SJ's Hike of the Week: West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon Trail
Distance: 7.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 820 feet
Dog Friendly: Yes (Dogs MUST be on leash. It is posted that you could get upwards to a $5,000 fine if found otherwise).
Permit/Pass Required: Yes, it is $11 at the gate.
Getting There: See Map
Tips: The trail crosses the creek at least 13 times so I personally would recommend hiking sandals so you don't have wet socks for seven miles! The rest of the trail is mostly sand and my Teva's did great! Wear a swimsuit under your hiking clothes to take advantage of all the great swimming holes throughout the canyon. Looking for a longer trip? Backpack past the end of the trail through the creek to get to some prime dispersed camping spots!
About the Hike: This trail is an Arizona hiker's dream come true. It truly has it all - tall canyon walls and an abundance of vegetation providing a ton of shade, wildflowers, ferns, crystal clear waters and due to the price to park and the relatively small parking lot, it never feels overcrowded.
The beginning of the hike leads you down a sandy trail surrounded by ferns and ivy-covered oak trees. Eventually you will be led through what remains of the Mayhew Lodge, dating back to the early 20th century that operated as a guest retreat in the 60s. The lodge was destroyed by a fire in 1980 and what fragmented ruins remain have become part of the canyon's beautiful landscape.
From here the trail will lead you into the shady canyon. The red towering walls are almost dizzying at upwards to 1,000 feet and the creek invites an abundance of birds, butterflies, fish and wildlife to its sandy shores.
The great thing about this trail is you can stop at any point, so it truly is suitable for all levels. Should you make it to the end where the canyon narrows and the trail ends, you can head even farther if you are feeling adventurous and continue through the creek getting your feet wet.
Bring a lunch, bring a towel and bring a full day because I promise this magical place is one you won't want to leave. But when you do...please leave it better than you found it so the next person can enjoy it in all of its wonder and serenity.