John Guilford's Hikes
West Fork Oak Creek, Sedona on 2008-06-27
Location: West Fork Oak Creek, Sedona
People: (including myself): Pam
Start: 10:15 0
Swimming hole: 11:00
Turn Around: 1:00 3
Swimming hole: 2:30
Out: 2:45 6
This was our longest and most enjoyable hike on our Sedona visit. We heard
about the West Fork trail the previous day while on a Pink Jeep Tour and
decided to give it a go. The trail is on the northern end of Oak Creek
Canyon that leads north out of Sedona on 89A. The parking area for the
West Fork trail is clearly marked on the west side of the road.
Most places in the Sedona area require a "Red Rock Pass" for parking.
These passes can be bought in local area stores as Day Passes, Weekly
Passes, or Annual Passes. The West Fork parking lot charged a parking fee,
though the Weekly (but not the Daily) Red Rock Pass counted and allowed us
to park without paying extra.
We chose this hike for several reasons. It was a different terrain that
what we'd seen on this trip already as it followed a creek and was wetter
than our other hikes. Also, being near the top end of the canyon, it was
somewhat higher (about a thousand feet) and hence (we hoped) a bit cooler.
It was also shadier.
So with plenty of water, a lunch, and no looming deadlines, we could take
our time and enjoy this hike more than our earlier Sedona hikes.
The trail first crosses over Oak Creek on a modern bridge. For the
first part of the trail, the path is sandy and smooth. Just past the
bridge the trail passes through an old orchard and the ruins of an old
After the orchard, the trail gets more serious but remains an easy
walk. Not too far up the trail, we came to a place were the creek flows
in some deep pools often used for swimming/wading. On our way past it in
the morning, there was only one wader there, but on our return in the
afternoon, it was pretty crowded.
The trail crosses West Fork Oak Creek numerous times as it meanders up
the valley. Generally there were rocks and/or logs at the crossing points
to make it easier. We did okay on most of the crossings, though Pam did
slip on one of the first crossings and got her feet wet.
We were enchanted as we passed up the valley with the flora and
fauna we saw, including this Columbine flower, the butterfly, and several
different colors of dragonflies. At one point we even saw a heron a ways
up the creek. We only noticed it due to another couple who had stopped to
watch it. Unfortunately, it flew away before I could get my camera out.
At times we stopped for a while to take
pictures as we weren't in any hurry.
The canyon walls reared up on either side, sometimes wider,
sometimes narrower. They reminded me at times of my trip down the Zion
As we neared the end of the easily passable part of the canyon, the
trail got a bit rougher though it was still relatively easy to follow. We
started seeing more interesting patterns in the color and texture of the
rock of the side walls of the canyon.
Finally we got to the end, at least as far as we were going. This is
the point where the creek extends fully across the width of the canyon. To
go beyond this point requires wading at a minimum. According to the US
Forest Service, one can travel all 14 miles from end to end of the canyon,
but that requires wading, boulder hopping, and even swimming.
Despite it being cooler than downtown Sedona, the day was getting warm by
the time we turned around. We found a shady spot on some rocks and had
lunch. We made better time on the way out as we didn't spend nearly as
much time stopping to look at things and take pictures. As I mentioned
above, the "swimming hole" was much more crowded in the afternoon. We were
glad we went in earlier in the day when it was less crowded and quieter.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable hike and is recommended.
Bridge over Oak Creek
Swimming hole in West Fork Oak Creek
Pam, on one of the numerous crossings over West Fork Oak Creek
View of one of the canyon walls
West Fork Oak Creek and canyon wall
Blue dragon fly
Colorful rock patterns near the head end of canyon
Top of the canyon. Beyond here you need to wade.
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015