Fossil Creek is a Wild and Scenic River in central Arizona on lands managed by the Coconino and Tonto National Forests. The creek flows from its source at Fossil Springs 14 miles to its confluence with the Verde River, downstream of the historic and decommissioned Childs Power Plant. Fossil Creek is one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in Arizona. At temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, water gushes out at 20,000 gallons per minute from springs at the bottom of a 1,600-foot deep canyon. Over the years these calcium-rich waters have laid down huge deposits of a material called travertine. That rock-like substance encases whatever happens to fall into the streambed - forming the fossil-like formations for which the area is named.
Fossil Creek has several Western Apache and Yavapai cultural sites. The Western Apache and Yavapai peoples lived along Fossil Creek for generations and still consider this to be part of their homeland and of great cultural importance.
Because of its beauty and year-round water, people are drawn to this area. The lushness of the riparian area strikes a sharp contrast to the dry and sparse desert vegetation that surrounds it. Fossil Creek recreation sites can be accessed in two ways. The first is by taking State Route 260 near Camp Verde to Forest Road 708 and driving the 14 miles of rough dirt road to designated parking lots and creek access sites near Fossil Creek. The second is via a strenuous hike four miles one way and 1,500 feet of elevation down to the headwaters of Fossil Creek from the Bob Bear Trailhead parking lot outside of the town of Strawberry. Please note that Forest Road 708 does not provide access to the Fossil Creek canyon from Strawberry. To obtain a permit for Bob Bear Trailhead please visit the Bob Bear Trailhead page on Recreation.Gov.
The Fossil Creek area has very few developed facilities and visitors should be prepared for rustic and remote conditions. There is no camping in the Fossil Creek Permit Area from April 1 through October 1. Please note that the state of Arizona does not acknowledge Daylight Savings Time.
Parts of Fossil Creek burned in the 2021 Backbone Fire. You may encounter hazards including flash floods, debris flows, and loose rocks and woody material. Consider potential hazards when entering Fossil Creek, and take the following precautions:
• Check the weather forecast before you leave;
• Actively assess current and changing weather conditions—forest and weather conditions change constantly and quickly;
• Let someone know your plans.
Advance permits are required to park a vehicle in the Fossil Creek permit area April 1–October 1. During this season, a maximum of one permit per person per calendar month may be reserved (one permit = one day). Permits are made available on the first of the month one month ahead of time. For example, permits for the month of April are available beginning March 1.
The permit allows parking for one vehicle only at one of eight designated parking lots. Maximum vehicle length is 22 ft. All persons listed on the permit must be accommodated inside the vehicle with a legal seatbelt. The permit guarantees a parking space within the specified parking lot, but specific parking space assignments are not made. Parking spaces are occupied on a first-come, first-served basis.
Permits are not required October 2–March 31.
Fossil Creek is a special place to many people. It is also in a remote location with few services and some parts of the river are difficult to access. Being prepared will help you enjoy your trip and ensure Fossil Creek remains healthy and accessible for all to visit.
Printing your Permit
Fossil Creek contains 8 parking lots:
Hours of Operation
One Vehicle: $6.00 non-refundable reservation fee
Please note: There are no refunds.
Changing the date of your reservation requires you to cancel your existing reservation and make a new reservation, should space be available. The $6.00 reservation fee is non-refundable.
Please cancel your reservation if you are unable to use it! This ensures the space will be available for others. You may cancel up to the day of your reservation date. All fees are non-refundable; however, if you do not cancel your reservation, you will not be able to make another reservation in the same month.
In the event that the Forest Service is required to close the Fossil Creek Permit Area due to weather, natural disasters or fire danger, all reservations in this instance only will receive a full refund.
8375 State Route 179 Sedona AZ 86341
Visitor Center Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, except 12 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.