We could all use a little more time experiencing the benefits of nature. As students and faculty at GCC, getting outdoors to alleviate stress from school and work can be beneficial for both our physical and mental health. A recent study at Cornell University – Spending time in nature reduces stress — ScienceDaily – found that as little as ten minutes in a natural setting can help college students feel happier and lessen the effects of stress.

My son hiking the West Fork Trail in winter

If you have never visited Oak Creek Canyon, just north of Sedona, consider a day trip to enjoy the beautiful landscape of this area. The West Fork Trail is a popular hike in the summer months because of its abundance of shade and its proximity to Oak Creek. In fact, you will have to cross the creek no less than 26 times if you complete the entire 6.4 miles roundtrip hike. Don’t worry, most of the crossings have stone steps to get you across, but you are more than likely to get your feet wet a couple of times. If summer sounds a little too busy, consider the fall or winter seasons. My family and I made a recent trip to observe the scenery and found leaves in vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red (the leaves were all on the ground, but if you go in early October, you should still be able to catch them on the trees).

The leaves, with their fall colors, look beautiful scattered around the creek.

This hike is flat and easy to navigate. Towards the beginning of the trail are the remnants of the Mayhew Lodge, built in the 1870’s but destroyed by a fire in 1976.

Ruins of the Mayhew Lodge

You will observe the forces of erosion as you walk along the carved, almost tunnel-like, sandstone cliffs. Don’t forget water and some snacks as there are picnic tables at the trailhead. I, however, would recommend an impromptu picnic somewhere along the trail as there are sandy beaches to sit at or a fallen tree to have a seat.

My husband and son at one of the many creek crossings.

To get there take Route 89A north of Sedona and park at the Call of the Canyon Picnic Site (between milepost markers 384 and 385). Start enjoying the positive effects of nature and explore some of the natural splendor Arizona has to offer.