Fossil Creek Waterfall – A Pretty Hike to a Scenic Cascade

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!

Fossil Creek Waterfall in Arizona a pretty hike to a scenic cascade


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.

Arizona Delorme Atlas

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.

Riding a side-by-side to Fossil Creek Arizona

The RZR made getting to the trailhead a lot of fun!

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!

Dog on the trail at Fossil Creek in Arizona

Buddy loves his job as Trail Scout!

It was autumn and some of the trees were wearing their finest fall colors.

A tree lights up with fall color on the Fossil Creek Waterfall trail in Arizona

Quite a few trees were outfitted in their Fall Finest.

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.

Fall foliage at Fossil Creek in Arizona

We saw some yellow…

Fall color at Fossil Creek in Arizona

…and some red.

Arizona Highways Scenic Drives
Autumn leaves in Arizona


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!

The trail took us across a small bridge

It was easier to jump over the tiny creek, but I took the rickety bridge instead!

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.

We spotted the first cascade at Fossil Creek in the distance

We spotted a small waterfall in the distance.

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.

Fossil Creek Arizona has many waterfalls

We found ourselves in a lovely grotto next to the rushing water.

Fossil Creek Arizona waterfall cascade


Buddy found his happy place up on a rock and watched us as we took photos.

Beautiful dog at Fossil Creek in Arizona

Buddy surveyed the scene from up on a rock.

We finally tore ourselves away from this lovely little oasis and continued our delightfully shaded hike.

Hike to the Fossil Creek Waterfall in Arizona

The hike to the Fossil Creek Waterfall has plenty of shade.

Fossil Creek Arizona in autumn with fall foliage


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!

Fossil Creek Waterfall in Arizona in autumn with fall color

And there it was…beautiful!

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.

Swimmers dive into the water at Fossil Creek Waterfall in Arizona

Fossil Creek is a popular swimming hole!

Swimmers stand behind Fossil Creek Waterfall in Arizona

They made it!

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.

Fossil Creek waterfall in Arizona

Seeing Fossil Creek Waterfall is a great reward at the end of this pretty hike.

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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8 thoughts on “Fossil Creek Waterfall – A Pretty Hike to a Scenic Cascade

    • 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!

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.


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