register help
This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek, AZ

Guide 39 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
  3.9 of 5 
1 Active
347 39 16
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,900 feet
Elevation Gain 150 feet
Accumulated Gain 210 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 3.25
Interest Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Connecting Only
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
4  2018-11-16 Stoic
8  2018-05-03 Stoic
12  2018-03-17
Fossil Springs Loop
18  2017-11-09 TheNaviG8R
4  2017-08-04 hikester
19  2017-07-05 ddgrunning
3  2017-06-12 gregstewart1952
12  2016-12-04 chumley
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author chumley
author avatar Guides 81
Routes 688
Photos 15,563
Trips 1,590 map ( 11,813 miles )
Age 48 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   May, Jun, Jul, Aug → 9 AM
Seasons   Spring
Sun  5:14am - 7:42pm
Official Route
5 Alternative

Fall in Love!
by chumley

Likely In-Season!
This is NOT the 8.75 mi / 1,785 feet Bob Bear Trail #18

May 1st to Oct 1st, view permit info.

Fossil Creek is one of Arizona's natural wonders. Federally designated as a "Wild and Scenic" River, this spring-fed creek flows at an impressive rate of over 20,000 gallons per minute. The water is heavily laden with calcium and other minerals, giving it an unbelievable turquoise color, and also creating travertine pools and formations along its banks. The springs are technically "hot springs," where the water that feeds the creek emerges at a constant 70 degrees year-round. Depending on the season, the water may be cooler or warmer by the time it reaches the waterfall at the terminus of the trail.

This hike is not strenuous, and even people unaccustomed to hiking in the desert should be able to manage this trail if adequately prepared. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow. There are many areas where the trail crosses jagged travertine rock deposits. Hiking this trail in open-toed sandals or flip-flops is not recommended except for those experienced in doing so. If you plan on wading or swimming, bring suitable water shoes. The wet rocks along the creek and around the waterfall can be very slippery, even with appropriate footwear. Despite being creekside, it can be over 100 degrees in the summer. Bring ample drinking water to stay hydrated. There is no trash service. Plan to carry out anything that you bring in with you.

Trailhead Access
The Waterfall Trail begins along Fossil Creek Road (also known as Forest Road 708), about 1.5 miles east of the bridge crossing. THERE IS NO PARKING AT THE TRAILHEAD!! There are available parking areas down the hill from the trailhead, but they fill up fast on weekends, so the earlier you arrive, the less distance you will have to "hike" on the road just to get to the start of the trail. The nearest parking area (max 20 cars) is 1/4 mile from the trailhead. The trailhead is well marked and begins at the end of fencing along the road. Please respect the fencing. It is in place to protect the fragile environment from overuse. See the "Directions" box below for details on how to get to Fossil Springs from nearby highways. The roads are frequently closed or restricted, so make sure to check with the National Forest before you leave to make sure you will be able to access the area.

The trail immediately drops off the road and down to the valley bottom. You can hear the creek flowing, but it will be a few minutes of hiking before you see any water. There are easy access points to the stream all along the trail, but to get to the waterfall quickest, stay on the path and head upstream. Large Sycamore and Cottonwood trees often shade the hike, but ample sun shines through as well. There are some smaller falls you will pass along the way. You'll know when you get to the main event, the trail dead-ends at a rocky "cliff," which the waterfall flows over.

Waterfall Area
On a popular weekend, you will probably encounter loud people swimming, jumping, and having a good time. Parental warning: It would not be uncommon to meet music, alcohol, or recreational drug use amongst some of the visitors. Swimming too close to the waterfall can be dangerous due to the strong current. Caution should be paid, especially for those who are not strong swimmers. There are other less-impressive swimming holes and smaller cascades further downstream that may be more suitable for children or families.

Fossil is a very remote area. Cellphone service is sketchy or non-existent. Emergency services, if needed, can take hours to arrive. Travertine rocks are jagged and sharp. The creek flows quickly with a strong current. The road access is rugged and can feature a lot of traffic, including possible alcohol-impaired drivers. Despite the oasis that the creek provides, this is still the desert. There are snakes, spiders, scorpions, and other common desert critters. It is why this area is designated "Wild and Scenic". If you arrive prepared and enjoy the trail and creek with caution, you might find it to be one of the most beautiful and amazing places you've ever been!

Rules to Know!
There is NO CAMPING along the Waterfall Trail. Ever. There are NO FIRES allowed. Ever! There are a couple of portable toilets at the trailhead, but no facilities near the waterfall. Solid waste within 100 feet from the creek is not permitted, and even so, must be buried at least 6" deep! You are in a canyon, and getting 100-feet away is difficult. Be prepared. Bring a shovel. You must carry toilet paper out with you! Bring a ziplock bag for this purpose! There is no trash service. Carry any beverage containers, food wrappers, etc. back out with you. NO GLASS! Accidents happen. Broken glass lasts for years and is nearly impossible to pick up. Leave it at home! Nobody wants to hike or swim surrounded by toilet paper, trash, and glass. Please do your part!!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2012-09-11 chumley
  • Fossil Permit Area
    area related
    Fossil Permit Area
  • map
    area related
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Permit $$
S_397.jpg $6 per car, 148 spaces available.

Apr 1st thru Oct 1st

Fossil Creek - Need to Know Info
Understand info in above & check/get permits below
Fossil Vehicle Permits
Bob Bear Trailhead

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
From Camp Verde: Travel east on AZ-260 for about 7 miles to the signed turn for Fossil Springs Road (FR708). Proceed 16 miles on a rough dirt road to any available parking area. This road is rough but passable in a passenger car in dry weather with a skilled driver. For the quality of the ride, use a high-clearance vehicle.

From Payson: Travel north on AZ-87/260 toward Winslow for about 17.5 miles to the small town of Strawberry. Turn left on Fossil Springs Road (FR708) and proceed 9.5 miles on a rough dirt road down into Fossil Creek drainage and first available parking area. Continue further downstream for additional parking options.

NOTE: Fossil Springs Road is subject to closure due to capacity controls, overuse, and maintenance. Coming from Camp Verde, the road is often closed by 10 am on popular summer weekends. Please check with the Forest Service for current conditions and road status. (Fossil Springs Telephone Hotline: 928-226-4611 or
page created by chumley on Sep 11 2012 3:27 pm
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
help comment issue

end of page marker