Finding Fossil Creek Waterfall

Not too far from Phoenix is a majestic place that looks like a scene straight out of a dream.

It’s called Fossil Creek. This is where you’ll find cool water, foliage and a waterfall within three hours of the Valley.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: You must have a permit to park and go to the trail BEFORE you get to the region if you are going between April 1st and October 1st. You have to reserve a parking spot and print two copies of your pass. You’ll keep one pass on you at all times and keep the other on your dashboard. Make your reservation here. On the left side of the page under location select “01 waterfall trailhead parking”. You must book in advance!!!

To get to the trail that takes you to the waterfall from Phoenix, plan for a 2 ½ hour ride if traffic is normal. You’ll want to head north on the I-17 until you get to the 260 East through Camp Verde. Once you’re on the 260 East you’ll look for Fossil Creek Road between Mile Marker 228 and 229. Turn right onto Fossil Creek. There will be a fork in the road. Select the path on the right.

Warning: once you are on Fossil Creek Road you have a 14 mile drive on a dirt road that is VERY bumpy. I highly recommend doing this drive in a truck or SUV. Bring snacks and don’t rely on cell service for music streaming because you will not have any reception. This ride feels like it lasts FOREVER.

Once you’ve driven almost the full 14 miles, you will have to stop for the ranger to sign off on you permit. Then, keep going to the end of the path and you’ll be at the parking lot for the trailhead.

The trail is only about ½ a mile in and ½ mile out and it’s a pretty simple path. The kids should be able to handle it and the waterfall is really a great family experience.

Keep in mind: you can swim in fossil creek so wear your swimsuit! Doggos are welcome on this trail as long as they are on a leash. Flash flooding is a concern especially during the Monsoon so check the forecast! There are restrooms for you to use in the parking lot for the waterfall trailhead.

  • Recommended items to pack:
  • Plastic baggy to protect your phone near the water
  • Watershoes
  • Snacks and drinks to enjoy while at the waterfall
  • Towels
  • Sunscreen


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