This is a long day run that is best done as an overnight backpacking trip along the rim of Sycamore Canyon. The loop follows the route of three trails, Kelsey Spring Trail
, Hog Hill Trail
, and Dorsey Trail
It takes a little more than one hour to get to the trailhead from Flagstaff with a high clearance 4x4. Plan accordingly if doing this as a day run.
This run starts on the Kelsey Spring Trail
. Park at the end of Forest Service Road 538G. There is a parking area for about 6-7 cars. Just past the signage for the trail, which is also called Kelsey Winter Trail, there is a trail registration box. Be sure to sign in.
The trail descends steeply for the first half mile then eases up when you reach Kelsey Spring. Here, the trail makes a sharp left and rolls through the forest, passing several very nice campsites until you reach Babe's Spring. This spring appeared to be flowing pretty good. There is a sign and wood cover protecting the spring somewhat.
After this point, you get your first glimpse of Sycamore Canyon, although, it is not that great. The trail exits the forest for a short time with better views. After about 2.8 miles, you reach the trail junction with the Dorsey Trail
. This is a good option for a shorter loop, running up Dorsey to the road and following 538G back to your car.
Pass Dorsey Trail
continuing south through the forest. You'll exit the forest again at a large volcanic plug on the right and a line of vertical cliffs to the left. This area is fully exposed to the sun and can be very overgrown with stiff holly brush. The trail begins a steady descent into the forest and about another 2.8 miles from the Dorsey Trail
, you'll reach the end at the Winter Cabin Trail. This is a great place to camp for the night or continue for a long day run finishing the loop with Hog Hill Trail
and the Dorsey Trail
. However, there is no water source so to be sure to fill up at Dorsey Spring as you pass it along the Kelsey Spring Trail
Begin the loop section of this run by turning left at the Winter Cabin and running uphill. After a short distance, you'll see a sign for Hog Hill. Continuing uphill on the Hog Hill Trail
, the trail begins to get difficult to find after about a half mile so the go is slow. Take your time and frequently check your position by map or GPS. The trail becomes easier to find after about a quarter mile and it's a gradual run up to the trailhead and the junction with the Dorsey Trail
Turn left on the Dorsey Trail
. The Dorsey Trail
starts off wide and eventually narrows as it descends toward Sycamore Canyon. It does get steep toward the end. I passed a Forest Service trail crew of about 10 rangers working on the trail. I thanked every one of them and continued. At the end of the trail is a sign post marking the intersection with the Kelsey Spring Trail
. Just before this on the left is Dorsey Spring.
There is a very nice camping area to the right a little way down the trail from the spring. Practice LNT principles and know the current conditions and campfire restrictions. When I was there is was a "red flag" day meaning fire danger was very high and all campfires were prohibited.
Once back at the Dorsey Trail
and Kelsey Spring Trail
junction, turn right and follow the Kelsey Spring Trail
back to your car. The last half mile is very steep and if doing this run as a day run, it is a tough go.