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Pumphouse Wash (Upper), AZ

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Guide 18 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Munds Park SW
3.3 of 5 by 8
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 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,308 feet
Elevation Gain -177 feet
Accumulated Gain 200 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.4
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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10  2019-05-30 fricknaley
3  2019-04-26
Forest Wandering
7  2017-05-20 arizona_water
7  2017-05-13 JoelHazelton
23  2015-09-28
James and Kelly Loop (technical)
3  2013-11-05 geckotracks
20  2012-10-20 DaveB96
3  2010-08-28
James Canyon
Page 1,  2
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,825
Trips 4,259 map ( 21,438 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Oct, Nov → Early
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:14am - 6:25pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Oak Creek, the beginning!
by joebartels

On one of the warmest days in January I decided to take the plunge into Pumphouse Wash. Having read about the area for years I finally had a chance to explore. Pumphouse Wash is the upper end of Oak Creek! This is where it all begins. Along the way Kelly and James canyons enter from the east. It's just under four miles hiking distance from the northern end of Pumphouse down to the confluence with Oak Creek. Although possible, the full canyon out and back would take six to ten hours. Therefore I opted for a more relaxing day and choose to explore the upper section only. Flooding occurs often in Pumphouse Wash. If rain is in the forecast stay out of this canyon.

From the parking area head down into the wash. There is no trailhead marker. The canyon is wide and shallow near the beginning. No trail actually exist. Follow the main obvious canyon south and you shouldn't have any problems getting lost. For a short distance the creek bed has striking contours etched by the forces of erosion. In about a quarter mile Kelly Canyon enters from the east. A very small cave is passed. Most likely you will miss it and catch a peek on the return trip. The canyon will start turning to your right and up along a mid bank terrace several campsites and fire rings are passed. Sad to note the area appeared to be somewhat trashed on this day.

Continue following the canyon. On to the falls most or all of the gradual turns are to your left. The creek bed is rocky with small boulders most of the way. Be careful hopping along the small boulders. Jumping onto a huge boulder I was very surprised as it gave way. Needless to say I was a bit more careful after the incident. Near the final left turn watch out for the prickly bushes that cover the wash. On the return trip I took a fair beating and scratched up my legs pretty bad.

Approaching the falls area be careful not to walk off the ledge. There shouldn't be much problem of this actually happening, though I did slip right near the edge. This was more of a personal problem as on this trip I wore hiking boots. May sound funny, but I rarely wear boots. I have hiked nearly everything in Teva sandals. Even on a warm, near sixty degree, day in January as much as I wanted to wear the Tevas the snow was too cold. And yes I tried it for about a hundred yards. From the falls a beautiful canyon is seen looking ahead. This is the turn around point. You can hike on down the canyon if your up to it. To the left of the falls is your only hope of getting down. Though very steep it is possible. Further down James Canyon enters from the east. The canyon walls get steeper and to be honest the canyon is more exciting after the falls. The upper section of Pumphouse Wash as mentioned above is ideal for getting to know the area. It's easy to see with the width and length of this canyon how flooding can occur in a flash. Once again if rain is probable please stay out of this canyon

All in all this was a great adventure. A rare treat to hike a beautiful Arizona canyon without passing a sole. Not that I dislike anybody. Sometimes it's just nice to enjoy the outdoors in pure peace.

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2000-01-18 joebartels
    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 (Upper)
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    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.
    Pumphouse Wash (Upper)
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Added a bit extra to this trip exploring further down the wash. Saw more fall colors following the wash to the south before heading back and hitting the actual trail in the description. Very interesting area as far as the rock formations at the beginning, and the small cave area. We found an owl hanging out in said cave, and he was nice enough to sit pretty while we snapped as many pics as we can get. It looked like we were about a day late on some of the fall colors, but south in fry canyon was very nice. All and all a great area to explore and I'll be back. Headed up to weatherford loop afterwards for a few more miles on the day. Another beautiful area as well, although we missed out on the aspens there. All the leaves were already down. Had lunch in a nice sunny spot, enjoyed the nice crisp thin air, and soaked it all in... Another perfect day in AZ.
    Pumphouse Wash (Upper)
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    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 (Upper)
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    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
    Pumphouse Wash (Upper)
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    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
    Pumphouse Wash (Upper)
    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! :)
    Pumphouse Wash (Upper)
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Yet another beautiful Arizona morning! My left knee was still pretty sore from Humphrey's on Monday, so I had to slowly pick my way amongst the river rocks that I would normally have hopped quickly between. I think I enjoyed the top section more than the bottom toward the 14 foot cliff. The top is all Coconino Sandstone, which makes for a great slickrock playground and sweet sidewalls. When the canyon hits the basalt flow, it just doesn't quite pack such a punch. It was still gorgeous down that way, but I think my knee was making me grumpy, and I lashed out at the sea of gray rocks around me :lol: . I really enjoyed all the pools and puddles up in the Coconino as well. Many had frogs, fish and even tadpoles. Oh yeah, I saw a rattler...well, I heard him as a stepped over the crack he was hiding in, caught a glimpse, and moved on as quickly as possible!
    Pumphouse Wash (Upper)
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Well, I've hiked lower Pumphouse Wash on two occasions so far and both times I've made it up just a tad short of James Canyon due to the canyons only mandatory swimmer. Normally I'd just swim it and keep it going, but after managing to stay dry thus far I just wasn't able to convince myself to jump into the murky waters. So this trip I dropped into upper Pumphouse Wash from FR237 and hiked down past the dry falls & James Canyon all the way to the same mandatory swimming hole, but this time I was looking at it from upstream. :) This turned out to be a sweet little canyon and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. If I had to choose between lower or upper, I'd usually choose lower, but it's nice to see another side of the canyon for a change. After hiking back up, I continued further up a bit to Kelly Canyon and checked that out for a bit before hiking back to the car. If the mileage seems a tad high, its because I parked my low clearance ride at the beginning of FR237 and hiked it in. :lol:

    On a side note, that FR237 is fairly popular with campers and noisy ATVers and I could also hear shooting in the distance. :?

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    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To canyon trip
    From Flagstaff go South on 89A just south of mile marker 392 and turn East onto FR 237. Follow FR 237 one mile park on right spur road that leads to the wash.

    GPS readings taken from field

    Trailhead Top of 14 foot falls
    N35 03.703'

    W 111 43.208'

    N35 02.829'

    W 111 43.489'

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