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West Fork of Oak Creek - Coconino National Forest

Summary: Most people just do the nice stroll along the trail from the lower end of the West Fork of Oak Creek. More serious canyon hikers can walk the length of the canyon, a task which involves much rock hopping, wading and a swim or two. If attempting the latter be aware: you are not supposed to camp in the lower 6 miles of the canyon (it's a wilderness study area), no open fires are allowed, the water is cold - you will likely want a wet suit in all but the hottest weather, a hiking stick will help for balance, you will need to spot a car.
Directions: Lower: From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Sedona (exit for 179). Turn left on 179 and follow it through the town of Oak Creek to Sedona. At the 'T' intersection turn right onto Highway 89A and follow it up Oak Creek Canyon just past mile marker 385 to the Oak Creek Trailhead which is on the left (west). Parking is currently $7 per car, be aware that a Red Rock pass is not valid towards this fee. Also note that the gate to the parking area is locked at 8pm.
From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Flagstaff. Head west on I-40 to the first exit (Flagstaff Ranch Road, exit 192). Turn left at the bottom of the exit ramp, drive a short distance to a 'T' intersection and turn left. After a couple miles you'll come to a stop sign, turn right onto Woody Mountain Road (Forest Road #231) which becomes a well graded dirt road shortly thereafter. Drive for 18.1 miles to where the road crosses the Left Fork of Oak Creek.
Road Conditions: Lower: Passenger Car
Upper: High Clearance Vehicle
Navigation: Easy, just follow the stream
Length: ~14 miles for the entire canyon or just hike as far as you want for an out and back trip. Plan on 9-13 hours to hike the full length.
Date Hiked: July 2004 (latest)
Weather Conditions: Rainy
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the lower car park and trailhead, pick up the West Fork Trail (#108) as it leads over a bridge and past the remnants and apple grove of the Mayhew Lodge, a resort which opened in 1926 and destroyed by fire in 1980. The path then bends right and heads up Oak Creek Canyon. In this section in the summer you'll likely see many people, some who have come to fish and others to swim. The path is flat and easy and the dense trees provide welcome shade from the harsh desert sun. The trail lasts about 3 miles and crosses the stream several times. Those who have good balance and want to keep their feet dry should be able to hop rocks at each of these crossings. The path ends at a mandatory wade through a fairly narrow canyon in the Supai Sandstone, this is the turn around point for most people. The more adventurous can continue exploring upstream where there are short stretches of trail, but more often travel consists of rock hopping, wading and pushing through vegetation. The further upstream you go, the less defined the route becomes. In the upper reaches of the canyon there are several deep wades and a couple swims. Make sure you stay left at the junction with Cassner Cabin Draw (it actually looks like a bigger drainage than the West Fork), then turn right at the next drainage you come to (left is just another fork in the upper portion of the creek). Towards the upper most part of the creek you will encounter a use trail which leads the rest of the way to where the creek crosses FR #231.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author has walked the entire length of the canyon as well as done several shorter excursions from the lower trailhead.
Maps: West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon: Lower, Upper
Books: Canyoneering Arizona - Tyler Williams
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Six views of the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.