Sitting within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, the Oak Creek Canyon Trail can be accessed from either a small parking area down Oak Creek Road from the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive or from a free parking pullout along Blue Diamond Road. This adventure describes the trail from the Blue Diamond Road parking area.
The trail itself sticks primarily to a dry and rocky relatively-flat path that slowly rises up a shadeless slope removed from the creek bed. The trail name may be a slight misnomer, as the canyon lies straight ahead, but the main trail loops back just before entering the canyon itself.
Instead, set just over 2 miles from the trailhead is the Oak Creek Spring, a high-flowing freshwater spring that emerges into a shady pool before providing a year-round flow down the Oak Creek wash. The flash flood-prone creek is generally dry most of the year above the spring.
The trail tends to be popular with dog walkers as well as equestrians, and the further you get from the parking area, the thinner the crowds become. Shadeless and rocky, the trail remains clear to follow with multiple spurs branching off to either side - anything heading south will lead down a slope to the creek, anything heading north will eventually meet up with the Oak Creek Trailhead parking area inside RRCNCA or will lead to the park's network of trails. Joshua trees, yucca, and cholla line the trail, and the exposed hot desert environment dominates.
About 2 miles in, the trail leaves the plateau and winds its way toward the wash. A less-popular path continues up into the canyon itself, which is popular among climbers. Sticking to the main trail will drop you into the wash, where the environment changes completely to shady oaks, large flood-toppled boulders, and a lot of green, providing lots of places to sit and take a break from the relentless sun along the trail up to this point.
From the point where the trail first drops into the wash, the spring is located slightly downstream along the near edge. It may take some trial and error following other footpaths or stopping to listen for the sound of running water. The source sits beneath a shady canopy of brush, so you'll have to make your way through overgrown brush to the source of the spring. The site provides a relaxing spot to sit and watch a large steady flow of surface water in the middle of an otherwise parched creek bed. The water surfaces abundantly enough to provide flow to much of the creek downstream of the spring.
From here, retrace your path to the parking area or follow the stream for various shady spots where you can dip your feet in the water before climbing out of the wash and rejoining the trail back to the parking area.
There are no amenities of any kind at the trailhead. The nearest bathrooms and water is available at the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center for those who paid the park entrance fee.
If you are planning on finding the spring, pants are recommended for hiking through the overgrown brush surrounding the spring.