Fossil Creek

Bucketlist

Hiking

Permit

Waterfall

Nature

Fossil Creek, nestled in central Arizona, is celebrated for its clear, turquoise waters and a number of picturesque waterfalls, including the main 25-foot Fossil Creek Waterfall. The creek and waterfall are characterized by high calcium carbonate content, creating unique travertine formations and giving the water its distinct color and clarity.

Located between Camp Verde and Strawberry, Fossil Creek flows through Coconino and Tonto National Forests. It’s a rare riparian area in an arid region, supporting diverse wildlife and plant species. The creek’s flow comes from springs rich in calcium carbonate, forming its travertine features over time.

The best time to visit is from late spring to early fall, with ideal conditions for swimming and recreation. However it is also popular during the summer months. The area can get crowded and permits are required in peak season to protect the environment.

Accessing Fossil Creek involves either a challenging hike or a demanding drive, depending on your chosen route:

  • Via Camp Verde: Take exit 287 off Interstate 17, head east on Highway 260 for 10 miles to Forest Road 708. A high-clearance vehicle is ideal for the 14-mile unpaved road, but standard cars can manage. This route offers a number of access points with the easiest being the parking lot at the 0.5-mile Waterfall Trail, which is an easy hike to the springs.
  • Via Strawberry: From I-17’s exit 287 in Camp Verde, head towards Strawberry, taking less than an hour. On Highway 87, Fossil Creek Road turns into a dirt path after four miles, leading to the Bob Bear Trailhead. This 8.4-mile hike, with a 1,512-foot elevation gain, is challenging, suitable for experienced hikers.

Visiting Info: Fossil Creek is open year-round. From April 1 to October 1, permits are required, with entry from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and exits until 8 p.m. From October 2 to March 31, no permits are needed, with gates open all day, weather permitting. The Camp Verde entrance is easier for summer visits, while the Strawberry route is better for experienced hikers in hotter months.

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