We went to Oak Creek to see Fall Colors, but we decided that during our visit and goal to see Fall Colors we should include West Fork Trail.
We have never done West Fork Trail. The crowds and lines to get in have always been just terrible. It seems to be like so many over-touristed places that become overcrowded taking away from the entire experience.
So we got a hotel, went out to a nice dinner, and got up early to hit the trail before anyone got there.
I can tell you now from experience … that is absolutely the way to go. We were the very first one’s there. We arrived at 7am, and took one of maybe 5 parking spaces outside the gates that don’t open until 8am.
We had the trail to ourselves. We had 2 people pass us going up, (after they caught up to us). It was great to not have to bob through people – which is what we did on the way back down.
We felt like salmon swimming upstream as we had to side step the hoards of people once the gate opened… and we were headed back down the trail.
We thought it would be difficult to get out of our parking spot way up front… but cars were more than happy to make way for us to get out as we pulled out into traffic, and passed an impressive line of cars waiting for a parking space to get in.
Proper planning yielded a great day and a beautiful hike.