Oak Creek Canyon

Stunning red stone in West Fork Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon is the most popular place to visit in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. It is located in northern Arizona between Flagstaff and Sedona. 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 flows year round making it perfect for swimming and fishing. There are several excellent swimming holes to cool of in, and there’s a beautiful 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 stunning red rock walls have been carved by nature into a stunning work of art.

US Highway 89A accesses the canyon 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.

There are 3 pay campgrounds in Oak Creek Canyon. You’ll find more information on these campgrounds at the official Coconino National Forest, Oak Creek webpage. Free camping and RV boondocking sites can be found in the Coconino National Forest north of West Fork Oak Creek, above the canyon…

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Where in The World?

There are two excellent RV campsites mentioned below, with several more along Forest Road 535 above Oak Creek Canyon. This area is tall ponderosa pine forest and there are some meadows further along FR 535. The forest provides plenty of shade, and at 7,000 feet it stays comfortably cool in the summer.

Be careful where you camp during monsoon season (July & August) or you might wake up to a giant 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.

These are just 2 options for camping. There are several more excellent campsites in the area.

Camping Elevation: 7,265 feet

Campsite #1 GPS Coordinates: N 35 03.065′ W 111 45.099′

Campsite #2 GPS Coordinates: N 35 02.664′ W 111 45.250′

Directions to Campsites: From Flagstaff, Arizona take Highway 89A south for about 9 miles. Turn right (west) on Forest Road 535, which is before Hwy 89A reaches the Oak Creek Canyon Vista. Take FR 535 up the mountain for about 2 1/2 miles and turn right on FR 9018H for Campsite #1, which is just a short ways down the road on the left. For Campsite #2, continue on FR 535 1/2 mile past FR 9018H to the campsite on the left.

Oak Creek Canyon Camping Area Map

Oak Creek Canyon RV Camping Journal

August 7, 2010

I’ve been camped here for almost 2 weeks now. Campsite #2 is a great site as it’s set back a bit from the road, and the forest makes it feel more private. I’ve had a couple groups camping at the site next to the road while I’ve been here. The site still retains some privacy as I could barely make out their tents through the pine trees. This is probably the best camping spot I can get to with my 25 foot 5th wheel travel trailer.

From Campsite #2 I can take a short walk east to a clearing (a couple clearings actually; one a little further down from the upper one) where I can get a great view of San Francisco Mountain, and also Oak Creek Canyon before Hwy 89A drops down into it.

FR 535 isn’t too bad of a road; a few areas are rocky. It’s about a 15 mph road (which is pretty good for Arizona!). Thankfully it’s still drivable when wet, even with 2wd. You don’t sink so much into the mud here like you do back in Iowa – and walking around is still possible even after a heavy rain.

Weather: It’s early August and temps have been perfect, even on the cool side (60s) during rainy/cloudy weather. It’s typically in the 70s, low 80s on some days. I’ve had a lot of rain; 3 days of rain last week and it’s been raining all day today (it’s 3 pm now as I write this). They are not joking when calling this monsoon season. I didn’t see the sun for several days last week.

The only thing I would do different is camp here before or after monsoon season (June – mid July or possibly late August – September). July and August are typically the rainiest with around 3 inches for each month.

Insects: There are no biting insects, except for a couple of mosquitoes, which I spotted first before being bitten.

Oak Creek Canyon Video Slideshow

Morning fog in the forest at my campsite above Oak Creek Canyon

West Fork Oak Creek Canyon Video Slideshow

Stunning red stone in West Fork Oak Creek Canyon

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