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Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley, AZ

no permit
474 42 2
Guide 42 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Mesa NE
4.3 of 5 by 12
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 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Shuttle 7.85 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,500 feet
Elevation Gain -1,099 feet
Accumulated Gain 228 feet
Avg Time Hiking 6-8 hrs
Kokopelli Seeds 8.61
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
12  2019-04-14 chumley
12  2019-04-14 skatchkins
8  2019-04-06 RickVincent
10  2019-03-08 kelly14
18  2017-05-28 skatchkins
13  2017-04-09 chumley
26  2017-04-09 skatchkins
5  2017-02-26 RickVincent
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author hikeaz
author avatar Guides 5
Routes 0
Photos 341
Trips 214 map ( 1,930 miles )
Age 63 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, Nov, Apr, May → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn
Sun  6:14am - 6:21pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Pools vs. bouldering
by hikeaz

For those of you have hiked the section of the Agua Fria south of Badger Springs, this is a similar hike, only longer. This was an explatory hike for all of us. We started at the new boondoggle gate at the Bushnell Tanks turnoff from the Beeline. Making our way down the dirt road (FR22) a ways, we passed the various campsites that now appear unused. After about 1 mile, we turned off and followed the Sycamore Creekbed insted of taking the road up onto the hillside. Making our way down the creek was a bit tiring.... up onto boulders, back down again, through the catclaw, around the cockleburrs.... repeat.

As we made our way down-canyon we noticed an old gaging station on creek right. Once past the gaging station we saw no signs of humans, other than debris that headed downcanyon in a flashflood, until we neared the end. The further downstream we proceeded, the better the canyon became. We passed massive outcroppings of granite in all shapes, colors and sizes. This hike was really getting good! As you can imagine, there is no trail or route in this canyon; we just crossed the creek, boulder-hopped awhile, pulled out a few thorns and then switched sides and repeated. The deeper into the canyon we went, the bigger the boulders became, and, in some instances, some exposure had to be dealt with in down-climbing from these boulders and walls. There are tons of waterfalls and swimming holes in this deep section, and it is amazingly beautiful. Some of the granite, as will be the case in creeks, has been polished, and is slippery, especially when wet. Be careful! In a few areas, some "figuring" was required to avoid the need to swim. Sometimes we climbed up-and-around and in other cases some fun bouldering "moves" served us better. If the weather had been warmer, the hike would have gone quicker, as we would have just plowed/swam through the pools vs. bouldering around them - BOTH are fun, however.

After about 3.5 hours in the canyon it widens out and we started to see a few footprints here-and-there. To us, this was signaling our arrival near our finishing spot. As it was, we hiked about another 40 minutes once the canyon flattened/widened out to our awaiting shuttle vehicle that we had dropped off pre-hike.

Notes: A+ for adventure. This should likely be called a canyoneering trip vs. a "hike", although it is not technical. Catclaw abounds, dress accordingly. Your time to hike this canyon could vary greatly from ours - know your limits. Due to the willows and other branches being bent dowstream, not to mention the 1000' change in elevation between trailheads, I would recommend that be the preferred direction of travel.

Thanks to my good friend, Tim, for suggesting the route, and to he, Randy and Lyle for being the best hiking buddies a guy could ask for - and allowing me to accompany them on this hike.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2007-01-12 hikeaz
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    guide related
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 of 23 deeper Triplog Reviews
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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Life is good! :DANCE:

I should have been home trimming oleanders. But this sounded like a better plan.

We were delayed slightly when somebody decided to show up with a normal floaty. After a quick trip to wallyworld, Sycamore Creek was stocked with a hammerhead shark. : app : Nemo, Leonardo, and Ms. Swan have all been here before. :)

Good water flow today. Much better than last June! :sweat: Signs of impressive flooding over the winter, easily 10-feet higher than today, even in wider sections of the canyon. Flood debris in trees and ledges well above our heads. That would have been a sight to see (from above). :scared:

This should be good for another month. Apparently the Mazzies got some snow this winter! :y:
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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Most of the time that I go to Sycamore Creek, its flow is usually light. Flows around 10cfs are pretty typical. On this day the flow was reading 34cfs. 3x the flow was definitely noticeable and made creek crossings more challenging. It even forces a few workarounds. In areas that I would normally skirt the creek, I was forced to go high, up and around, or get wet.

My friend Brian and I made a quick 2 hour trip in and out of the White Box section.

When the rain started to arrive Monday night and all day Tuesday, I checked on the water flow data again. The rains had pushed the flow to over 200cfs. I had to work Tuesday, but Brian decided to go back out after the rain stopped. As he arrived, I checked the flow again. Within 30 minutes of my previous check the flow had spiked from 262 cfs to 2310cfs. Holy cow! :o :o

The water data showed the record flow 2600cfs set in 1978. Brian started making his way down, texting me updates. I checked the data again and it had jumped to 2600cfs, tying the record. I will have to see if I can get some of the pics and video he posted on FB. Incredible to see this section of Sycamore Creek with that much water. The place looked unrecognizable. Chocolate rapids that only an experienced kayaker would dare navigate. At minimum some Class IV's and possibly some bigger hits downstream through the White Box.

