I live near Sedona Arizona a place that millions of people visit on vactions. They come to see the Red rock cliffs and rock formations. And some come to swim in oak creek at Slide Rock State Park. In the heat of summer there is one place that I like to go and that is called The West Fork Of Oak Creek. The west fork of Oak Creek is a side canyon to the main Oak Creek Canyon. It has a small stream that flows year round and towering cliffs that close in around you. From the carpark, a path crosses Oak Creek and follows it downstream for a short distance, passing through the site of a ruined lodge called Mayhew Lodge. Just past this the trail heads away from Oak Creek and into the side canyon of the West Fork. The first three miles the trail is easy and flat crossing the small stream several times. Then at the 3 mile mark the trail end and you just walk up the stream. From here you are just boulder hopping and just walking in the creek, and in some places wading through some shallow pools.
In many places the water is just a few inches deep spread out across flat smooth stone, creating incredible reflections of the trees and canyon walls and makes for easy going. Then the canyon narows and this creates deeper pools you must wade through to get any farther. The total length of the canyon is around 14 miles, and you can access it from the top or the bottom. The top part is much more rugged and less visited. In the top part there are pool you have to swim to go down stream because the cliffs come right out of the water on both sides. This canyon reminds me of the narrows of Zion on a smaller scale yet beautiful. Traveling the full length of the canyon in a day would be very difficult and requires a car shuttle. Most people explore from the bottom up and return the way they came in. Some people do the canyon from top to bottom with an overnight stay in the middle. If attempting this be aware: you are not supposed to camp in the lower 6 miles of the canyon (it's a wilderness study area). To do the entire canyon you should plan on 9-13 hours to hike the full length. This can only be done in summer due to cold water crossings. The bottom (and Busy) part of the canyon is easy and sutable for kids. If doing the bottom part to avoid crowds get there very early before the crowds and hike up canyon ahead of the people. To get to the lower entrance to the canyon from Phoenix, take I-17 north to Sedona (exit for 179). Turn left on 179 and follow it through the town of Oak Creek to Sedona. At the 'T' intersection turn right onto Highway 89A and follow it up Oak Creek Canyon just past mile marker 385 to the Oak Creek Trailhead which is on the left (west). Parking is currently $8 per car, be aware that a Red Rock pass is not valid towards this fee. Also note that the gate to the parking area is locked at 8pm. To get to the upper entrance to the canyon from Phoenix, take I-17 north to Flagstaff. Head west on I-40 to the first exit (Flagstaff Ranch Road, exit 192). Turn left at the bottom of the exit ramp, drive a short distance to a 'T' intersection and turn left. After a couple miles you'll come to a stop sign, turn right onto Woody Mountain Road (Forest Road #231) which becomes a well graded dirt road shortly thereafter. Drive for 18.1 miles to where the road crosses the Left Fork of Oak Creek.