Hiking Fossil Creek Trail near Camp Verde: Your Complete Guide

Hiking Fossil Creek Trail near Camp Verde: Your Complete Guide

Are you looking for a scenic hiking trail near Camp Verde? Look no further than Fossil Creek Trail. This trail is known for its stunning views of waterfalls, turquoise blue pools, and travertine formations. The trail is located about 22 miles southeast of Camp Verde and is accessible via paved and dirt roads.

Before embarking on your hike, it is important to note that the roads leading to Fossil Creek Trail can be steep, very rough, and treacherous after it rains. If you plan to drive, it is recommended that you have a high-clearance vehicle. Alternatively, you can park at the Fossil Creek Bridge and hike down to the trailhead. The trail itself is relatively easy and suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

As you hike along the trail, you will be treated to breathtaking views of the creek and its surrounding landscape. The trail leads to a gushing waterfall and turquoise-blue pools that are truly a feast for the senses. The Fossil Creek Trail is truly a gem of the Camp Verde area and a must-see for any hiking enthusiast.

Location and Accessibility

If you’re looking for a scenic and refreshing hiking trail, Fossil Creek Trail near Camp Verde is a great option. The trail is located in the Coconino National Forest, about 10 miles east of Camp Verde. The trailhead is easily accessible from Fossil Creek Road, which can be reached by taking exit 287 from I-17.

Getting There

To get to Fossil Creek Trailhead, take AZ-260 east from Camp Verde for 10 miles until you reach West Fossil Creek Road. Turn right onto West Fossil Creek Road and continue for about 4 miles until you reach the trailhead parking lot. Note that the last 4 miles of the road are unpaved and can be rough in some areas, so be sure to drive carefully.

Parking and Permit Information

Parking at the trailhead requires a permit, which can be obtained through the US Forest Service website or by calling their office. During the spring and summer season (April 1 – October 1), a reserved, printed permit is required. The permit system helps manage the number of visitors to the area and ensures that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.

There are several permitted parking lots in the area, so be sure to check the map to find the one that is closest to the trailhead. Once you’ve parked, follow the signs to the trailhead and begin your hike. Be aware that the parking lots can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and holidays, so it’s a good idea to arrive early in the day to secure a spot.

Trail Details

Trail Overview

The Fossil Creek Trail near Camp Verde is a popular hiking destination for tourists and locals alike. The trail is approximately 1 mile long and leads to the stunning Fossil Creek Waterfall. It is a short but steep hike, so it is recommended that you wear sturdy footwear and bring plenty of water. The trail is open year-round, but it is important to note that a permit is required from April to October. You can download a trail map and obtain a permit from the official website.

Hiking Difficulty

The Fossil Creek Trail is considered a moderately difficult hike due to its steep incline. The trail is not recommended for beginners or those with physical limitations. However, the trail is well-maintained and has a sturdy footing, so experienced hikers should have no problem. The trail is also dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry friend along for the adventure.

It is important to note that the trail can be rough and rocky in places, so it is important to wear sturdy footwear to prevent injury. The trail can also be quite crowded, especially during peak season, so it is important to be courteous to other hikers and follow trail etiquette. Overall, the Fossil Creek Trail is a beautiful and rewarding hike that offers stunning views of the waterfall and surrounding scenery.

Natural Features

When hiking the Fossil Creek Trail near Camp Verde, you will be surrounded by a variety of natural features that make this area unique. Here are some of the highlights you can expect to see along the way.

Water Attractions

One of the main draws of Fossil Creek Trail is the abundance of water attractions. The trail follows the creek, which is fed by numerous springs along the way. The most popular area is Waterfall Trail, which leads to a natural waterfall where you can swim and relax. The creek itself is also a great spot for swimming, fishing, and picnicking.

Flora and Fauna

The riparian area surrounding Fossil Creek is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. You may encounter a variety of birds, including eagles, hawks, and herons. Look out for other wildlife as well, such as deer, javelina, and coyotes. The area is also home to a variety of plant life, including cottonwood trees, willows, and wildflowers.

