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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.

Pumphouse Wash (Lower), AZ

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372 29 0
Guide 29 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Sedona > Sedona NE
Rated
4.4
4.4 of 5 by 16
 
11
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Canyoneering
Consensus
View 2
Grade1
WaterA
Risk
TimeII
Statistics
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,740 feet
Elevation Gain 370 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.05
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
7  2017-04-05 o2bav8
7  2017-01-07 arizona_water
16  2013-05-26 paulhubbard
73  2012-05-12 WilliamnWendi
16  2011-06-06
James Canyon
Hikergirl81
15  2010-11-14 juliachaos
10  2010-11-14 Hikergirl81
3  2010-08-28
James Canyon
toddak
Page 1,  2,  3
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,812
Trips 4,252 map ( 21,403 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
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Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → Early
Seasons   Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:08am - 6:37pm
Official Route
 
1 Alternative
 
Water
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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Gnarly!
by joebartels

Likely In-Season!
Pumphouse Wash is the headwaters of Oak Creek. The canyon I describe spans 4 miles from FR 237 to the Pumphouse bridge on 89A. Kelly Canyon enters from the east near the top of Pumphouse Wash. James Canyon also enters from the east at the halfway point. James Canyon captures most of the water from an area around and across I-17 that you have likely driven over without knowing. Packed with narrows, pools and several waterfalls James Canyon is awesome but not really in the category of a day hike. The upper section of Pumphouse from James Canyon to FR 237 is wide and low. From James Canyon down to the Pumphouse bridge the canyon is narrow and much higher. Therefore I have split Pumphouse Wash into upper and lower descriptions.


From the parking area head down the steep slope into the canyon. I made it down no problem. The gal behind me slid down on her butt. Once in the wash head back under the bridge and up the canyon. The wash is rocky with mid size boulders from the beginning. Please note this is not an area to be exploring with rain in the forecast. You will find yourself a river ornament if you choose unwisely.

Large smooth finished gray boulders get you thinking about fierce currents in the canyon. Turning the first left bend the noise of 89A gives way to the peaceful wilderness. The going was easy having hiked this canyon after nearly four months with little rain. Usually numerous pools are passed. Some wall to wall requiring a swim. Many have scramble routes to one side or the other. Two pools may require a swim.

I passed several trees wedged in-between the canyon walls. Hopefully this should forewarn those planning a rainy day hike. Keep in mind it doesn't have to be raining in the canyon for a flash flood to occur. If it's raining to the north or east you're in trouble.

A short steep canyon enters from the east near the 1.5 mile mark. Continue on up to the larger and wider canyon coming in from the east which is James Canyon. Here I opt to turn around. You can continue on up Pumphouse, but a 14 foot fall is encountered soon. The only means of getting around is a steep scramble route to the right. It's easier getting up than down in my opinion so keep that in mind. You can also head on up James Canyon which is awesome. Though you'll probably just get into more than expected.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2000-01-25 joebartels
  • Sedona Trails 2018
    region related
    Sedona Trails 2018
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
Pumphouse Wash (Lower)
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Sedona - Mescal Mt / Fay / Pumphouse
Headed to Sedona with a friend in hopes of snow and adventure. Snow was forecasted starting late morning and would build as the day progressed. We would spend the day exploring Mescal Mountain, Fay Canyon and Pumphouse Wash.

We started off at the Long Canyon TH and started a CCW loop around Mescal Mountain. We checked out a couple of alcoves and looped around. The views were nice and dark clouds were developing. We completed the loop and then drove over to Fay Canyon. We headed up that canyon and bypassed the arch, we've both been there before, and topped out near the end of the trail sign. During this time a light snow started falling.

After Fay, we ate lunch and then headed up 89A. We opted for Pumphouse Wash. At this point, this entire area had a solid dusting of snow. We parked right outside the wash and headed in. It was slow as we enjoyed this amazing canyon. We took a variety of pics and went about a mile in. At this point it was getting late in the day and we wanted to head back.

The drive home turned into an adventure. We headed north for the I-17 and snow started falling again. We hit the I-17 and found a standstill for miles and miles. We ultimately turned around and headed back down 89A and got home at least two hours later than we should have. Despite this, it was a really nice day. We were a tad early for the snow but got a small taste. This would develop into a solid storm over the next few days.
Pumphouse Wash (Lower)
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Quick stop off the 89A to check the flow at the confluence of Sterling Canyon and Pumphouse Wash. There's high water right now, as to be expected from seasonal precipitation. It covers Pumphouse Canyon from wall to wall. Several of the normally dry tributaries were flowing fairly well (see photo). Definitely worth a stop this time of year, if you're in the area.
Pumphouse Wash (Lower)
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Wow, amazing!

