How to Get The Most Out of Sedona’s West Fork Trail Hike

After reading such highly favorable reviews of the West Fork Trail in Sedona, I decided to hike it myself and see if it was truly that good.

What I discovered is 3 things about the West Fork Trail:

  1. Yes, most of the trail is amazing.
  2. There is actually a 2-3 mile “add on” to that trail towards it’s end and that’s where it gets 100x better.
  3. Ironically, most people miss out on this last 2-3 miles because it involves getting into deeper, colder water, so they stop and return home thinking they saw the best parts of the West Fork Trail, when in fact, they actually missed it!

The point of this West Fork Trail article I’m writing is to help you avoid that “mistake” and get the most out of this amazing hike. Yes it involves getting into (likely) very cold water, but if you prepare properly beforehand like I did, you may be able to do the full West Fork trail hike. So here’s what you need to know:

Quick info on the West Fork trail in Sedona:

west fork trail 01

  • Name: West Fork Trail.
  • Location: Sedona, Arizona.
  • Length: 6-9 miles in and out (if you do the add on, it’ll be 9 miles).
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 for the first part, 5 out of 5 if you do the add on.
  • Permit required? No, but you do need to pay $11 to enter the parking area.
  • Main pros: Very easy hike (mostly), scenic views and even a Subway/Narrows type hike in the end.
  • Main cons: Not very challenging (mostly) and you may potentially get wet and cold if you do the add on hike in the end.

Aside from this summary, let’s get into the details of what it’s like to hike the West Fork Trail:

west fork trailhead 01

1) Starting out on the West Fork Trailhead (near Oak Creek):

It’s very easy to find and here’s a Google listing for West Fork Trail.

You will need to pay $11 to get into this area and there is a lot of space, but if you know Sedona, you should probably keep in mind that pretty much every popular parking area fills up VERY quickly.

Get here early, especially if you’re not into crowds like me.

The good news is there is also a bathroom and nice scenic view of the area before you even start the trail.

Once you’ve parked and prepped for your hike, you’ll find the trailhead, and follow that. You’ll cross an old house ruins area, then a bridge and begin the trail.

I personally had no idea there were historic spots on this trail but if you enjoy that, you’ll see it very early before you even begin the official trail which is great in my opinion.

west fork trail tour 03

2) Crossing the first 2-3 miles of the West Fork Trail (what to expect):

As you cross the bridge and begin this hike, you’ll basically walk parallel to West Fork creek with giant mountains around you. Aside from the trees blocking out the views often, you will find numerous photogenic areas. This is how it’ll continue for the first 2+ miles.

The trail is easy to walk on for the most part and elevation wise, you are looking at few 100 feet of that at most for the entirety of the West Fork Trail, so nothing crazy if you have joint issues.

There is one section towards the 3rd mile where you can either cross underneath a Narrows type area or over it. The official trail (as I later learned) is actually over that Narrows area, but it doesn’t matter which one you do because it still meets up in the same spots. I just chose to go through the bottom because I wanted the hike to get a little bit more challenging.

west fork trail narrows subway area 05

3) Entering the best part of the West Fork Trail (which many people miss):

As you near the “end” of the official West Fork trail which ends at about 3 miles in from the parking lot, you’ll come across the following sign. This sign basically says that the water level gets deep and there is a campground later on into the add on part of the trail.

Note: There was nothing on that sign saying I couldn’t go further or that it was closed, so I just figured it was up to me if I wanted to try it out.

Up until now, you could avoid getting wet by rock hopping but if you elect to try this part of the trail, you WILL get wet 100%. Now how deep the water level goes depends on the season. In my case, the water level varied but never got deeper than knee high. It’s why I was so tempted to try it (and happy that I did).

west fork trail camping best spots

4) What to expect if you do the 2 extra miles of the West Fork Trail:

The first thing that you will have to do after that sign that warns you about the deep water is you’ll have to get into that water. Fortunately the views quickly become amazing as you are crossing an area that looks very similar to the Subway hike you find in Zion National Park. In fact, I did mention how the West Fork trail is a great Narrows alternative hike to check out and after trying it out myself, I can confirm that! It really does look a lot like the Subway and the Narrows.

Once you cross that, you will continue upstream. The trail from the moment you enter this area becomes very wild, mixing together rock hopping, water walks and having to navigate as best as you can to avoid getting wet (which is impossible in certain areas).

But as you continue walking upstream, you’ll come across what I think is the campground area later on. It is very beautiful here as you are right in a canyon area and it also resembles the type of hike you get the Narrows.

This will continue for about another mile until you reach another canyon area where it almost looks like a swimming hole. It is the widest one I saw and crossed because I just couldn’t resist it to see what was further up and this is where the water level reached knee high levels, which I actually suspect is still at a low point for the season (November time).

At no point was anyone on that trail (because I suspect everyone turns around at that sign earlier).

Shortly after that canyon walk, the woods became much more thick and I didn’t think there was much else to see, so I decided to turn back around.

west fork hike sedona 07

5) Returning to the West Fork trail parking lot:

It was literally just a matter of turning around and heading back through the same canyons and Subway/Narrows parts.

Once I reached the same sign warning about those areas, it was an easy hike back to the parking lot.

