Best Western PLUS Inn of Sedona
West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon
By: Lisa Peters
When it comes to Fall hikes in the Sedona, Arizona area my all time favorite hike would have to be the West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon. There has been a lot of talk about the trail possibly being destroyed by the unfortunate fire this summer. I myself was a little worried that the trail might have suffered from the flames. Thanks to our amazing firefighters who battled the fires no lives were lost, structures were saved and the fact that West Fork Trail survived with minimal damage is just icing on the cake.
Last week hikers filled the trail, photographers were out with tripods, and locals were smiling from ear to ear as colors started to peak. I am not saying you can’t see evidence of the fire, in fact there are glimpses of damage along the hike, but its minimal and in places even hard to detect. So I say, if you haven’t already, grab your hiking boots and head to Sedona!
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 serve 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. The shutterbugs out there will love it; there are awe inspiring images throughout the entire hike. I have been known to stop dead in my tracks to catch a photo of the cliffs peeking through the trees.
Beginning mid October the fall foliage is amazing and only gets better as the season goes on. Because of the popularity of this trail I highly suggest starting your hike in the early morning. The early morning hikes can be on the chilly side this time of year, a lot of the trail will be shaded, so make sure to dress appropriately. I usually wear an over shirt and a jacket that I can take off later and tie around my waist. 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 the creek make sure to take a minute and just hang out and enjoy the scenery. On my last hike there was a young man fly fishing which kept me entertained for some time. Not too far from the bridge you come into a section of the canyon were towering cliffs engulf you. You can’t help but stand there in amazement. You can see where water falls off the cliff, in fact when I last visited there you could still see water slowly running down the rocks from a rain storm early in the week.
I am a novice hiker so I always hike the first three miles of the trail.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 where you are walking! Also keep in mind that there are places on the trail where you will be crossing the creek. The rocks can be a bit slippery and I myself have taken a splash. Now I always bring extra socks!
There will be a three mile marker that marks the end of the official path and hiking beyond this point takes a very experienced hiker. I have gone a little bit past this point and realized I personally 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.
*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. To check out some of my photos of this hike click here.
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