I could make this my shortest triplog and just leave it at that but there a few stories that have to be told. First off this hike is beautiful through out. Every turn holds new wonderment and/or puzzlements. You really got to love boulder-hopping because that is throughout too. You also got to be prepared to get wet too.

With regard to getting wet, Wendi really showed her metal. The water was so cold that my body tried to mutiny when my stomach made such a strong effort not comply that it caused my diaphragm to not be able to inhale, and my floaty made a strange pop sound as the air inside began to condense, Wendi's would too later on but neither seemed to have leaks. Her turn came sooner rather than later, because if I was having this much trouble there was gonna be a war if I got all the gear across and then Wendi refused to cross. So Wendi was the first to go. I was sure she would break and save us both the pain of swimming these waters. Now there are a few things that need to be said about the pool we needed to cross: 1) Cold, probably low 60's, 2)Cloudy, couldn't see the bottom, potential crawdads, or the tiny fish that nibble at your toe-jam, 3)Buggy, Wendi hates any bugs that get near her face. Any of these afflictions have individually have ruled out ,for her going near water in the past much less put a toe, or worse her whole body in there. We had already stared at the buggy hole for 45 minutes trying to get up the courage before I made my attempt, imagine my shock when she boldly took the plunge, diving on to her floaty. Then even more shocking that there was no about-face, she just kept going. !@#$%, now I had to go!

The first crossing ended up being three trips back and forth trying to get all the gear across. But once a system developed, we were able to get everything across in pretty much on trip. A couple of sticks or later my trekking poles over the floaty's hole that it stabilized our gear high and dry. By the time I was on the other side once and for all my body was so cold it felt like it was on fire, kind a like when your arm falls asleep but only from the neck down. Being ex-Navy, I've been in cold water but this was the coldest water I have ever been in. When we regrouped, Wendi was gleaming, you could tell she was proud of herself and rightfully so. We both celebrated ourselves a little but being still in heavy shade we quickly started for the closest sunshine we could find, but that required some boulder hopping. It was a clumsy affair with wet cloths that stuck to our skin and muscles still numb but we made it safely to a place where we could warm up. Wendi's pack had no way to attach her floaty so they both got tethered to mine, I was reminded of my niece's role as the flower girl in my sisters wedding and they had made her little pixie wings to wear, not necessarily the look but more how clumsy it must feel wearing them.

We got ourselves into the sunshine and in no time we were drying out. Our clothes just about dry when we got to the second pool. This one was 3-4 times longer than the first with a ledge that ran along the right side of the pool. It got us almost to the other side but for a 3' gap. Not comfortable putting Wendi in that type of exposure we opted to do the swim. We staged all our gear on the ledge and then Wendi took the first swim again and I handed the gear down using the end of my trekking poles to extend our reach. By now too I was convinced that I could make it across the ledge but Wendi would have killed me if I skipped the swim after she had to do it so I took one for the team.

The next challenge was a 5 foot water fall. We thought there was a work around but that turned out to be a 20' drop in addition to being 10' above our heads. I ended up saying to my self "WWJBD?" Dragging a log over we put together an Indian Ladder which we were able to easily climb to the next level. The next 10 feet of travel involved leveraging our arms against the tightened walls and swinging over submerged pits that had crayfish hovering below, pincers at the ready like a game of pitfall. You do have to get a little wet but not to bad. Right here is where we had lunch, though another hundred feet would have been a prettier spot we didn't know it a the time, so we just admired what we had which like everywhere in this canyon was beautiful.

The slot canyon came next, luckily there was a work around cause I am not sure our floaties would have fit. For this an for all the work-arounds in this canyon the right/east side is your best bet. Eventually it looks like this dead ends but a short trip through the trees, around a big boulder and down a drainage that detours before hitting bottom and you are through, no swimming. Yay! The water never did seem to really warm up so we were glad for that.

We wanted to make it to James Canyon but only made it as far into the Pumphouse as where it cuts the west. We'll definitely be back to make up this fail.

Wendi had a scare while in a knee deep crossing. She saw 10" cray, lobster sized (she says) and it turned on her, daring her to come closer (she says). By the time I turned around and could handle all the "Chick" screams and splashing it was gone (like it never was). :lol:

Even scarier was the fall she took while stepping off a log to get up to the next bench. Her feet were still wet and the log was tilted causing her to slip backwards. Her lower back came down right over the log. I was certain that she broke her back but she says the only pain was a stubbed toe. I told her it looked she was getting an adjustment at one of those Asian chiro's where they throw your body at stuff.

