Arizona Trails

The Best Day Hikes in America: Sycamore Canyon to Parson Springs

Coconino National Forest, Arizona

You’d be forgiven for thinking the Grand Canyon State’s best dayhike was in, well, the Grand Canyon. And there are plenty of worthy trails there—if you want to see lots of multicolored sandstone. But big-canyon country is only a part of what makes the state such a paradise for hiking. The rest? Alpine wildlife, cold-running streams, and dense forests. You can see it all in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, which, by the way, is far easier to get to from Phoenix. On the trail to Parson Springs, you’ll trace a mighty canyon, shot through with greenery and populated by bears, bobcats, cougars, great blue herons, and golden eagles. Best of all: Spring-fed, crystal-clear swimming holes dot the entire route.

Grab your quick-dry shorts and descend 200 feet from the rim in a quarter mile to the canyon floor, where Parsons Trail cuts through walls of red sandstone, buff limestone, and black basalt. From here, the going is easy: Mesquite and walnut groves keep it shady, and gardens of watercress and columbine grow near the ledges and caves lining the stream. Don’t miss the user trail to the largest swimming hole at mile 1.4, then hug the canyon wall before splashing across the stream several times on your way to Parson Springs, where water pours from the rock at 5,000 gallons per minute.

Distance 7.3 miles (out and back) Trailhead 34.864139, -112.071548 Drive time 2:15 from Phoenix Season Year-round Contact