On our recent visit to Sedona, we decided to visit West Fork Trail, after it had been suggested to us that morning at breakfast. After attempting to scale Cathedral Rock (see post here), and not quite reaching the top (seemed wiser than risking our life on hands and knees near the top) we decided to hike part of West Fork, as it was described as an easy, enjoyable, and cool hike.
West Fork, also rated “moderate”, is a 7.2 mile (round trip) hike through a shaded canyon with beautiful views up the sides of the canyon and several treks through slightly precarious creek crossings. We had not intended to hike the full route. However, after failing to reach our goal at Cathedral Rock, we decided to keep going, once we hit the half way point.
Interesting fact: Over a century ago a lodge was built on this land, and part of the structures still remain. Quoted from the sign posted at the site:
Mayhew Lodge, constructed of hand-smoothed logs and adorned with a towering rock chimney, was a rustic retreat attracting politicians, and movie stars. But this grand lodge had primitive beginnings.
In the early 1870s, when there was no road or electricity and grizzly bears still roamed Oak Creek Canyon, a hunter known as Bear Howard built the first cabin on site. Howard earned his nickname after a friend was mauled to death, an event that prompted Bear to hunt and kill every grizzly in the canyon, and according to local legend, sometimes with only a knife.
Then years after Bear built the original cabin, the Thomas family enlarged the cabin and planted apple orchards. Over time, other families homesteaded here.
Western writer Zane Grey’s travels through the canyon inspired his novel, Call of the Canyon. In 1923, Flagstaff photographer Carl Mayhew came to this site to work on a film of Grey’s novel. Mayhew purchased the property, added on to the existing cabin, and opened Mayhew Lodge to guests in 1926. The Mayhew family operated the lodge through 1968. Mayhew’s canyon resort gained national and international fame and catered to many notable guests including President Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Stewart and Walt Disney. Another famous guest, Clark Gable even celebrated an anniversary at the lodge.
The Forest Service acquired this property in 1968 but closed it to the public, lacking funds for restoration. In 1980 a fire burned the entire complex, leaving only the foundations you see today.
The lodge fireplace and some of the wall still stand. Behind you are the remains of a cabin that was converted to a chicken coop, as well as an opening in the cliff wall that was likely used by early settlers for food storage.
A few things I would recommend:
- If you have a hiking stick, take it. We left ours in the car, thinking this would be a leisurely stroll.
- Watch the path carefully. We took a couple of wrong turns, and even crossed the creek and eventually came to a dead end. In places, the path is not clearly marked. At one point a huge tree crossed the path. Scoot around to the right, we followed another couple off to the left and had to trail blaze our way back to the actual path!
- Better to step into the water and get your feet wet rather than to risk a tumble. I had a very near miss (camera in hand!) just after my husband did trip and twist his ankle. We ended in a damp dusty mess anyway, so you as well just step in the water if you need to.
I read some reviews as I’m writing this post, and there are warnings that parking fills up fast. We visited the week of reopening after weeks of closure due to COVID 19. Although the lot was quite full, there were still a couple of open spaces, and we arrived mid-day. There is an $11.00 parking fee, but we felt we got our money’s worth.
And, while not being avid hikers, we still had no sore muscles after completing the hike and felt a sense of accomplishment for not giving up early! I would highly recommend this hike.
Views along the way as we hiked through the canyon:
Trail ends here: