One of the Nicest Hikes and Red Rock Canyons in the Sedona Area

November 10, 2017


By Rose Danials

The West Fork of Oak Creek can be seen from the trail running placidly between massive red rock canyon walls. Thick vegetation complements Oak Creek in this remarkable canyon.

Recently, the Sedona Westerners’ Saturday half-day hiking group, known as the Rustlers, hiked the West Fork (of Oak Creek) trail.  It was a pleasant day, threatening to rain, but with mild temperatures and welcome relief from the hot sun.  We met at Posse Grounds Park and drove to the West Fork trailhead, which is located at the Call of the Canyon picnic area, halfway up Oak Creek Canyon.  We had all spent the summer away from organized hiking, each one doing his/her respective travel and other activities; therefore, we were all glad to be back with other members of the Sedona Westerners going on one of the first organized hikes of the 2017-2018 hiking season.   

The West Fork trail is an excellent trail for those who don’t want a challenging trail with significant elevation gain.  It is seven miles round trip and has only 750 feet of elevation gain.  The trail is flat most of the time, shaded by trees almost the entire route, and consists of hard-packed sandy soil, which makes hiking easy.  The unique aspect of the West Fork trail is that it crosses the creek thirteen times during the three-and-a-half-mile route to the end of the trail.  Hikers have placed rocks and logs at the stream crossings to enable everyone to cross by stepping on rocks and logs, instead of wading through the shallow water.  Our small group was led by Barbara O’Connor and the tailgater (who keeps accountability for the group) was Gini O’Brien.

The West Fork trail is a beautiful trail.  It takes you through a deep canyon with massive red rock walls and it parallels the West Fork of Oak Creek.  Since it parallels the creek, you are hiking through riparian habitat, which is thick with shrubs and trees and wildflowers.  Like most canyons around Sedona, there are many large Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir trees.  In addition, there are also many Gambel Oak and Big Leaf Maple trees, whose leaves carpeted the trail, once we got well into the canyon.  Due to its diversity of deciduous trees, the West Fork trail is one of the favorites in the Sedona area for viewing fall color.  Once the trees begin turning different colors in October, large numbers of people hike the West Fork trail to take advantage of the fall color spectacular found there every year. 

Local history is also apparent while hiking the trail.  The first part of the trail has an old apple orchard that is still bearing fruit.  After that, you come upon the stone walls and remnants of the Mahew Lodge, which boarded guests in the Canyon in the 1870s and later years.  Not only can you see remnants of the lodge, but also remnants of its swimming pool, chicken coop, and root cellar, are all visible beside the trail.  Many hikers stop to examine these historical relics with the help of an interpretative sign beside the trail which explains the history of the Mahew Lodge.  Well-known, among the celebrities that stayed at the Mahew Lodge, was Zane Grey, who was inspired by his visit there to write his famous Western book, “Call of the Canyon.” 

If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership.  You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, January 11, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road.  Sedona Westerners, written this week by Rose Daniels, appears every Friday in the Sedona Red Rock News.

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