Fossil Creek Adventures
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Summer 2021 Update:
Unfortunately a forest fire impacted the Fossil Creek area and it is closed until further notice. Save this post for when it reopens, though!
Fossil Creek holds a special place in my heart. It’s right outside my hometown of Camp Verde, Arizona. I have fond memories of going down to the creek in the back of a friend‘s pickup truck, bumping down the dirt road and laughing. It was our own personal swimming hole back in the day.
As the years have gone on, things have changed, as they inevitably do. The old flume from the power plant was removed, the dam was decommissioned and removed, the fish population has been restored, and with the increased conservation efforts there have also been increased visitors. Luckily, the Forest Service stepped in and now the whole area is permitted to protect the ecosystem. As you can see below, fish are flourishing!
I generally go back to Fossil a few times a year. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, wanting to remember youthful times, but most likely it’s because Fossil is one of the most beautiful places in the state.
There are two major waterfalls that people make their destination. The “Waterfall Trail” leads to one of the waterfalls and you can reach this trail from the Camp Verde side of Fossil. The other trail was recently named the “Bob Bear Trail” and us locals call that waterfall the “Dam Waterfall” since that is where the old dam used to be. I will go more in depth into both falls below.
The Waterfall Trail
This trail is accessed from Camp Verde off of Fossil Creek Road. Be advised, the road to get to the trailhead is long, dirt, and bumpy! You’re definitely making your way into Central Arizona’s backcountry. Permits must be obtained here before you head on this adventure. Permits are released on the 1st of each month for the following month. So, if you want to go in July, permits for July would be released at 8:00 a.m. AZ time on June 1.
Now, with permits out of the way, time for logistics. This trail is dog friendly and also family friendly! It’s only 1.3 miles from the parking lot to the waterfall so it’s an easy stroll. The trail is extremely crowded on the weekends, so keep that in mind. There is a pit toilet near the parking area. If you need to use the restroom while you’re enjoying your day, please remember to go at least 200 feet away from the water and pack out any TP! This area is a very fragile ecosystem so it is imperative that visitors practice Leave No Trace principles.
There are tons of fun spots along the trail to get in the creek and swim! I highly recommend bringing the following with you on your adventure:
3L of water (it gets hot)
a trash bag to take your trash out
snacks that won’t melt
clothes you don’t mind swimming in, or a swimsuit
There’s quite a bit of bugs near the water so bug spray is extremely helpful. Also, this area does have poison oak/ivy, so familiarize yourself with what poisonous plants look like. Finally, during snake season make sure to stay aware.
Strapped with this information you are sure to have a blast on the Waterfall Trail. If you have any questions when planning your adventure, drop a comment below!
Bob Bear Trail to Dam Waterfall
The second waterfall people visit at Fossil you access via Strawberry. The road to get here is much easier and it’s only dirt for a mile or two, so for those wanting to save their suspension on their car, this one may be for you.
While the drive to get here is easier, the trail itself is much more challenging. Clocking in at 8.3 miles round trip with 1,500 feet elevation gain, you definitely want to make sure you’re prepared for this one. The most challenging aspect of this trail is all of the elevation gain is on the way out, since you start your day hiking into the canyon.
Logistics-wise, I’d probably recommend leaving your fur friend at home for this one since it gets so hot. Similar to the packing list I recommend for the Waterfall Trail, I’d increase water you’re bringing to 4L and make sure to bring some electrolytes. Additionally, make sure you have good shoes for the hike out of the canyon, don’t plan on doing this in flip flops or water shoes.
This trail also requires a permit, which is available here.
Once you’re down at the falls, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Jump off the falls, swim behind the falls, check out the blue cave. The only caution I want to point out is there is an area commonly referred to as “the toilet bowl” seen below. Do not jump into the toilet bowl, as many drownings have occurred since it is very hard to get out of. Better safe than sorry!
As always, please pack out all your trash! If you have any questions