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Sycamore Rim Day Hike
September 10, 2005
by Chuck Parsons
Arizona Trailblazers are ready to hit the trail running.

The towering Ponderosa pines of the Kaibab National Forest southeast of Williams provide a late summer refuge for seven Arizona Trailblazers seeking relief from the desert heat. From left to right: Doug, Barry, Jenni, hike leader Chuck Parsons, Michael, and Mike with Zeke the dog. Sam is on the other side of the camera lens for this group picture taken near the site of a long abandoned sawmill, located less than a mile from the trailhead. The forest setting and a starting elevation of 6,700', accompanied by a delightfully refreshing and cooling breeze throughout the day, make for a very pleasant hiking experience in northern Arizona’s high country.

Dow Spring in Sycamore Canyon.

About a half mile from the old sawmill Dow Spring lies nestled among surrounding Ponderosa pines in a large open meadow below the trail, as we make our way south to the northeast arm of Sycamore Canyon. Refurbished as a well defined eleven-mile loop trail in 1992, the Sycamore Rim Trail skirts the entire northern rim of Sycamore Canyon, marking the boundary of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area.

The temperature holds at a very pleasant 78 degrees under clear blue skies, as we pull the clean, cool pine-scented air of the forest deep into our lungs.

Jenni and Doug pose for a quick mug shot.

Jenni and Doug pause for a short rest break several miles from the trailhead. The Sycamore Rim Trail is fairly level for most of its length, but any way that you look at it, eleven miles is a lot of hiking in one day. We take a number of breaks along the way, but eventually start stretching out along the trail as the day wears on, with the faster hikers a half mile or more ahead of the slower hikers.

We rely on our trusty Motorola TalkAbouts to stay in touch with one another.

The 600-foot climb up and over KA Hill in the final stretch turns out to be a bit of a challenge after five hours of hiking and putting 10+ miles of trail behind us. We vow to do this hike in a counterclockwise direction next time, tackling KA Hill at the beginning of the hike when we are all fresher and eager to tackle the challenges of the trail.

After three miles of hiking, we finally reach the northeast arm of Sycamore Canyon, as seen in this picture.

The rugged beauty of Sycamore Canyon.

The Sycamore Rim Trail hugs the canyon rim for the next several miles as it heads west, offering some of the most spectacular scenery of the hike. A designated wilderness area, Sycamore Canyon is one of the most rugged and inaccessible canyons in northern Arizona, and its wildness and rugged beauty is one of the major attractions of this hike.

Because the northern terminus of the canyon is so rugged, with jagged and steep volcanic cliffs plunging to the canyon floor, most of the inner canyon is all but inaccessible, except for a few very tough routes that involve some rock climbing skills. A mile or so beyond this end of the canyon we actually spot a couple of rock climbers descending the cliffs on the opposite side of the canyon.

Sycamore Falls lies at the far northwest end of the canyon, about six miles from the trailhead. The falls is normally dry most of the year, typically flowing for a few days after heavy rainfall on the Sycamore Creek watershed or during the early spring after snowmelt.

On this day the falls are bone dry as usual.

Sycamore Canyon and Sycamore Creek.

The dry rock bed of Sycamore Creek can be seen in the middle of this picture, as it meanders its way through the canyon. After leaving the dry falls, the trail quickly swings to the north and takes us in the direction of Pomeroy Tanks.

Lying a mile north of Sycamore Falls and seven miles from the trailhead, the Pomeroy Tanks are the only permanent source of water along the trail. The five major tanks provide perennial pools of clear fresh water that support local wildlife, in addition to a population of small fish.

Mike Andresen watches, as his energetic black lab, Zeke, takes a cool dip in the largest of the tanks.

Mike and Zeke at Pomeroy Tanks.

We take a short rest break at the tanks and enjoy the views. From here we have another four miles of hiking ahead of us before returning to the trailhead, with the last mile involving a 500-foot trudge to the top of KA Hill.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated August 28, 2018