Bob Bear Trailhead

Tonto National Forest

The Bob Bear Trail provides access to the headwaters of the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River and the Fossil Springs Wilderness on the Tonto and Coconino National Forests. The trail begins at an elevation of 5,700 feet on Deadman Mesa near the town of Strawberry and descends 1,500 feet over 4 miles into the Fossil Creek canyon. The trail offers a remote, backcountry experience and is steep and extremely hot during the summer, but rewards visitors with access to one of Arizona’s most spectacular riparian areas.

No water and little shade are available for the first 3.75 miles of the trail. Summer temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees F. Cell phone coverage is unreliable. Visitors must come prepared for being out a full day, with plenty of food and water (at least a gallon per person is recommended), sturdy footwear (no flip flops!), and good physical fitness. Every year unprepared visitors require rescue from this trail, risking the lives of themselves and emergency responders.

The Bob Bear Trailhead is accessed via Fossil Creek Rd from the town of Strawberry. 

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.

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

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 the Bob Bear Trailhead parking lot. 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 parking within the specified parking lot, but specific parking space assignments are not made. Parking spaces are occupied on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Permits are not required October 2–March 31.

Equestrian users may reserve an assigned parking space for a vehicle and horse trailer. The maximum vehicle and horse trailer length combined is 50 ft.

Need to Know

• The Bob Bear Trail hike is long (8 miles round-trip), steep (1,500 feet down and 1,500 feet back up), and hot (summer temps often exceed 100 degrees F)       

with very little shade and no water, making it one of the most difficult trails on the Tonto National Forest.  

Fee Policy

Reservation Fee:

One Vehicle: $6.00 non-refundable fee
One Vehicle/Horse Trailer: $6.00 non-refundable fee

Please note: There are no refunds.

Recreation Fee:
Not Applicable

Cancellation Policy

Cancellation Policy:

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.

Change Policy:
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.

Contact Information

Mailing Address

1009 E. Hwy 260 Payson AZ 85541

Tonto National Forest website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/tonto/home

Phone Number

928-474-7900

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