No trip to Sedona (or Flagstaff for that matter) is complete without a stop at the beautiful West Fork of Oak Creek Trail.
The trailhead is easily accessible from the main road 89A that connects Sedona to Flagstaff, Arizona.
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Where is West Fork Sedona located?
Depending on where you're staying in either town, it's an easy and extremely scenic 30 minute drive. If you're visiting West Fork from Flagstaff you'll descend into the valley and enjoy spectacular views on the way down.
Conversely, if you're attempting this trail from Sedona it's worth driving another 10 minutes north past the trailhead entrance so you can enjoy views from the Oak Creek Vista.
After ascending several switchback roads you'll see signs for the pull off. The views are well worth the detour!
If you choose to visit - like many locations in Sedona the parking situation here isn't great. You'll pay $11 for a vehicle day use pass and on a nice day you may have to circle the lot more than once to find a spot.
The ideal strategy is to start your day with this hike to beat the crowds. We arrived around 7:45am on a nice April Sunday morning and were able to snag one of the few remaining parking spots.
Oak Creek Vista Views are Worth a Quick Detour
Be sure to budget some time to stop at the Oak Creek Vista after your visit to West Fork. The views are spectacular and there are usually Native American vendors selling crafts at this location - it's a great place to pick up some souvenirs.
The drive up to the vista (which is conveniently located along 89A) offers tons of scenery along the way. Make sure you pull off to really soak in the views!
About West Fork of Oak Creek Trail
The West Fork Trail is a 6.6 mile out and back hike that takes you along a creek that forks off to the west from Oak Creek (perhaps also making it the least creatively named destination in the area)!
Unlike many hikes in the Sedona area, this one offers substantial tree cover so while arriving early is ideal to avoid parking issues, the tree cover means it's a viable hiking option for those hotter and sunnier days.
You'll find plenty of bathroom facilities at the trailhead parking lot - and as a reminder even though the trail offers shade be sure to bring plenty of water! The trail is flat and well maintained which means it's suitable for hikers of all ability levels.
You can even bring dogs on this trail assuming they're on a leash. If you're looking for additional trail information, visit AllTrails (link here) and read what other hikers have said!
West Fork has 26 Creek Crossings
I'm always a proponent of having good footwear when you're going for hikes even when the terrain is well maintained. If nothing else it makes for a more comfortable experience. In this case, having shoes that are at least somewhat water resistant is a huge plus.
When it comes to West Fork - be mindful that you'll need to make a total of 26 creek crossings if you go the entire 3.3 miles each way (13 crossings in each direction).
Fortunately most of these crossings are fairly easy if you're comfortable crossing the makeshift bridges others have assembled over the years.
When we visited in April the water levels were low enough that all of the make shift bridges allowed us to cross every time without getting wet. If you miss a step or water levels are high, you might end up with wet feet.
It might be worth packing (at least in your car) a back up plan whether that's water shoes, a dry pair of socks or a second pair of shoes altogether. Take your time and you'll be fine, but it's something to be aware of going in!
Mayhew Lodge Ruins of West Fork
Along the way you'll come across ruins from an old lodge that served guests from the early 1900s. You'll come across the remnants of several old buildings fairly early on in the hike. They're located near the trail so you won't have to worry about missing them.
Take a few minutes to meander through the ruins and soak up some of this areas history. Staying in these rustic buildings in the early 1900s must've been an awesome way to experience the Coconino National Forest!
Between the creek crossings, historical ruins, dense forest and sheer cliff walls the West Fork trail offers a unique experience relative to other hikes in the Sedona area.
Don't feel obligated to do the entire 6.6 miles!
A nice thing to know about the West Fork Trail is that even though it's a moderately lengthy 6.6 miles if you go the full distance - you really don't have to if you're pressed for time.
I say that because once you've gotten a mile or so in, the scenery doesn't change a whole lot and you've already passed the points of interest along the way such as the ruins.
While the trail continues to offer amazing views of the sheer canyon walls as the creek winds through the valley, it doesn't really change too much.
Once you've had your fill feel free to turn back, there isn't a notable point of interest at the end like many other trails. If 6.6 miles is too long for you, feel free to pick a length that suits you!
There are tons interesting rock formations along the way. In a few places you'll find massive boulders - look up at the cliff wall above and it's clear where they came from! Could you imagine being nearby when a boulder that massive came tumbling down?
Hopefully this post serves you well if you're planning a trip to Sedona. If you do visit the West Fork Trail, be sure to come back and let us know what you thought!
Looking for more Sedona ideas?
Be sure to check out my post on visiting the Crescent Moon Ranch area if you haven't already. It's a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon taking in views of Cathedral Rock or swimming in Oak Creek. If you do a longer hike such as West Fork (or check out my Devil's Bridge Guide) in the morning, this area is a nice same day afternoon activity since it's less strenuous.
Looking for a more comprehensive Sedona travel guide? I've put together a list of top activities to do around Sedona you can read here. Also be sure to check out my full length Sedona Travel Guide available on YouTube.
Don't forget to pack a towel, bathing suit, water and plenty of sunscreen if you plan to spend the day hanging out here! Outside of bathrooms near the parking lot, there aren't really any other facilities so you'll need to bring food and other critical supplies as well.