Upper Sycan River Hike

NOTE: The Upper Sycan River area burned in Bootleg Fire of July 2021. It may be a few years before this area recovers for recreational use.

View down the stream, Upper Sycan River Hike

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 4.6 miles roundtrip (from T-Springs)
Elevation Loss: 340’
Trailhead Elevation: 5,450’
Best Season: June through September
Driving Access: Any vehicle

Plus Points
• A designated Wild-and-Scenic river canyon
• Picturesque basalt cliffs and rimrocks throughout the canyon
• Narrow streamside meadows that are ideal for relaxing or exploring
• Old growth ponderosa groves along the river
• Easy, all weather driving access to the trailhead (details below)
• Solitude is almost guaranteed here

Minus Points
• No official trail, so must follow rocky cow trails down into the canyon
• The final 100 yards is a steep scramble over rocks and brush to the river

Download (PDF, 701 KB): Photos of Upper Sycan River Hike
Download (PDF, 360 KB): Topo Map for Upper Sycan River Hike
Download (PDF, 496 KB): Road Map for Upper Sycan River Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Upper Sycan River Hike
From T-Spring, walk one mile on dirt Road 057 to a junction, where the road leaves the trees and enters a rock prairie. This is a good parking spot in summer. Turn left here on a jeep road, and follow the moist swale and aspen groves “downstream.” After a quarter mile, the swale passes through a big grassy flat. Continue on cows trails down the swale, as it becomes a broad rocky canyon.

Follow the cow trails down this rocky canyon for about 0.5 miles. As the canyon nears the river, it gets gradually steeper. Finally, the canyon pitches abruptly through a gap in the rimrock to the river below. The best hiking route is on the left (south) side here.

The last 100 yards to the river is a steep scramble over rocks and brush, but is easily negotiated with a bit of patience. Once at the river, it is like entering another world: a burbling stream, huge old growth ponderosas and steep basalt cliffs rising above. There is little sign of cow activity. The river corridor here is a wonderful place for exploring or just having lunch and resting in the shade.

Road to Trailhead
From paved Road 28, drive west on cinder Road 057 for 3.0 miles to the meadow at T-Spring. This road is well-built and can be traveled in nearly any season with a passenger car. Beyond T-Spring, Road 057 becomes a dirt track that may be muddy and impassable in springtime — so plan to park at T-Spring during the wet months.

Later in summer, when this road dries out, one can drive another 1.0 miles on Road 057 to the first road junction and start the hike from there. Downed trees can be encountered on this last mile of road, so having a small chainsaw along can be handy.

Camping Options
If self-sufficient (with your own water and sanitation), then the meadow at T-Spring can make a nice dispersed campsite. The aspen groves are beautiful here and you’ll be almost assured of solitude. However, check the ground for bogginess before driving off the raised roadbed. The meadow gradually dries out and hardens as spring progresses, but it can be quite soft early in the season.

The nearest developed campground is the Pikes Crossing Forest Camp, about 8 driving miles southeast of the trailhead, off paved Road 30. It has six free campsites on a grassy bench above Paradise Creek, where it joins the Sycan River. Many beetle-killed lodgepole pines have been cleared around the campground. It has a pit toilet, but no drinking water, and will accommodate any size camping rig.

Agency Contact: Fremont National Forest, Paisley District, (541) 943-3114

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local federal land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 12/21/11