Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River

Coconino National Forest Recreation

Fossil Creek Map 

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 Apache and Yavapai people of the Verde Valley lived along Fossil Creek for generations. Even today, they recognize and care for the canyon as their Ancestral homeland and return here to connect with their past and honor their heritage. Please respect their cultural traditions as you visit the sacred landscape of Fossil Creek and please leave it looking as if you were never here. Visiting with respect preserves Fossil Creek for future generations.    

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.  

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

YOU MUST ARRIVE AT THE HWY 260/FR708 JUNCTION BY 2 PM TO UTILIZE YOUR PERMIT. If you arrive later than 2 PM, you will be given a list of alternative areas to recreate for the day.

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).  

Permit holder IDs will be validated at check points to ensure the permit holder is with the group in the vehicle upon arrival. 

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.

Need to Know

**YOU MUST ARRIVE AT THE HWY 260/FR708 JUNCTION BY 2 PM TO UTILIZE YOUR PERMIT. If you arrive later than 2 PM, you will be given a list of alternative areas to recreate for the day.**

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.    

Key Facts

Printing your Permit

Parking Lots

Fossil Creek contains 8 parking lots:

Hours of Operation

Other Information

Fee Policy

One Vehicle: $6.00 non-refundable reservation fee

Please note: There are no refunds.

Cancellation Policy

Change Policy

Cancellation Policy

Contact Information

Mailing Address

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.

Phone Number

(928) 203-2900

Photo Gallery