The only wildlife we saw was a couple frogs, a fat squirrel, one bird that was a very aggressive hunter. On the way back, above the slot canyon we could hear some kind of animal making some kind of noise, very hard to describe but somewhere between a frog and gremlin... I am thinking a bird but we really couldn't tell. It would have had to have been in the water or just above it hanging on the wall of the canyon unless the echoes were playing tricks.

Cool hike, highly recommended but be ready for some swimming.
Pumphouse Wash (Lower)
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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.
Pumphouse Wash (Lower)
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Nightmare on Pumphouse
It started as a beautiful day and a beautiful hike. It ended with Xrays and CAT Scans at the Sedona Emergency Room. Amazing how one little misstep can change everything.

Morel had spent a lot of time climbing at the Overlook when he was in Grad School at NAU but had never hiked Pumphouse. Today was a great opportunity.

PUMPHOUSE WASH
We left Phoenix at 0500 and arrived at the parking at the Bridge a little after 0730.
Boulder hopping is slow and arduous. We arrived at the first pool and skirted it on the left. At the second pool we had no option but to wade. It was about chest deep.
We had to wade the next pool. it was about waist deep but longer so colder. The pools do seem to be evaporating.

We got to a wall. Two possibilities on the north(left) did not look particularly promising. I thought the south(right) looked like we could avoid the pool. But we had webbing, so we went right up the middle - up about an 8' wall. Morel scrambled up and tied the webbing. He lifted our packs. I used the webbing to get up. We straddled a couple of pools and stayed dry.

We avoided a long narrow pool by going to the south(right). Amazing to see how the water can "drill" perfectly round little tinajas in the rock and create incredible erosion patterns.

We kept going up the wash until we got to the "Lake". It was large and had fairly large fish - looked like a perch. This would have required a full swim. Morel remembered the saga of the Coconino Crocodile so we decided to eat lunch and head home.

We made good time going down wash. At the spot where we had climbed, we found a bypass on the south(left).

We waded the waist deep pool. I was not happy with the way my feet were slipping around in my Keen's and Hydrosocks so I changed into my boots. Morel continued with his Keens & Hydrosocks.

THE EMERGENCY ROOM
I was watching my footing when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Morel was heading for the deck. His foot must have slipped on a boulder. Morel put his right hand out to brace himself, but it slid between two boulders - bending the middle fingers back at a 180degree angle and slicing the middle finger at the knuckle to the bone. Without his hand and arm to stop him, his head hit the boulder with a sickening thud.

I helped him over to the side into the shade and helped to get his pack off of him. He wanted his medkit so I figured I would use his kit and listen to him instead of hassling him by insisting on my medkit that I know.

By now his hand was bleeding profusely. And he was starting to get a little woozy. I feared he might lose consciousness - but he held on. I know and trust Morel so I did not bother with medical gloves - the bleeding was really bad and I had to stop it. I put a large gauze bandage on his middle fingers and wrapped medical tape around it tightly. It was not stopping the bleeding and the gauze was getting drenched. I wrapped another large gauze bandage around the first gauze bandage and wrapped it tightly and held it. The bleeding stopped. Morel was still woozy. He had a big bruise and bump on the right side of his head and scrapes on his left knee. Worst case scenarios started to flood my mind. He asked for two Advil so I gave those to him. He asked me to check his pupils. They appeared fine, actually a little small but in hindsight that was probably because of his sunglasses. His pupils started to dilate a little, probably because his sunglasses were now off, but he was tracking. He was starting to recover.

He rallied and insisted on carrying his pack. We started back to the truck. We got to a pool and tried to bypass on the south(left), not a good idea, we both called that off and managed to bypass on the north(right). We got to the chest deep pool and got through it fine. We heard climbers on the Overlook yell "Rock" - just what we needed now. It never made it to the bottom. We kept working our way to the Bridge and the Truck. It seemed so far. I was so glad to hear a motorcycle then we heard traffic and saw the bridge.

On our way down Oak Creek we stopped at the Fire Station by Garland's and an EMT checked out Morel. Morel seemed to be OK so the EMT gave us directions to an Urgent Care Clinic in West Sedona and to the Emergency Room at the Sedona Hospital.

We talked about it in the Truck and decided to go to the Emergency Room for a CAT Scan. We talked about Liam Neeson's wife and how she refused medical treatment then never woke up from her head injury.

We got to the Emergency Room and it was very efficient. They actually still had Morel in their computer system from some incidents from 20 years ago when he was at NAU and climbing and mountain biking. The nurses were great - friendly and very competent. They took Morel for Xrays and the CAT Scan.

