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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SYCAMORE RIM

SYCAMORE RIM Kaibab National Forest, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness A meager crack in a wind-swept prairie marks the origin of Arizona’s second largest canyon. In fact, the source of Sycamore Canyon is so subdued that, without an understanding of the area’s geology, you’d probably stroll right past it without giving it second thought. From its humble birthplace on the prairie, the canyon cuts a meandering 20-mile-long gorge stretching from the Colorado Plateau to the Verde Valley. A hike along the Sycamore Rim trail samples the canyon’s diversity by tracing slumping earthen edges as they fall away into gaping crevasses, dry waterfalls, natural stone tanks brimming with water and spring-fed meadows drenched in wildflower color. Although it is first runner up in size when compared to the Grand Canyon, this many-fingered precipice is second to none in geological complexity and visual interest. Landscapes--both harsh and soft--serve up a delicious dichotomy of wonders. Moving seamlessly between lifeless, stone-cold canyons and sun-washed fields of lusty, waist-high grasses, this trail is saturated with ever-changing eye candy. Interpretive signs at key points along the route explain the significance of logging ruins, water sources, geology, old roads and the delicate eco-system of a bucolic spring area where water lilies bob in shallow pine-rimmed pools. HIGHLIGHTS: Magnificent views, deep canyon, historic ruins, spring-fed meadows. LENGTH: 11-mile loop RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 3,600’ – 6,500’ Driving Distance from Phoenix: 185 miles one-way GETTING THERE: DOW SPRING TRAILHEAD: From Flagstaff, go 18 miles west on I-40 to to exit 178 (Parks). Turn left at the stop sign, cross the rail tracks and go 9.6 miles on FR 141  to FR 131. Go 0.6 mile south on FR 131to the turn off for the trailhead on the right. NOTE: there are five major trailheads for this hike.  See the Kaibab National Forest website for maps. Information: (928) 635-8200 or fs.fed.us/r3/kai

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