Hiking West Fork Trail in Sedona: A Guide

Hiking West Fork Trail in Sedona: What to Know Before You Go

If you’re looking for a hiking trail that offers stunning scenery and a chance to escape the crowds, West Fork Trail in Sedona is definitely worth considering. This trail is known for its 13 river crossings, a subway tunnel climax, and a fraction of the visitors found on other popular hikes in Sedona. It’s a fantastic way to explore Oak Creek and immerse yourself in nature.

The West Fork Trail is a 6-7 mile trek that takes you through a beautiful side canyon. As you hike, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery, towering canyon walls, and the sound of the babbling creek. The trail is relatively easy, making it accessible for hikers of all skill levels. Along the way, you’ll find picnic tables, toilets, and trash cans available for use. It’s the perfect place to get lost in nature and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Getting to the Trailhead

If you’re planning to hike the West Fork Trail in Sedona, AZ, getting to the trailhead is the first step. Here’s what you need to know:

Directions

The West Fork Trailhead is located about 10 miles north of Sedona. To get there, take Highway 89A north from Sedona and turn left onto Forest Road 89A. Follow the signs for the West Fork Trailhead, which will be on your left. The road is paved for the first few miles, but then turns into a dirt road.

Parking Area

The parking area at the West Fork Trailhead is large, but it can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and holidays. The parking fee is $11 per vehicle, and you can pay with cash or credit card. There are restrooms and picnic tables available at the trailhead.

It’s important to note that the parking area is the only designated parking for the West Fork Trail, and parking along the road is not allowed. If the parking area is full, you will need to find another trail to hike or come back at a different time.

Once you’ve parked your car, you’ll need to walk a short distance to the trailhead. The trailhead is clearly marked and easy to find.

Understanding the Trail

If you’re planning to hike the West Fork Trail in Sedona, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into. This trail is a popular destination for hikers of all skill levels, but there are a few things you should know before you hit the trail.

Elevation Gain

The West Fork Trail has a total elevation gain of about 400 feet, which makes it a relatively easy hike. However, there are a few sections of the trail that are steeper than others, so be prepared for some uphill climbs. The trail is mostly flat and follows the creek, which makes it a pleasant and scenic hike.

Trail Features

One of the highlights of the West Fork Trail is the stunning canyon that you’ll be hiking through. The canyon walls are made up of towering rocks and formations that are sure to take your breath away. The trail also follows the creek, which means you’ll be crossing the creek multiple times. Be prepared to get your feet wet!

The West Fork Trail is a 7.2-mile round-trip hike, so make sure you’re prepared for a few hours on the trail. There are plenty of places to stop and rest along the way, and you’ll want to take your time to enjoy the scenery.

Overall, the West Fork Trail is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Sedona. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll, this trail has something for everyone. So grab your hiking boots and get ready to explore one of Sedona’s most beautiful trails.

What to Bring

When planning your hike on the West Fork Trail in Sedona, it’s important to make sure you bring the right gear with you. Here are some essential items to consider bringing with you on your hike.

Appropriate Footwear

Wearing the right shoes is important for any hike, but especially so for the West Fork Trail, which involves crossing the creek multiple times. You’ll want to wear waterproof shoes that can handle getting wet. Hiking boots or trail shoes with good grip are also recommended, as the trail can be rocky in places.

Photography Equipment

If you’re planning on taking photos during your hike, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure to bring a camera that you’re comfortable with and that can handle the lighting conditions you’ll encounter. A wide-angle lens can be helpful for capturing the expansive views along the trail.

You may also want to consider bringing a tripod to help stabilize your shots, especially if you plan on taking long exposure photos of the creek or waterfalls.

Other items to consider bringing with you on your hike include:

  • Water and snacks to keep you fueled during the hike
  • Sunscreen and a hat to protect you from the sun
  • A map or GPS device to help you navigate the trail
  • Insect repellent to keep bugs at bay
  • A first aid kit in case of any injuries

By bringing the right gear with you on your hike, you can ensure that you’re prepared for whatever the trail may throw your way. With the right shoes, camera, and other essentials, you’ll be able to fully enjoy all that the West Fork Trail has to offer.

Navigating the Trail

When hiking West Fork Trail in Sedona, it’s important to know what to expect on the trail. Here are some tips to help you navigate the trail:

River Crossings

One of the unique features of West Fork Trail is the 13 river crossings along the way. The water can be ankle-deep or waist-deep depending on the season, so be prepared to get wet. Wear water shoes or sandals and bring a towel to dry off. Consider bringing a waterproof bag to keep your belongings dry.

The Narrows

The Narrows is a section of the trail where the canyon walls narrow and the stream becomes a little deeper. The trail becomes rocky and uneven, so watch your step. The canyon walls provide some shade, making this a great spot to take a break and cool off on a hot day.

Subway

The Subway is the climax of the West Fork Trail. It’s a natural rock tunnel that you can walk through. The tunnel is about 10 feet high and 20 feet long. The water can be waist-deep, so be prepared to get wet. The Subway can be slippery, so be careful when walking through it.

