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West Fork Trail In Sedona, AZ | Ultimate Hiker’s Guide

West Fork Trail is one of the most enchanting and rewarding hikes in Sedona, AZ. The area is said to be one of the energy vortexes that Sedona is famous for.

The trail winds up the West Fork of Oak Creek, surrounding you with tall canyon walls. You will come across many spots along the hike that will take your breath away.

The canyon is bursting with life in the river and the surrounding forests along its banks. The hike is open year-round, and a great way to escape the Arizona heat during the hotter months. 

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West Fork Trail Stats:

Distance: 7.2mi

Elevation: 820ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Type: Out & back

Permit: Yes ($11 fee), First Come-First Serve

Bathroom: Yes, drop toilets at trailhead

Dogs: Yes, must be kept on leash 

Trailhead For West Fork Trail:

The trailhead for this hike is at “Call Of The Canyon Picnic Site”.  There is a booth at the entrance where a person will collect $11 for a day pass to park in the lot (Parks Passes not accepted). 

The lot is open from 9am-5pm.  But the lot is small, so plan to show up early if you want to secure a parking spot.  It is also a picnic area, so people might come and go often, if they aren’t hiking.

**Note: During the winter months, following big winter storms, the lot will close. The National Forest Service is not allowed to open the parking lot unless it is fully showing blacktop. So check with the National Forest Service to see if the lot is open following snowstorms. Winter hiking can be fun if you are prepared for winter hiking conditions.

Start Of West Fork Hike:

The beginning of West Fork Trail starts off on a paved sidewalk followed by a man-made bridge for the first river crossing.

The path shortly turns into a well-maintained dirt path bringing you down toward the creek.  From there, you turn right and head into the canyon.

River Crossings On West Fork Trail:

There are 13 river crossings along West Fork Trail.  But there are often rocks and logs strategically placed so you don’t have to get your feet wet along the hike.  But depending on the flow of the river, these improvised methods may be washed away or submerged. 

**Note: It’s always a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks, just in case you do fall in the river! Especially if you hike during the colder months of winter. Be dressed with the proper attire for hiking in winter. Or hike in sandals or water shoes that are meant for hiking like Chaco’s, Tevas, or Keens.

Along The West Fork Hike:

The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and bears a striking resemblance to Zion National Park.  With many sections of canyon carved out into semi-tubular walls just like the famous Subway hike at Zion

The trail also winds through some beautiful pine forests that were bustling with birds even in the winter.  Don’t forget to stop and look up, because the canyon walls are always changing around every corner.

The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow.

However, if there is fresh snow on the trail during the winter months, it might be best to follow a GPS (we use AllTrails mobile offline GPS maps).

But you are in a canyon, so it’s hard to get truly lost, because the trail generally follows along the river.  There is gradual elevation gain, but it almost goes unnoticed.

End Of Maintained Trail:

The trail comes to a halt when you reach a spot where the canyons narrows to a slot. The subway-like canyon walls narrow to only a dozen feet wide, with water from wall to wall. You can continue on if you wade in the creek, but many people turn around at this point. 

We visited during February, so the water was about as cold as it gets all year, so we decided to turn around at this point too.

But we were bummed. There was definitely a moment when Jake was considering going further into the canyon, even though our feet would go numb and we might not get back before dark.

So now we are left wondering what majestic scenes await those who venture deeper into this canyon.

Until next time………

Backpacking West Fork Trail:

Camping is not allowed along the maintained section of this hike.  But, if you want to backpack, you can camp 2 ¾ miles further upstream from the “End Of Maintained Trail” sign.

All visitors to West Fork Trail should follow the Leave No Trace principles. This will ensure that this natural treasure is preserved for generations.

Winter Hiking At West Fork Trail:

This hike is open year-round. But we hiked in during the winter, which required special preparation. The winter conditions are a bit more dangerous.

The trail often gets covered in snow/ice in heavily shaded areas. The water is also very cold since it is snow runoff and ice covers many areas that don’t get much sun.

Dress in layers and pack extra just in case an accident happens along the hike! Jake and I tend to wear Merino Wool as our baselayer so our clothes can wick sweat and keep us warm. Depending on the temperatures, we will have one other layer, and top it with a nano puff jacket. There are tons of great winter hiking clothes to layer.

The temperature fluctuates greatly between the sunny open areas and shady canyon areas. So it’s nice to be able to add and shed layers as needed.

We also highly suggest wearing Yaktrax for certain sections of the hike. The packed snow was extremely slippery from the repeated thaw-freeze cycles.

Takeaway | West Fork Trail In Sedona, AZ:

This is one of the best hikes in Sedona, in our opinion. We are keen on river hikes, encompassed by tall canyon walls.

Hikes like these make you realize how beautiful nature truly is. We highly suggest hiking further along on the trail if you are up for the adventure.

But honestly, there are tons of epic hikes in Sedona, including one of our other favorite hikes, Soldier’s Pass Trail to the secret cave. We hope to be back someday and can explore more of this beautiful canyon!

Enjoy West Fork Trail! 

While you are in the area, there are tons of amazing things to do in Sedona other than hiking.

Things To Pack For West Fork Trail:

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