Waterfall Trail on Fossil Creek

This large, natural waterfall on Fossil Creek is a popular swimming hole.

As the weather warms up, the Forest Service reminds visitors to Fossil Creek that they must possess a printed parking permit beginning April 1 for day use in the Fossil Creek Permit Area, on the Coconino and the Tonto national forests.

Permit reservations for Fossil Creek’s eight creekside parking lots can be made online by searching “Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River” at www.recreation.gov or calling 877-444-6777.

New this year, permits for Lot 9 (formerly the Fossil Springs Trail) must now be reserved through the new Bob Bear Trailhead permit page by searching “Bob Bear Trailhead” at www.recreation.gov or calling 877-444-6777.

The Fossil Springs Trail was renamed the Bob Bear Trail to honor an important cultural figure, and improve public safety — and reduce the burden on emergency responders — by better distinguishing it from other Fossil Creek access points.

Visitors thinking of reserving the Bob Bear Trailhead permit must be prepared to do an 8-mile round-trip strenuous hike to reach Fossil Creek. Bob Bear Trailhead can only be accessed from Strawberry off of state Route 87 to Forest Road 708. Horse trailer parking continues to be available at this trailhead.

On the first of each month, reservations open for the following month (April reservations opened March 1, May reservations will open April 1, etc.). They only require reservations and printed permits April 1 through Oct. 1. At all other times, the parking spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Permits are $6, entitling the permit holder to a single day pass that reserves parking for the day in a specific parking lot. Visitors must print their permit before arriving and may only park in the parking lot assigned on their parking pass for the day reserved.

The eight creekside parking lots accessed from Camp Verde off SR260 to FR708 (Fossil Creek Road) include:

Lot 1: Waterfall

Lot 2: Irving

Lot 3: Tonto Bench

Lot 4: Fossil Creek Bridge

Lot 5: Homestead

Lot 6: Sally May

Lot 7: Purple Mountain

Lot 8: Mazatzal

Important Reminders

Vehicles: High-clearance vehicles are strongly recommended to travel from SR260 down the 14-mile rough dirt FR708 to the main entrance of the Fossil Creek corridor. Standard passenger vehicles often get flat tires or break down on this rugged roadway.

Cost: The $6 permit is non refundable, unless the Forest Service closes the road because of weather. If you cannot use your permit, however, please cancel it online to make your parking space available for others.

Permit documentation: People reserving a permit must print their permit in advance to place on their dashboards upon entrance to Fossil Creek. Permits can be printed immediately upon making a reservation online. The confirmation email the customer receives is NOT the permit.

At the gate: No permits are sold or able to be printed on site. If you do not have a printed permit, they will not allow you to continue down Fossil Creek Road.

Closed portion of FR708: A 4-mile section of Forest Road 708 on the Strawberry side, from just past the Bob Bear Trailhead to the Waterfall Trailhead, is closed to public motorized travel because of unsafe road conditions. The only direct access to Fossil Creek by vehicle is from the Camp Verde side.

Bob Bear Trail hike: Those intending to hike the Bob Bear Trail must access the trailhead through the Strawberry entrance and come prepared! The strenuous hike to Fossil Creek is 4 miles one way, with an elevation change of 1,700 feet. Summer daytime temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. No water or other services are available along the trail, so hikers must come prepared with at least one gallon of water per person and adequate food, footwear, and physical fitness. This hike should not be used to access the waterfall area or any other areas of Fossil Creek.

Camping: No camping is allowed within the Fossil Creek Permit Area during the April 1 to Oct. 1 permit season. Camping is allowed from Oct. 2 to March 31 downstream of Fossil Creek Bridge (at Mazatzal, Purple Mountain, Sally May and Homestead) and upstream of the historic dam site in the backcountry.

Rules and regulations: Pack out what you pack in. Campfires, charcoal grills and all glass containers are prohibited year-round. Gas operated grills and stoves are acceptable.

For more information about visiting Fossil Creek, please see the Fossil Creek web page.

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