Geological Formations

The rocks and scenery along Fossil Creek Trail are also worth noting. The creek has carved out a beautiful canyon over time, and you will see travertine formations, pools, and cascades along the way. The rocks themselves are also fascinating, with a variety of colors and textures to admire.

Overall, hiking Fossil Creek Trail is a great way to experience the natural beauty of the area. You will be surrounded by water, shade, and stunning scenery, making it a perfect spot for wildlife viewing and relaxation.

Recreational Activities

When hiking the Fossil Creek Trail near Camp Verde, there are plenty of recreational activities to enjoy. Here are some of the most popular:

Swimming and Waterplay

One of the main attractions of Fossil Creek is the opportunity to swim and play in the water. The clear, turquoise pools are perfect for cooling off on a hot day. However, it’s important to note that the water can be quite cold, even in the summer months. Additionally, the water can be deep in some areas, so be sure to exercise caution when swimming.

Mountain Biking

If you’re looking for a more adventurous way to explore Fossil Creek, consider mountain biking. The trail offers a challenging ride with plenty of ups and downs. However, it’s important to note that the trail can be quite rocky and technical in some areas, so be sure to bring a bike with good suspension and tires.

Horseback Riding

For a more leisurely way to explore the trail, consider horseback riding. The trail is wide enough for horses and offers plenty of scenic views along the way. However, it’s important to note that there are some steep sections of the trail that may be difficult for horses to navigate.


If you want to spend more time exploring Fossil Creek, consider backpacking. There are several campsites along the trail that offer a great place to spend the night. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need to obtain a permit in advance if you plan on camping overnight.

Overall, Fossil Creek offers a wide range of recreational activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re looking to swim, bike, ride, or hike, there’s something for everyone on the trail. Just be sure to come prepared with the right gear and take appropriate safety precautions along the way.

Camping and Day Use

Camping Information

If you plan to camp overnight at Fossil Creek, you will need to make a reservation in advance. The Coconino National Forest manages the area, and you can make reservations through their website or by calling their office. The campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can reserve a site up to six months in advance.

There are several campsites available, and each one has a picnic table, fire ring, and parking area. The campsites are located near the creek, so you can enjoy the sound of the water as you sleep. There are no showers or flush toilets available, but there are vault toilets located throughout the area.

When camping at Fossil Creek, it is important to remember that you are in a wilderness area. You should pack out all of your trash and leave no trace behind. There are no food storage lockers available, so you will need to bring your own bear-resistant containers or hang your food from a tree.

Day Use Information

If you are planning to visit Fossil Creek for the day, you will need to purchase a day-use permit. The permit can be purchased online or by calling the reservation system. The permit is required from May through October and costs $6 per person.

There are several picnic areas available, and each one has a picnic table and a grill. There are also restrooms located throughout the area. You should bring your own food and water, as there are no stores or restaurants nearby.

When visiting Fossil Creek, it is important to remember that the area is a wilderness area. You should pack out all of your trash and leave no trace behind. You should also be prepared for the weather, as temperatures can vary throughout the day. It is recommended that you bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.

Whether you are camping overnight or just visiting for the day, Fossil Creek is a beautiful area to explore. With its crystal-clear water and stunning scenery, it is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves the outdoors.

Safety and Regulations

Trail Safety

Hiking Fossil Creek Trail can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to be aware of potential hazards and take necessary precautions to ensure your safety. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes with good traction to prevent slips and falls on the rocky terrain.
  • Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially during warmer months when temperatures can soar.
  • Watch out for slippery and treacherous areas, especially near the waterfalls and creek crossings.
  • If you plan to drive to the trailhead, be aware that the road is steep and rocky in places, and may require a high clearance vehicle.
  • Keep an eye on current conditions and weather reports, as flash floods and other natural disasters can occur unexpectedly.

