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Bushnell Tank

Sycamore Creek
Coral along the trail to Bushnell Tank
Bushnell Tank
Sycamore Creek
Bushnell Tank: Map
Hiking along the Bushnell Tank trail
Sycamore Creek
Hiking along the Bushnell Tank trail
Bushnell tank: Elevation plot


How to Get There
This hike is located near Payson, AZ.

To get to the trailhead: From the Phoenix area, take HWY87 North, leaving the city limits. After you pass the intersection with Gilbert road you'll stay on HWY87 north for about 36 miles until you reach the town of Sunflower. Soon after this, keep an eye out on your right for the signed Bushnell Tanks exit. It's a very short drive on a well graded gravel road to the closed gate. Park here. Although the path is closed to vehicles, non motorized travel such as hiking is OK.
Superstition and Mazatzal Wilderness

Hike details

6.50 [Miles] Total
Hike Distance- Details
The hike described is 6.5 miles round trip to Bushnell Tank and back
2.50 [Hours]
We were hiking for 2.5 hours to get to the water tank and back.
Elevation Change
200 Total gain/loss [Feet]
Elevation Details
About 200 ft elevation gain.
Hike Trail Type
Out and Back
Special Features


Best Season
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • October
  • November
Season Details
Spring after the snow melts has the best chance of enjoying water in Sycamore creek while fall gives you autumn colors.
Date Hike completed
October 28, 2021


Solitude Details
Excellent. On a midweek day we had this trail all to ourselves.


Difficulty Rating
difficulty detail
This was a pretty easy walk, with the only tricky part being the creek crossings. The out and back described here is a Moderate difficulty hike.


Be Aware of
Cattle, creek crossing, some routefinding

Hike along the trail to Bushnell Tank near Sunflower, Arizona.

The road to Bushnell Tank (FR22) was a well loved 4x4 road for many years. Unfortunately, the area suffered greatly as a result of some irresponsible 4x4 drivers and the forest service decided to close the road in 2005. Thankfully this dirt road is still open for hikers, so the loss of the 4x4 drivers is the gain of the hiker. It is unknown how long this closure will last, so I'd recommend giving this hike a try before it reopens to vehicle traffic.

From the gate closing the road, follow along the well trod dirt road. After about 0.3 miles, there is a signed junction to the right for hiking (and connects with the Arizona trail - JCT_1L on the map). You'll stay left here. This section of trail is particularly pleasant, as you'll enjoy an abundance of sycamore and cottonwood trees. You may also enjoy water in Sycamore creek if you've timed your hike well. This makes the hiking more pleasant, but there will be some creek crossing as a result. Our experience with water in the creek was that it wasn't too difficult to keep your feet dry rock hopping across the creek. In autumn, this is a good place to enjoy some fall colors.

After about 2 miles of hiking, you'll reach an unsigned fork in the road. Stay left here (JCT_2L on the map). After a bit, you'll see a coral on your left that's worth exploring a bit. After another 0.3 miles, you'll reach another road junction (JCT_3R on the map). Stay right here to continue towards Bushnell Tank.

You'll reach Bushnell Tank after 3.2 miles of total hiking. The tank is by far the largest I've ever seen and it is quite interesting to see how they've used it to fill multiple troughs for cattle. It makes for a good turn around point for the hike.      

Speaking of cattle, you may run into some on this trail. Be sure to give them a wide birth. When ready, return the way you came.


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