Fossil Creek, one of two "Wild and Scenic" rivers in Arizona, seems to appear out of nowhere, gushing 20,000 gallons a minute out of a series of springs at the bottom of a 1,600 foot deep canyon. Over the years these calcium laden waters have laid down huge deposits of a type of limestone called travertine. Read more...
New! Parking Permit Reservations!
Tired of fighting the crowds at Fossil Creek? Our new parking permit reservation system is here for the 2016 Spring-Summer Season!
Spring-Summer Season (May 1 - October 1, 2016): A reserved, printed parking permit is required. No more getting up at the crack of dawn to get a parking spot at the creek! Reserve a parking spot at Recreation.gov at any of the parking areas in the Fossil Creek area.
From Camp Verde, AZ: Use this route for creekside day use areas, Flume Trail, and Waterfall Trail access. High-clearance, 4WD vehicle strongly recommended.
From Strawberry, AZ: Use this route to access Fossil Springs Trail. The creek cannot be accessed by car from Strawberry.
Spring-Summer Season (May 1 - October 1, 2016)
Sally May, Purple Mountain, and Mazatzal Parking Lots: Parking lots are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Homestead, Fossil Creek Bridge, Tonto Bench, Irving (Flume Trailhead), Waterfall Trailhead, and Fossil Springs Trailhead Parking Lots: Parking lots are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The access gate to these parking lots is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The access gate will close at 4 p.m. daily; however, you may still exit the parking lot after 4 p.m.
Fall-Winter Season (October 2, 2016 - April 1, 2017): Gates are open 24 hours unless there is a weather related closure.
Spring-Summer Season (May 1 - October 1, 2016): $6.00 per vehicle per day. Permits are not issued on-site. Reservations for a specific parking lot must be made in advance on Recreation.gov.
Fall-Winter Season (October 2, 2016 - April 1, 2017): No fees, permits, or reservations are required.
Spring-Summer Season (May 1 - October 1, 2016): Parking Permit Required Starting May 1, 2016, a reserved parking permit and pass are required for parking in the Fossil Creek area during the high traffic season (May 1 to October 1, 2016). Reservations for a specific parking lot must be made in advance on Recreation.gov. Visitors must bring printed permits and passes to the site.
Spring-Summer Season: Camping is prohibited anywhere in the permit area.
Fall-Winter Season: Camping is prohibited between Fossil Creek Bridge and Fossil Creek Dam.
Fall-Winter Season (October 2, 2016 - April 1, 2017): No passes or permits are required.
Parking Locations: Parking spaces accommodate 22' vehicles unless otherwise noted. A parking space at any lot can be reserved during the Spring-Summer Season:
Creek-side on Fossil Creek Road (FR 708) - central creek-side lots accessed from Camp Verde, Arizona via SR-260: Waterfall Trailhead, Irving/Flume Trailhead, Tonto Bench, Fossil Creek Bridge, Homestead
Creek-side on Forest Road 502 - southwestern creek-side lots on the road to Childs and Ike's Saddle, accessed from Camp Verde, Arizona on Fossil Springs Road via SR-260: Sally May, Purple Mountain, Mazatzal
Upper canyon - east end accessed from Strawberry, Arizona via SR-87: Fossil Springs Trailhead (horse trailer parking). There is no creek or waterfall access from here by car. The waterfall is a 10 mile desert hike from this parking area.
Attractions: Trails for hiking and horseback riding, swimming holes, waterplay, unique rock formations, great scenery, wildlife viewing, photography, and a lush riparian area.
No trash service: Take all trash and other items with you to avoid fines for littering/trash dumping.
Periodic closures of Fossil Creek Road may occur due to weather, health, and safety concerns.
Mechanized vehicles, including mountain bikes, are not permitted in the Wilderness.
This area can be quite hot in summer. Bring plenty of drinking water.
Location: Fossil Creek is located about 22 miles southeast of Camp Verde (86 miles south of Flagstaff) off paved and dirt roads. Fossil Creek Rd. (FR 708) and Childs Rd. (FR 502) are steep and very rough. These roads may be extremely muddy, slippery, and treacherous after it rains.
Access via Camp Verde: From Interstate 17, exit 287, turn east on State Route 260 towards Payson and travel 10 miles. Between mile 228 and 229, Forest Road 708 (Fossil Creek Road) will intersect SR 260 on the right, signed as Fossil Creek/Verde River. Travel 14 miles down this rough dirt road (high-clearance 4WD vehicles recommended) to the intersection with Forest Road 502 (Childs Road).
Creek-side Sites on Fossil Springs Road (FR 708): Continue straight on FR708 to cross the bridge and find parking in the Tonto Bench, Irving/Flume Trail, or Waterfall Trail parking lots.
Creek-side Sites on FR 502: Turn right on FR 502 (towards the Verde River and Childs) for the Old Corral, Sally May, Purple Mountain, or Mazatzal parking lots.
Starting May 1, 2016, a reserved parking pass will be required for all creek-side sites and trailheads during the busy season (May 1 to October 1 in 2016; April 1 through October 1 starting 2017).
NOTE: Fossil Creek Road (FR 708) is partially closed until further notice:
From Camp Verde, closed at Waterfall Trailhead: Use this route for creek-side sites, Flume Trail, and Waterfall Trail access.
From Strawberry, closed at Fossil Creek Trailhead: Use this route to access Fossil Springs Trail. There no access to the creek or waterfall by car from Strawberry.
Know your destination and plan your route carefully before heading to Fossil Springs and Creek. Do not depend on online maps or your GPS for directions. Many people who do so find themselves lost and miles away from the creek.
Download seasonal recreation guides for Fossil Creek and Fossil Springs Wilderness
Recreation areas with activity River and Stream Fishing:
Fishing is allowed seasonally, from the first Saturday in October through April 30. Fishing is allowed between the waterfall located approximately 1 mile above the Flume Trailhead parking lot along FS 708 and the downstream-most power line crossing (immediately below Sally May Wash). Catch-and-release only for roundtail chub.
Roundtail chub must be immediately released unharmed; no chub may be kept; artificial fly and lure only; single barbless hooks only.
Parking Pass: Reservation Required Spring-Summer Season
Spring-Summer Season (May 1 - October 1, 2016): Camping is not permitted in the Fossil Creek permit area, including Fossil Springs Wilderness. You may purchase a permit to park a vehicle at one of the parking areas for multiple days to hike to a camping destination outside the seasonal permit area. A permit is required. Reservations for a specific parking lot must be made in advance for each day of your backpacking trip. You must bring printed permits and passes to the site. Permits cannot be purchased on-site. See Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Fossil Creek reservations.
Fall-Winter Season (October 2, 2016 - April 1, 2017): No passes or permits are required. Overnight camping is permitted in some areas.
Parking: There are 3 horse trailer parking spaces at the Fossil Springs Trailhead. All other parking spaces throughout the Fossil Creek area accommodate 22' long vehicles. Fossil Creek Road (FR 708) is very rough and not recommended for horse trailers.