Oak Creek Canyon is an approximately 12-mile-long river gorge situated a few miles to the north of beautiful Sedona, Arizona. Oak Creek Canyon ranges anywhere from 800 feet to 2,000 feet in depth across various stretches, with lovely Oak Creek flowing through it the entire way. Long considered one of the most remarkable examples of the region’s spectacular natural beauty, Oak Creek Canyon is also home to plentiful outdoor recreational activities, including a tremendous number of hiking trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, fishing, and swimming spots. Oak Creek Canyon can also be quite enjoyable to behold from Arizona State Route 89A, sometimes known as the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive, a winding road that puts drivers and passengers riding along it right in the midst of many of the most prominent natural wonders on display in the area.
Oak Creek Canyon History and Background
The initial step in the formation of Oak Creek Canyon be traced back some 65 million years ago, when a major shift along what we now call the Oak Creek Faultline raised the eastern side of what would become Oak Creek Canyon roughly 600 feet into the air. As millions and millions of years passed, this raised stretch of land eroded away, until approximately 8 million years ago when a mixture of gravel and lava flowed into the area. Since that point in time, through a combination of this additional erosion and extensive fault movement, Oak Creek Canyon as we know it today has formed. Today Oak Creek Canyon is one of the most striking geological formations found anywhere in the American Southwest. Given its prominent location just north of Sedona in the heart of Coconino National Forest, Oak Creek Canyon is protected land administered by the United States Forest Service.
What’s at Oak Creek Canyon
While most people at first gravitate to Oak Creek Canyon on account of its sheer beauty and natural splendor, there are also many terrific activities to be enjoyed while visiting here. In the summer months, Oak Creek is well-known for its trout fishing; any sort of fishing conducted along Oak Creek requires a license that is easily acquired from most grocery stores found in the region. There are also many places throughout the Oak Creek Canyon area that you can stop and have a picnic. Call of the Canyon and Grasshopper Point are two particularly popular places for picnicking; each one of these sites features its own set of tables, grills, trash cans, and even restrooms.
Hiking and driving through Oak Creek Canyon are also favorite pastimes of countless visitors to the area. Hiking trails are abundant throughout Oak Creek Canyon, with notable favorites being the series of trails that run between either the Eastern or Western Rim of the Canyon and the floor of the Canyon. Also of note are the series of trails located along the western side of the Canyon that, for the ambitious hikers among us, connect with trails that wind their way into the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness.
For many visitors to Oak Creek Canyon, the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is a must-do activity. Running along Arizona State Route 89A, Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is a stretch of road that winds you leisurely through the beautiful countryside. A particular highlight that can be accessed from Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is Oak Creek Vista. There, from an elevated vantage point, you’ll have breathtaking views down into a significant portion of the Canyon, and there’s even a Native American marketplace where you’ll encounter local artisans selling their handmade jewelry and crafts.
Oak Creek Canyon’s location not far from Sedona makes it easily accessible for any visitors to the area. Nearby you’ll find all manner of additional popular Sedona attractions, including favorites like Cathedral Rock, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Palatki Ruins, Red Rock Scenic Byway, and more. Suitable accommodations and dining options are also found just down the road.
Tips for Visiting Oak Creek Canyon
- Before hiking, always make certain that you are fully prepared, with sufficient supplies and knowledge of the terrain ahead. As splendid as the scenery is throughout portions of Oak Creek Canyon, the hiking trails can be quite strenuous in places. Make sure you know the nature of your route well ahead of time.
- Many of the picnic areas found within Oak Creek Canyon are quite popular; in particular, the official United States Forest Service designated picnic areas here tend to fill-up with visitors early in the day. For example, the parking lot at Call of the Canyon picnic site is usually full by about 9:30am, every day of the week. As a result, if you want to make certain to get a spot at a location like this one, you’ll need to plan ahead.
- Also, some of the picnic spots located in Oak Creek Canyon require day passes that must be purchased. For instance, use of the picnic facilities found at Grasshopper Point costs $8 per day—and credit cards are not accepted. For these reasons, it’s important to plan your outing in advance.
- There are a great many places to stop along Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive, so even as you motor along enjoying the views, keep an eye out for the series of overlooks where you can pull over, get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy the scenery a bit more firsthand.