Though Pumphouse Wash is in Coconino National Forest, jurisdiction is split between Flagstaff and Sedona.
Those aforementioned cliffs also provide plenty of shade, keeping the canyon cool, even on a warm fall day. Be prepared to spend at least four hours exploring the wash. Hiking over boulders equals slow going.
Walk on Water
Pumphouse Wash empties into Oak Creek approximately 5 miles downstream. You’ve seen the Pumphouse Wash sign at the bridge 14 miles north of Sedona in Oak Creek Canyon, right? That’s where our hike ended. It began along AZ-89A at the top of the canyon. What tributaries feed Pumphouse Wash? That would be Kelly Canyon, James Canyon and Griffith’s Spring, all worthy of exploration.
Because the pools along the canyon floor are shielded from the wind by sheer cliffs – some as tall as 1,000 feet – the water is still. It’s a photographer’s paradise.
Depending on the time of year, you might be required to swim through Pumphouse Wash’s pools. During our fall hike, we crossed fewer than a dozen, and only one required us to don our water shoes, but make sure you are prepared before you explore this area. Carrying a waterproof backpack or wrapping yours in a plastic bag is also recommended.
In Sedona, everything is better in October. Daytime temperatures slowly start to drop and the summer monsoon storms dissipate. It’s also an ideal time to explore Pumphouse Wash in Oak Creek Canyon. Five miles of boulder hopping rewards you with still pools of water – some that require wading – along with colorful foliage, brilliant blue skies, a frog or two and lots of solitude.
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