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Kelly Canyon, AZ

no permit
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Guide 25 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Munds Park SW
3 of 5 by 9
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 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,650 feet
Elevation Gain 329 feet
Accumulated Gain 605 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5
Kokopelli Seeds 8.53
Interest Off Trail Hiking
Backpack Yes
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10  2019-05-30
Pumphouse Wash (Upper)
3  2019-04-26
Forest Wandering
3  2018-02-15 Boothroyd
7  2017-05-20
Pumphouse Wash (Upper)
23  2015-09-28
James and Kelly Loop (technical)
5  2011-10-09 azbackpackr
7  2010-09-05 Dave1
3  2010-08-28
James Canyon
Page 1,  2
Author J&SHike
author avatar Guides 5
Routes 0
Photos 71
Trips 4 map ( 69 miles )
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Prescott, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Jul, Aug → 6 AM
Seasons   Early Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:09am - 6:35pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Geology Nearby
A forested limestone canyon
by J&SHike

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.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2003-06-18 J&SHike
    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
    Kelly Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    My dogs and I hiked from the top of the canyon, just west of I17, down to Pumphouse Wash. Took an alternative route back by hiking up a finger ridge, which popped us out on the road near the pit. There were some accumulations of snow and slush, and a little mud, but overall a nice little hike in pleasant weather, and no poison ivy to contend with. Judging by the lack of people prints, appeared that I was the first hiker in since a recent winter storm passed through dropping a few inches of wet snow. Melting fast, but much needed precip! The quiet and solitude were a welcome part of my day.
    Kelly Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    We made a quick stop off the 89A to checkout Upper Pumphouse. There is still water flowing from Spring runoff.
    The Coconino sandstone is on full display in this section of the canyon. We walked up Kelly Canyon for a short distance, which I found much less interesting than Pumphouse. I suppose I should give it a real chance some day though.

    Upper Pumphouse makes for a nice spot to stop and relax when there is surface water flowing.
    Kelly Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrating optionrated 1
    Tried to go hike in Kelly Canyon today but when we needed to cross over to the drainage leading to the canyon, we were run off by 3 dudes who were shooting hundreds of rounds of ammunition at a target. Turned to go the other way as it seemed unsafe to proceed and heard bullets whistling through the trees near us! Very unpleasant experience. Our tip-off should have been the thousands of empty shotgun shells on the ground near the stock tank where we parked.

    Ended up walking down the dirt road just to get some exercise. It was a pretty walk through the pine forest, but didn't even get to see the canyon at all. Took a shortcut cross country on the way back to our car to avoid being killed by stray bullets! I would not recommend this area unless you are in an armored vehicle. :scared:
    Kelly Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    James is a spectacular canyon full of green in an otherwise dreary state. The water was cool and refreshing, still fairly clean in most places, despite being so long since a good rain.

    The last swim though the dark hallway was very refreshing.

    Hiked up Pumphouse, spotted a few people (not sure if they saw me), and up Kelly, where I ran into mountain bikers and climbers.

    Spent time searching elk trails to escape the heat, since the bottom of pumphouse is quite warm with all the dark rocks that absorb and radiate the heat. Much better once you get about 50 ft up and away.
    Kelly Canyon
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Pleasant little canyon, decent water conditions, cool and fairly clean. Dropped the technical gear at the end of James and continued on down lower Pumphouse to Oak Creek and back, great sandstone scenery in that stretch. Exited via Kelly, also very pleasant. The mountain bike trail in there is so nice I just kept hiking along it without realizing that at some point it had branched off up a side canyon, ended up too far north. Still not sure where the split was.
    Kelly Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Such a great canyoneering & creek hiking loop! :D James Canyon was as much fun as ever with a few sweet narrow sections that require some short down climbing, chilly swimmers, and short rappels with easier sections of rock hopping, wading, and bushwhacking in between. My favorite rappel is that 40-footer which is also a great place to warm up and grab some lunch. The water was chilly but not unbearable though that last long narrow swimmer was mighty cold! :o We dropped our gear here since last Fall there were no more swimmers afterwards. Though this spring we ran across a few knee waders and one interesting log jam swimmer that had us log balancing & straddling in our attempt to stay dry. I was pushing the log along like one of those canal boats in Venice and I was almost to the other side when I grabbed the wall for support and the log slide away and rolled me off. :lol: The water wasn't too bad though, only my pants got wet since I stuff my shirts in my dry keg, while Kelli was skilled enough to stay on and I held the log while she straddled it back to dry land. : app : James canyon always seems to take forever and I was afraid we'd be hiking out near sunset, but we finally hit Pumphouse Wash and the rock hop upstream to Kelly Canyon went by fairly quickly. Those falls had been dry the previous times I've seen it, so it was cool to finally see it flowing with a huge swimming hole under it. After James & Pumphouse, the trail along Kelly Canyon was a welcome relief up that scenic little canyon and I lucked out and was able to find the same place I climbed to the rim last time and road walked back to the car with plenty of daylight to spare. :D
    Kelly Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This ones been on my list for some time as well... I was looking for an 'easy' canyon to get some canyoneering experience and this fit the bill perfectly. :D The water was a little chilly, but wasn't too bad with a shorty 3mm. ;) The first set of obstacles is a rather fun experience thru some swimmers/waders and a few short rappels thru the narrows. Further downstream is the 40 footer that isn't too bad but I wasn't enjoying the angled start over the lip but after that it's a straight forward rappel. :) James is not terribly scenic and the boulder hopping down James and up Pumphouse Wash can get quite taxing. :sweat: It's been awhile since I've done Pumphouse, so when I got to it I dropped my pack and hiked the half mile or so to that dirty swimmer before turning back. That trail in Kelly canyon was quite nice after all the boulder hopping and I actually found that canyon to be a pleasant scenic stroll before climbing briefly up to the rim and road walk back to my car. :D
    Kelly Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    We did a loop back through Kelly Canyon via Pumphouse Wash. It seems like the best option IMO. Be sure to go early as the unshaded exposure in Pumphouse gets HOT!

    Did my first, albeit short, rappel on the 12 footer. A little ~four foot hop and skip across the wall followed by a smooth drop. I enjoyed it thoroughly! Of course I had the help of Jeff and Janelle talking me through it ;)

    I tried but couldn't hack the 40 footer. The bypass I found was pretty good but I don't think it's doable in reverse.

    The water in the long narrows was friggen cold as ice :sweat: Passed and startled two rattlesnakes under a rock. In switching directions I lost my balance. My hand landed six inches away from the rattling duo without incident.

    It's good to put this one in the done column after almost a decade of anticipation. Fun day, thanks to Jeff & Janelle for their help! :)

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    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.
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