Exploring Oak Creek in Early Autumn
Is there any season more glorious than autumn? You have baseball playoff season, Halloween, and in this neck of the woods, some of the most idyllic weather outside of heaven.
Sedona is so breathtaking, I sometimes wonder if I’m already in the afterlife. On this picturesque fall Sunday, my partner and I originally planned to go leaf-peepin’ up at West Fork. We quickly learned that everybody in the Phoenix metro area had a similar idea and had driven north to stockpile the lot. Since neither one of us favors crowds, we explored Oak Creek’s lesser-known picnic areas, and we were not disappointed.
If you drive up the 89A toward Flagstaff, you’ll find no shortage of places to sit and enjoy nature. You will need to buy a Red Rock Pass to park legally. You can buy individual tickets at some, although not all, trailheads, but any convenience store, grocery or visitor’s center also carries these mirror-danglers.
You can get a single-use version for $5. However, for only $20, you can buy a full year’s worth of fun.
At our first stop, we found a flurry of gold. The seasons only began changing this mid-October morning, although the temperatures felt crisp enough for December.
If you come out to visit this time of year, our best advice is to dress in layers. Nights in the desert can plummet well below freezing, and you will feel every degree. The effect happens due to the lack of water vapor and carbon dioxide to trap the warm air in the atmosphere.
However, once the sun warms the earth, don’t be surprised to find taking a dip in Oak Creek sounding pleasant despite the seasons. The highs this week ranged in the mid-80’s.
Another snippet of advice — wear shoes with solid grips — at least if you intend to descend to the creek. While you can get to the water from various picnic areas, you may face a considerably steep climb. However, if going leaf-peeping is on your agenda, you can find ample color in the woods around your table.
One awesome feature of Oak Creek hikes is the evolving scenery. You go from high desert to a deciduous forest straight out of the northeast within the span of a mile. It’s fascinating to experience the transition live.
If you go: Take Highway 89A north through uptown and across Midgely Bridge. Continue north toward Flagstaff. You’ll pass Slide Rock State Park on your left, then the various picnic areas begin. Please keep in mind that this one-lane road is the only route for many who commute to Flagstaff to work. Be courteous, and use the many pullouts to stop and take pictures.
If you travel all the way to Flagstaff, the route becomes windy. Check before leaving in the winter, as conditions sometimes close the roadway. Got a lengthy vacation planned? You can take Highway 89 all the way from Mexico to Canada. While you’ll pass ample breathtaking spots, we’re biased enough to think ours is the best. 😉