Park Rules

To ensure the safety and enjoyment of all visitors, there are several park rules that you should be aware of:

  • Glass containers are not allowed in the park, as they can pose a safety hazard if broken.
  • Mechanized vehicles, including ATVs and dirt bikes, are not allowed on the trail.
  • Remote controlled aircraft are also prohibited, as they can disrupt wildlife and other visitors.
  • Always follow posted signs and stay on designated trails to avoid damaging the fragile ecosystem.
  • Respect park closures and restrictions, as they are in place to protect visitors and the environment.

Remember, following these rules and safety guidelines can help ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience for everyone.

Additional Information

Seasonal Considerations

Hiking the Fossil Creek Trail near Camp Verde is a year-round activity, but there are some seasonal considerations to keep in mind. During the fall-winter season, the trail can be icy and slippery, so it is recommended to wear appropriate footwear and use trekking poles. In the spring-summer season, the temperatures can be high, so hikers should bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Also, be aware of monsoon season, which typically runs from July to September, and can bring heavy rain and flash floods.

Resources and Guides

Before embarking on your Fossil Creek adventure, it is recommended to check out the Coconino National Forest website for trail maps, park alerts, and information on the Fossil Creek Reservation System. Additionally, there are several guides available that offer detailed information on the trail, such as the Fossil Creek Waterfall Trail Guidebook and the Fossil Springs Wilderness Guide. These guides can provide valuable insight into the trail’s history, geology, and flora and fauna.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a permit required to hike Fossil Creek Trail?

Yes, a permit is required to hike Fossil Creek Trail from April 1st to October 1st. The permit is issued by the US Forest Service and can be obtained online at Recreation.gov. The permit is required to park at any of the designated parking lots and to hike the trail.

What is the difficulty level of Fossil Creek Trail?

The trail is rated as moderate and is approximately 4 miles round trip. The trail is rocky and has some steep sections, but it is generally well-maintained and easy to follow.

How do I obtain a permit for Fossil Creek Trail?

Permits for Fossil Creek Trail can be obtained online at Recreation.gov. The permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are released four months in advance. It is recommended that you obtain your permit well in advance, as they can sell out quickly during peak season.

Is Fossil Creek Trail suitable for children?

Fossil Creek Trail is suitable for children, but parents should be aware of the rocky terrain and steep sections. Children should be closely supervised at all times, and it is recommended that they wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring plenty of water and snacks.

What are the rules and regulations for hiking Fossil Creek Trail?

Hikers are required to stay on the designated trail and to pack out all trash. Swimming and wading in the creek are allowed, but jumping or diving from rocks or cliffs is prohibited. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.

What is the best time of year to hike Fossil Creek Trail?

The best time to hike Fossil Creek Trail is in the spring or fall when temperatures are cooler. The trail can be very hot and crowded during the summer months, and the creek can dry up during the winter. It is recommended that you check the weather forecast and trail conditions before heading out on your hike.

Concluding Thoughts

Now that you know what to expect when hiking the Fossil Creek Trail near Camp Verde, you can confidently plan your trip. Remember to obtain a permit during the peak season and bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen.

The trail is suitable for hikers of all skill levels, but keep in mind that the terrain can be rocky and uneven in some areas. Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and use caution when crossing the creek.

The highlight of the trail is undoubtedly the stunning waterfall, which is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. Take the time to relax and enjoy the scenery, but also be respectful of the environment and leave no trace behind.

Overall, hiking the Fossil Creek Trail is an unforgettable experience that you won’t want to miss. So grab your gear, hit the trail, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Arizona’s wilderness.

Charley Waters

I've traveled to 49 states and 3 provinces in Canada living in my RV full-time over many years. I've stayed just about everywhere possible. National parks, state parks, parking lots, BLM land, Independent RV parks and friends and family's driveways. I lived through a crazy Derecho windstorm in Iowa. I got stuck in a winter freeze in Texas.

Living on the road in your RV can be challenging at times. But the good times make up for the bad. I'm here to share my experience and help fellow RVers good decisions while enjoying the great outdoors and vast camping opportunities this country has to offer.

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