Oak Creek Canyon is a smorgasbord of breathtaking vistas to feast your eyes upon. The canyon, as well as the Sedona area, is easily worthy of national park status. It is located in northern Arizona between Flagstaff and Sedona. This is the most popular area to visit in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon.
The canyon features beautifully sculpted rock in tones of red, brown, white, and grey. There's also plenty of green in this lush oasis. Oak Creek is streaming with crystal clear water the year round making it perfect for swimming and fishing. There are several excellent swimming holes to cool of in and there's even a natural water slide, that will bring out the kid in anyone, at Slide Rock State Park.
Several hiking trails take you up the side of the canyon for dazzling panoramas of the colorfully sculpted canyon walls. Be sure to stop at the visitor's center in Sedona for a map of the many trails in Oak Creek Canyon and the Sedona area. The trail heading up West Fork Oak Creek is the most popular, and with good reason - the red rock walls are a stunning work of art.
US Highway 89A accesses it all and takes you on a scenic drive from the ponderosa pine forest encompassing Flagstaff to the high desert red rock wonderland of Sedona. If coming from Flagstaff you'll want to stop at the Oak Creek Canyon Vista before the road takes a plunge down into the canyon. Once at the canyon bottom you'll find plenty of places to pull over to get a closer look at Oak Creek and the towering canyon cliffs. There are several picnic areas along the way.
Oak Creek Canyon Video Slideshow
Oak Creek Canyon Camping: There are three pay campgrounds in the canyon. Free camping and RV boondocking sites can be found in the Coconino National Forest north of West Fork Oak Creek above the canyon. From Flagstaff take US Highway 89A south and before reaching the Oak Creek Vista there are national forest roads on both sides of the highway. There are no campgrounds here, however dispersed camping is allowed. If you have an RV, it's best to scout out the area first with your tow vehicle or toad, to find a suitable campsite.
The tall ponderosa pine forest provides plenty of shade, and at 7,000 feet it stays nice and cool in the summer. Highs were in the 70s when I visited in late July. Be careful where you camp during monsoon season (July & August) or you might wake up to a gigantic puddle at your doorstep! Thankfully the national forest roads are usually driveable when wet. You don't sink so deep into the mud, like you do in Iowa, where I grew up. Insects weren't a problem, though I did see a couple small mosquitoes, which are rare.
Map of Oak Creek Canyon: Here is a map of US Highway 89A as it snakes through the canyon between Flagstaff and Sedona.
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