The Parsons Trail

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November, 2001

The Parsons Trail follows a perennial stream through the lower 4 miles of Sycamore Canyon in central Arizona. Located at the southern end of the sprawling, 56,000 acre Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, this pretty hike snakes through delicate, riparian environment on its way to Parsons Spring, which is the primary source of the perennial flow. The trail drops 200' immediately after leaving the trailhead, but then remains nearly level as it winds its way along the floor of the canyon. Sycamore Creek flows all year and supports a rich variety of riparian trees, including the Arizona sycamore, for which the canyon is named.


The Parsons Trail

Lower Sycamore Canyon

Reliable water and lots of shade make this a potential hiking destination even in the summer. A few prime swimming holes are favorite destinations of summertime hikers. To protect the fragile environment, the Coconino National Forest Service allows no camping along the 4 miles downstream from Parsons Spring. The canyon is home to a variety of animal and bird life, but is also grazed by cattle. Apparently, cows cannot read the signs.

Dense riparian foliage

Looking upstream


Prime swimming hole

We crossed the creek 5 times on our way to Parsons Spring, but the crossings were easy enough that we were able to keep our feet dry. The Forest Service has marked the stream crossings with large, unusual cairns, housed in wire baskets, no doubt to prevent their being washed away in times of flood.

Typical stream crossing

Trailside cairn


After strolling along the trail for nearly 4 miles, we arrived at Parsons Spring, which is a just an unspectacular pool of water. Beyond the spring, a lightly used trail continues on its way thru Sycamore Canyon. We turned around and retreated back the way we had come.

Sycamore Canyon vistas

Another swimming hole

Parsons Spring

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