Anyway, in the meantime, here are some boring all photos of 34cfs from Sunday.
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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The Beasts of Sycamore Lagoon
I was told there was an internet friends conference this weekend in a flowing creek. I instructed Noel to call me a few minutes in after it started, just in case I needed an out, but it turns out there was no service down there. Glad I brought the backup brother-in-law to make it less awkward.
We got the old nudes warning ahead of time but I had really thought it was regarding non-attendees.
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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Sycamore or less
I was initially leery of how much water might be in Sycamore Creek. But Rick Vincent's photoset from June 2011 gave me some reassurance. Well that might not be an accurate view of normal water in June! ](*,)

Good thing the full 8-mile trip was off the table early. While it would have gone much faster than normal due to stretches of dry ground, the temperatures today would have been unpleasantly warm with few opportunities to cool off in refreshing pools. Good to know for the future!

So our trip worked out pretty well anyway, despite being quite short in both time and distance. We hit a couple of swimmers in the granite narrows and took a long break at one of the pools that was over-my-head deep.

We saw a bushy-tailed animal scurry through the reeds. I think we decided fox was the most likely culprit. I wonder if they can catch crayfish? If not there's an otter or other aquatic animal that catches and breaks them open. Raccoon maybe?

It's good to finally be out of the internet-friend zone. :lol:
Hyphenation location matters.
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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This One has been on my List for a Long Time...Every time someone did something in there, I would ask myself why I hadn't done it yet. :doh: So when Kelly suggested it, it was a No Brainer and no Convincing was needed... :DANCE:

We had originally planned this for a Week ago, but with the Weather Forecasted to not be very Ideal, we Postponed it for a Week...It was a Great Decision! We could not have asked for a more Perfect Day to do this. Warm, but not Killer Hot and Sunny with some Amazing Fraley Clouds providing some Sky Drama. I worried about the Water Temp being pretty Cold since we haven't had a lot of Warmer Weather yet, but it was actually a Perfect Temp...Cool, but not Cold enough to where you were breaking Olympic Time Records trying to get out. Compared to the Water Temps I endured last Month, this Water was like a Hot Tub... :D Kelly thought the Water was pretty Cold, so maybe I've just built up a Tolerance for Colder Water. Either that or it's simply because I have a lot more Insulation than she does... :sweat: Kelly did a great Job of staying out of Water that was over her Head until the very last big Pool, and then she didn't have any Choice... :lol: I enjoyed the Water immensely and had no Trouble with just getting right in rather than finding a Route around... :D

The Route Finding and Bushwacking was as enjoyable as it always is when you do such things... :sweat: I'm glad I had brought my Gators after seeing what Kelly looked like after just a short 30 Yard jaunt into the Desert...The Foxtails were pretty nasty... :sweat: Came away with some Arizona Pinstriping and just a little Blood Loss, but that was more from the Exit than the Approach. Nothing that the Skin hasn't seen before...Luckily, the Bugs weren't too bad until the End. About the Time we started climbing out the Exit, we started noticing a few Gnats...By the Time we got to the Car, they were pretty thick. We hung out just long enough to change into Dry Shoes and Clothes and then we were out of there. I had Spray with me, but we were so close to being done, that I didn't use it...That was a Mistake...I was reminded this Morning about just how much Gnats love me...I react badly to Gnat Bites in particular and this Morning my Right Eye was swollen almost completely shut from Multiple Bites... ](*,)

The Creek Hike was Awesome...The Box has that Wonderful Slick Rock Granite that I absolutely Love. Add some Clean, Cool Water and Waterfalls, and the Fact that we didn't see another Soul for the Whole Trip and this Hike was Priceless... :y: Thanks for providing the Information for this Rick, I see why you keep returning... : app : Thanks for the Suggestion Kelly, it was a great Start to the Summer Season of Water Hikes and Swimmers... :app: We'll get some more Trips on the Calendar...Good to see you and Hike with you again! :D

A Few Cactus still Blooming
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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i've always liked the photos from sycamore canyon
thought pam might be up for a water hike and she was in :)
we did the granite box loop that rick vincent often frequents
a short drop into the canyon through catclaw and foxtails
very lush canyon with darker reddish rocks at this point
we did a mix of boulder hopping and wading until getting to the "box"
this part was beautiful and reminded me of the jug
pam did a few waterslides and i did one or two
i had one full swimmer that was a little chilly, but really the water was quite nice
warm enough temps to enjoy the pools
had fun clambering around the white granite rock
took our time, a lot of photos and a couple of breaks to relax and enjoy the unique scenery
not sure we took the best route out, will have to ask rick about that
would like to do more of the canyon sometime
thanks for doing this with me, pam, and for driving
nice hiking with you again
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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My kids had friends in town from Calgary. I wanted to do something on my day off after Christmas, and decided to take them all on a hike. Knowing they love creekside hikes I decided on Sycamore since it is close by. We piled into the minivan and drove up 87 to my spot near the overpass. Started our hike down to the creek. The kids enjoyed the boulder hopping, exploration and discovery of thin sheets of ice which they proceeded to crack over their heads. This made for some fun photo ops.

