Fossil Creek Waterfall Trail (from Camp Verde)
★★★☆☆ Easy / Payson Area:
Blink your eyes (on this crazy short hike) and you’ll have already arrived in paradise! The gushing waterfall and turquoise blue pools on Fossil Creek’s Waterfall Trail are truly feasts for the senses. And frolicking in these deliciously refreshing waters, after such little hiking (although there is a lot of driving), is almost junk-food-like in its nearly instant gratification – kinda’ like being given the tastiest potato chips after just getting up from the couch. Similarly, it’s a hike that is really hard to resist! And why should you? One you’ve savored this amazing location, you’ll end up returning again and again.
TRAILHEAD: Fossil Creek Road (15 miles east of hwy. 260) • DIFFICULTY: easy • DISTANCE: 1.2 MILES (2.4 miles RT) • APPROX. TIME: 1-1.5 HOURS rt • ELEVATION GAIN: minimal • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 310-360 rt • BEST TIME OF YEAR: year round • PETS: YES • KID FRIENDLY: EXTREMELY • FACILITIES: very basic portapotties • FEES: $6 day use Permit required, May through October – Purchase online at RECREATION.GOV or call 877-444-6777
Although the Fossil Creek Waterfall Trail itself is short, the trailhead (located in the Coconino National Forest) does require a quite-vibrating, 15-mile drive, on an unpaved road, to reach. A high clearance vehicle is a must. This one-hour drive crosses through beautiful back-country hills and valleys. The trailhead is located just past a gate officially blocking Fossil Creek Road from ongoing traffic (due to a past landslide that dissected the route to Strawberry). A number of rudimentary parking areas are situated along the hilly, last half-mile of the open road. During hot Summer months especially, these lots can get full.
Beyond this gate, arrows (attached to a fence along the roadway) point to the trail. At a fence opening, the trail starts its easy descent down a short hill, and begins approaching Fossil Creek. The sound of rushing water gets louder – although the stream doesn’t come into view for a bit. Curving right, the path slowly advances towards, and along, the creek, crossing small bogs and under the shade of plentiful trees. After a bit the creek, with its many small waterfalls and popular swim holes, begins to peek in and out of view.
Finally, the trail opens up onto a flat pebbled area, with numerous large rocks to sit on, and a crystalline view of the 15-foot waterfall, the cave behind it, and the deep, turquoise-blue pool below. Hopefully you brought your swim suit and a lunch. Take a break. Go for a dip in the chilly waters. And remember to take your trash out with you when you leave.
If the waterfall is crowded, awesome dive-worthy swim holes can also to be found behind the cross bridge (located one-mile back on the road), where equally clear, turquoise waters are encased in gorgeous mountain views.
The high calcium content of Fossil creek creates its amazing turquoise tone. This spot receives over 60,000 visitors per year. So anticipate crowds in the Summer.
Directions From the intersection of I-17 and AZ-260 (I-17 exit 287) at Camp Verde, take AZ-260 east for 10 miles to West Fossil Creek Road. Turn right on West Fossil Creek Road and continue 15 miles to the trail head parking lot, on the left side of the road.
- Dayhike, Easy, Family Friendly, Mountains, Pet Friendly, Short, Stream, Swimming, Waterfall
- April 18, 2015