register help

Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek, AZ

347 36 16
Guide 36 Triplogs  16 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Camp Verde > Verde S
3.8 of 5 by 12
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 75
Routes 667
Photos 13,172
Trips 1,417 map ( 10,542 miles )
Age 46 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   May, Jun, Jul, Aug → 9 AM
Seasons   Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:25pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Fall in Love!
by chumley

This is NOT the 8.75 mi / 1,785 feet Fossil Creek 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 the 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 however, the water may be cooler or warmer by the time it reaches the waterfall at the terminus of this trail.

This is an easy hike, and even people unaccustomed to hiking in the desert should be able to manage this trail if properly 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 creek all along the trail, but to get to the waterfall quickest, stay on the trail and head upstream. The hike is often shaded by large Sycamore and Cottonwood trees, but ample sun shines through as well. There are some smaller falls you will pass along the way, but 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 encounter 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.

This is a very remote area. Cellphone service is sketchy or non-existant. 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 is not permitted within 100 feet from the creek, 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. Toilet paper must be carried 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 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.

Most recent of 13 deeper Triplog Reviews
Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Absolutely love the permit system that the Forest Service has implemented at Fossil Creek. Took a day trip up with some friends and their dog, Wilbur. Walked about 20 minutes in and pulled off at a pool 1/4 mile from the waterfall where there was a tree to jump off and a nice sandbar to sit on in the sun. Great spot for dogs as there is no abrupt drop-off into the pool. Headed up to the waterfall and bruised my tailbone on the highest jumping spot, couldn't get my damn legs underneath me!
Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Fossil Springs Loop
Up in Pine with one of my sons for the weekend. He'd never been to Fossil Springs before and this one fit the bill perfectly.

We got this in before the permit system starts again on April 1st.

It was cool enough to keep the crowds down, not not cold enough to keep people from swimming. There was even a guy that was just finishing up in a wet suit and an air tank at the waterfall off the Waterfall Trail.

Beautiful clear skies with puffy Fraley's. We hiked the CCW route, opting for the steady climb to finish.

The Dam Waterfall Area
[ youtube video ]

Slow Motion Waterfall off the Waterfall Trail
[ youtube video ]

Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
After seeing Arnett Creek was a week or two behind normal, I figured that some higher elevation spots that I had long-since written off might still have some color. Fossil Creek did not disappoint!

Apparently people don't normally think of swimming in December, but the springs produce water at 72 degrees year round, so the swimming was quite pleasant, though it was a little chilly in the shade once out of the water. Nonetheless, it's very nice to enjoy this area when there's nobody else around. We passed the four other people in the two other cars just as we were on our way in, and there wasn't a sign of anybody else all day. :y:

After a couple hours of of swimming and jumping, we took a leisurely photography tour on the way back to the truck and then stuck around until dark to get some late light photos. It was nice to meet Trish, and thank you to Brian for altering my plan of going to Snowbowl for the day, though I'm guessing it's the first time the FC parking lot had a vehicle with a snowboard on it. :)

About a week past peak, but still tons of color in the entire valley. Some cottonwoods were still at prime.
Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
Fossil Springs Loop
i've hiked down to fossil creek twice before the dam was decommissioned, once in 2006 and once before 1998
been wanting to go back, and john hadn't been here at all
he even took a monday off so we could avoid some of the crowds
arrived at the trailhead early enough that only three or four cars were in the parking lot
didn't see anyone on the way down, until near the creek when we ran into a couple of backpackers hiking out
noticable amount of smoke in the canyon from the horse tank fire north of strawberry
crossed the creek bed and went past the camping area to the old dam site
took a dip there, sharing the place with just five younger guys
nice place for a swim and the water felt great
i wanted to see the waterfall on the other end, so we hiked down the flume trail for a few miles
dropped down off trail to the waterfall trail, and backtracked to the waterfall
went for another swim as we crossed the creek, then went up to the waterfall
started seeing more and more people, along with a corresponding amount of garbage
the waterfall was nice, and i'm glad we went there, but way too many people to enjoy it
went back to another pool for a snack and one last swim
hiked out forest road 708, which is now closed to vehicle traffic
essentially followed the loop bruce and joe did last april, but from the top
such a beautiful area, and i enjoyed seeing more of it
but the amount of water bottles, toilet paper, food scraps, wrappers and general garbage is disgusting
it's a shame that some of the visitors treat the wilderness as one big dumpster
on a monday, john counted about 60 people at the waterfall, with numbers rising to well over 100 as we hiked toward the road
while the warm temps make swimming fun, i wouldn't do this hike when school is out
i liked the dam area better, but by the time we got back to my truck, the lot was full and the dam was probably just as crowded
another time i would explore more of the creek, rather than hiking above it
a good time in spite of the garbage rant
good company, too - thanks john
hit that brewery on the way home, and then dq in payson
made it back just in time for the women's world cup soccer game
Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
What an absolutely beautiful area. Fossil Springs is where I brought my wife to 16 years ago that "bought me" the opportunity to bring her (and later our children) hiking all over the state.

