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Navajo-Hopi Observer | Flagstaff, Arizona

home : features : out & about October 3, 2015

9/11/2013 10:07:00 AM
Parsons Spring Trail offers swimming holes and cool shade
Margaret Starnes up in a tree. Photo/Stan Bindell
Margaret Starnes up in a tree. Photo/Stan Bindell

CLARKDALE, Ariz. - Parsons Spring Trail shouts out "water." The last 10 miles of the drive to the trailhead is along the Verde River. From the trailhead, hikers can see Sycamore Creek.

The trail drops 200 feet within about five minutes and then hikers are next to the water they were looking at from the top.

As the hike continues, large water holes emerge to make swimmers happy. This is a trail that can be hot during the thick of the summer, and that makes the swimming holes even more enticing. But there are also plenty of trees for shade as well. Sycamore Creek also continues throughout most of the trail.

Margaret Starnes led a recent hike on this trail sponsored by the Prescott Hiking Club. Starnes is adventurous, which is why she was the only one to take the dare when the photographer asked her to pose on a tree branch that overlooked the trail. She climbed the tree like a raccoon. Not long after the hike, she left for an adventure in Australia where she'll probably be climbing many trees.

Parsons Spring is rated as an easy 7.4-mile hike. The elevation drops from about 3,800 to 3,600 feet. Pretty low for a summer hike, but the water and shade make it acceptable.

After the initial 200-foot drop, the trail is mostly flat.

Parsons Spring winds through the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area but is managed by Coconino and Prescott National Forests.

Huge sycamores, cottonwoods and Arizona walnuts provide shade along the hike. The water also brings out a rainbow of flowers and the butterflies that go with it. Wild grape, Manzanitas, hackberry, honeysuckles and poison ivy are among the shrubbery.

The first swimming hole, known as Summers Spring, is found just a bit more than a mile in. A rock wall surrounds the swimming hole. The rock wall has red rock cliffs, which makes it perfect for divers and helps with the scenery.

The trail passes right over Sycamore Creek requiring some rock hopping to proceed. The second big swimming hole comes shortly after. After the second swimming hole, the trail can be hard to find because of flooding that occurred in the 1980s.

Parsons Trail was good enough to make the Arizona Highways hiking guide. The guide tells hikers that bears and mountain lions have been seen on this trail, but they failed to show up on several hikes because they are elusive creatures. Hikers will more likely spot Golden eagles and herons.

The trailhead parking area is large, but has no restrooms or other amenities.

The water along the trail is not drinkable. Hikers need to bring plenty of water.

More information is available at


From Cottonwood, drive north on Main Street, also known as State Rt. 260, and follow the signs toward the turnoff for Tuzigoot National Monument. Turn right onto Tuzigoot Road, continue across the Verde River bridge, turn left onto Forest Road 131, also known as Sycamore Canyon Road. From there it's about 11 miles to the trailhead.

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