Sandys Canyon is a great spot for casual climbing, hiking, or mountain biking. If you aren’t sure how you want to spend a sunny afternoon, why not enjoy some multi-sport fun? The trail starts from Canyon Vista Campground and connects with the Arizona Trail after only 1 mile, making a good turnaround point or gateway to a much longer hike. A short drive down Lake Mary Road gets you here, so it is great for even a short outing. You can use Sandys Canyon to get to other classic area destinations like The Pit, Fisher Point, Walnut Canyon, and Marshall Lake.
What Makes It Great
The trail rewards immediately with views of the distant San Francisco Peaks and the near sandstone cliffs of Walnut Canyon. These cliffs make up a rock climbing hotspot known as The Pit. Walk towards the rock across an open meadow, then turn left where it forks to follow the canyon rim. You will traverse above a rugged boulder field of volcanic talus, strewn by ancient eruptions. The trail passes this and descends into the canyon, where it meets the Arizona Trail. This is the end of Sandys Canyon, but getting here takes only a short time, so you might as well extend your hike/ride to some more natural scenery.
Turning left on the Arizona Trail gets you to Fisher Point and the head of Walnut Canyon. From the grassy junction, it is a 1-mile climb to outstanding views on Fisher Point. Or you can walk 100 yards toward the pink sandstone cliff and explore caves beneath it. A faint trail continues past here into Walnut Canyon, and you can follow it as far as you desire, exploring more geologic oddities and lush, secluded forest.
Another option is to turn right at the junction with Arizona Trail. This will take you uphill to the opposite rim of the canyon, then along the top through miles of open forest toward Marshall Lake, where more expansive views of the Peaks await.
Who is Going to Love It
Climbers are used to coming here for The Pit, and they can be seen scaling the walls on nearly any given day. Mountain bikers use Sandys Canyon to access the Arizona Trail midway between Fisher Point and Marshall Lake, making for a shorter ride to one or the other. Campers at Canyon Vista take this trail for a morning stroll. Casual hikers often miss this spot because it is simply labeled ‘Canyon Vista Campground’ from the road, but you don’t have to camp here to enjoy the hike. There is free day-use parking outside the gate; simply walk through the campground to begin the trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Take Lake Mary Road south out of Flagstaff. After about 6 miles, there will be a sign for Canyon Vista Campground on the right, indicating a left turn. Turn left onto the gravel road and park in the first lot you reach, outside a gate. This is the free area. Parking inside the gate requires paying the campground fee. Walking or biking the road through the campground is allowed, just be sure not to disturb the campers.