Best Western PLUS Inn of Sedona
West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon
By: Lisa Peters
When it comes to hiking in the Sedona, Arizona area my all time favorite hike would have to be the West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon. Fall is the most popular time of year to take this hike when the beautiful red rocks and clear blue skies serves as the perfect backdrop for the vibrant fall foliage in Oak Creek Canyon, but there is no bad time of year to enjoy this hike. Well I take that back, I would not want to hike it during a heavy rainstorm.
It has been a while since I have had the availability to indulged my scenes with this hike, and I was aching for some clean crisp air, vibrant wildflowers and the painted scenery of towering cliffs against the crystal blue sky. So last Sunday I grabbed some friends and off we went. We arrived at the trail very early in the morning and was glad that I remember to layer clothing. It was a bit nippy there and let me tell you if you are planning a fall hike on West Fork you will want to do the same. When you first start the trail plenty of sunshine will warm you, but the further you get along the trees provide a great deal of shade, making those early morning hikes a bit chilly.
When you get to the bridge that crosses over the creek make sure to take a minute and just hang out and enjoy the scenery. On this last trip there was a young man Fly fishing which kept me entertained for some time. Not to far from the bridge you come into a section of the canyon were towering cliffs engulf you. You can’t help but just stand there in amazement. You can see were water falls of the cliff, in fact there was still some slowly running down from a rain storm early in the week. The shutterbugs out there will love this hike, there are awe inspiring images throughout the entire hike. I have been know to stop dead in my tracks to catch a photo of the cliffs peeking through the trees. To check out some of my photos of this hike click here.
There will be a three mile marker and just past that there is a steep climb across the wooded hillside that drops down into a stony area mid river. This marks the end of the official path and hiking beyond this point takes a very experienced hiker. I highly recommend that you if you are inexperienced do not go any farther. I have gone a little bit passed this point and realized I was not ready to handle it yet. In fact if you choose to travel all 14 miles from one end of the canyon to the other, plan to do a lot of wading and boulder hopping, and even some swimming.
This three mile hike takes you into the beautiful Canyon and stays fairly level and near the creek. You will however benefit from wearing a good pair of hiking boots. There are tree roots that you can easily trip over if you are not paying attention to were you are walking and keep in mind that there are place where you will be crossing the stream. The rocks crossing the creek can be slippery and I myself have taken a splash. Now I always bring extra socks! This is one of the most popular hikes in Arizona and can be extremely busy. I would recommend either going in the early morning or during the week.
Beginning at the end of October the fall foliage is amazing and only gets better as the season goes on. Do not be surprised on your hike if you catch a scent of apples from the old orchard nearby!
*The West Fork of Oak Creek Trailhead (Call of the Canyon Picnic Area) is operated by a concessionaire. Only the Grand Annual Red Rock Pass and the “Big Three” annual pass, (each $40.00) are accepted here, or you may pay the daily rate at the gate.