Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Recommended supplies and information:
- Bring at least 100 ounces (3 liters) of water
- Small First Aid Kit
- Trekking Pole for Balance on Logs and Slippery Rocks Across Wide Streams
- Possible Extra Pair of Dry Socks and Shoes / Sandals for Water Crossings
Approximate Trekking information:
Distance Round Trip: 7.2 miles (11.5 km)
Total Hiking Time: 4 hours
Elevation at base 5,381 ft to 5,577 ft: 196 ft Ascension Climb
Elevation at base Metrics: 1,640 meters to 1,699 meters: 59 meters Ascension Climb
Temperature for March 21, 2015: 62 F to 80 F / 16.6 C to 26.6 C
Delightfully Refreshing, Considerably Crowded
West Fork Trail is perhaps the most fun trek I’ve been on in the past year. Although the entire trail has an elevation gain of only 196 ft (59 meters), many twists and turns, water passages, and challenging log crossings make this a wonderful hike for the family. This is an ideal trail to hike in the summer months due to ample shaded areas and plenty of cool wading pools. WARNING: “You will get your feet and/or shoes wet.” As much as you may try to balance walking across the logs and stream rocks, some areas are under a few inches of water. Bring an extra pair of dry socks and/or sandals.
The Trail: Easy but Plenty of Water Crossings
Parking at the West Fork Trailhead (Call of the Canyon Trail) will be crowded during the daytime, but if you arrive early enough (I arrived at 9 am) half the parking lot will be empty on a Saturday. However, returning from the hike at around 1:30 pm, the parking lot was full. The parking fee is $10.00 and is collected at a booth by an park attendant on the way in.
The trail is well traveled and follows through the canyon along the stream the entire 3.6 miles (5.8 km). I was very impressed by the cleanliness of the trail due to the massive amounts of hikers that utilize this route per week. The trail is not well marked in some areas and can become tricky, but getting lost is impossible since there are canyon walls on both sides of the trail.
I found myself at times going off trail to find a more shallow portion of the water to walk across. Wearing my waterproof Asolo Hiking Boots helped tremendously in zipping across the streams while other hikers in sneakers were worried about getting their feet soaked. My advice would be to wear waterproof boots or sandals on account of your feet will eventually get wet on one of the 13 stream crossings.
Throughout the winding and snaking trail, many beautiful canyon wall views can be seen via openings of the pine trees. Several shaded areas are available within the dense forest and allows you to cool down when the beating sun is high above. Since I trekked West Fork Trail in March, the temperature in the shaded areas were very cool in the morning. But once the sun began creeping higher in the sky, the open terrain warmed up quick. One nice surprise, along the trail several species of newly blooming flowers beautified the trail along the way.
The Rock Formations
A wonderful portion of West Fork Trail is the interesting rock formations and incredible high cliff views. Massive rocks walls soar upward to the sky and water eroded curved stone meet the cool flowing stream throughout the trek.
A typical view of the trail can be seen by the image above. The full flowing stream runs along the base of the high canyon walls most of the hike.
Exposed by the sun in open areas, quickly the trail turns back into a shaded forest with fallen trees scattered around. Rumors of a waterfall along the trail sparked my interest, but I only came across a moderately dripping and free flowing spatter of water from the high rocks. None the less, I took a photo of it.
Nearing the end of the trail, I attempted to go off-path to gain some slight elevation to access a different perspective of the stream. My attempt failed shortly once I reached a canyon wall. However, by studying Google Earth, there are ways possibly to squeeze through one of the off-shoot ravines to make it to the top of the plateau. In the future, I may try to access one of them to make it to the top where I am told is an old forgotten dirt road of the past.
West Fork Trail is one of the most popular trails in Sedona due to its easy trail hike and amazing flowing watery areas. But with a popular trail brings hundreds of people. Starting out in the morning, the trail population was full and later in the day returning, even more people were bogging down the watery crossings. Along the entire hike there were maybe two or three times when I didn’t see any people, but other than that, other hikers were always in sight. A funny encounter with an elderly lady complained to me about her husband in regards to how he was afraid to get his feet wet.
Everyone I came across was very nice and considerate. I did see several very young children walking along or being carried by the father on the trail.
The End of the Trail
West Fork Trail winds and twists for about 3.6 miles (5.8 km). At the end of the trail a sign is posted that reads, “Maintained trail ends at narrow canyon pool ahead – hikers must continue 2 3/4 miles past this point for camping and campfires.” I went in as far as the canyon pools. The water at this level was the deepest through the trek and was about waist deep at one portion.
Final Thoughts: Crowded but Great for Families
The hefty $10.00 fee to access West Fork Trail is well worth the cost. Although I only rated this trail a 4.0, the lower score was due to the over crowdedness of the whole area. West Fork Trail has nice canyon scenery, plenty of shaded areas, and challenging obstacles along the way. I would highly recommend this trail for families with young children and for those hikers that struggle with steep arduous climbs since most of the trail is flat with very little change in elevation.
View all images of the trail:
View Complete Trekking Analysis One Way
View GPS Map and photo locations:
From Sedona, go north on Route 89A for approximately 10 miles and the trailhead will be on the left. There is ample $10.00 parking, but arrive earlier as possible on account of the popularity of the trail.
Terrain Map of West Fork Trail, Sedona, Arizona