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West Fork Trail Day Hike
October 21, 2018
by Lin Chao Yen
  Trail Map 
Trailblazers ready to hike. [photo by Quy]
front:  Quy, Scott, Lin, Li, Andy
back: Carl, Jade
There are a number of reasons why West Fork is one of the most popular trails on the Coconino National Forest. Once you’ve strolled beside the pleasant little stream that ripples along the canyon floor and looked up, way up, at the dizzying cliffs that tower above it, you will fall in love with it, too. West Fork is fantastic throughout the year. In springtime, migrating songbirds decorate the trees with flashes of brilliance. In autumn, the canyon is ablaze with color, with red and gold leaves floating in clear reflecting pools under a canopy of solid color. In wintertime, icicles decorate from red rock overhangs, and snatches of snow persist in cool shadows. As a matter of fact, you’ll probably find a new reason to be here every time you visit.
USDA Forest Service

West Fork is one of my favorite trails in Arizona. It holds many wonderful memories in my heart. It was Jade’s very first hike. Only 0.9 miles to the Swimming hole, but she had so much fun, she was looking forward to hiking many more times. We have made countless visits there, witnessing the beauty of spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Spring: The white-pink-apple blossom are the home of many bees. Butterflies are dancing in between wildflowers and the creek.

Summer: cool clear air bounces from cliffs and trees, the garden snake swims, the hummingbird takes her daily bath in the creek while we were seating nearby.

Autumn: the golden color reflects into pools from the sunlight, the red leaves finally stand out after many days lost in this mist of gush of green bed.

Winter: I’ll never forget the morning light shining on icicles hanging on the red rock cliffs, silver light, the quiet of the canyon. You can touch and hear the heartbeat.

Butterflies and flowers in the spring. [photo by Lin]
Bird takes a bath in the creek. [photo by Lin]
On this beautiful Sunday morning with a 20% chance of thundershowers, seven of us got up early. Carpooling from Mesa, we got here in time and found great parking spots. It was only 8:00 but there were many cars here.

“Today’s hike is not about the distance, it is all about the scenery and fall colors. Take your time enjoy it” I said to everyone after quick introductions. Andy and Li had never been here before. They cannot wait to hit the trail. But Quy is here and we need to take a group picture first.

One of many creek crossings. [photo by Lin]
Peace sign from Jade. [Li]
Crossing the creek again. [photo by Quy]
Very peaceful mooring. [photo by Lin]
Do you want to go first, Jade? [photo by Quy]

I found the fall color leaf. [photo by Quy]
The fires of autumn. [photo by Quy]
Fall color at its best. [photo by Quy]
Happy hikers on the West Fork Trail. [photo by Quy]
That log seems steady enough for Li. [photo by Quy]
Here is our leader. [photo by Quy]
Jade is in the lead. [photo by Quy]
Andy and Scott. [photo by Li]
Watch your step, Andy! [photo by Li]
Lin has a big smile. [photo by Li]
Is it Hallowe’en yet? [photo by Li]
Three Musketeers. [photo by Li]
Three young ladies. [photo by Scott]
Almost to our lunch spot. [photo by Scott]
Ah, the perfect place for lunch. [photo by Li]
leaves leaves
Breathtaking Fall Leaves. [photos by Lin]
Live moving fall color tree. [photo by Lin]
Blue sky, red rock, yellow fall color. [photo by Lin]
Carl, Jade, Scott, Lin, Quy, Andy, Li
Golden color reflected in the pool. [photo by Lin]
Andy finds a reflected rock wall. [photo by Lin]
End of the trail, but the West Fork goes on and on. [photo by Lin]
Autumn color leaves little to be desired. [photo by Lin]
Gold. [photo by Lin]
Things are looking up. [photo by Lin]
Lost in the wonder of fall color. [photo by Lin]
Jade enjoys the fall color. [photo by Lin]
Hikers, Canyon and Creek. [photo by Lin]
Green, Red, Brown and Yellow. [photo by Lin]
leaves sun
Golden leaves and sunlight. [photos by Lin]
tree water
What awesome color! [photos by Lin]
Quy, Jade, and Li. [photo by Lin]
Log and Quy. [photo by Lin]
A red leaf. [photo by Lin]
tree tree
Trees show their true color. [photos by Lin]
Reach for the sky. [photo by Quy]
A beautiful view. [photo by Lin]
Almost back to the trailhead. [photo by Li]

After about 4½ hours and 8.8 miles, we were back to the trailhead. By then the parking lot was full and there were long lines of cars waiting to get in. We were so grateful that we started early: not only did we find the perfect parking spot, we also beat the traffic and crowed. Andy and Li were very satisfied and Li is planning to bring her family here soon. After a quick change of clothes, we left the park and go to Café Jose for lunch. The restaurant was busy, but since we only had seven people, it was pretty quick to get table and to order food. The service was good, the food was yummy, and everyone enjoyed it and left there with happy belly.

What an awesome day! Once again, West Fork lived up to her name—one of top place in Arizona to see fall color. Thanks for everyone for joining me for this relaxing trip. Thanks Andy and Lin driving everyone to the trailhead. Thanks to Quy, Li and Lin for sharing your pictures. Thanks to Jade for giving up your morning sleep and joining me to hike this beautiful trail. Thanks for Mother Nature for giving us sunshine and blue sky. So grateful and so thankful. What a blessing.

Li’s email was a prefect summing-up for the day:

Thank you for leading one of the most beautiful hikes in Arizona. I had never been West Fork before, this was so beautiful and indescribable. The water, mountain, maples, aspens and pines plus pleasant companies make this trip memorable. I will for sure return next year for this hike.

Yes, we will return next year for this hike. We will.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated October 28, 2018