Since that time, this place has changed.

The "trash" was overwhelming.

We left Queen Creek at 5:30am and arrived at the trailhead around 9:15am (including 2 stops). The closest parking lot was full and we were the last two vehicles to make it into parking spaces in the 2nd lot.

The water was absolutely beautiful and the temperature was perfect for this time of year. This was the kids first trip to the area and they had a blast.

But as time wore on, it became more and more crowded. The waterfall area was "standing room only". People were walking in with full lawn chairs and heavy coolers. One gent carried in 2x 36 pack cases of terrible beer (one over each shoulder). From what we could tell, groups of 15-20 people brought in chairs and just sat to drink all day long.

I would not call this a family friendly atmosphere. I wouldn't even compare this to a "spring break" party. This was something else...

Then there was a the garbage. It was everywhere. Dropped salsa containers all over the rocks. Beer cans. Beer bottles. Random clothing and footwear just tossed where ever. What an absolute mess!

All due respect should be given to the forest service attempting to maintain this area. They really are working hard out there. But there is only so much they can do.

My wife's comment following the trip, "It is so beautiful there. We are not going back until they put in a permit system and start charging $30+ per car. That was gross and overcrowded."

This needs to end. There were far too many people down there and it is seriously impacting the area.
Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
We (the family) decided to check this place out after one of her friends told her how nice it is. We headed in from the Camp Verde side due to the Strawberry rd being closed. The dirt rd was fine. Took the mustang on it and we did not bottom out any time.

The family picked the waterfall trail, we heard that there are a few swimming holes on the way. I put my day pack on and we headed out. The parking lot had about 9 cars in it besides mine own. The trail was nice and easy and right off the bat you could see the greenery, trees, fern, etc. The creek was flowing nicely and you could hear it for most of the trail.

About .5 miles in we found a nice teal colored swimming hold. We all stopped and hopped in the pool for a nice swim our son was having fun sliding down the rocks. After our nice dip in the creek we headed to see the waterfall at the end of the trail. We saw birds, lizards and a nice cactus blossom.

The waterfall was awesome there was some people jumping off the top of it and a few drinking in the cave by the fall. They all had left by the time we packed up and left, but the good thing was that they took all their trash with them.

Overall nice easy trail, but be aware that there is a lot of people heading here like the kids who are off from school.
Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
My Brother and Sister-in-Law were visiting from Michigan. Their only request...
"I want to hike and see the state"

This was Day 1 of 4, Destination 1 of 6 of an 877 mile journey.

They didn't care much for the 17 miles of washboard to get to the destination, but I ensured them it'd be worth it.

There was 10 or so trucks at the TH when we got there around 10a.

We hiked in, did some lunch, swimming and exploring. There was never more than 10 total people at the falls area.

I still can't get over how beautiful this area is....

We left by 2p because we had dinner plans back in the Valley. Just in time as the Masses were on their way in as we were leaving. We passed no less than 50 people on their way in.

A great day one with Deb, Tom and Edie!

Cliff Jumping and some underwater Video :next:
Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Bruce and I did a loop through here four weeks ago. The waterfall seemed like an excellent destination for Jessica. So we planned a camping trip. She was excited and looked forward to the trip.

The road in is still washboard, go figure. At 8:30am we were the second car in the lot and never saw the other party all the way to the waterfall. With a cool front moving through this week we thought it might be a bit chilly in the water. Just the initial shock then it was fine in the mid seventies.

