Parsons Trail along Sycamore Canyon

MODERATE 71 reviews
#22 of 166 trails in

Parsons Trail along Sycamore Canyon is a 7.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Sedona, Arizona that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
7.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
836 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

wild flowers

Note: A high clearance/4WD or AWD is required to access this trail.

backpacking
1 month ago

Very nice trail, good swimming spots. Small camping area several miles in was pretty crowded with weekend warriors.

1 month ago

Favorite swimming hole in that area.

camping
1 month ago

BEAR! I can't believe nobody has posted that they have seen him!! Huge bear is living at the end of the trail where my boyfriend and I camped for a night and had a very close scary encounter he is NOT AFRAID OF HUMANS please please be careful going down there

1 month ago

Amazing trail! Backpacked in and camped next to the creek. But be alert as we spotted a mountain lion on a low cliff directly above the trail about 3 miles in. Trekking poles were very helpful for this hike and all of the creek crossings.

backpacking
2 months ago

With continued cold weather at home in Colorado, my wife and I decided to head south to warmer weather. A search on All Trails landed us on the Parsons Trail. We upgraded some backpacking gear and were ready to test run it. Arizona is plenty warm this time of year so we took the opportunity to make a trip of it. Good choice.

First, the road to the canyon. You do not need a 4wheel drive vehicle to get there. It is a bumpy dirt road but not a 4wheel jeep road. I wouldn’t exactly take your low profile sports car on it, but anything like a 2 wheel drive cross over would be just fine. Just take your time.

The steep drop into the canyon is brief and not difficult. Trekking poles come in handy with a backpack for balance so I’d recommend a pair of those. Day packers are fine without it. The start of the trail is easy and flat. After the first mile plus, the trail has sections that get rougher. Again, very doable. This is where you begin to see the red rock portion of the canyon which is majestic.

I must give a shoutout to the folks who carefully placed all the cairns particularly for the creek crossings which were not always intuitive on the back half of the canyon. Lots of fingers and false trails so definitely follow the cairns carefully. Creek crossings were also easier with trekking poles so, another plug to take a pair.

Once we got beyond the sign that lets you know you are allowed to camp, we found a nice sandy creek side spot. Plenty of space and a nice view of the canyon wall. Saw fish and a water turtle in the creek which was great. By chance, it was a full moon that night which lit the canyon like a spotlight. Pretty spectacular.

This was a very nice canyon backpack earning it a solid 4 stars. Enjoy!

camping
2 months ago

Some reviews here say that 4WD is not necessary.. It absolutely is!! The last part of the drive near the trail head gets very steep and rocky with no turn around points. Definitely would not recommend driving a regular little car. I would say that this trail is fairly easy, the only "hard" spot was first part, which is a steep drop to get to the base of the mountains. Getting down is easy, but climbing up it with heavy backpacks can be a little bit rough. The trail is sandy and easy to follow for the most part, but there are a few crossing that can get a bit confusing. The water is crystal clear and there is one really awesome swimming hole with deep blue water before you hit the 3.7 mile mark. We camped at the beach spot near the 3.7 mark and it was BEAUTIFUL. Tucked back behind it there was a little space that you could easily set up a tent and a hammock, and there was a little rock pit for fires. Some reviews on here say it gets super crowded but we only saw two other people, and they were only day hiking. Would definitely hike this again!! Make sure to bring lots of water though and maybe some bug spray depending on the time you go. We went late March and the bugs were all over (naturally).

hiking
5 months ago

Beautiful Hike! The road to the trailhead is long and rough but it’s so worth it! It has everything! Desert, river, greenery, rocks, leaves, tough spots, river crossings, and more! I recorded about 7 miles in and out. We didn’t make it the entire way as about 3.5 miles in there was a spot where we couldn’t all cross so we decided to head back. I would definitely suggest some waterproof (water-friendly) shoes so the water crossing doesn’t hold you back!

5 months ago

Absolutely beautiful!

6 months ago

Always a great hike for a hot day. plenty of swimming holes.

hiking
6 months ago

Amazing hike the weather was overcast (nice) love this hike me and my father did this trail together and definitely are coming back again wow one of the best trails I’ve tried

hiking
6 months ago

beautiful trail. one of my favorites!

7 months ago

Great trail. Beautiful views and ZERO trash!!

hiking
7 months ago

a long dirt road will get you here. 4wd not necessary but highly recommended unless you're in a rental car whose suspension you don't car about. this is a beautiful hike and the water wasn't that cold, surprisingly, in late October! I only went about 2/3 of the way but I can't wait to go back and actually camp!

backpacking
8 months ago

This is a very cool place, but there are a few things to be aware of. First, NO 4x4 or high-clearance vehicle is required to reach the trailhead. I did it in my Prius, we just had to go very slowly and carefully in some parts. Second, this trail should not be rated as difficult. It is almost all flat and well-marked, except at the end (which I’ll get to). The drop into the canyon from the trail head (maybe 1/5 of a mile?) is really the only incline you have. Third, there are places for backpackers to spend the night, but they are very limited, to the point that I’d be a little nervous to go during a “peak time” for fear of not finding a suitable camp site. Only at the end of the 3.7 mike hike is camping allowed, and once we reached that point we found 2 (maybe 3 if you take up very little space) places to pitch a tent. I guess there could be more, but the trail sure look like it ended to me. One of those sites is a beautiful, huge, riverside sandy beach area that was AMAZING. It was also occupied, leaving us the only other site. The other site is a little patch removed from the river with no views. We didn’t want to have to haul water up the bank to the trail, and then up the trail to the campsite, and luckily the gentlemen at the riverside camp were willing to give us a portion of their space.

