June 2024
Hiking Yavapai
Stan Bindell

Parsons Spring Trail

On the lower end of the huge Sycamore Canyon Wilderness near Clarkdale, Parsons Spring Trail offers one of the best riparian hikes in the state.

Hikers can see the promised water from the trailhead, up on a hill that gives a view of Sycamore Creek below. You have to descend about 200 feet, then the trail is fairly flat the rest of the way.

About a mile in you’ll come to Summers Spring, and you can even find its headwater as it bubbles up. This is a great place for a snack or lunch in clear water where branches cross the spring. Watercress, which many put in salads, is plentiful here, and later in the hike we found it in bloom.

A little farther down the trail Sycamore Creek becomes more plentiful, and you have to cross the creek three times in each direction. Expect to get a little wet. The amount of water will depend on spring runoff and recent rains. When we were there, toward the end of winter, each crossing meant we would get wet to about our knees.

Great hikes are even better when you go with great people, and this excursion included Prescott naturalist Dave Moll, Skyliner Hiking Club member Chris Jensen, my videographer Zach Kline and his soon-to-be-wife, videographer Sushi.

We were shooting our next video for our YouTube series Preserving Arizona Wilderness, which will be out in June.

Another highlight of this trail is the Blue Hole. No one knows why it’s called that, but it’s an area ringed with cliffs, where the water is deep and courageous souls during the summer use it as for diving. It also has a natural beach where you can either watch the divers or just sun yourself. Swallows use the cliffs for nesting and can be seen flying in and out. Hawks, golden eagles, hummingbirds and other birds are plentiful here, along with ground-based wildlife including mountain lions, badgers and black bears.

Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is among the oldest and largest wilderness areas in Arizona, designated by Congress in 1972 and covering 55,937 acres. Sycamore Canyon is the second-largest canyon in the state. There are 15 trails in the Wilderness area, including Sycamore Rim Trail just east of Williams.

Parsons Spring Trail is the gem of the lower part of the wilderness area. The 7.4-mile round trip varies in elevation from 3,775 to 3,671 feet. Cottonwoods, sycamores, hackberry and Arizona walnuts are among the tall, shady trees.

The trail is known to flood periodically, and the 2021 Raphael Fire and subsequent abnormal rainfall led to high flooding. You can easily spot those areas for their piles of dead wood.

The towering cliffs are basalt, limestone and red sandstone. It’s easy to gaze up at the cliffs and birds flying above. Parsons Spring is about four miles in, and that’s the turnaround for people who don’t want to bushwhack to see more of the canyon. Just before reaching this you may find a little cave off to the right that’s worth a look.

Parsons Trail is on the Arizona Highways list of its top 52 day hikes. Hikers say that since the article appeared in the magazine it has seen significantly more traffic, but still a lot less than better known hikes.

The water along the trail may not be drinkable, so bring enough for the hike. A high-clearance vehicle is required. Dogs are allowed, but should be leashed. For more information phone the Red Rock Ranger District at 928-282-4119.

Directions: From Cottonwood drive northwest on Main Street and follow the signs toward the turnoff for Tuzigoot National Monument. Turn right onto Tuzigoot Road, continue across the Verde River bridge, and turn left onto Forest Road 131 (Sycamore Canyon Road). From there it’s 11 miles to the trailhead.

Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com