I have to say that after seeing what was beyond that sign, I am very happy that I tried it out considering that it really did get 100x better and while the main West Fork Trail is nice, it’s really nothing (in my opinion) compared to the beauty that lies beyond that sign.

What to wear for the West Fork Trail (especially the best parts of it):

While my opinion is that the best part of the West Fork Trail is towards the end which adds another 3-4 miles to your total trip, you should decide if this is something you are comfortable doing.

If you aren’t, no problem, you’ll still get a nice experience walking along the main West Fork Trail. But if you do decide to try the extra part out, then this is what I recommend you bring:

Most importantly for this hike, great waterproof socks are what will greatly help you. I relied on my Randy Sun waterproof socks here and once again, they delivered. I did also bring my Showers Pass waterproof socks for a plan B in case they were needed.

Questions about hiking the West Fork trail:

How long is the West Fork Trail?

The main West Fork trail is 6 miles in and out. An add on trail there makes it 9 miles.

Is West Fork Trail hard?

No, West Fork Trail is a mostly easy hike to do with very low elevation gain.

Do you need a permit for West Fork trail?

No you don’t need a permit to hike West Fork Trail, but the parking lot to the trailhead is $11 per car to enter.

Is West Fork trail busy?

If you arrive very early, West Fork Trail will not be busy, but in the afternoon, the parking lot and trail fills up with crowds almost every day.

My personal thoughts on the West Fork Trail after completing it:

sedona west fork trail subway hike 07

I did really enjoy this trail, but the latter part of it was where I truly saw breathtaking views. If I was to ever do this trail again, it would honestly be because I would want to experience that latter part of the trail beauty again, and not so much the first parts of it (which again, I have to stress are beautiful, just not as beautiful as the add on section).

Overall, this trail is an excellent change up to what you normally see and hear about when it comes to Sedona. Most of the popular hikes here normally involve mountain hiking and seeing distant views of the region and that’s quite amazing, but it gets repetitive so switching it up with the West Fork Trail is a great way to mix it up. And if you are new to exploring Sedona, here are a few other trails you may want to check out too (ones I’ve personally done):

If you have any questions about hiking West Fork Trail, let me know! But other than this, I hope this article helps you truly get the most out of this trail and now you know how to do that!

Join the Newsletter Adventure!

Hi I'm Vitaliy, creator of TheNatureSeeker.com, thanks for stopping by!

Would you like to stay up to date with all my adventures? If so, then sign up to The Nature Seeker Newsletter (it's completely free):

6 thoughts on “How to Get The Most Out of Sedona’s West Fork Trail Hike”

  1. I’m so happy I came across this article/website. I’m a major hiking fan, living in Portugal, and doing a hike every other day or so (between 4 – 10 miles, depending on the time I have. I’m now looking into going abroad to do some hiking, and Sedona does look like an amazing place to start some hikes! I’ve just got a couple of questions though, one regarding the hike itself: I’m seeing quite a lot of pictures on your page where you’re walking in between the rocks, you are mentioning some amazing views, but do you mean hill-top views or views like waterfalls running down the mountains and into the creeks? I’d like to ask this, because I’m definitely a hill-top guy rather than a valley guy.

    And then something about the equipment. I’ve never really thought about it, but I’m seeing that you are promoting trekking poles. I’ve never looked deeper into the whole Nordic Walking thing, but I’ve heard it’s makes your whole body gets a workout rather than just the legs. Did you happen to write an article about why and how to use trekking poles, pros and cons and such? Or would you mind giving me a bit of an explanation?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi there, so regarding your first question, I assume you’re asking about the West Fork Trail. This is more of an in the valley walk with very little elevation but the views are great. For more elevation, mountain scrambles in Sedona, I have provided several ideas in the article above with other hikes I’ve done there for that. 

      As for trekking poles, yes when they are used correctly, you will get a full body workout, but also take away stress from your knees and legs. I have an article on hiking pole benefits here you can check out. I’m a big fan of using them on long distance hikes.

      Reply
  2. I spent a little bit of time in Arizona and I only visited the Sedona area once. I can’t say that I am an expert hiker by any means, so this trail sounds right up my ally. The last hike I did was at Joshua Tree, also a very beautiful area. Thank you for this great review on the hike and the warning about the potential to get wet. You have some great recommendations for equipment though to prevent that.

    Reply
    • I think you’ll really enjoy the West Fork Trail Brendon and I’ve also been to Joshua Tree once, but only explored one hike there called Chasm of Doom. That was a tough hike!

      Reply
  3. I have heard and read so many beautiful things about Arizona and Sedona. Thank you for sharing your West Fork Trail experience. It seems like you had a lot of fun. I enjoy hiking too. I did 7 miles at least twice already and I think I can do 9 miles. But as much as I enjoy beautiful scenery, I don’t think I am up to the challenge of getting wet during a hike, lol. 

    I sweat a lot while walking or hiking and so immersing myself in cold water immediately after that is a no-no to me. I know some people might think I’m weird or something. But hey, I might get sick if I do this. 

    Anyway, you said I would still get a good experience walking along the main West Fork Trail. That’s good enough for me. 

    Reply
    • Well it all depends on what time of year you visit this trail Alice. I went closer to year’s end so it was chilly and even freezing when I started, so I didn’t sweat a lot, but for sure the best experience in the West Fork trail is on the additional sections of it where you do need to get wet.

      Reply

Leave a Comment