary fence. It leads over the grassy foothills of the Pajaritos to the end of the Summit Motorway (FR 39A), which may sound like a thoroughfare, but it's a 4-wheel drive road.
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 $$

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To canyon trip
Head south from Tucson on I-19. Shortly before reaching Nogales, take exit 12, Arizona Highway 289. Turn right, and follow a pavement road for nine miles. After nine miles, the road forks. Take the left fork, which the signpost indicates goes to Arivaca. You will drive through a camping area and then another 9 miles along this well-graded dirt road, which ends at the trailhead for Sycamore Canyon. Be careful on this road, as it is very popular with car campers. On weekends you will have to pass many cars on this rather narrow mountain road. It is easy to see why this area is popular for camping. The road to the trailhead is very scenic, with views whizzing off in all directions. This road would make a great trip for a mountain biker.

Forest Service Directions: Turn west off Interstate 19 at the Pena Blanca/Ruby Road ( AZ Hwy 289). The exit is approximately 8 miles north of Nogales. Follow this road 9 miles to Pena Blanca Recreation Area where the pavement ends and the Arivaca-Ruby Road becomes FR 39. Drive a total of 8.5 miles from the end of the pavement to the Sycamore Canyon Road (FR 218), which turns left (south) to the Hank and Yank Ruins historical trailhead marker. To get to the Border Trail, turn off FR 39 onto the Summit Motorway (FR 39A) 2.5 miles from the end of the pavement at Pena Blanca Lake. FR 39A is a 4-wheel drive road.
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
prehydrate & stay hydrated
help comment issue

end of page marker