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Fossil Creek permits on sale: What you need to know

Sally May on Fossil Creek
Posted at 10:24 AM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 12:24:54-05

PHOENIX — The first seasonal permits to hike to the Fossil Creek waterfall — one of Arizona’s most popular and picturesque hiking destinations —went on sale Monday morning.

The permits are for dates in April, however, permits are required between April and September to hike within Fossil Creek. During the
fall and winter Monday, permits are not required.

Permits to hike in April went on sale March 1, May dates go on sale April 1, June permits go on sale May 1, July permits on June 1, etc.

Permits are $6 each and allow day access to the trails and include parking. Make sure to print your actual permit before arriving at the gate. Receipts do not count and there are not printing capabilities at the gate.

The following parking lots are accessible from Camp Verde off State Route 260:

  • Lot 1: Waterfall
  • Lot 2: Irving
  • Lot 3: Tonto Bench
  • Lot 4: Fossil Creek Bridge
  • Lot 5: Homestead
  • Lot 6: Sally May
  • Lot 7: Purple Mountain
  • Lot 8: Mazatzal

New this year, permits for Lot 9, formerly known as the Fossil Springs Trail, have to be purchased through the Bob Bear Trailhead at recreation.gov.

Bob Bear is considered to be a strenuous, four-mile hike for experienced hikers. It is accessible from Strawberry — not Camp Verde —off state Route 87, the news release said.

Here are other tips to know (taken verbatim from their news release):

VEHICLES: High-clearance vehicles are recommended to travel from SR 260 down the 14-mile rough dirt Forest Road 708 to the main entrance of the Fossil Creek corridor. It is not uncommon for standard passenger vehicles to incur flat tires on the rugged roadway.

COST: The $6 permit is non-refundable (except when Forest Service closes the road due to weather). If you are not able to use your permit, however, please cancel it online to make your parking space available for others.

PERMIT TYPE: Three permit types are available to reserve: 1. Vehicle Parking (includes Waterfall Trailhead, Irving, Tonto Bench, Fossil Creek Bridge, Homestead, Sally May, Purple Mountain and Mazatzal parking lots), 2. Park and 8-Mile Hike (Fossil Springs Trailhead), and 3. Horse Trailer Parking (Fossil Springs Trailhead).

PERMIT DOCUMENTATION: People reserving a permit MUST PRINT THEIR PERMIT IN ADVANCE to place on their dashboards upon entrance to Fossil Creek. Permits can be printed immediately upon making a reservation online. (The confirmation email the customer receives is NOT the permit.)

AT THE GATE: No permits are sold or able to be printed on site.

CLOSED PORTION OF FR 708: A 4-mile section of Forest Road 708 from the Fossil Springs Trailhead to the Waterfall Trailhead is closed for vehicle travel due to unsafe road conditions; therefore, it is not possible to drive in one entrance and out the other (from Camp Verde to Strawberry or vice versa). The only direct access to Fossil Creek by vehicle is from the Camp Verde side.

FOSSIL SPRING HIKE: Those intending to hike the Fossil Springs Trail must drive in through the Strawberry entrance. The strenuous hike to Fossil Springs is 4 miles one way with an elevation change of 1,700 feet. Summer daytime temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. No water is available along the trail, so hikers must carry at least one gallon of water per person and wear proper hiking shoes. This hike should not be used to access the Waterfall area or middle Fossil Creek.

CAMPING: No camping is allowed within the Fossil Creek Permit Area during the May 1 to Oct. 1 permit reservation season, but is allowed downstream of Fossil Creek Bridge (at Mazatzal, Purple Mountain, Sally May and Homestead) and upstream of the historic dam site in the backcountry from Oct. 2 to April 30.

RULES and REGULATIONS: Please pack out what you pack in. Campfires, charcoal grills and all glass containers are prohibited year round. Gas operated grills and stoves are acceptable.

For more information about visiting Fossil Creek, please see https://www.fs.usda.gov, where you can download a Fossil Spring map and brochure in English or Spanish.