Looking for a cool hike in Sedona? Oak Creek Canyon hiking the West Fork Trail is the place to enjoy some relief from the sun and heat of Arizona. Escape to the Coconino National Forest.
Oak Creek Canyon is a beautiful red rock canyon north of Sedona, on the scenic highway Route 89A. The West Fork trail at Oak Creek follows the creek and it’s surrounded by a beautiful forest, so lots of shade!
Oak Creek Canyon hiking trail is the perfect day trip from Sedona or Flagstaff. It’s included on my list of 12 amazing things to do outdoors in Sedona.
I hiked this trail on my own, but I saw lots of families hiking with small kids too.
The most beautiful things about this trail are the red rock canyon, shaded hiking area, and several creek crossings. Make sure your kids bring a bathing suit if they want to wade in the water of Oak Creek.
Alternatively, if you want to hike in the beauty of the sunshine and see the red rocks of Sedona I recommend hiking Little Horse Trail. For someplace peaceful with some hiking trails visit Sedona Peace Park. If you want adventure, history, and hiking check out Honanki Heritage Site.
Getting to Oak Creek Canyon
On Google Maps you can find the location listed as:
- West Fork
- Shady Lane
- Call of the Canyon Picnic Site – that’s the one I used
The parking lot (fee applies) fills up early during peak season. You can also park on the side of the road where there is sufficient room and walk to the trailhead. You still must pay a fee at the entrance but it’s cheaper than the parking lot rate.
Scroll down for detailed rate info.
From Sedona drive north on Route 89A for 10 miles. Parking area is on the left side of the road.
From Flagstaff it’s a 30 minute drive to the trailhead on Route 89A south. Watch for signage on the right.
From Phoenix it’s a 2hr 15 minute drive if you stay on I-17 until Sedona, then take Route 89A north. Personally, I would do an overnight in Sedona, or a weekend in Sedona if I were traveling from Phoenix.
Unless you are traveling in the off-season you need to get to the trailhead early for a parking space. Or hope that someone leaves just before you arrive. Look for parking along the road if the lot is full.
And I recommend you take a scenic route up to Cottonwood and then drive Route 89A to the trailhead. It adds 15 minutes to the trip, but you get away from the interstate and it’s a beautiful drive.
You get to see more of the red rocks of Sedona. Total driving time is about 2 hrs 30 minutes from Phoenix.
Oak Creek Canyon Fee
- $11 day use fee per vehicle up to 5 people
- $2 per person for any additional passengers in the vehicle
- $2 per person on bicycle or walk-in
- $2 per person for bus passengers
- Grand Annual Red Rock pass holders (costs $40 per year) get in free
Along with your credit card, be sure to bring hiking shoes that you don’t mind getting wet since there are several creek crossings on this trail. The trail ranges from sand to dirt and large rocks.
Oak Creek Trailhead
The trailhead to West Fork at Oak Creek is located at the Call of the Canyon Picnic Area, around mile marker 384.
There is a small parking lot where you pay the day fee, but parking fills up early especially on weekends. People also park along the side of the road on Route 89A near the trailhead.
At the trailhead there is a large map. I usually take a photo of the trail before I start hiking.
There are bathrooms at the trailhead.
Confusingly, when I type “West Fork Oak Creek trailhead” into Google Maps it shows me directions via Forest Road 231, which is a dirt road. Um, no Google, why don’t you show Route 89A? If you want to drive to West Fork via Forest Road 231 from Flagstaff, it will take about 90 minutes on a dirt road. But it will take you to somewhere near the middle of the trail, and not the trailhead.
Oak Creek Canyon West Fork Trail
- Distance: 6.6 miles (10.5 km) round trip
- Type of hike: Out and back
- Elevation: 800 ft (244 m)
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time: Allow 3 to 4 hours
The West Fork Trail at Oak Creek Canyon is an oasis on hot days in Arizona. The trail is mostly shaded, and it tracks along the creek which adds to the natural air-conditioning effect.
You’ll likely see a lot of butterflies along the trail – they love the purple flowers!
And you don’t need to hike the whole trail to enjoy the beauty of the canyon.
If you are bringing the kids for a hike, they will find enjoyment in wading in the creek, giant boulders, watching for birds, and looking for fish in the creek.
There are lots of places to stop for a picnic lunch by the creek with beautiful views of the canyon walls.
When you get close to the end of the trail you’ll see the sign telling you the end of the maintained trail is not far away.
If you want to camp you must hike another 2.75 miles via the creek.
Mayhew Lodge and Chicken Coop Building
The first quarter mile of the trail is sidewalk so it’s wheelchair accessible all the way to the Mayhew Lodge site and the old chicken coop building.
Mayhew Lodge started out as Bear Howard’s cabin and turned into a 2-story hunting lodge. This is where author Zane Grey was inspired to write his book Call of the Canyon, which turned into Sedona’s first movie.
When Carl Mayhew bought the building in 1925 it was a popular spot for vacationing movie stars and politicians. Guests of the lodge included Cesar Romero, Clark Gable, President Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, and Walt Disney.
Unfortunately, Mayhew Lodge burned down in 1980 and all you see are some short brick walls. But the chicken coop survived! And to the right of the chicken coop building there is a small cave marked by a doorframe, probably used for food storage.
Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive
Secondary highways are a great way to road trip and see the United States at a slower pace, often with beautiful scenery.
Highway Route 89A in Oak Creek Canyon is one such beautiful drive. It follows along the Oak Creek and the West Fork of Oak Creek is, not surprisingly, on the west side of Route 89A and Oak Creek.
The Oak Creek scenic drive consists of 15 miles of curving roadway on Route 89A, connecting Sedona to Flagstaff.
It’s a beautiful drive in spring and summer but fall is especially pretty, around mid-October to early November the foliage is stunning.
And the weather is pleasant in the fall as well, perfect time for an Arizona road trip.
Map of West Fork Trail Oak Creek Canyon
The map below shows the West Fork Trail. You can also see where you must hike to get to the camping area in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness.
It’s an additional 2.75 miles (4.5 km) hike on an unmaintained trail to get to the authorized camping and campfire area.
Cave Springs camping and Pine Flat camping areas are also on the map. Further north on Route 89A you’ll find Oak Creek Vista scenic lookout.
This map (below) is a close-up and better shows the West Fork Oak Creek trail route along with a few of the shorter trails on the east side of Route 89A.
If you have questions or tips please leave them in the comments below. Have fun hiking in Oak Creek Arizona!
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