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Parsons Trail #144, AZ

Guide 155 Triplogs  7 Topics
  4.2 of 5 
no permit
1.4k 155 7
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,760 feet
Elevation Gain -180 feet
Accumulated Gain 600 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3.5-5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Possibly Connect
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15  2021-04-23 jtaylor
12  2020-08-04 jillyonanadventu
4  2020-06-13 HikerHound
8  2020-04-26 fairweather8588
18  2020-04-25 ddgrunning
19  2019-10-28 Stoic
9  2019-09-14 bretinthewild
15  2018-11-10 Nightstalker
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Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 245
Routes 837
Photos 12,279
Trips 4,942 map ( 25,220 miles )
Age 51 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring
Sun  6:16am - 6:25pm
Official Route
5 Alternative

by joebartels

HAZ Patch
Some trails take you to a beautiful spot hidden from society. Few offer never ending beauty throughout. Parsons not only packs a punch the entire trail, it continuously changes. Thick groves of corel bean and globemallow among other wildflowers line the trail.

From the trailhead, Sycamore Canyon is inviting you to visit. The trail immediately heads down the canyon wall 180 feet to the creek bottom. Within a few steps pass through a gate and close it behind you. Little elevation change is encountered after the initial drop. A junction is encountered and you will be taking the right fork to follow up the canyon. The left option crosses the creek and heads up for a long venture over Packard Mesa to Henderson Flat. The trail starts sandy just after the junction.

At 1.1 miles Summers Spring is pumping water next to the trail. Trees canopy this area. I saw a red bird of some sort playing in the coverage. This would be a great hike for those looking for a shorter alternative. After the spring the trail cuts across the creek. Huge quarter ton cairns make route finding a breeze. At first, I laughed then realized a monsoon rain would wash away anything less. A large rock lodged in a tree is proof of high currents. After crossing the creek the canyon turns to your left. The creek, although not seen here, loops around and you're walking away and towards it at the same time. The trail takes off up a ledge on the left wall and you begin to wonder if you're headed in the right direction. Within steps it angles back down and the canyon bends back.

Ledges with four foot deep crystal clear water line the path in sections. I saw several small fish. According to the trailhead map, you cross the creek five times. I didn't keep count but it seems right. Each crossing has it's own challenges but none too tough. It's not hard to stay dry if that's your thing. I sloshed through the shallow water to cool off. Thick growth covers the running water. Small spiders are abundant on the rocks and logs. Huge Sacred Datura wildflowers are amazing. Just stay away as they are poisonous.

A seep crosses the trail. Vegetation is lush including poison ivy! Wild grape ivy dominates throughout the hike. Several small caves line the canyon walls. A hollowed-out tree almost big enough to walk through is just off the trail. On the last or second to last (I forget) creek crossing, huge red boulders dot the creek. When the going gets tough the creek ends and it's time to turn around. I couldn't find Parsons Spring. Then again I didn't explore much as 7.4 flat miles isn't my best stride. It was very muddy and the water was cloudy near the point I turned around.

No camping for 3.7 miles, end of the water.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2000-05-01 joebartels
  • 100 Classic Hikes - 2007
    area related
    100 Classic Hikes - 2007

Coconino FS Details
The hike up the Parsons Trail is a pleasant stroll along a cool, clear desert stream set in a magnificent red rock canyon. Sycamore Canyon is a place sufficiently unique to have been one of the first areas protected as wilderness in Arizona. The trail leads through the lower reaches of this wilderness through a riparian area rich in plant and animal life. Colorful cliffs that are a unique mix of dark columnar basalt, red sandstone, and buff colored limestone enclose the lush green of the oasis. The trail leads 4 miles to a large pool called Parson Springs where this considerable stream springs to the surface from the underground course it has followed through the majority of the canyon. Up canyon from this point surface flow only occurs during snowmelt and after summer monsoons.

The limestone layer just above the streambed is riven with small caves. Flat ledges of red sandstone extend to the water's edge. Songbirds flit through the tall cottonwoods and thick mesquite bosques. At a number of points additional springs flow from the canyon walls through gardens of columbine and watercress. All these features combine to make this trail one of the most popular, and one of the most crowded, on the forest. If you visit this truly exceptional place please exercise extra discretion in making sure the impact you create is as slight as possible.


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 $$

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
From I-17 take 260 west out of Camp Verde and head on over to Cottonwood. Turn left onto 89A and follow through Old Town Cottonwood on the slow 25mph Main St. Continue on to the Tuzigoot National Monument turnoff going right. Soon after turning you cross a good size bridge. Take the first left after the bridge onto Sycamore Canyon Road. After 1.4 miles the pavement ends and your rolling across a washboard hard-packed dirt road. At 4.6 miles you cross the Coconino National Forest boundary. The sign at the boundary reads 6 miles to Sycamore Canyon. (It's really only 5.6 miles more as the trailhead is just before the road the dips into the canyon.) From here on the road is called FS 131 not that it really matters. The road is smooth hard-packed dirt. There is one creek crossing at about 8.1 miles but nothing to even get worried about. Keep your eyes open for horse grazing in the canyon below. After the 9 mile mark, the road gets rougher to the trailhead. The total distance from the turn after the bridge is about 10.2 miles.

Location: 76 miles south of Flagstaff (33 miles south of Sedona) on paved and graveled roads.

Access: Drive 65 miles south from Flagstaff on US 89A through Sedona and Cottonwood to the turnoff to Tuzigoot National Monument. Turn north across the Verde River, then left on FR 131. It's about 11 miles to the trailhead.
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