When I first moved to Arizona from Northern California, I thought I'd miss the pine trees and great outdoor activities of the Lake Tahoe area. Once we settled in Scottsdale we were invited to Flagstaff for a weekend. Fell in love with the town and surrounding areas and ended up with a summer cottage at Forest Highlands. The best of both worlds - two outstanding highly ranked golf courses while on property and outstanding hiking in and around the town of Flagstaff.
One of my personal favorites is the West Fork hike down highway 89 towards Sedona in the Oak Creek Canyon. The best way to enjoy this hike is to get there early. It's a very popular hiking area and the parking lot quickly gets full.
At the head of the trail are remnants of an early settlement, including a very old apple orchard. This was the site of the Mayhew Lodge which was abandoned many years ago and finally destroyed by fire. Stone flooring and walls remain, plus a unique storage area built into a cave. This is the official start of the trail which meanders through the trees next to the Oak Creek for about three miles. At the three mile point the canyon narrows to the point that any further travel would have to be in the creek. I think they refer to this as Canyoneering at this point.
Take along a hiking stick as you are required to cross the creek several times and the rocks are quite slippery. Unless you want to get your feet wet, use the stick to help you keep your balance. We've done this hike in the winter also and the creek is iced over in many areas as there is very little sunshine getting through the covering of trees.
It's hard to describe the beauty of the red and white cliffs that dominate this hike. The reddish/orange rock is Coconino sandstone and the white is Kaibab limestone. There are many signs of erosion on the walls of the canyon that form beautiful shapes and caves. Although the creek water level is quite low most of the time, it still provides a cool, refreshing atmosphere as you walk on the trail among wild flowers, butterflies and large fields of ferns.
To reach the West Fork hike you can start in Sedona or Flagstaff on Highway 89A and go to mileposts 384 and 385. The official car park is the Call O' The Canyon and there is a daily parking fee. It's a very level trail and suitable for children. It is a place the whole family can enjoy. We always take a picnic lunch and sit among the ruins next to Oak Creek among the Mayhew Lodge ruins to enjoy it. What a great way to get great exercise in a tranquil setting.
Click for more information about the hike.