Points of Interest

When hiking the West Fork Trail in Sedona, there are several points of interest to keep an eye out for. Here are a few highlights:

Oak Creek

One of the main attractions of the West Fork Trail is the opportunity to cross Oak Creek multiple times. The creek is surrounded by beautiful red rock formations and lush greenery, making for a picturesque backdrop as you make your way along the trail. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear as the rocks in the creek can be slippery.

Mayhew Lodge

Located near the trailhead, Mayhew Lodge is a historic building that was once a popular destination for Hollywood actors and other celebrities. Today, the lodge is closed to the public, but you can still admire the rustic architecture and snap a few photos from the outside.

Canyon Walls

As you make your way deeper into the canyon, the walls will start to rise up around you, creating a narrow and dramatic passage. Keep an eye out for unique rock formations and hidden alcoves along the way. The towering walls also provide some welcome shade on hot summer days.

Overall, the West Fork Trail offers a variety of points of interest to keep you engaged and entertained throughout your hike. From the tranquil beauty of Oak Creek to the stunning canyon walls, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Practical Information

Hiking Fees

Before you start your hike on the West Fork Trail, you need to know that there is a fee to enter the area. As of June 2023, the fee is $11 per person. This fee is payable at the trailhead and is good for one day of hiking. You should bring cash with you as there is no credit card payment available.

Red Rock Pass

If you are planning to hike in the Sedona area, you need to know about the Red Rock Pass. The Red Rock Pass is required for parking at most trailheads in the area, including the West Fork Trailhead. The pass costs $5 per day or $15 for a weekly pass, and it can be purchased at the trailhead or at the Sedona Visitor Center. If you plan to hike multiple times in the area, it may be more cost-effective to purchase an annual pass for $20.

Parking

The West Fork Trailhead parking lot can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and holidays. If you arrive later in the day, you may need to park along the road leading to the trailhead. However, be aware that parking along the road is not allowed in some areas, and you may be ticketed if you park in a no-parking zone. To avoid any issues, it’s best to arrive early in the morning or on a weekday.

Hiking with Families

If you’re planning to hike West Fork Trail with your family, there are a few things you should know to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Trail Difficulty

West Fork Trail is considered an easy to moderate hike, making it a great choice for families with children. The trail is mostly flat, and the river crossings add a fun element for kids. However, the trail can get crowded, especially on weekends and holidays, so plan accordingly.

Trail Length

The trail is approximately 6.4 miles round trip, which can be a bit much for younger children. You can turn back at any point if you feel your family has had enough. There are plenty of scenic spots along the way where you can stop and take a break or have a picnic.

What to Bring

Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, especially if you have young children who may get hungry or thirsty along the way. Wear comfortable shoes with good traction, and dress in layers as the temperature can vary throughout the day. Don’t forget sunscreen and hats to protect your family from the sun.

Safety Tips

Stay on the trail and keep an eye on your children at all times, especially near the river crossings. The rocks can be slippery, so take your time and use caution. Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for wildlife, including snakes and spiders.

Wildlife and Nature

When hiking the West Fork Trail in Sedona, you will be surrounded by beautiful and diverse wildlife and nature. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Wildlife: The trail is home to a variety of wildlife, including birds, squirrels, lizards, and snakes. You may also spot larger animals such as deer and javelina. Be sure to keep a safe distance from any wildlife you encounter and do not attempt to feed them.
  • Desert Plants: The trail is lined with a variety of desert plants, including cacti, yucca, and agave. Some plants may have sharp thorns, so be careful when walking off the trail.
  • Oak Creek: The trail follows Oak Creek, a beautiful and refreshing waterway that offers stunning views and a chance to cool off on a hot day. Be sure to respect the creek and pack out any trash you bring in.
  • Weather: The weather in Sedona can be unpredictable, so be prepared for sudden changes in temperature and weather conditions. Bring plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
  • Leave No Trace: As with any outdoor activity, it is important to leave the trail and surrounding nature as you found it. Pack out all trash, stay on the designated trail, and avoid disturbing any wildlife or plants you encounter.

The West Fork Trail offers a unique and beautiful hiking experience in the heart of Arizona’s stunning natural landscape. By respecting the wildlife and nature around you, you can help preserve this special place for future generations to enjoy.

Swimming Opportunities

West Fork Trail is an excellent hiking trail that offers several swimming opportunities in Oak Creek. The crystal-clear water of Oak Creek is perfect for swimming, especially during the hot summer months. Here are some things you should know about swimming in Oak Creek:

  • Swimming is allowed. You are allowed to swim in Oak Creek, but you do so at your own risk. There are no lifeguards on duty, so it’s important to be cautious and aware of your surroundings.
  • Water temperature. The water temperature in Oak Creek is usually around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, which can be quite chilly, especially if you’re not used to it. It’s a good idea to bring a towel and a change of clothes to warm up after your swim.
  • Water depth. The depth of the water in Oak Creek can vary depending on where you are. Some areas are shallow enough for wading, while others are deep enough for swimming. Be sure to check the water depth before jumping in.
  • Currents. The currents in Oak Creek can be strong, especially during the spring when the snow is melting. It’s important to be aware of the currents and not to swim alone.
  • Water quality. The water in Oak Creek is generally clean and safe for swimming, but it’s always a good idea to be cautious. Avoid swimming after heavy rainfall, when the water can become contaminated.