For an hour we floated around in the waterfall pool. It rotates counter clockwise. With minimal hand paddling you keep circling. The rocks are not slippery so walking across the shallow end is not difficult. Heading out I noticed there is a lot of travertine 10-15 feet above creek level. There must have been old natural dams. If it flooded it wouldn't seem to last long enough nor would it be mineralized enough to create the formations. Jessica really liked this hike and float.

Next up was Cathedral Rock in Sedona. The parking lot was full so we went for lunch and came back. Still full it just wasn't in the cards. Jessica wasn't disappointed rather almost relieved so instead of another hike in the sun we walked around the 89A shops above Oak Creek. My knowledge of shopping districts is bleak at best so I haven't a clue what most refer to this area as being. It's definitely busy and fun to walk around. Tlaquepaque was the next stop for the bouncing pinball. 28 years ago I came here with my dad and sister. It is interesting and seems more artsy. It seemed busier back in the 80's.

With plans to camp on Mingus we headed up. Along the way we stopped in Jerome. We walked up through the streets and all around. Jessica loved it and calls it spooky.

After I showed Jessica the highlights of Mingus we setup camp. It was windy until we left the next morning. Luckily it only dropped to 43 degrees. Fun trip. We both had a blast.
Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Fossil Springs Loop
This is one of about five that have been on my list forever....

Finally talked señor José into visiting the crystal clear cool blue green waters of Fossil Creek.
The Flume Trail was also on the list and made a convenient loop.

We were the second car in the Waterfall Trail TH at about 8am. Hiking CCW, we climbed the 5+ mile closed to vehicle portion of Fossil Creek Rd. This get's the majority of the elevation out of the way easily on the road. Some great views of the Fossil Creek area from up on this road.

At around 10am we made the Fossil Springs TH and about 30 cars. I was not expecting solitude on this hike, just Blue Green Waters. For the amount of cars, the trail was not crowded at all.

Lush and green at the bottom opened up to more and more water. Just prior to seeing our first spring, Joe walked overtop of a 4' Gopher Snake. Now the famous waters kicked in.

Underwater GoPro

We made our way to the old Dam area. It was interesting to find out that before it was decommissioned and ripped out, the Dam was 14' taller. Joe pointed out the Toilet Bowl as we crossed over the creek to the Flume trail.

Dam Area

You had to look pretty close to see the remnants of the old Flume. The pathway was visible in spots, as well as some of the footings and hardware. I really enjoyed the views of the creek from the Flume Trail.

The track I'd drawn up jumped off the Flume and made it's way for the Waterfall on the Waterfall Trail. Warning for those that may follow the posted track, the last drop to the creek is steep and loose, but offers different views of the natives jumping the 40' into the Blue Green pools below.

Lunch was on the creek next to a 15' diameter whirlpool. There were probably 30 or so people enjoying the waters and taking turns jumping to the waters below

Waterfall Backflip

The Waterfall Trail is jungle-like and well traveled

Back to the truck and parking lot that was one other car, was now full, as well as all the other lots and roadsides.

This is a special area that everyone has to experience. Weekdays, before school lets out for the summer, Recommended.
Waterfall Trail - Fossil Creek
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Fossil Springs Loop
Bruce has wanted to hike the area for some time. I kept brushing it aside since the historic flume is gone. Fossil Springs is one of the most popular hikes in the state. After a little self attitude adjustment it dawned on me most would get excited to visit Fossil so what the heck... bring it on!

Albeit an obvious loop and nothing over the top this is a wham duzzel of a loop! ( gps here )

Fossil Trail #18 was pretty much as I recall from 2005. While not shaded there are a lot of shade opportunities near the junipers anytime except high noon.

The Flume Trail was interesting to see how well they removed the flume. Nice views for a road walk. Still feels like it's hotter on that road than anywhere else. Junipers are good at creating that feeling. You see shade but rarely experience it first hand.

The Waterfall Trail is just a slice of heaven. This was my first trip and I'll be back. Bruce likes to do all the popular stuff like A.B. Young, West Fork and Waterfall... backwards. This is also interesting as I traveled the creek up decades ago.

just 54 seconds...

Permit $$
$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

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
From Camp Verde: Travel east on AZ-260 for about 7 miles to signed turn for Fossil Springs Road (FR708). Proceed 16 miles on 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. High-clearance vehicle would be preferred for quality of ride.

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 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 10am 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
help comment issue

end of page marker