Autumn Foliage Hike in the Spectacular West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon
by Joseph A. Sprince – Photography by Gerald B. Allen
While most of the world knows about Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon is far less well known. However it is the state’s second biggest attraction, and it is a place of great beauty. Most people have probably seen pictures and posters of the canyon’s famed red rock formations without realizing the locale.
The perspective is different in Oak Creek Canyon. The main road runs through the canyon, and your experience is mainly looking up at the natural wonders as opposed to Grand Canyon where most people look down from the rim. Due to the high elevation Oak Creek Canyon’s bottom is well watered and predominantly wooded. It is a primary escape spot for Arizona’s desert dwellers during the summer.
The most beautiful hike in the canyon – and possibly the most well-loved hike in Arizona – is the gorgeous West Fork of Oak Creek. The West Fork is located entirely in the Secret Mountain Red Rock Wilderness, an unspoiled, narrow sheer-rockwalled canyon that is lush and heavily wooded. The first three miles features easy walking for everyone from toddlers to seniors. The last eight miles are the province of the serious backpacker. During the fall foliage season the canyon is astounding. The photo (left) is the confluence of the West Fork with the main fork of Oak Creek. The creek enters to the left of the low red rock wall, in the shadowed area. In the foreground is the remnants of an apple orchard. The sweet scent of ripe apples permeated the air. Photo (right) are lovely pools in the West Fork.
During our visit in late October, the fall foliage had not yet reached is peak but it was still extraordinary. The contrast of the oak turning color and the evergreen pines was compelling. The rock walls here were generally off-white or pink which also offered nice contrast (photo right). Shown (below left) is another beautiful view at creekside.
Shown below are two more outstanding foliage photos.