For visitors and locals in the Sedona area who want a break from slickrock scrambling and grand vistas (unlikely!) or who just want to spend some time in the cool riparian shade of Oak Creek Canyon, the best hike to satisfy those urges is the justly popular West Fork Trail. Made famous in Zane Gray’s 1924 novel, "The Call of the Canyon," the West Fork of Oak Creek is a historic and beautiful landmark that makes for a wonderful half-day adventure.
The trail starts in the Call of the Canyon day use area, which has limited parking and very often has a line waiting to get in. There is little parking within a reasonable distance along Highway 89A, so getting to this trailhead either very early or late in the day is highly recommended. The parking lot closes at 7 p.m. Once in possession of a coveted parking space, head out on the trail following the creek and cross a bridge, which is the only civilized crossing of the day. Shortly up the trail there are the ruins of the Mayhew Lodge, which operated from 1926 through 1968.
The West Fork Trail follows the creek as far as it is passable without getting wet, which is about 3.5 miles in spring and early summer. The trail makes at least a dozen creek crossings, but all are easy to navigate. The red rock walls of the canyon tower overhead in most places, contrasting with the green stream. There is minimal elevation gain, and the route is mostly shaded, so even younger members of the group will have an easy and fun time of it. At the point where the canyon narrows to a slot, intrepid hikers may want to continue on by wading up the creek to reach the permitted backcountry camping area at least 6 miles from the trailhead.
NOTE: The trailhead sign states that the trail is 4 miles round trip. This is incorrect as it is nearly 3.5 miles one way to the end of the maintained trail.