Dr. Forrest Dean was excellent. He came in and let us know that the finger wasn't broken and the CAT Scan was negative. He started to clean and irrigate the finger and it started gushing again. Took 5 stitches.

We stopped at EuroDeli for a bite, but it was all EuroVeggie - not what we wanted. So we went to a little place with a Guinness Draught sign in the window - Keiser's - and found what we wanted.

POST HIKE THOUGHTS
I had considered taking my climbing helmet because of the boulder hopping but had decided against it. I figured I would be better in a broad brimmed hat in the sun and heat. Next time a hike has this much boulder hopping, I will likely wear the helmet. I am just enough of a klutz that the little extra margin of safety would do me good. Plus its bright orange color will look good on me in photos :)

Morel replayed the incident in his mind but could not think of anything he would have done differently. Overall he thinks careful wayfinding is key with "Every Step a Safe Step". He insists he will be back.

It ain't what you know, it's what you think of in time. I've been replaying my First Aid response. I did the right things and Morel was a great collaborator in his own First Aid. I've been thinking some worst case scenarios and how I would have handled them and what I need to be better prepared. I haven't certified in CPR in almost 20 years. I should probably take a refresher. The large gauze and tape was perfect. Bandaids would have been useless. I don't think I could have gotten a butterfly bandage to stick on the knuckle with all the blood, The wound was clean so I did not clean it, just worried about stopping the bleeding. He remained conscious and did not go into shock but I think I was prepared for that. Glad I'll never know.
Pumphouse Wash (Lower)
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I-17 between the Sedona exit 298? and Munds Park is fabulous right now for autumn color. Also 89A from Flagstaff down to Pumphouse is phenomenal. Oaks dominate throughout.

Surprisingly nobody else in the canyon this afternoon and likely as good as it ever gets. Relatively quite down in the canyon even though it was windy everywhere else. Voices from the Oak Creek lookout carried well over a mile and down into the canyon.

Considering how chilly it was 1pm to 4pm it must be dang cold at night! It's barely warm enough to wear tevas, which is the only way this cowboy rolls in Pumphouse.

The coconino up canyon is still hands down one of the most unique places in Arizona.
Pumphouse Wash (Lower)
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I ventured up this canyon again after a day of exploring another canyon in the area. This is still a very enjoyable rock-hopping adventure. A few narrows that can be avoided and another that requires some light climbing. Checked out some climbing routes about a 1/4 mile in on the right side on the Coconino Sandstone walls. I could also hear some climbers up above climbing at Oak Creek Overlook. It's been 2 months since I've climbed outdoors and it's slowly starting to fester in me. :lol: My photos weren't as good as I'd hoped due to the setting sun and most of the canyon in shadows. But the weather was great, I had a great time, and I couldn't detect any major changes to the drainage. Most of the pools were still at the same level as last year.
Pumphouse Wash (Lower)
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So glad that Coconino NF has reopened. I parked on the east side of 89A and hiked to the east to avoid the Red Rock Wilderness that is still closed until tomorrow morning, but I still managed to get a warning notice left on my car. They must have assumed I went down to Oak Creek and violated the closure. :twisted:

I hiked upstream from the bridge to the confluence of James Canyon. Very scenic cliffs, secluded, and temperature was just right due to a little cloud cover. Most of the pools have dried up and the narrows sections looked very sweet. After I reached the confluence, I chekced out the area a bit, but decided not too venture very far up either way. James looked to be too much of a bushwack and I knew that it would get technical fairly soon. Upper Pumphouse Wash looked like it was going to open pretty soon and there was this dirty pool to cross if I wanted to verify that. I brought all my gear needed to swim any huge pools, but so far I had only gotten my ankles wet. So I opted not to dunk myself in the dirty pool and headed back to the car.
Pumphouse Wash (Lower)
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Hiked up Pumphouse Wash to the confluence with James Canyon. This is a very very pretty canyon, it really exceeded my expectations. I meant to hike up James a bit but turned around due to time considerations. Swam through the slot on my way out. I was here on the final day of Labor Day weekend and ran into only two other groups. Very nice hike, would be a good place to take someone for their first canyoneering trip.

Permit $$
Red Rock Pass - may or may not be required. Go to Red Rock Pass then check "When is a Red Rock Pass Required?". If you have questions contact the Coconino forest service.


Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
Paved - Car Okay

To canyon trip
From the 'Y' in Sedona ( 179/89A ) go north for 13.2 miles to what would be mile marker 387.7 There is a pullout just after crossing the bridge on the opposite side of the road. The trick is to slow down the traffic behind you to make a safe turn. Be careful as this pullout is small and on the side of the canyon.
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