Oak Creek Canyon The Call of the Canyon beckons us to Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, Arizona

The Proper Function

A Trip To Mayhem’s Lodge

Mayhew’s Lodge, near the trailhead of the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon, was once listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. On March 26, 1980, fire consumed all of the structures and it was delisted later that year when the Forest Service was unable to rehabilitate the lodge at a cost of $200,000. Unfortunately, arson was suspected.

The first cabin at the site was built by Charles “Bear” Howard in 1870. His name “Bear” came from having allegedly killed five bears with his own knife. By 1881, “Bear” decided to head deeper into Oak Creek Canyon and sold it to the Thomas Family. The apple tree’s you see today, were planted by the Thomas Family as they sold apples and traded tobacco in Sedona. A second cabin was added in 1902 for a Phoenix Superior Court Judge, who later assisted the family in helping build the first road through Oak Creek Canyon in 1912.



The movie of Zane Grey’s story called The Call of the Canyon, directed by Victor Fleming (The Wizard of Oz), was filmed here in 1922. Carl Mayhew, a still  photographer from Flagstaff, was reportedly working on the production crew. He loved the area so much that in 1925 he purchased the site with a partner whom he later bought out. Mayhew opened the cabins up as a lodge that same year and over the years connected the other two cabins. Over the years, he continued to add more rooms until his death in 1943. His family carried on with the business for many years following his death.

break_line_mtnIn all, the lodge was operational in Oak Creek Canyon from 1925 to 1968. Rates were $15 per day, single; $20 to $24 per day for a double. Guests could travel to Flagstaff either by the Santa Fe Railroad or Frontier Airlines, then board the Santa Fe bus which took them directly to the lodge. During it’s time, famous guests such as President Herbert Hoover, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Walt Disney, Maureen O’Hara and Susan Hayward all stayed at the lodge. By 1968, the Mayhew family was no longer able to continue operating the lodge and eventually sold it to The Forest Service.



Today, the ruins of the lodge remain. A stone fireplace, rock pillars and a cave which was utilized as a root cellar all rest in the area. The swimming pool was located at the trailhead parking lot which was paved over in the 1960’s.  As you walk through the ruins, you can still hear the crackling of the fireplace, guests laughing and men boasting about the trout they caught. At dusk during a silent moment, you may even hear The Call of the Wild.


Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon is a red-rock hallway located along the Mogollon Rim in Arizona. Because of its scenic beauty and iconic rock structures, it is often referred to as a cousin to the Grand Canyon. The canyon is about 12 miles long, range approximately 0.5 – 2.5 miles in width. The depth of the canyon is 800 to 2,000 feet deep. Oak Creek is a tributary of the Verde River and is one of few perennial streams located in the high desert. The Canyon sits along a fault line that was created approximately eight to ten million years ago. As you hike and gaze across the horizons, you will note similar colors on opposing walls with varying line heights as a result. White kabab limestone and red sandstone create an evolving rainbow-like canvas as the sun alters its position.



In 2006, the “Brins Fire” affected 4,300 acres which affected the southern portion of Oak Creek Canyon. In 2014, a wildfire was reported at Slide Rock State Park which consumed 21, 227 acres and took over 1,200 firefighters to contain. As a result of the fire damage, there is a large risk for flooding in the canyon and sirens will warn those to seek higher ground in case of an emergency.

“In the empire of the desert, water is the king and shadow is the queen.” – Mehmet Murat Ildan

Butterfly Garden Inn

Formerly known as Don Hoel’s Cabins, The Butterfly Garden Inn took on new life in 2012. Frank and Nichole Garrison revived this picturesque 27 acre retreat after it sat vacant fro almost six years. With Frank’s background in theatrical set design, the 18 cabins are lit with appropriate moods and provide a rustic country-style experience.



As you arise each morning, a picnic basket awaits you outside of your front door containing a delicious homemade continental breakfast. Fresh granola, yogurt, warm scones and a bowl a fruit is the perfect way to start your day. There is also a market, lounge and cafe on the property which serves amazing hamburgers. If you’ve not tried Oak Creek Brewery, be sure to pick some up in the market as it servers as the perfect refresher after a long hike. Situated just 10 miles north of Sedona, it lies just one mile south of the West Fork at Oak Creek Canyon. If you’re seeking a ‘vortex-like’ transformation that requires a magical rock, then this may not be for you. But, if you want to avoid the touristy hub of Sedona then this quaint little paradise awaits you!


Red Light District

West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon is an experience you will never forget. The high walls of limestone and sandstone change throughout the day as quickly as an artist can strike his brush. Arrive early to avoid the crowds, no pass required as this is a park, but will cost $10 per vehicle to park. As you approach the trail, you will immediately be tossed back into history as you visit the ruins of Mayhew’s Lodge. Be sure to explore the structures as well as the chicken coop and cellar which is built directly into the mountain. Be sure to note the old apple tree’s in the area as you continue down the trail.



Stone markers will align the trail at 1/2 mile intervals. The creek trickles at a rhythm that soothes the soul and its clarity reflects a rainbow of colors. The large canyon walls start to emerge, almost as like an open arm embrace as your climb deeper inward. The creek will wind back and forth, opening, closing and providing tiny cascades as you find places to cross.

We traveled during February to avoid the crowds, but the stunning red and orange walls remain a constant. Take note of the tall pinyon, ponderosa, cottonwood, oak and fir that provide a canopy of shade. The canyon remains cool, but the temperatures vary as you travel so be sure to dress in layers. 2.5 miles into the hike you will start to roll up gently into the canyon and being one of several creek crossings. Look for the rock cairns should you lose sight of the trail when crossing the creek.

As the end of the first three mile portion concludes, the path becomes steep, which will lead you away from the creek and back again. From this point, you can expect to get your feet wet and muddy. The longer hikes do reward you with deeper pools and natural falls. During the snow melt, hikers should be prepare to wade their way through pools that can be very deep. If you plan on going deep into the canyon, be sure to take note of the higher elevated caves for retreat should the horns sound for flash flooding.



This is an in/out trail just feel free to hike in as far as you like and return the way you entered. Backpackers who plan on camping must be at least 6 miles from the Call O’ The Canyon Trailhead. To reach this point, be prepared for deep, cold water crossing which may require swimming in deeper pools. It is encouraged that you notify the trailhead that you plan on camping and that you utilize one of the seven developed campgrounds: Pine Flat, Cave Springs, Manzanita, Chavez Crossing, Clear Creek and Clear Creek Group camp. Individual sites range from $16-$18 per night, Cave Springs being the only site to accept credit cards. I would advise making reservations at Recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

“ I need this wild life, this freedom” – Zane Gray


Root CellarThe Call of the Canyon

01_WidePhotoThe Mayhew root cellar was for keeping food supplies at a low temperature and steady humidity. This particular cellar would keep food from freezing during the winter months and keep it cool for the summer in order to prevent spoilage. Vegetables stored in the cellar primarily consisted of potatoes, turnips and carrots. Other food included beets, onions, jams, salt meat and squash. The root cellar is located in the cliff face near the old chicken coop.

01_WidePhotoThe Call of the Canyon is a 1923 silent Western film based on the book by Zane Grey. The film is about a returning war veteran who is nursed back to health by a compassionate Arizona girl. The movie was filmed in Red Rock Crossing in Sedona, Arizona. Definitely a movie worth experiencing as you explore the area!

This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
Party Cloudy
2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
State, RegionArizona,Northwest
Coordinates34.990770°, -111.742678°
DirectionsView on Google Maps
Time4 Hours


Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.