September 27, 2011

West Fork Trail

Fall is bursting through in Arizona, making way for my favorite hiking season. September is typically the worst weather month in the desert lowlands (see: Our Tripping Mystery), but fall comes earlier in the higher elevations with temperatures in the 70s to 80s Fahrenheit. Sedona is a beautiful fall hiking destination with fall foliage colors reflected in the prominent red rocks. Oak Creek Canyon is a gorgeous place to put you in a fall mood, especially with the apple orchards near Slide Rock State Park and homemade cider sold at roadside stops. Every fall, typically the first weekend in October, the state park has an Apple Festival at the site of the Pendley homestead and apple orchard. Unfortunately, due to state budget cuts, the Slide Rock Apple Festival was cancelled in 2010 and is again cancelled for 2011. The good news is that there are still apple trees in the canyon, and you can pretty much help yourself to the apples at various locations along Highway 89 including the apple trees at the Call of the Canyon Day-Use Area where the West Fork Trail begins. These Sedona apples aren't the best quality apples I've seen grown in Arizona, so if it's apple-picking you really want to do, then I would go down to Apple Annie's in Willcox where they have acres of luscious U-Pick apples. However, if you want a beautiful Sedona hike with fall color, creek crossings AND apple picking, then the West Fork Trail would be a great destination at this time of year. Just a word of warning: this is a popular hike so arrive early at the day-use area since the parking lot fills up. We arrived at 12:00PM on a Tuesday, and we had to wait a few minutes for a space to open up in the parking lot. It was well worth it, though!

Length: 6 miles total (3 miles in, and 3 miles out)
Elevation gain: 400 feet
Time it took us: 3.5 hours with a lunch stop
Dogs: yes
Fees: $9 payable at the Call of the Canyon Day-Use Area entrance
Directions: from metro Phoenix, take I-17 north to Hwy 179 north (exit 298) to Sedona, then 89A northwest 10 miles up through Oak Creek Canyon, to the Call of the Canyon Day-Use Area on the left between milepost 384 and 385.