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BULLEThiking archive
Scenic Drives Archive Photo
Pomeroy Tanks is a natural water
source for Kaibab National Forest

© Tom Bean

>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.

Editor's Note click to expand
Arizona Hiking Guide BookFrom "backyard"
hikes to overnight
excursions, our
Arizona Hiking
guidebook has
for everyone.
To order, call
or click here.

Sycamore Rim Trail
Spectacular views of Arizona’s second-largest canyon and remnants of frontier history highlight this hike near Williams.

By Leah Duran

Sycamore Rim Trail's key offerings — spectacular views peppered with frontier history — start long before the actual loop hike. They come in the form of Forest Road 56, which glides through the wavy grasses of Garland Prairie. Ranchers William Garland and James Dow homesteaded there in the 1870s. Watch for cattle crossing the open range, a rare vestige of the Old West.

At the trailhead, take the clockwise route toward Dow Spring. An easy half-mile mosey through yellow-tipped mullein, dwarfed by ponderosa pines, leads to the ruins of an early 18th century sawmill. A lichen-covered stone wall and scattered wood and metal scraps — including a rusty pipe protruding into the trail — are ghosts of the Williams area's logging boom.

The beautiful stroll continues to hollow cabin foundations near Dow Spring, where 10 soldiers guarded cattle and supplies during the month of December 1863. Historic pollution comes in the form of miscellaneous glass: blue, purple, brown and broken. Flattened, brittle tin cans are camouflaged by the trail's dark mahogany dirt.

You won't get lost on this wide path, which is marked by giant cairns as it moves from historic treasures to natural ones. Following meadows and marshes, the trail passes small pools, where lily pads rest on reflections of cattails, wildflowers and vibrant green grasses. Compressed patches reveal the resting spots of deer and elk.

After an hour, the trail intersects an old logging road. Stay to the right, and then head left as the trail forks and begins to follow Sycamore Canyon, the second-largest canyon in Arizona. Listen for water murmuring along the canyon floor as it progresses from a grassy ditch to a gaping slice where pines climb the rock walls.

As the canyon grows wider and deeper, the flat, exposed trail skirts the edge of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, one of Arizona's first officially designated wilderness areas. At the halfway mark of Vista Point, take a long look at the sprawling expanse of pine-topped ridges. The trail soon departs from the rim and descends into the cool shade of several Gambel oak copses. Near the three-hour mark, hop gingerly across two dry creek beds before reaching Pomeroy Tanks, year-round natural water sources that host small fish and insects.

After another quarter-mile, the path crosses the Overland Trail and bursts into a sun-scorched field of jagged volcanic rocks. Beyond this post-apocalyptic scene, the next 2 miles are the most work you'll do over the entire trail. The forested path, speckled with alligator junipers, climbs steadily up KA Hill, a misleading name compared to the effort of ascending its 7,287-foot peak. The top's narrow strip gives a nearly 360-degree view that includes the San Francisco Peaks and Mogollon Rim.

Pine-needle padding cushions the steep switchbacks as the path winds back down toward the same trailhead you left more than four hours earlier. As you head back to your car, think about the 11-mile walk you just traced through history and beauty, and contemplate the tangible meaning of the adage, "Life's a journey, not a destination."

Trail Guideclick to expand

Map of Area Length: 11-mile loop

Elevation: 6,700 to 7,287 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Directions: From Flagstaff, go west on Interstate 40 for approximately 25 miles to the Garland Prairie Boulevard Exit, turn left and go south on Forest Road 141 for approximately 12 miles to Forest Road 56. Turn right (southeast) onto FR 56 and continue 1.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot.

USGS Map: Bill Williams Mountain, Sycamore Point

Information: Williams Ranger District, 928-635-5600 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai 

Leave No Trace Ethics:
  • Plan ahead and be prepared.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly and pack out your trash.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Respect wildlife and minimize impact.
  • Be considerate of others.
  • >> Back to Hiking Archive

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