November 2022
Hiking Yavapai
Stan Bindell

Sycamore Rim

As the temperature was climbing on the trail, I started thinking about two people who died recently on trails that I’ve hiked. One was on the Thunder River hike from the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. The other was on the Spur Cross Trail in Cave Creek. It gave me a little shiver.

The Thunder River Trail is a somewhat desolate one, while Spur Cross is almost an urban trail because it’s so close to Cave Creek. Both of those who died were hiking in over 100-degree weather, something I just won’t do. I only hike these trails when it’s cooler. Hiking in anything above the mid-80s is something I stay away from.

On September 8 I was on the Sycamore Rim trail, and the temperature rose, but ultimately didn’t go above the mid-80s. The clouds were coming and going, so we were able to cool off intermittently, and we even got some rain during the final mile of the eight-mile trek.

The Raphael Fire touched some of this trail a bit more than a year ago, and signs entering the trail warn hikers that due to the fire there could be flooding or unstable soil. There are still some downed and burned-out trees, but the area has rebounded nicely. Fields of yellow flowers, with a scattering of others, made this one of the most colorful hikes of the summer.

Not far from the trailhead a sign pops up about a historic sawmill that was going here in the 1910s, and the remnants of a building testify to it. Just a little farther on a small tree grows inside what’s left of a huge tree stump.

A bit past that you descend a small hill, and the Pomeroy Tanks begin. These are beautiful natural pools of water lilies, including frogs and flowers, making a worthwhile, even mesmerizing stop.

Walking on, the fields of yellow flowers become more numerous and taller, a beautiful blur of yellow. Many of these flowers were shoulder high as they sandwiched us hikers on the trail.

A lizard scampered up on a rock and it wasn’t until after I shot the photo that I realized it included another, smaller lizard as well. Double the pleasure!

A couple of miles farther on and we were on top of the rim, looking down into Sycamore Canyon, the second-largest canyon in Arizona, behind the Grand Canyon. Looking across to another part of the rim we could see the abundance of yellow flowers reaching right up to the rim’s edge.

Just after this, a rock buried in the ground looks a little too much like a face. I watched it to see whether it was staring back at me.

Some parts of the hike offer nice stands of white flowers to contrast with the yellow. Indian paintbrush, globe mallow, blue and purple flowers continue to invite the hiker to stop for photos and inspection.

As we were nearing the trail’s end, more streams sprang up adding another layer of beauty to this wonderful hike.

There is not much climbing for those who stay on the trail, ranging from 6,700 feet only up to 7,287 feet. It’s a popular area for rock climbers. Pines dominate the terrain. You’ll find alligator juniper and gambel oak in the upper reaches of Sycamore Canyon Loop. From the trail’s upper reaches, known as KA Hill, you can view the San Francisco Peaks and Garland Prairie.

Kudos to Dave French of the North Mountain Visitors Center, who led this party of nine.

The Sycamore Rim is just east of Williams, and the lower end of Sycamore Canyon comes out at Clarkdale. You can hike down into the canyon, or up from the south, but I don’t know of anyone who’s hiked it end-to-end because of the dense forest and brush in between.

Directions from Flagstaff: Exit I-40 at Garland Prairie Road (Exit 167), drive nine miles southeast on Forest Road 141, turn right on Forest Road 56 signed for the Rim Trail, and drive another 1.9 miles to the trailhead.

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