Permits (NEW- Please Read)
Are you planning on heading to Fossil Creek between April 1st and October 1st (May 1st starting in 2017)? Heads up, you're going to need to buy a $6 permit. This is a new action from the Tonto and Coconino National Forest to battle overcrowding, search and rescue operations and trash issues among other things.
The new permits will allow for 148 parking spaces along the river in several different locations including the Waterfall Trailhead, Irving Parking Area, Tonto Bench, Fossil Creek Bridge, Homestead Parking Area, Sally May, Purple Mountain and Mazatzal Parking Areas. One parking space will be included for each permit issued. That should allow for up to 740 visitors per day to the area.
Roadside parking near Fossil Creek Bridge will be designated.
No overnight camping will be allowed in the permit season. Outside of the reservation season (Oct 2 to March 31), overnight camping will be allowed at specific locations including Homestead, Purple Mountain, Sally May and Mazatzal.
Camping from Stehr Lake to Childs (via FR 508) and outside the permit boundary on FR 708, will continue to be available year-round and access to campsites via motor vehicle will continue to be displayed on the Coconino National Forest Motorized Vehicle Use Map
Six reservations per person per year will be allowed.
The buying a permit, you will need to select a parking area. Make sure your permit is near the area you want to explore. The parking areas can be miles apart and you won't want to be lugging gear, chairs, coolers etc a few miles. ZOOM IN ON THE MAP BELOW TO SEE WHERE THE PARKING AREAS ARE LOCATED.
See Video Below.
BOOK YOUR PERMIT AT www.recreation.gov
Read the full decision for the permit at www.tinyurl.com/zejf5fv.
Fossil Creek is a place that many people visit to sunbathe, hike, birdwatch or swim in the crystal clear waters of the creek. Fossil Creek has been designated a "Wild and Scenic River".
Reaching Fossil Creek can leave you a bit jarred from the relentless washboard road on the way in. Make sure you purchase a permit before heading out to Fossil Creek. Please call the Fossil Creek Hotline at 928-226-4611 for up-to-date info on the road conditions.
The swimming holes in the area are outstanding. From the Fossil Creek Bridge, the swimming hole is just a couple steps down to the creek. This is a great area for families with small children that can't quite make the mile hike back to Fossil Creek Waterfall. When you purchase your permit,
There is a rocky area immediately to the right of the bridge for sunbathing or if you head back about 50 yards, there is a bit of shade but not many places to stake out a claim for the day. Think ahead and bring some shade with you on hot sunny days.
If your permit is for the Waterfall Parking Area, drive past the bridge until the road ends and find your designated parking space at the Waterfall Trail parking area. Plan for at least a 30 minute hike back to the falls. Pack light and don't forget to Pack-it-in/Pack-it-Out as there are no trash services past the parking area.
Bring a towel, and especially some sturdy water shoes like Tevas. The area at the waterfall is rocky and can be rough on exposed feet. Hammocks are seen strung up on the many trees near the waterfall. If you plan on staying for the day, don't forget to hit the restrooms in Camp Verde as the port-o-potties can get pretty ugly at the parking area. Also, pack some snacks and a light lunch and drinks that you can bring in a small cooler remembering that you will be carrying it in and out.
Clear Creek Campground is about 45 minutes from the fossil creek bridge. There are several places to camp dispersed near the Bridge and downstream from the bridge. Camping is prohibited within 1/4 mile either side of Fossil Creek from the old Fossil Creek Dam, downstream to Fossil Creek Bridge. Camping is allowed downstream of Fossil Creek Bridge if your camp is at least 100 feet from the edge of the creek. Camping is also allowed upstream of the old Fossil Creek Dam. Campfires are prohibited within 1/4 mile of Fossil Creek from the head of Fossil Creek downstream 10 miles to Stehr Lakebed near mile post 3 on FR 502. Driving off road is prohibited. Construction of new or improvement of older campsites is prohibited.
From Phoenix, head north on the I-17 to Camp Verde and exit on the SR260 and head east 10 miles to Fossil Creek Road. Turn right and continue along Fossil Creek road until you reach the creek approximately 14 miles down the road. Here you will find a junction. To get to the Fossil Creek Bridge, stay left and follow the road that says Road Closed 3 miles ahead. This will take you to the bridge and to the trailhead for the Fossil Creek Waterfall. For a detailed description of how to get from the waterfall trail parking area to the waterfall, see the Pictures and Videos Tab above. There are several pictures that describe how to get there.
From Strawberry: this portion of the road has been closed until further notice. You cannot get to Fossil Creek through Strawberry, you must enter the wilderness from the SR 260 near Camp Verde..
A sign leading in to the Fossil Creek Area. This sign is near the bridge.
From the Bridge
Looking down on Fossil Creek from the bridge.
Take a second to check out local information about Fossil Creek.
Fossil Creek Bridge
Looking upstream from below the bridge.
Below the Bridge
Looking downstream from the Bridge area.
Waterfall Trail Parking
There is a port-o-potty here but no water services.
Starting out on the trail
This is the trailhead which is at the southeast end of the parking area. Follow this trail to get to the main road. See the next image for the correct way to the trail to the falls.
Fork in the trail
After just a few feet, you will reach this fork in the trail. KEEP RIGHT HERE and follow this up to the main road (about 30 yards). Once you meet the main road, head up the road.
Heading up the road
Walk past this sign up the hill.
On the right path
Follow this road for another 250 yards.
Follow the trail markers.
More trail markers
You will see signs along the left side of the road heading up to the trail.
Almost ready to drop down the trail
At the end of this fence, the trail heads down to the river. This is about 350 yards from the parking area.
End of the Fence
At the end of the fence, the trail heads down towards the river.
The Waterfall Trail
This is a good example of the trail. I would suggest wearing Tevas or some other sturdy type hiking shoes that can get wet.
Another Swimming Hole
Another small swimming hole along the trail.
Fossil Creek Waterfall
Fossil Creek Waterfall. The pool is deep and clear.
Diving into the pool below the falls
Have some fun and get behind the falls. Be aware of people jumping from above.
Pulling some sweet dives form the top of the falls.
Doing a backflip from the top of the falls
The Classic Jump
We guessed the cliff to be about 20 to 25 feet high.
Heading back to the parking area
The day is over, pack up everything plus some extra trash and head back to the car.
Fossil Creek Permits Required
Fossil Creek near the bridge
Backflip From the top of the waterfall
Washboard road out of Fossil Springs