West Fork is a system trail in the Coconino National Forest. Designated as Trail #108, it is well marked with signs and easy to follow.
One of the top rated trails in the American West, if there is one "must do" trail in Sedona, this is it. Whereas visitors flock to Devil's Bridge in
herd-like fashion intent on capturing a single mediocre image, professional photographers can find a never-ending stream of inspiration in the West Fork. Once you've strolled beside the pleasant little stream that ripples along the canyon floor and looked up, way up, at the dizzying cliffs that tower above it, you'll fall in love with it, too.
West Fork is fantastic throughout the year. In springtime, migrating songbirds decorate the trees with flashes of brilliance. In autumn (shown below) the canyon is ablaze with color, with red and gold leaves floating in clear reflecting pools under a canopy of solid color. In wintertime, icicles decorate from red rock overhangs, and snatches of snow persist in cool shadows. In summer the West Fork is Arizona turn idyllic, with swimming holes, wildflowers and a stunning variety of birds singing in the forest. As a matter of fact, you'll probably find a new reason to be here every time you visit.
As for the trail itself, it's an easy stroll, but you do have to cross the stream in a number of places. Usually, that involves negotiating a few strategically placed stepping stones or taking a couple of steps in shallow water. Beginning at Call of the Canyon Picnic Area (shown below) the trail is marked and maintained for the first three miles.
The trail passes through the riparian habitat along Oak Creek, crosses a bridge and then through the property of the Old Mayhew Lodge before entering the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness Area (photos below). In its day the Mayhew Lodge attracted celebrities like Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart.
Just beyond the ruins of the old lodge the trail enters a photographer's paradise. Many hikers explore beyond the end of the maintained trail. Eventually the pathway ends, the route becomes more strenuous, and you will be forced to hike in the stream bed as you continue into the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness. In our opinion this is the best part of the canyon.
If you choose to travel the entire 14 mile stretch from one end of the canyon to the other, plan to do a lot of wading and boulder hopping, and even some swimming. Please read this notice describing the strenuous 14 mile long full canyon route
between SR 89A to FR 231 (Woody Mountain Road) before attempting this rugged wilderness route.
No matter how long a hike you take here, you'll enjoy it best if you come at a time when the trail is least crowded. Mornings and weekdays are best, better yet if they're in the off-season.
When you do come, remember to take special care and leave this beautiful place better than you found it. Of course you know not to litter, but picking flowers and autumn leaves can cause just as unsightly a scar. So can short-cutting the trail or flipping rocks over in the streambed. Treat this natural treasure with the care it deserves and you'll have plenty of reason to come back and see it again and again.
FINDING THE TRAILHEAD
From Uptown Sedona take Hwy 89A north toward Oak Creek Canyon and Flagstaff. Go 9.5 miles up the canyon to milepost 384 and begin looking for the parking area on the left. You will not be able to make a left turn here, so proceed farther up the canyon to turn around.
GET THE GPS TRACK FOR EVERY TRAIL IN SEDONA INCLUDED WHEN YOU PURCHASE THE WANDERER"S GUIDE!
There is a fee to park. NOTE: arrive early! The photo below shows the line of cars waiting to get in. Once the parking area is full you will have to park up the highway and walk down. It's not uncommon for cars to be parked along the roadside as much as a mile north of the parking area.
RATED: Easy for the system trail, difficult for the full canyon
6,5 miles out and back for the system trail
565 ft for the system trail
EST. HIKING TIME
3-4 hours round trip for the system trail
BEST TIME TO GO
Yes. Must be leashed. Please pick up after your pet and pack it out.