We reached a point where either some tougher scramble moves would have to be made, or some wading through the chilly water. The kids decided that neither option was worth continuing our planned loop and instead would prefer to go back and revisit some of the "cool" places we had passed on the way in.

We all got out with minor scratches from the occasional catclaw. Returned to the car with some hungry and tired out kids. Went out for hot dogs, pizza and churros before calling it a day.
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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Sunflower- Camp Reno - Park Trail Loop
I've been looking for a way to loop the Bushnell Tanks, Park trail and FR422. I drew up a route on HAZ and away we went.
Fan & I started about 7:30 and the weather was very cool. We came across two hunters who had spotted a bear in the area.

Soon we were hiking down the backside of MT.Ord on FR524. We hopped off of FR524 to an old ATV trail that took us close enough to the Camp Reno. We bushwhacked around a bit before hitting the Camp Reno road. Fan took a break as I explored around Camp Reno.

Park Trail #66
We topped off our water at the Park creek. We knew it was going to be warm climbing up in the sun.
The Park trail is no "walk in the park". The trail goes from 2,700 feet to 5,000+. There is little shade. The lower part is easy to follow. But once you get to 4,000 foot range, it changes. The tall grass hides the trail and cairns. We keep on missing the trail and bushwhacked back to it. We started to dread the HAZ split stats because we slowed down to a mile an hour!
The trail is there, it's just the tall grass increases the route finding. After a couple of hours we made it to the Edwards park. Now that is a one great park!

We headed down the AZT to a point where we bushwhacked to a series of abandoned Jeep roads that lead us back to the Jeep.

We were amazed at the amount of flowing water everywhere. The song that keep playing in my head was the "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". The verse was “Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink" Except it was good potable water. The 1st mile of FR22 was wet and overgrown with plants. This area got hit with a lot of rain. It looks like the road moved again.
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said in the other trip logs. I was surprised at how much water there was and don't waste your time staying dry in the beginning , you end up having to fight thick brush and cat claw and your going to have to get wet later on any way.
Sycamore Canyon - Bushnell to Round Valley
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Frankie posted this late last week, and I've always been interested in the area, but never actually been there, despite all the times I've driven by. This is amazing! What a great day!

I thought it would be an intermittent stream, especially given the very dry winter we've had. But it was a riparian wonderland the entire way. I commented that this should be called Granite Creek rather than Sycamore Creek because it was a solid 5-6 miles of granite pools, slots, slides, and swimmers! Wow! How great is this place!?

The amazing thing is that you aren't ever more than a mile from the highway, and you would never know it! There's a couple of spots you can see a guardrail on the hillside above, and sometimes you can hear the loudest of trucks, but being down in the canyon below makes it amazingly isolated, for as close as you really are to civilization.

The first few miles you can stay dry if you want, but it's not worth the effort. The very end features 3 or 4 mandatory swimmers. Which is great by that time. The elevation drop is surprising, if not impressive, over the 6 highway miles from top to bottom. Over 1000 feet. The upper portion is more shaded and moderate grade, while the lower part is more exposed and steeper. The water at the top is 15-20 degrees cooler than at the bottom. It was downright cold at the start, and just pleasant at the end.

This might have been the perfect weather day to do this hike. It hit 92 in Phx, I wouldn't do this if it was over 100 at the airport. We were blessed with a great breeze all afternoon, some places where it was strong enough to blow your hat off. Warm sun, cold water, great breeze. Tough to beat on a water hike like this! :D

After the last swimmer we encountered the first person of the day. He warned us to watch for snakes. Said they come out at this time of day. He was right. I'd rather see a rattler though. Since we were so close to the highway all day, I had left my phone on, and when we got closer to the end, the Grindr app* started a near nonstop alert message. So apparently you'll run into some of that. :o Saw a few more twigs n berries than most hikes I've been on. :scared:

Got back to the truck. Laughed about it all, and drove the 6 miles back to the shuttle vehicle at FR22.

Great day. Thanks Frankie for the idea and plan. Despite the old saggy sacks, this place is too cool to not visit again. :doh:
* No. I don't really have the grindr app. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To canyon trip
Beeline Highway (State Route 87) to FR22 (Bushnell Tanks) driveway. This is the UPPER trailhead. The LOWER trailhead (recommended FINISHING trailhead ) is off an unnamed dirt road heading east, at Round Valley. (this is about 4 road miles south of the UPPER trailhead, so the shuttle is a snap)
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