Arizona: Sedona, Hiking West Fork

In continuation of my last Sedona, Arizona post I’m going to be listing off some of my favorite hikes around the area. In this article we’ll be exploring West Fork Trail, a 6.6 (3.3mi each way) mile roundtrip hike that takes you deep into a canyon with several creek crossings and lots of photo-ops.

West Fork Trail lies along 89A within the Oak Creek Canyon Natural Area about 9.5 miles north of downtown Sedona. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being easy, 10 being extreme) this hike rates at about a 3.5. While it’s relatively flat throughout the hike, there are thirteen creek crossings that can take some coordination to get over without stepping into the water. During the winter the creek is predominately frozen over so it can make crossing a bit easier, but be very cautious where you step and keep in mind that the ice will be very slippery so wear proper shoes.

To access the hike, there is a designated parking lot that costs $11 for the day. There’re restrooms at the parking lot and a paved walkway that leads towards the trailhead and you’ll cross over a bridge that you can consider as your first creek crossing (making it 14 crossings). Just before you get to the trailhead, you’ll pass some remains of the original homestead (known now as Mayhew Lodge) that was constructed in 1870 by Charles “Bear” Howard as well as the apple orchard that was planted long ago. Legend has it that Howard got the nickname “Bear” after he killed five bears with only a rustic hunting knife. The structures are known as Mayhew Lodge after Carl Mayhew purchased the site in 1925 and turned the existing cabin into a working lodge that ran from 1927 to 1968. The site was then purchased by the Forestry Service and the rest is history, quite literally.

At the start of the actual trail head there will be some signs with information about the hike duration and difficulty as well as a bunch of long straight sticks that you can borrow (and return) to use as a hiking poles to aid you along your journey. During the winter, as it is now, the canyon walls will be lined with icicles dropping from the dramatic cliff faces and snow in the spots that don’t receive sun throughout the day. You being the hike by meandering down the path where you’ll find a small beach with the cliff running alongside it that’s cut through the rock creating a dramatic overhang.

FUN FACT! My fiancé and I are getting married on that little beach on February 21st, 2021! (less than 30 days! eek!)

After this little beach you’ll hit your first creek crossing, and the trail continues to wind through the canyon crossing over the creek twelve more times. After the 3 mile marker, the trail does incline steeply and then connects to another trail, but for the purposes of this post, I’m only covering the 3.3 miles (one way) that makes up West Fork.

Dogs are permitted on the trail as long as they remain on leash and while this is one of the busier hikes in Sedona (rated in the top 10 trails in the US) it’s a great hike to do with children as well as it’s relatively easy. In the above photos you can see me clambering over one of the creek crossing and my fiancé poking out from behind the tree that I was trying to use to block him from my shot in the next photo. I do not suggest doing this hike in the summer as Sedona has become overrun with tourists but if you do find yourself in the area during the winter months, definitely check this hike out as there will likely be few people on the trail.

Overall it’s a beautiful, easy hike that takes you deep into the loveliness that is Sedona’s Wilderness Area and you’ll have the opportunity to connect with nature and possibly even see some wildlife (we we’re about 20ft away from a skunk at one point). It can be rather chilly back in the canyon, and covered in snow, as it’s doesn’t receive much light throughout the day so plan accordingly.

Planning a trip to Arizona? I’m happy to help! Cheers travelers!

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