Basically, this place is really cool, but maybe better for a day hike than backpacking. We had a nice time, but the campground situation almost upended our trip. Also, the majority of the beautiful views are in the first half of the trip. The trail gets much harder to follow at the end, with more river crossing as well. So, it may be more enjoyable to do the first 2/3rds and not stay the night.

However, the views are stunning, the water is crystal clear and beautiful, and we saw a river otter right where the trail first meets the river! We heard of rattlesnakes from other hikers, but didn’t see any. We went in on Oct 10th, and the colors hadn’t quite changed. The weather was still quite warm, but not summer hot. There is plenty of parking at the trailhead and no fee. Apparently there are panfish in the river, so maybe bring a pole? The majority of the hike is shaded and really nice. Take a camera!

hiking
8 months ago

Not sure why it's rated difficult, or heavily traveled. Beautiful easy hike with a few stream/rock scrambles. Passed only two other hiking parties on a Columbus Day holiday. Bring some water shoes, as there are a few places you'll probably want to step in, maybe swim(?) Brrrr!

backpacking
8 months ago

One of my favorite hikes, Water is all spring fed.
Native fish, Caves, Cliffs, What a Gem.

hiking
8 months ago

Beautiful trail. Definitely should be rated as moderate and not hard. I logged 7.5 mi out and back. At the trails end (approx 3.6mi out) there is a sign that says camping permitted beyond this point.

backpacking
9 months ago

Nice easy Hike swimming holes all along the way. Camp sites about 4 miles in for overnighting. Locals day hike in on Friday and Saturday. Took my son on his second backpack trip. Plenty of water so carry filter or purifying tab.

hiking
10 months ago

Once the steep decent it's pretty flat . Would go again not in monsoon season .

11 months ago

I don't know that I'd do it again. definitely won't be in the summer.

backpacking
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spent 3 days and 2 nights on this trail in early June and had a great time. There is an awesome swimming hole a little over a mile in. As other posts have said, the creek crossings can be a bit hard to navigate but stacks of rocks act as trail markers and help a lot. The weather was great and there is lots of shade. The first mile and half is pretty easy hiking apart from the initial decent into the canyon but the last two miles are considerably more challenging. Went through about 4L of water per day so at this time of year bring PLENTY of water.

camping
Saturday, June 17, 2017

Not the easiest of hikes but definitely worth it for the views. I didn't realize there were otters in AZ but saw one along the trail. I'll definitely hike this one again.

camping
Monday, May 29, 2017

Lots of spiders and ants where u can camp it's a 3.5 Mile hike to get to the camping area the trail is not marked well passed the 2 mile mark if u get lost I noticed the people stacked rocks to mark the trail some parts are very rocky and wet nice hike but the walk down to trail is very steep

backpacking
Monday, May 01, 2017

Outstanding hike, easy in most places. This trail is beautiful, you can take yourself, your family for a day hike or hike deeper and spend the night. Would recommend this trail If you are in the cottonwood area.

backpacking
Friday, April 28, 2017

One of my new favorite summer swimming holes :)

hiking
Wednesday, April 26, 2017

We hiked this trail on April 19th and could not have been happier. This lightly trekked trail with lots of tree shade, water and scenic beauty was one of the best hikes we have done. Other than the drop at the beginning and climb at the end the trail was relatively flat. Fantastic!

hiking
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Very cool trail. The river was high and had bushwhack in a few places to get to the end, but very worth it.

hiking
Monday, July 18, 2016

Fun, short and easy hike. We took our kids ranging in age from 4-14 and all of them had a fun time doing this mostly shaded hike. Fun time cooling off in the swimming hole. Road is a bit rough but does not require 4x4 or high clearance. We did it in our mini van.

hiking
Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The road to get to this trail definitely calls for a some high clearance/4WD or AWD. The trail descends to the creek during which time it is in full sun. Once along the creek, it is very beautiful and shady. There are red cliffs along the creek and a waterhole about 1.5 miles in. People often cliff-jump from here (although it is not very high). I did not continue much further past the waterhole, so I don't know how the rest of it is. Very recommended if you want to dip in a cool creek

camping
Monday, May 30, 2016

Did some light backpacking with some friends for 3 nights, 4 days. Went in April, so the weather wasn't so hot. Definitely a bit of a rough trail (I have bad ankles), but worth it if you're into some cliff jumping and swimming! Met some hikers who have been using the trail for years and they loved it. Will come back when I'm in the area again!

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