Oak Creek Canyon
View of Oak Creek Canyon from Oak Creek Vista
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.
The Creation of Oak Creek Canyon
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.
Learn more about the geology of Oak Creek Canyon (U.S. Forest Service).
Enjoying the Canyon
Oak Creek Canyon offers hiking, picnicking, camping, fishing, swimming, and endless vistas of colorful, soaring cliffs. The following resources will help you get the most from your visit:
At a Glance
|Call of the Canyon and Grasshopper Point are special fee areas. See the Red Rock Pass page for information on which passes are valid for these two Oak Creek Canyon sites.
|Sedona, Arizona; Flagstaff, Arizona
|Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Pass is required for parking at many of the sites along Oak Creek Canyon. Holders of America the Beautiful Senior or Access passes may receive discounts for camping and day use fees. Call of the Canyon and Grasshopper Point are special fee areas. See the Red Rock Pass page for information on which passes are valid for these two Oak Creek Canyon sites.
|Visit Water Quality for information about water quality in Oak Creek and the water hydrant on State Route 89A near Pine Flat Campground.
Visiting Oak Creek Canyon: Oak Creek Canyon is accessed by Arizona State Route 89A, which runs through the Canyon from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Sedona, Arizona. The drive from Flagstaff to Sedona takes approximately 45 minutes.
Just past Oak Creek Canyon Vista, 12 miles south of Flagstaff, SR 89A drops steeply into the Canyon, making several hairpin turns. At the bottom, the highway winds through the Canyon for 13 miles on its way to Sedona, following Oak Creek.
Trailheads, day use areas, and pull-offs along the road provide ample opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery.
GPS - approximate center of Oak Creek Canyon (Map): 34°57'11.8"N 111°45'15.8"W
- Red Rock Country - Recreation Guide to your National Forest (PDF): visit the Red Rock Visitor Center for the current version of this guide.
- Forest Service Topo Map (FSTopo Geo-enable PDF):
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information
Campground CampingRecreation areas with activity Campground Camping:
River and Stream FishingRecreation areas with activity River and Stream Fishing:
Day HikingRecreation areas with activity Day Hiking:
- A. B. Young Trail No. 100
- Allens Bend Trail No. 111
- Casner Canyon Trail No. 11
- Cookstove Trail No. 143
- Harding Springs Trail No. 51
- North Wilson Trail No. 123
- Purtyman Trail
- Sterling Pass Trail No. 46
- Telephone Trail No. 72
- Thomas Point Trail No. 142
- West Fork of Oak Creek No. 108
- Wilson Canyon Trail No. 49
- Wilson Mountain Trail No. 10
Viewing WildlifeRecreation areas with activity Viewing Wildlife:
Viewing PlantsRecreation areas with activity Viewing Plants:
Viewing SceneryRecreation areas with activity Viewing Scenery:
Interpretive AreasRecreation areas with activity Interpretive Areas:
Visitor CentersRecreation areas with activity Visitor Centers:
PicnickingRecreation areas with activity Picnicking:
- Banjo Bill Picnic Site
- Bootlegger Picnic Area
- Call of the Canyon Picnic Site
- Encinoso Picnic Site
- Grasshopper Point Swimming & Picnic Area
- Halfway Picnic Site
- Midgley Bridge Observation Site
- Slide Rock State Park