I have heard about, read about, and seen gorgeous photos of the famous West Fork Trail of Oak Creek near Sedona, Arizona, for years. Roger Naylor writes about it in his book Boots and Burgers, agreeing that though it can be crowded, it is still a “mesmerizing combination of soft forest and sheer stone, intimacy and dizzying drama.”
This year I finally managed to hit the trail, and was rewarded with one of the most relaxing and beautiful hikes I’ve ever taken. We stayed at Canyon Wren Cabins, a small B&B operation right next to Oak Creek that continues to be a favorite place to get some relaxation and solitude, and also their unbelievably good homemade brownies. The West Fork trailhead is enticingly just north of the cabins. We left in the morning right after breakfast to ensure parking at the Call of the Canyon Day-Use Area, which fills up quickly. We made it ahead of much of the crowds, which gave us a slightly more solitary experience to enjoy the birdcalls, the sound of the wind through the trees, and the soft sound of the creek, low and calm on this spring morning, gently flowing over the rocks.
The creekside hike is very easy, more like a stroll through the trees, as there is very little up and down to deal with. The only small challenge is selecting the right rocks to step on to keep your feet dry over the several small creek crossings. It’s even easier, though, if you wear hiking sandals that allow you to just wade right through the shallow water. I waded across a few times next to a bulldog who was enjoying the walk as well.
The maintained trail ends a little over 3 miles in, as the canyon closes in around the creek. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, wade into the creek around the bend and enjoy more quiet and privacy, and even more striking scenery. That water sure was cold, but it was worth it! You can follow the creek as far as 14 miles in, keeping in mind you will have to wade, boulder hop, and possibly swim. Also remember you have to travel all those miles on the way back too! Someday I would love to hike the West Fork in its fall-foliage glory, which is what you always see pictured in books and articles. This is a hike I wouldn’t mind repeating.
Roger Naylor recommends rewarding yourself post-hike at Garland’s Indian Gardens Café & Market down the road, but this time we stopped in at Oak Creek Brewery’s Grill in Tlaquepaque, and enjoyed their delicious fish and chips plate along with some of their excellent beers.