Overall, swimming in Oak Creek can be a fun and refreshing experience, but it’s important to be aware of the risks and take precautions to stay safe.

Nearby RV Camping Options & Info

If you’re planning on hiking the West Fork Trail in Sedona and want to camp nearby, there are several RV camping options available. Here are a few options to consider:

Pine Flat Campground

Located just a few miles from the West Fork Trail, Pine Flat Campground offers 56 campsites, including 44 RV sites. The campground is open year-round and offers amenities such as flush toilets, showers, and drinking water. Reservations are recommended, especially during peak season.

Cave Springs Campground

Cave Springs Campground is another option located near the West Fork Trail. The campground offers 82 campsites, including 82 RV sites. Amenities include flush toilets, showers, and drinking water. The campground is open year-round, but reservations are recommended during peak season.

Manzanita Campground

Manzanita Campground is located a bit further away from the West Fork Trail, but still within a reasonable distance. The campground offers 18 campsites, including 18 RV sites. Amenities include vault toilets, drinking water, and picnic tables. The campground is open seasonally, from May to October.

Dispersed Camping

If you prefer a more primitive camping experience, dispersed camping is allowed in certain areas of the Coconino National Forest. However, be sure to check for any fire restrictions or other regulations before setting up camp. Remember to pack out all trash and leave no trace.

No matter which camping option you choose, be sure to follow all rules and regulations to help preserve the natural beauty of the area. And don’t forget to make reservations in advance, especially during peak season.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difficulty level of West Fork Trail in Sedona?

The West Fork Trail is considered a moderate hike, with a total distance of 6.4 miles roundtrip. The trail features 13 river crossings and some sections with rocky terrain, so it is recommended to wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for some physical activity.

How long does it take to complete the West Fork Trail hike?

The average time to complete the West Fork Trail hike is around 3-4 hours, depending on your pace and how much time you spend enjoying the scenery. It is recommended to start early in the day to avoid the crowds and the heat.

What are some other nearby trails in Sedona?

There are several other hiking trails in Sedona that you can explore, such as Cathedral Rock Trail, Devil’s Bridge Trail, and Bell Rock Pathway. Each trail offers a unique experience and scenery, so it is worth checking them out if you have the time.

Is there a map available for the West Fork Trail?

Yes, there is a map available for the West Fork Trail at the trailhead. The map provides information on the trail’s route, distance, and points of interest.

When is the best time to hike the West Fork Trail in Sedona?

The best time to hike the West Fork Trail is during the spring and fall months, when the weather is mild and the scenery is at its best. Summer can be hot and crowded, while winter can bring snow and ice to the trail.

Are there any parking facilities available at the West Fork Trailhead?

Yes, there is a parking lot available at the West Fork Trailhead, but it can fill up quickly during peak season. It is recommended to arrive early in the day or carpool if possible to ensure a parking spot.

Concluding Thoughts

Hiking West Fork Trail in Sedona is an experience that you won’t soon forget. With its stunning natural beauty, challenging terrain, and unique features, this trail is a must-visit for any hiking enthusiast. Here are a few final thoughts to keep in mind before you hit the trail:

  • West Fork Trail is a popular hiking destination, so expect crowds, especially on weekends. Consider starting your hike early in the morning to avoid the crowds and enjoy the trail in peace.
  • The trail is challenging, with multiple river crossings, narrow ledges, and steep inclines. Make sure you’re prepared with sturdy hiking boots, plenty of water, and a good sense of balance.
  • Don’t forget to bring your camera! The scenery on this trail is breathtaking, with towering red rock formations, crystal clear streams, and lush greenery. You’ll want to capture every moment.
  • Finally, be respectful of the natural environment and other hikers on the trail. Pack out all of your trash, stay on the designated trail, and be mindful of noise levels.

Overall, hiking West Fork Trail is an adventure that’s well worth the effort. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, this trail has something for everyone. So grab your gear, hit the trail, and enjoy the beauty of Sedona’s natural landscape.

Charley Waters

I've traveled to 49 states and 3 provinces in Canada living in my RV full-time over many years. I've stayed just about everywhere possible. National parks, state parks, parking lots, BLM land, Independent RV parks and friends and family's driveways. I lived through a crazy Derecho windstorm in Iowa. I got stuck in a winter freeze in Texas.

Living on the road in your RV can be challenging at times. But the good times make up for the bad. I'm here to share my experience and help fellow RVers good decisions while enjoying the great outdoors and vast camping opportunities this country has to offer.

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