The colorful collection of buttes, pinnacles, mesas, and canyons surrounding Sedona is famous the world around for its red rock vistas. Over the years, this area has served as the setting of many western novels and movies and has been the subject of uncounted paintings, photographs, and other works of art. The remains of ancient wetlands, these crimson cliffs have been carved by the forces of the desert into one of nature's most magnificent masterpieces.
No matter what you do in Red Rock Country, you're always sightseeing. Ways to get even closer to all this scenery includes: hiking, horseback riding, taking a scenic drive, sliding down a natural waterslide, picnicking, camping, taking lots of photos and fishing in Oak Creek. The Red Rock District includes some 550,000 acres of magnificent splendor. Some areas require a pass to park, so be sure to check out the information about our Red Rock Pass Program.
Fossil Creek, one of two "Wild and Scenic" rivers in Arizona, seems to appear out of nowhere, gushing 20,000 gallons a minute out of a series of springs at the bottom of a 1,600 foot deep canyon. Over the years these calcium laden waters have laid down huge deposits of a type of limestone called travertine. Read more...
Fossil Springs Trailhead permits must be reserved as Bob Bear Trailhead as its name has changed.
Spring-Summer Season (April 1 - October 1): A reserved, printed permit is required. Reserve a spot at Recreation.gov for any of the parking areas in the Fossil Creek area. During the Spring-Summer Season, the Fossil Creek and Springs area is day use only. Camping, campfires, and glass containers are prohibited.
Oak Creek Canyon is a gorge carved into the edge of the Mogollon Rim of the Colorado Plateau along the Oak Creek Fault. Tectonic forces shifting the land to either side of the fault and subsequent erosion by Oak Creek have created a spectacular canyon where the geologic history of this area is an open book.
The Canyon is approximately 12 miles long. Oak Creek flows year-round along the bottom of the Canyon, providing water for plants and wildlife, as well as fishing and swimming opportunities. Oak Creek continues on through Sedona, Arizona, meeting up with the Verde River southeast of Cottonwood, Arizona.
The depth of the Canyon ranges from 800 to 2000 feet, with trails providing access from the Canyon’s bottom up to the 6500-foot eastern rim and 7200-foot western rim. Some of these trails follow historic routes early Oak Creek Canyon settlers used to access the top of the plateau in the days before the road was built. Trails on the west side of the Canyon head into Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness.
Approximately 65 million years ago, during a period of great mountain building, movement along Oak Creek Fault caused the east side of what is now Oak Creek Canyon to shift upwards approximately 600 feet. The exposed top rock layers eroded away until the eastern and western sides of the fault were level once again.
A few more millions of years passed, and a canyon had formed. Streams carrying gravel, then lava, flowed into the canyon from the north. In the past six million years, the fault became active again and the modern Oak Creek Canyon was carved along it. This time, the fault caused the eastern rim of the Canyon to drop around 700 feet lower than the western rim.
One of the best places to get the big picture view of the Canyon’s fascinating geologic history is Oak Creek Vista. The Vista provides a view from the top of the Canyon, where the eastern drop is easily seen.
This clear, cool brook remains pleasantly secluded in the deep red rock canyon it has cut into the southern rim of the Colorado Plateau. For much of its length, the land bordering Wet Beaver Creek has been declared a Wilderness Area, the Wet Beaver Wilderness. In addition to the opportunities for solitude such an area offers, the stream's pools and riffles are a popular place to fish, hike, swim, and bird watch. The waters of the stream are stocked with trout. The lush riparian area beside its banks is alive with a full palette of songbirds. The desert beyond that oasis bristles with the highly adapted plants of the upper Sonoran Desert.
The West Clear Creek Wilderness, established in 1984, is a narrow but lengthy wilderness that follows the contours of West Clear Creek from its western terminus at Bull Pen Ranch to the headwaters of Willow Creek and Clover Creek to the north and east. The persistent strength of these waters have cut at the walls of the Mogollon Rim of the Colorado Plateau, creating the deep, narrow, rugged and spectacular canyon we see today. Due to the stark variance in elevation and sunlight across canyon walls, the West Clear Creek Wilderness offers a wide range of vegetation, geology, recreational opportunities, and supports a variety of wildlife.
Visitors should note that when traversing the canyon, stream crossings are unavoidable. The West Clear Creek Trail (the longest and most-used trail within the wilderness) has four crossings that range from knee-height to impassable depending on time of year, weather, and flooding. Those looking to follow the creek beyond the maintain trail should prepare for more than a dozen pools, which sits between both canyon wall sides and can be up to a quarter mile long, requiring wading or swimming.
Naturally, a place this remote and inaccessible provides superior opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. For most of its length the stream is a valuable fishing resource and is stocked with trout by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Trails leading into the canyon from the rim attract hardy adventurers seeking good fishing and secluded swimming holes. Trails that lead up from the canyon mouth get a lot of use by weekend anglers, picnickers, day hikers, and backpackers who use the primitive trailhead at the old Bull Pen Ranch.
Wilderness areas are rare, wild places set aside by Congress where the land is allowed to retain its natural state, serving as a natural haven for humans to escape modern civilization and for nature to be itself. To help minimize human impacts in wilderness and maintain its character, several laws and regulations have been put in place and we ask that visitors practice "Leave No Trace ethics."
The image above was taken overlooking the canyon just west of state Route 87. This little slice of heaven is on the eastern end of West Clear Creek Wilderness.