November 2022 – The Fossil Creek Waterfall in Arizona’s Verde Valley is a scenic cascade at the end of a pretty hike through the woods. It’s especially beautiful when there’s a bit of fall color!
The whole Fossil Creek area was closed for several years due to wildfire erosion damage. When it reopened, lots of people jumped at the chance to hike in this beautiful area once again, and we were among the the very first who showed up the day it opened!
The trailhead is accessed via Fossil Creek Road. One end of this road intersects with AZ Route 260 about 8 miles east of Camp Verde and the other end rolls into the west side of the town of Strawberry.
Coming from the west, Fossil Creek Road is a dirt road, and since we were unsure what condition it might be in, we thought it would be fun to drive our Polaris RZR side-by-side instead of our truck. The road turned out to be well graded and the drive was easy, even for a passenger car.
The area near the trailhead had sustained quite a bit of damage. Fortunately, another pair of hikers who knew the area well were parking their car just as we arrived, and they helped us find the start of the trail to the Fossil Creek Waterfall.
Buddy, our little Trail Scout, was excited to lead the way after that!
It was autumn and some of the trees were wearing their finest fall colors.
We walked slowly and savored the pretty autumn colors around us. It wasn’t as dazzling as the fall foliage along Colorado’s San Juan Highway or in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but it was lovely nonetheless.
The trail was a little rocky in some spots and there were a few small water crossings too. Someone had built a bridge across the creek, although it was probably easier to hop over the thin stream of water since it wasn’t very high!
Suddenly, we heard rushing water in the distance ahead of us. Some hikers who had done the hike before noticed us staring at it hopefully as they passed. “That’s not the waterfall!” one said with a wink.
This little cascade was very pretty, though, and we hung out for a while, sitting under the canopy of trees listening to the sounds of the water tumbling over the rocks.
Buddy found his happy place up on a rock and watched us as we took photos.
We finally tore ourselves away from this lovely little oasis and continued our delightfully shaded hike.
The sounds of the little cascade faded away and were soon replaced with the growing roar of the Fossil Creek Waterfall ahead of us.
Suddenly, the waterfall came into view. Wow!
A small group of people arrived shortly after us. Some jumped in the water for a swim and made their way over to the waterfall, clambering up on the rock shelf beneath it and going behind the spray to peek out from behind the wall of water.
We sat down for a while, enjoying the pretty surroundings while hikers and swimmers came and went. We learned that Fossil Creek is so popular in the summertime that you have to get a permit and only a small number of permits are given out each day.
We felt fortunate because it was the off-season and the area had just opened (without fanfare), so we didn’t have to get a permit, and there weren’t any crowds.
If you find yourself in Arizona’s Verde Valley, and Fossil Creek is open, we highly recommend you do the hike to the waterfall!
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Other blog posts from the Verde Valley area in Arizona:
- Bell Rock Pathway, Sedona AZ – Hiking & Biking the Red Rocks
- Brins Mesa Trail & Unexpected Delights in Sedona Arizona!
- Broken Arrow Trail in Sedona, AZ – What a Hike!
- Cathedral Rock at Red Rock Crossing – Sedona AZ
- Dead Horse Ranch State Park + Tuzigoot and Clarkdale
- Hiking the “Pig Trails” in Sedona, AZ – Breathtaking! (oink oink!)
- Jerome, Arizona – A New Year’s Getaway in the Snow!
- Montezuma’s Castle & Schnebly Hill – Sedona Heights!
- Oh, Sedona – Scenic drives in the red rocks!!
- Sedona Arizona – Brooding Skies at Sunset in the Red Rocks
- Sedona Reflections on the West Fork Trail
- Sedona, Arizona – Great Beer, Coffee, Red Rocks & Psychics!
- The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek (Bell Trail Hike), Sedona, AZ
- Top Sedona AZ Hikes: Little Horse to Chicken Point + Templeton Trail (Cathedral Rock)!
Beautiful waterfalls we’ve seen in our travels:
- Agua Azul & Misol-Ha – Waterfall Adventures in Mexico
- A Jewel of a Waterfall – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Waterfalls of the Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina)
- Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia) – Waterfalls & Rhododendrons
- Shenandoah National Park, Virginia – Climbs & Falls!
- Waterfalls, Wildlife & Wineries in New York’s Finger Lakes
- Watkins Glen State Park NY – Absolutely Breathtaking!
- Jasper National Park – Columbia Icefields & Athabasca Falls
- Bryce Canyon National Park – “Mossy Cave” – Mystery Waterfall!
- Grand Staircase Escalante Nat’l Monument – Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike
- Erawan Falls – Jewel of Erawan National Park – with Mellow Adventures
- Huay Mae Khamin – Thailand’s Most Beautiful Waterfall – Mellow Adventures
- Waterfalls in Michigan’s U.P. – Tahquamenon, Bond Falls & Black River Jewels
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Wow! You had a beautiful blue sky day for that hike! The flow of the falls is pretty impressive considering the fact that you visited late in the season.
So true, Mary. There had actually been some pretty good fall rains in October a few weeks before we visited, but it was wonderful there was so much water. I imagine right now it’s gushing. Every river in Arizona has been flowing at full speed since the wild winter rains and snow. So wonderful!
In the spring of 2022 we camped in a NF CG called “Clear Creek” and were not aware of the Fossil Creek Waterfall. It looks like a nice find although a visit would have required a 100 mile RT drive. Lucky you to find it. Here are my blog notes about the Clear Creek Campground – such a small world! “Our next campsite was in the Coconino National Forest at a place called Clear Creek Campground, very close to Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. The “Creek” is actually an irrigation ditch which runs to agricultural land downstream; it is very clear promotes the growth of large Sycamore trees and attracts a variety of birds. It also attracted a Bradford Vermont farm boy who moved here several years ago and is now the campground host.” Stewart
What a delightful discovery and writeup, Stewart! I love your description of the campground host too. The Verde Valley has a lot of great attractions, including various waterways, hiking trails and Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. I’m glad you spent time there and found a great place to stay!
We have never been to this particular spot off 260. How beautiful. I loved the picture of the two guys underneath the waterfall. Can’t believe you need permits though. Sigh.
You only need a permit in the summertime! I’m not sure of the exact dates, but when we went a permit wasn’t required. It’s a beautiful hike!
I never asked you this, but you seem to go to a lot of places I plan on going, but which was the worst experience with bugs that you had? Which western state had the biggest bug problem, and at what time of year was it? Also, which place had almost no bugs, and what time of year was it?
There aren’t many bugs west of the Mississippi, Gary. The most common are flies, especially if you boondock on public land where cattle graze or stay in campgrounds where flies are attracted to fire pits and food bits on the ground in the campsites. On very rare occasions there are horse flies which bite. Sometimes there are little gnats that get in through the RV window screens (most screens don’t seal very well around the edges). I can’t remember where we’ve run into those. Our worst bug experience was when we left our patio door open overnight in Jacob Lake, Arizona, in June. Huge moths crawled in under the screen. Other than that, there aren’t any real bug issues out west. East of the Mississippi where the environment is humid is a whole different story. Bugs are a big problem in the eastern states.