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Fossil Creek + Fossil Springs: Your Guide to Exploring Both

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

Updated December 2023

Between social media messages, emails, and phone calls, we field questions about Fossil Creek multiple times a week. I get it, it’s an incredible spot in Arizona, and is a huge draw for people coming to the area! Fossil Creek has gone through a lot of changes over the last few years, and it’s hard to keep up with what’s open, what requires a permit, how to get there, etc. We even get confused! There is sometimes conflicting information about what’s what, so we’re laying it all out right here to make things (hopefully) a bit easier for you.

There are two different trails that both lead to swimming holes: Fossil Springs and Fossil Creek. A little trick to help you remember which is which: Springs = Strawberry & Creek = Camp Verde.

Photo Credit: Kristen Keogh

Here are current conditions (but keep in mind, things can always change, so it’s smart to confirm directly with the forest service before planning a big adventure!):

Bob Bear Trailhead (This is the trail from the Strawberry side)

  • This trail is open, and it leads hikers to the “Toilet Bowl,” which is still amazingly beautiful, fun, and refreshing after a long hike! From what we understand, this closure is likely permanent.

  • Bob Bear Trail is 10 miles out and back, and is rated very difficult. Do not attempt with children or dogs.

  • Advice we’ve heard from others: hike down to the Toilet Bowl at midday, so that you aren’t hiking back up during the heat of the day!

  • Permits are required from April 1 – October 1.

  • Linked here is a very comprehensive video by Andrea Blake for hiking Fossil Springs. Warning: there are a few spots with mild language!

  • The iconic waterfall is available for hikers to access on the Camp Verde side. There are multiple parking options, including one very close to the waterfall (great option for hiking with kids!).

  • Permits are required from April 1 – October 1. You will need to select which parking area you want.

  • The drive to the trailhead goes along a dirt road for many miles. The road was recently worked on, but I suggest an SUV or truck if possible.

  • Linked here is the most comprehensive article we've ever seen on Fossil Creek!

I hope this information clears up some of the confusion for you all. We love to see pictures of our guests exploring! No matter which trail you choose, tag us in your pics. Happy adventuring! Click here to book your stay.

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