Climbing up from Sedona to Flagstaff, Highway 89A winds along Oak Creek, passing waterfalls, quaint lodges, and beautiful picnic spots. Surrounded by forest, it’s easy to forget that there’s a desert just a few miles back down the road. The several picnic areas along the way all require a parking pass, the Red Rock pass works for most of them and can be purchased as daily, weekly, or annual. Aside from Slide Rock State Park, it’s all run by the U.S. Forest Service so a National Parks pass also works. If you really want to immerse yourself there’s four campgrounds in the canyon.
Call of the Canyon (West Fork Trail)
That being said, none of the Red Rock or Federal Lands passes work at this spot like they do all the other picnic and hiking areas, so forking over $10 to park here is mandatory. If you’re looking for a day trip the trail meanders about three and a half miles through the West Fork canyon; I didn’t go all that far but still managed to spend over an hour just taking pictures and drinking it all in.
On the West Fork Trail, Mayhew Lodge began as a small cabin on the banks of Oak Creek, became the set of a movie and then grew into the vacation destination of presidents and film stars. The lodge was purchased by the forest service in 1968 and burned to the ground in 1980. The remaining stone walls and foundations are now being overtaken by trees and ivy, looking like some kind of secret garden. A more intact chicken coop and a cave used for food storage are located right on the other side of the trail.
This was the only other picnic spot I stopped at. No idea why it’s called Banjo Bill. It’s a beautiful spot with a waterfall pouring right over the driveway of a lodge up the hill. I love the rocks along here. They have the most incredible textures, and this time of year there’s colorful leaves laying all over them. A lot of the trees have grown the rocks right into their roots.