National Forest near Williams: Sycamore Falls


I set out from Williams with absolutely no plan, and little clue as to where I was headed.  I had read that Sycamore Canyon was impressive, and it could be found somewhere at the end of a National Forest dirt road, south of I-40 and southeast of Williams.  My only goal for the day was to make it to the Sedona area by nightfall, so I had time to explore.

I cannot tell you exactly how to get to Sycamore Canyon or Sycamore Falls.  While the forest roads are well maintained, they’re not always well-marked or well-mapped.  But here’s a start: take the Garland Prairie Road exit (#167) off I-40.  Head south and explore.  There will be some signs to help, and a few good guesses won’t hurt, either.  You can also check out this map from the forest service–I circled a few key attractions:

And if you think you’ve got it all figured out, take a look at this map from a wooden sign I spotted along the Sycamore Rim.  On this one, north is down, roads are blue, and trails are yellow.

Fortunately, the dirt road is smooth and wide, and you can easily drive 30-40 miles per hour.

The roads spend much of the time passing through forested land, but for a couple of miles, you break free of the trees, at Garland Prairie.

Deer? Antelope Playing? I’m not sure, but this definitely is a range, and I wasn’t hearing any discouraging words.

Sycamore Rim Trail – Sycamore Point?

I may or may not have ended up at the actual Sycamore Point, but I am sure that I found the Sycamore Rim (this is where I found the sign with the map above).  From here, the rim trail runs in both directions, offering countless great views of Sycamore Canyon.

The drop off is pretty impressive, but nowhere near as exciting as the one you’ll find at this canyon’s bigger brother, about 60 miles to the north.

Sycamore Falls

After leaving the first rim viewpoint, I somehow found my way over to another spot on the Sycamore Rim.  This one was a little different, offering a dramatic dry waterfall.

Above, you see the view standing just behind the brink of the falls.  If the weather has been dry recently, you should be able to walk in the riverbed all the way out to the point where the water drops.

This is what the falls looks like from the other side.  My picture looks a little “nuclear” because I was shooting into the sun, but you get the idea.  Because the bottom of the falls is so dark, you can’t see that there is a pool of stagnant water down there.  It would be incredibly unpleasant to fall in, so consider the consequences as you tempt gravity.

Below the falls is where Sycamore Canyon begins.  Of course, this is just one “finger” of the canyon.  Spend more time exploring the dirt roads around these parts (preferably with a GPS device) and you’ll discover many more remote and beautiful areas.

As you drive around this area, you’ll cross the Overland Road Historic Trail.  The Overland Trail was blazed by the military in 1863 and used by the army, as well as immigrants, until 1882.  Parts of the old trail are preserved for hiking and mountain biking.

Dogtown Lake

After leaving the rim, I backtracked for a while, not completely sure of where I was headed.  I had seen a sign for Dogtown Lake, which sounded interesting, so I checked it out before making my way back to the main roads.

Dogtown Lake didn’t offer much in the way of surprises.  It’s a small reservoir with trees and a few picnic tables lining the shore.

From Dogtown Lake, I headed west, and eventually found Coconino County Road 73, which would be the road that eventually took me to Jerome (the ghost town near Sedona).  But I wasn’t completely done with these dirt roads, just yet.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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