Hiking Fossil Creek, Arizona

Over the last few years, I have really come to appreciate and love where I live. Born and raised in Arizona, I grew up thinking the desert was ugly and dirty and that no beauty could be found here. So happy to say that I was dead wrong. The more I get out in nature and explore the state I live in, the more I come to love it. One of my favorite things to do is explore new places… especially out in nature or near water. So when I heard about Fossil Creek, I knew that I had to check it out and after about three years, I finally made the time to get there. I also did a little bit of research on it, so I figured I’d share the knowledge with all of you, as I highly recommend this place jumping to the top of your bucketlist. Here are some great things to know about hiking Fossil Creek, Arizona, and I even included a few helpful tips.

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Fossil Creek is located near Strawberry and Camp Verde, Arizona. The 14 mile creek’s water is calcium rich, laying down large deposits of travertine and encasing whatever falls into the stream. Hence forming fossil like creations, which is where the name Fossil Creek comes from. Kind of cool, right? Tons of plants and animals depend on this creek, including past Western Apache who still consider Fossil Creek part of their homeland. 

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Fossil Creek does require a day permit which you can get HERE and you should definitely get it ahead of time (print it out and bring it with you!). There’s also a very bumpy 14ish mile dirt road all the way back to the permitted parking. I highly recommend a truck, SUV, jeep, or something similar for this part. It can be done in a car or van, but know that it will take you a lot longer to get back to the parking. 

Because we were hiking with kids, we decided to try out Waterfall Trail which is a non strenuous hike to the falls. It’s about one mile in and one mile out and absolutely gorgeous the entire way.

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We hiked through greenery and along the creek, listening to the water and the wildlife sounds. It was absolutely peaceful and beautiful. The kids loved collecting leaves and rocks and walking sticks along the way. There were even a few cool bridges to cross over, which is always a hit with kids.

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I recommend packing lots of snacks or a lunch in as well as water (we took our Camelbacks). There are plenty of places to have a picnic. You do need to pack all of your trash out, so keep that in mind as there are no trash cans. Let’s be conscience of keeping this beautiful place clean so we can visit it for years to come.

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After you hike in for about a mile… that’s when you see it. And it is breathtaking, y’all!

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The falls are surrounded by trees and a swimming hole and caverns to explore. We watched a few people jump from the falls into the swimming hole, which the kids thought was super exciting. The kids also spotted fish in the stream and even some tadpoles… it made for a super fun nature journal entry.

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Be sure to bring a towel and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. The kids wore their bathing suits under their clothes and that worked out well. You should also bring a camera or your phone for picture taking… trust me when I say that you will want to take pictures.

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I would consider a trip to Fossil Creek a day trip, as it takes some time getting there, finding parking, hiking in, eating lunch, playing in the water, exploring, hiking back out, and driving home. I also highly recommend going during the week, as the weekend are CRAZY busy and often times people are turned away due to the parking being too full. I’m hoping that with the permits, less of that will happen.

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We had the BEST day at Fossil Creek hiking Waterfall Trail. Out of all the places I’ve hiked and explored in Arizona, I would say this is one of my top favorites to date and one that I would recommend to everyone. So, put it on your summer bucketlist and get out there and explore, my friends!

Have you been to Fossil Creek yet? If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will answer as best I can.