Oak Creek Canyon Arizona, West Fork, Autumn Brilliance

The images in this set are from the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona Arizona.

Feature Image Details

Wikipedia notes “The West Fork Trail of Oak Creek Canyon has been called one of the best trails in Coconino National Forest and one of the top ten trails in the United States.”

The USDA forest service describes the trail in its literature West Fork of Oak Creek No. 108

There are a number of reasons why West Fork is one of the most popular trails on the Coconino National Forest. Once you’ve strolled beside the pleasant little stream that ripples along the canyon floor and looked up, way up, at the dizzying cliffs that tower above it, you will fall in love with it, too. West Fork is fantastic throughout the year. In springtime, migrating songbirds decorate the trees with flashes of brilliance. In autumn, the canyon is ablaze with color, with red and gold leaves floating in clear reflecting pools under a canopy of solid color. In wintertime, icicles decorate from red rock overhangs, and snatches of snow persist in cool shadows. As a matter of fact, you’ll probably find a new reason to be here every time you visit.

As for the trail itself, it’s an easy stroll, but you do have to cross the stream in a number of places. Usually, that involves negotiating a few strategically placed stepping stones or taking a couple of steps in shallow water. The trail is marked and maintained for the first three miles.

Literature says the trail is marked, but if you linger after sunset it can be difficult to find some of the crossings.

Out and back to the end of the maintained trail is about 6.5 miles according to All Trails which rates the hike “moderately challenging”. I would rate it somewhere between easy and moderately challenging. The latter because of the length and lack of clear trail signs in some key spots.

Literature says the rocks are a slippery, but Slide Rock State park (coming up next) is orders of magnitude worse. I had no problems crossing the streams on the West Fork.

Additional Images

I had a difficult time picking which of three of the vertical images to make the lead.

Oak Creek Canyon Tips

  • A sunny day is best but you do not want direct sun on the water.
  • A tripod is necessary if you want smooth flowing water and long exposures.
  • I went three times on the latest trip, twice in the afternoon and once in the morning. All of these shots were taken morning to early afternoon.
  • The park fills up early. At 8:00AM I had to park a mile away, and even then got one of the last legal slots.

All but one of these shots was all on the last day of my trip, October 28. I estimate colors peaked around October 24-28. Much of the literature I read says mid-October which definitely would have been way too early.


Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Coming Up

If you missed it, please see Oak Creek, Red Rock Crossing, Sedona Sunset also from this trip.

Coming up next is Slide Rock State park, also in the Sedona area.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

5 thoughts on “Oak Creek Canyon Arizona, West Fork, Autumn Brilliance

  1. Autumn colors were spectacular this year. Hope you had a chance to come up to Northern Utah–fantastic!

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