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Kelsey & Little LO Trails, AZ

Guide 20 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
  3.9 of 5 
no permit
1 Active
281 20 2
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,650 feet
Elevation Gain -1,800 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,500 feet
Avg Time One Way 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 8
Backpack Yes
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10  2021-05-28
Kelsey Springs Trail #3
8  2020-06-13 ShatteredArm
34  2018-04-19 azbackpackr
15  2016-06-11
Dorsey - Kelsey - Sycamore -Winter Cabin Loop
30  2012-09-15
Sycamore Canyon Loop-North
23  2012-09-15
Sycamore Canyon Loop-North
30  2011-06-19
Little LO Spring Canyon
23  2010-08-22
Babe's Hole Spring Canyon
Page 1,  2
Author cyroc
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 0
Photos 25
Trips 1 map ( 12 miles )
Age 70 ?
Location Upper Marlboro, MD
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, May, Mar
Sun  5:14am - 7:45pm
Official Route
4 Alternative

descent into canyon
by cyroc

From all the reports I'd been able to find, the upper area of Sycamore Canyon was seldom visited, yet beautiful. Having spent a week hiking out of a base in Tucson, I was ready for the road less traveled. My wife and I tackled this one in May '04. Good call.

The latest update from the RS in Flagstaff suggested that the rental car wouldn't make it to the Kelsey trailhead. The drive out to the turnoff to Casner Tank was scenic and very smooth. Road maintenance seems to end at that point. Progressively worsening obstacles had us entertained for less than a half-mile before we had to park just shy of the Tank. Ample parking spaces there suggest that this was a commonly used unofficial trailhead. A few very deep mud holes block two-wheel access between there and the real trailhead. The additional 1.5 mile and 200' descent is a minor inconvenience only.

The road ends at the well-marked trailhead. A nearby overlook gives you a false impression of what is to come. The trail drops right off the rim and descends through the pines past Kelsey Spring and Babes Hole Spring ( both flowing well ). We had wished we had paid a bit more attention to the "Invasives..." brochure at the RS, as many suspect plants were lining the trail. Thistle was one I was sure could be ripped up with thanks from the FS, hikers, and greens alike. Just below Babes Hole, Kelsey Springs Trail #3 goes off to the left, and Little L O Trail #6 continues down into Sycamore. After about a quarter-mile, the trail reeeeally drops. This will truly be a fat burner on the way out. You do get some nice views across very narrow and, for all you know, bottomless canyons. Switchbacks help with the gradient. One very steep last stretch flattens out only at the bottom near Geronimo Spring ( which was flowing ). Of course, there is a convenient campsite to the spring, but we chose one further that would less disturb the wildlife trying to drink. FS regs also prohibit camping so close for the same reason and to try to keep the water unpolluted. One of the best campsites I'd seen is a few hundred yards further up Sycamore Canyon. Surrounded by pines, oaks, and wildflowers, it was cleared, level, and had log furniture.

After setting up camp and getting a bite, we retraced our steps to check out the unnamed canyon to the northeast of Geronimo Spring. It narrowed and was very scenic for the short distance we went. We got stopped by a pool and mud hole spanning the canyon, cliffs on both sides. There might have been mountain lion tracks in the mud.

Going back to camp, we set out up the broad floored Sycamore Canyon upstream to explore as much as we could. There are campsite possibilities on both sides where floodplains have developed. Interesting pools in the occasional limestone floor seem to indicate underground flow. Otherwise, the 'trail' is mostly boulder hopping. After a couple of miles, Volunteer Canyon comes in on the right, and we decided to explore it rather than the broader Sycamore. Like the unnamed canyon of earlier in the day, it too narrowed and was an incredible place! We got perhaps a mile up it before the fear of loss of daylight forced us to turn back. Yes, we both had adequate headlights, but the thought of boulder hopping after dark... As it was, we had allowed ample time to get back and cook and eat dinner before night fell.

The next day we broke camp, dumped excess water, and hiked/climbed out. That gradient was steep, a good workout, but we beat our estimated time ( I forget what it was ). That 200' 'ascent' from the trailhead to the car was not even noticeable.


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2005-01-23 cyroc

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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 $$
    no fees or permits reported

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    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Flagstaff, take FS231 to FS538. Turn off right toward Casner Tank, which is marked on most FS maps. 4WD vehicles can make it all the way past Casner Tank...right fork.
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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