Trail Rating: 1-3 Departure Time: 8am Return Time: 5pm Park Pass Required: Yes Months Offered: Year Round | Winter Closure Hiking: Yes Meal: Pack a Lunch Bathroom: Yes
  • Overview
  • Trip Outline
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  • Travel Policy

Fossil Creek is one of two wild and scenic rivers in Arizona. Its 70 degree water and waterfall pours at 20,000 gallons per hour from springs at the bottom of a 1,600 foot deep canyon. Due to its beauty and year-round water, people are drawn to this area and the waterfalls. The lushness of the riparian area strikes a sharp contrast to the dry and sparse desert vegetation that surrounds it.

Over the years the calcium rich waters of Fossil Creek 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 is a rare riparian area within an arid landscape. Many plants and wildlife depend on Fossil Creek for habitat, including otters, beavers, leopard frogs and black hawks. Native fish populations have been successfully restored to some segments of Fossil Creek.

Travel Time: 3 Hours

On-Road: It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to drive on-road to the off-road entrance in Camp Verde from the greater Phoenix area.
Off-Road: From the off-road entrance it is a 16.5 mile route that takes an additional hour to reach the Waterfall Trail Parking lot.

Bathrooms - There are bathrooms available during this trip once we the trailhead parking lot. However, you should bring TP, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer in case you need to make like a bear.

The Hike In:

Access to Fossil Creek from Lot 01 (Dixon Lewis Trailhead Parking) is only 1 mile. The hiking point and length depends on which permit you purchase. You must buy the "Lot 01 (Dixon Lewis Trailhead Parking)" permit. This puts you at the closest hiking point to the falls.

Fossil Creek Reservation and Permit System Information

Booking your permit a month in advance will give you a better chance
at getting the Lot 1 Dixon Lewis Trailhead.

Parking permits are required to park a vehicle within the Fossil Creek Permit Area from April 1 through October 1. NOTE: Parking permits are not required from October 2 through March 31. During the permit season and dependent on availability, a maximum of one permit per person per calendar month may be reserved (one permit = one day). Permits are made available one month ahead of time, on the first of the month. For example, permits for the month of April will be available to reserve beginning March 1. The permit allows parking for one vehicle only at one of nine designated parking lots. The maximum vehicle length is 22 feet. All persons listed on the permit must be accommodated inside the vehicle with a legal seat belt on. 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.

Buy your permit online hereFossil Creek Permit

    1. Click "Book Now"
    2. Permit Type select: "Vehicle Parking"
    3. Select your desired entry date.
    4. Click: "Check Availability"
    5. Book a free date for: "Lot 01 (Dixon Lewis Trailhead Parking)"
    6. Book the same travel date on my website here.

NOTE: Permits are not required from October 2 through March 31.

Hazardous Wet Weather Road Closures

Be advised that during monsoon season, June 15-Sept. 30, and Fossil Creek can close due to hazardous wet weather roads. If Fossil Creek closes due to wet weather roads, a full refund will be issued to the permit holder. Fossil Creek permit holders should call the Fossil Creek Hotline (928) 226-4611 for the most up-to-date information about Fossil Creek road closures. For current road conditions you can call the Red Rock Ranger District (928) 203-2903.

Fossil Creek Weather

Fossil Creek Waterfall


Purchase Lot 1 Permit

Purchase Permit Online

You must purchase your parking permit for Lot 01 (Dixon Lewis Trailhead Parking) online. NOTE: I will only take Lot 1 permit holders on a Jeep tour.


Time to Hit the Road!

8:00am Depart Fountain Hills or from your Hotel. Backpack: pack food for your lunch (at the falls), snacks, drinks (must have a cover). Bring change of clothes, bathing suit, hiking shoes, hiking poles, water shoes, and towel.


Head to Camp Verde

Travel on-road for 109 miles (1hr:52min) to Forest Road 708 (Fossil Creek Road) located between mile markers 228 and 229.


Travel to Waterfall Parking Lot 1

Travel off-road for 14 miles to the Lot 1 (Dixon Lewis Trailhead) parking lot.


Change Into Bathing Suit

The only bathrooms to change into and out of your clothing/swimsuit is at the Lot 1 parking lot before we begin our hike in to the falls.

Hike In 1 Mile

Hike to Waterfall

We will hike in 1 mile down to the river to the main waterfall. There are multiple other falls along the way with places to swim. There may even be a rope swing!

Explore Main Falls

Swim at Main Falls

We will swim and enjoy the main falls for 2+ hours. We can hike back a bit to also enjoy swimming at some of the other falls along the river as well. There is a small cave behind the main falls. There is a way to cliff jump at the main falls.


Lunch at the Falls

We will eat lunch together at either the main falls or at one of the other falls along the river as you desire.

Hike Out 1 Mile

Hike Back to the Parking Lot

We will hike 1 mile back out to the parking lot.


Change Out of Bathing Suit

Time to change out of your wet swimsuit back into your dry clothes.


Travel Back to Highway

Travel back out off-road for 14 miles to the highway.


Travel to Strawberry / Pine

We will travel back home by passing through the quaint towns of Strawberry, Pine. This will take us about 40 minutes (37 miles). You will have the opportunity to stop and explore the various shops in Strawberry and Pine. There are a number of nice cafes and restaurants to eat dinner together (optional). There is a high change we may see herd of Elk.



You will be given the opportunity to eat dinner at one of the quaint restaurants in Strawberry or Pine.


Return to Fountain Hills or Your Hotel

We will finish our drive back home or to your hotel. The drive back from Pine will take about 1 1/2 hours (80 miles).

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Travel Policy

  1. Those who have current back or neck injuries will not be permitted to travel.
  2. If you are pregnant you are not permitted to travel.
  3. All younger passengers must be of age to fit in a regular seat. No car seats are allowed.
  4. Pets are not allowed.
  5. Prohibited Items: firearms, weapons of any kind, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or any drugs.

What to Bring

  1. Food: You may bring a cooler for food, snacks, and drinks to enjoy during your trip.
  2. Drinks: All drinks must have a top that you can close to avoid spilling while on bumpy off-road trails.
  3. What to Wear: You should bring a jacket, sweater, or rain jacket as higher elevations will be colder and windy or in case of rain and you decide to hike.
  4. Hiking: If your tour includes a formal hike, please read my Hiking Essentials guide to learn how to pack for hiking.
  5. Swimming: If your tour requires swimming or a water hike, you will need to bring a bathing suit, water shoes, towel, and change of clothes and footwear.
  6. Medications: If you are taking any medications, be sure to bring them with you that you may require within a half-day’s time.

Cancellation Policy

  • Private Jeep Excursions has a 48-hour cancellation policy in order to receive a refund. Cancellations made less than 48 hours in advance will not be refunded.

Rescheduling and Weather Policy

  1. You may reschedule your trip up to 48 hours in advance to book a new date with no additional charge. You can not reschedule on the same date of your trip. You will need to pay a rescheduling late fee in this case.
  2. PJE will not travel during dangerous storms and severe bad weather. Your tour may need to be rescheduled if mother nature is angry on your trip date.
  3. Rainfall is often very short and may offer the chance for you to see trail-side waterfalls. Your trip will continue as planned.
  4. PJE reserves the right to modify, shorten, or cancel any tour to prevent damage to trails or avoid unsafe conditions.
  5. Severe Weather: If severe weather makes it so you have to cancel your trip prior to your departure, PJE will issue you a full refund.