Questions and Answers About Fossil Creek Reservations

Fossil Creek

There are ten recreation sites and trails along Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River. Each site features deep pools and beautiful scenery.

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Frequently Asked Questions



Answers to Frequently Asked Questions


How will I get a reservation?

Reservations must be made on-line at or via phone 877-444-6777. A permit and associated parking pass is issued to an individual 18 or older. One permit must be carried by the permit holder, and the printed parking pass must be posted on the dashboard of the vehicle. The permit allows a vehicle to park only in the parking lot listed on the parking pass only for the day reserved. The reservation will be validated on-site by Rangers. All passengers accompanying the permit holder must be inside the vehicle with a legal seatbelt.



How far in advance may I make a reservation to visit Fossil Creek?

Reservations will be available for purchase through (877-444-6777) at 8 AM.

  • Summer Season runs April 1st through October 1st. There is a limit of one permit per individual per month.
  • 80% of available permits are released on a rolling, daily basis. For example, permits for July 7th are available for purchase on June 7th, July 8th are available for purchase on June 8th, and so on.
  • 20% of available permits are released three days before the permit date. For example, a small number of permits for July 7th will be available for purchase on July 4th, July 8th permits are available for purchase on July 5th, and so on.

Same day permits are extremely rare and usually require a cancellation from another user, and the Forest Service does not recommend coming to Fossil Creek without a permit and parking pass in hand.



Who do I need to call to voice my questions and concerns about Fossil Creek Reservation System?

Please contact our Fossil Creek/Wild & Scenic Rivers Project Coordinator Becca Miller at 928-821-9881.



Is this a first come, first served or a lottery based reservation system?

Reservations are sold on a first come, first served. A lottery system is not being considered at this time. 



How much will the reservation cost?

The cost is $6 per reservation. The reservation will entitle the permit holder to a single day parking pass admitting the permit holder, the vehicle, and the people legally seated with seatbelts in the vehicle to the parking area reserved. You will not be able to park in a different parking lot than what has been reserved. All parking lots have a dirt surface and can accommodate a maximum vehicle length of 22 feet, and a maximum width of 10 feet



Will the permit system be in place year-round?

No, reservations and permits will only be required from April 1 – October 1. Outside of these dates there is no need for a reservation. If needed to protect visitor's experiences or river corridor resources, dates may change in the future.



What if I need to cancel my reservation?

You may cancel up to the day of your reservation date as long as the permit has not been printed. All fees are non-refundable. Please cancel your reservation if you are unable to use it in order to open a space for others. If you do not cancel your reservation, you will be unable to make another reservation that month.

For weather events or natural disasters that require the Forest Service to close the Fossil Creek Permit Area for safety reasons, all cancelled reservations will receive a full refund.

Change Policy: You may change your permit as long as the permit has not been printed. You may change your list of participants any time before you print your permit. The permit holder name cannot be changed. Changing the date of your reservation requires you to cancel your existing reservation and make a new reservation, should space be available. The reservation fee is non-refundable.



If I show up at Fossil Creek without a reservation, can I get one on the spot if there is room for my vehicle? Are there walk in permits?

The Forest Service does not recommend coming to Fossil Creek without a permit already secured through Due to its remote location, there is no method for the Forest Service to issue permits “in the field” at the entry stations within Fossil Creek. An individual could make a reservation, if space is available in real time (which is extremely rare due to the low rate of cancellations), but they would need to print their parking pass and bring it with them to Fossil Creek. A physical, printed parking pass must be placed on the dash of the car.



Will there be a limit on the number of reservations one person can make in a year?

Individuals are limited to one permit each calendar monthduring the Spring-Summer season. Access to Fossil Creek during the Fall-Winter season is unlimited.



What if I want to leave my car to backpack for several days outside of the permit boundary in the Fossil Springs or Mazatzal wilderness?

Overnight parking in the Fossil Creek Permit Area is prohibited during the Spring-Summer season (April 1 -Oct. 1). All vehicles must be removed from the parking lots by 8 p.m. during these months. Overnight parking is allowed in parking lots downstream of the Fossil Creek Bridge and at the Bob Bear Trailhead during the Winter season (Oct. 2 - March 31).



Why doesn’t the Forest Service continue to do what they currently do and turn people away at the entrance to Fossil Creek area when parking has reached capacity? At least then some people can drive in when others are driving out.

During the summer of 2015, on most weekend days, the Fossil Creek area had reached capacity by 7 a.m. Hundreds of people were then turned away each day. Most of these people had driven more than two hours to reach the entrance to Fossil Creek, where they learned that the area was full. During the 2015 summer, many people expressed strong support for a reservation system that would guarantee entrance to Fossil Creek upon arrival.

Furthermore, the Forest Service observed an increasing number of visitors entering Fossil Creek at night when rangers were not present. This caused the area to be over capacity many weekend days adding to health, safety and resource issues.



Can there be special parking spaces/reservations set aside for “locals”?

The National Forest is public land for use by all people. All visitors will have equal access to the reservation system.



How will the reservation system be enforced?

A visitor who successfully receives a reservation to visit Fossil Creek must print out their permit and a parking pass. Once in Fossil Creek, they will park in their designated parking lot, place the parking pass on the dash, and take the permit portion with them. If a law enforcement officer encounters a vehicle without a parking pass, a violation notice will be issued.



Will any of the reservation fee be used for maintenance of the Fossil Creek area?

At this time, none of the reservation fee money will be used for maintenance of the Fossil Creek area. The reservation fees are used for administration of the reservation system, which is contracted under In the future, the Forest Service intends to go through the required process to determine if user fees should be charged for use in the Fossil Creek area. If user fees are charged under the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act, the user fee revenue can be used for maintenance and visitor services within the Fossil Creek area.



Why is there no camping during the permit season at Fossil Creek?
  • In recent years, human waste issues in the camping areas in Fossil Creek have become excessive and dangerous. There are not adequate facilities for 24-hour use, nor do the temporary facilities get used by all. This waste ends up in the water and can make people sick as well as harming the fish, animals, and water quality in the area.
  • Sadly, vandalism and damage to forest resources was common in camping areas. We can’t reverse damage, but we can give these resources areas a chance to recover.



What are the hours of operation?
  • 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), Dixon Lewis Trailhead, and Bob Bear (formerly 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 3 p.m. The access gate will close at 3 p.m. daily; however, you may still exit the parking lot after 3 p.m.


 How can I find out more about the Fossil Creek Comprehensive River Management Plan?

  •         Information about the Fossil Creek Comprehensive River Management Plan(CRMP) can be found here.