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West Fork trail #108

Updated: Jan 18, 2021



 

TRAIL GUIDE


• Distance: 6.6 miles (10.5 km) round trip

• Type of hike: Out and back

• Elevation: 800 ft (244 m)

• Difficulty: Easy

• Trailhead GPS: N 34˚59.434', W 111˚44.587'

• Fee: $11 per vehicle. This fee is separate from national parks pass and from the regular Red Rock Pass.   -2$ walk/bike in

-Grand Annual Red Rock pass holders (costs $40 per year)

• Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash and waste carried out.

-There is up a $5000 extortion fee for letting dogs off leash.

• Time: Allow 3 to 4 hours

• Camping: Allowed 6 miles in from trailhead.


The official trail ends around 3.3 miles in but the path continues for another 11 miles to Forest Road 231.


 

The West Fork trail treats visitors with an enchanting stroll along the west branch of the Oak Creek. The creek gently ripples along the canyon floor creating reflecting pools along the way. With colorful cliffs that tower above and surrounds the perennial creek the Canyon bares a striking resemblance of Zion national park. The exposed rocks around the creek-bed in the lowest part of the Canyon are deep red in color, and high above are yellow-tan or off-white layers of Coconino sandstone. The rocks in the creek bed are thin and stratified and have been eroded into interesting geometric shapes. In some locations around the creek-bed the water has carved half-moon tunnel passages similar to the famous Subway of Zion National Park.


With the soaring red-orange, gold-tone towering canyon walls and the leafy riparian thoroughfare, the West Fork trail creates conceivably, the best western autumn color experience under western skies.


 

The Hike

The West Fork Trail starts at the picnic area crossing the fern filled meadow and then crosses a footbridge. After crossing the bridge, the trail turns left through another field, next to an orchard, and then to the fragmentary remains of the Mayhew Lodge. Western writer Zane Grey's novel “Call of the Canyon“ was inspired by his travels through the canyon. In 1923, parts of the film was shot at the location, which is the name sake for the trail head parking area. The lodge remained in operation until 1968, when the Forest Service acquired the property. In 1980, a fire burned the lodge leaving only the fireplace, some of the stone walls, and the chicken coop.


Continuing from the Mayhew Lodge the trail enters the majestic canyon. The trail is an relatively easy stroll, but walking in the deep sand is somewhat tiresome and monotonous. Some agility is needed to cross the stream, and this usually involves navigating across a few stones and logs to stay dry. With 13 creek crossing, poles saved me a few times from swimming in the cold water. The trail is well marked for the first three miles. However, like many hikers we continue well beyond that point. We hiked in about 5.7 miles from the trailhead, and only stopped so my 6 year would still be able to hike out. Some other hikers informed us that the path eventually ends around 7 miles, and to hike the entire 14 mile canyon requires hiking in the creek bed, wading, and swimming.


West Fork of Oak Creek is a spectacular canyon and worth the effort to visit. With the beautiful towering canyon walls and autumn foliage ablaze, sealed the deal that we will be returning here for years to come. I simply can not wait to experience the Canyon in all four seasons.

 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3806979.pdf


Special Considerations


Summer, spring break, and autumn colors is considered peak season for Sedona. Mornings and weekdays are the time best times to visit and are best if they are in the off-season. During peek season the parking lot fills up extremely early, so have a back up hike in case the lot is full. With so many amazing hikes close by there is no reason to waste time sitting in a line. Poison oak, ivy, bugs and snakes are common along this trail. Sleeves, pants, and waterproof shoes are recommended.


Camping is allowed 6 miles from the trail head. However, if you want / need a came fire, that is prohibited in the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon. Backpacking stoves or propane stoves are allowed. The canyon is heavily shaded and even on a hot day it may still seem cool. This trip should only be attempted in hot weather June- Sept. The canyon is clearly a flash flood area, so special consideration is needed during the monsoon season. Do not attempt the trip if flood conditions are predicted!!!

 

Winter Visit

Winter is the slowest time of year in Sedona, and when we arrived at the trail head on a cold Wednesday morning in December the parking area was fairly empty. The trail was frozen and slippery, and the icy creek crossings were very challenging. Hiking poles made crossing the creek possible, and they kept us from joining the polar bear club. If you have mobility issues or hiking with very young children I recommend not hiking the West Fork Trail in the winter.

Winter time gives the trail a whole new look and feeling. The high contrast between the red-orange towering canyon walls and blue sky was further amplified by the pristine white snow.



This is the children’s first experience with videography. Sadly, I deleted the videos from the action camera before they had the video the way they wanted it.

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