1701 Shady Lane
Sedona, AZ 86336
NF Service website
(Click all images for larger size in separate window)
The bridge shown above is close to the start of the trail. After this, you’re on your own over 13 creek crossings if you go the whole 5.2 miles, so plan on getting at least your feet wet.
I had heard this was one of the most popular trails in the Sedona area, especially in the fall for leaf peeping. See more info below on parking and be sure to get there early if you want a spot. The trail was definitely more crowded later in the day and I admit sometimes the noise and people were distracting if you are looking for peace and quiet. Regardless, it’s worth the trek!
Before you get to the water crossings, though, you’ll come across the ruins of the original homestead and Mayhew Lodge – “A cool canyon sanctuary at the confluence of two creeks.”
Recap from info sign: “In the early 1870s, when there was no road or electricity and grizzly bears still roamed Oak Creek Canyon, a hunter known as Bear Howard built the first cabin on site. Howard earned his nickname after a friend was mauled to death, an event that prompted Bear to hunt and kill every grizzly in the canyon…” Ten years after Bear built the original cabin, the Thomas family enlarged the cabin and planted apple orchards. Over time, other families homesteaded here. Zane Gray’s travels through the canyon inspired his novel, Call of the Canyon. In 1923, photographer Carl Mayhew came to work on a film of Gray’s novel. Mayhew purchased the property, added on to the existing cabin and opened Mayhew Lodge in 1926; the family operated it through 1968. The canyon resort gained fame and catered to many notable guests including Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Stewart, Walt Disney and Clark Gable.
I was really thankful to be with my local friend, Nema, who has been here several times and knew all the good spots to explore and took pictures of me to document my crossings. She said the water level was pretty low that day and we crossed the creek four times (one way) with no real problems.
True to my usual slow dawdle speed, we only went 2.4 miles in almost 5.5 hours (round trip). But look at all the things you can see along the way down little side paths. It would be ridiculous to be in a hurry here and I was really glad that Nema feels the same way!
The canyon walls were endlessly captivating with all the different shapes, textures and colors, all reflected in the calm, cool water.
See what I mean?
This is definitely not a place where “if you’ve seen one canyon wall, you’ve seen them all.”
I can’t really imagine that any such place exists, though. This guy demanded a closeup and I was glad to oblige.
Plus, the height of the trees here are mind blowing, even the ones whose roots let go of the upper ledges. The light of God was here in full force and I think we had angels accompanying us, too!
The colors popped out all over the place, but this red one really got our attention!
The lighting here was just so perfect, it really showcased both the leaves and the cliff people perfectly.
Don’t neglect the rock personalities, too. Meet Bear Rock, a pretty powerful being who I think made his way here via glacier. It may not be as easy to tell from this picture as he seemed in person, but his profile spoke bear to both of us.
And don’t forget your hiking stick, which really comes in handy on the water crossings especially.
I don’t think I would have made it without mine, but we noticed quite a few younger, still nimble folks skipping across the rocks. I am always so grateful that I can still do these kind of hikes, no matter how long it takes me or how tired I am the next day. It is one of the best blessings about my travel lifestyle to be able to see such wonders as this closeup and personal!
And because no static image can truly capture the majesty of this indescribable domain, here’s a little 2-1/2 minute video that pans around more to give an idea of the heights of these cliffs and trees, and includes the sweet sounds of the creek.
More Info on West Fork Trail:
Forest Service: Even though this is part of the Coconino National Forest, the West Fork of Oak Creek Trailhead (Call of the Canyon Picnic Area) is operated by private concessionaire. The parking fee is $10 per vehicle and believe them when they say the parking lot fills by 9:30 every day of the week. The Annual or Senior discount passes are not accepted here. There are vault toilets and picnic tables at the parking lot.
AllTrails – The description of it being heavily trafficked is right on because even though we got there before 9 am (the official opening time), the smallish parking lot was already almost full. No other parking is available nearby nor allowed on the roadside.
I finally figured out how to properly record my hikes with this app, so here’s my meandering trek: Malia’s First West Fork Trail Hike.
AZ Scenic Roads – Unruly and unforgiving, the route from West Fork’s headwaters access started out on a well-mannered path through a mixed conifer forest dripping with lichen. The route turned into a time-consuming, boulder-hopping grind during the second mile, forcing the hikers to plan every step down the canyon’s 1,200-foot descent to Oak Creek.
Trips Into History – Could be the best hiking trail in Sedona (includes info on Mayhew Lodge).