Fossil Creek Waterfall Trail NEAR Camp Verde
COCONINO NATIONAL FOREST, ARIZONA
- Type: hike/cliff jumping
- Total Length: 2 miles out-and-back
- Time: 40 minutes
- Season: early Spring - late Fall
- Elevation Gain: negligible
- Popularity: extremely high
- Fee: none
- Fun Factor: 8 of 10
- Challenge: 2 of 10
- Beauty: 7 of 10
- Credibility: 7 visits since 2015.
- Water: trail-side creek
- Place to hammock? Yes!
- Camping: permitted north of the dam (which this trail/waterfall is)
- Dogs: Okay*
NOTE: Fossil Creek will require permits starting in May this year. Then April every year after.
Which waterfall you should visit?
There are two waterfalls along Fossil Creek. This page is for the western fall 4 miles downstream of the eastern fall; the baby version of the two (e.g. short hike and safer jumping).
- This waterfall can be reached by driving down a 16 mile dirt road to hike an easy 1-mile trail with plenty of shade. It is the easier and safer of the two waterfalls.
- The eastern waterfall at the spring can be reached by driving down a 1 mile dirt road to hike 4+ miles down (then up) a rocky trail with little to no shade. However, there are some some unique geographical bonuses that make it my favorite of the two (including the famous "toilet bowl"). You can also camp at this one.
Each waterfall has benefits, but the biggest one here is safety; it's a decent place for beginners. The pool is quite deep with minimal horizontal distance to water. You can leap from the ledges on either side of the fall or even slide down the fall itself if you're careful. If you're wearing water shoes with good tread and you're really careful, you can even walk down the waterfall and leap off the edge.
Be sure to bring goggles and check out the fish swimming around you! You're sure to see the two small caves at the base of the waterfall, but there is also a cool whirlpool 50 meters upstream that's worth checking out.
The trail starts and ends at the parking lot located here. It's easy to find and easy to hike. It's well-shaded and follows the creek straight to the waterfall. You really can't mess this up. Sometimes you'll find a rope swing along the trail. There are several places to jump in before the waterfall itself, so feel free to get your toes wet early. You'll cross a log bridge and be there before you know it! The water comes from a spring 5 miles upstream, so it's unbelievably clear and chilly all year.
Note: Flume trail is an alternative route to the eastern waterfall. It begins just west of the Waterfall Trailhead. However, parkingn is already an issue at the western parking lots and I don't mind a good hike, so I've always taken the Fossil Springs Trail to reach the eastern fall.
*I've always brought my dog, but this place is small and extremely popular, so be sure your dog is good with people and other dogs.
Getting to Trailhead:
Caution: this is a 16 mile long dirt road that gets pretty rocky near the end. High clearance vehicles are not required, but strongly advised.
It can be a bit tricky on your first visit. Fossil Creek Road is closed between the eastern and western waterfalls so you have to come from Camp Verde if you're going to the western fall, and from Strawberry if you're going to the eastern one.
From Camp Verde, head east on the 260 and turn right (south) onto Fossil Creek Road. There are a few places to turn, but just continue straight until you reach the parking lots. This place is extremely popular and parking lots are far apart, so arrive early to avoid a longer walk or waiting for park rangers to let more people in.
Happy adventures! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!