A Guide to Fossil Creek Waterfall

Fossil Creek Waterfall, located in Arizona, is a wonderful destination for hikers and travelers of all skill levels. It offers beautiful views of a crystal clear creek and its famous waterfall. However, for any would-be adventurer interested in seeing this beautiful place, there is a lot to learn.

Fossil Creek Waterfall is connected to Fossil Creek. This stream is located through a forest trail near Camp Verde, Arizona. The trail is about a mile’s light hike from the waterfall. People and pets are welcome, though parking for the area must be reserved ahead of time.

The hike to the creek is welcoming to beginners and the experienced, and the reward is a wonderful view of a scenic waterfall. However, for those who are not locals, it can sometimes be hard to navigate. If you want to learn more, keep reading to discover just what you need to prepare for Fossil Creek Waterfall.

What You Need to Know about Fossil Creek Waterfall

Fossil Creek Waterfall has picked up in tourism in recent years. Its secluded creek is visited by thousands yearly, and these numbers are rising. The waterfall itself is impressive, spouting water year-round, and it has become a rallying point for hikers and tourists.

Fossil Creek is near the town of Camp Verde, but the drive from there to the hiking trail’s lot lacks infrastructure. You will be met with bumpy dirt roads on your way to the trail, so make sure you are in an appropriate vehicle. These roads are not considered dangerous, but it can take some time to reach the trail.

The trail itself is straight forward, with plenty of markers that will guide hikers and nature enthusiasts to the falls. The area is open year-round, though parking fees are required in the spring-summer season. Despite the permit system in place, you will most likely notice a sizable crowd in the summer months.

You can visit Fossil Creek Waterfall at any time of the year. During the winter months, there are typically fewer tourists. So, it is suggested that those who want a more isolated experience go between December and February. Keep in mind that there is not much location monitoring besides some park ranger presence in the parking lot.

How to Get a Parking Permit

Due to the popularity of Fossil Creek Waterfall and the surrounding area, a permit for spring and summertime parking has been implemented. For those not in the area, as long as you purchase your permit ahead of time, you will be able to hike to the falls. For information on how to get this permit, read below:

  • Recreation.gov: Recreation.gov is the government website where some public permits can be found that allow you to access parking lots. For a popular area like Fossil Creek, you can find advanced parking permits by searching “Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River” on the website. 
  • Check the Dates: To obtain a permit, it is important that you purchase one well before your trip to the falls. Permits are only necessary during the spring and summer months. Recreation.gov has a section where you can see important dates. When registration is open, you can purchase your parking permit.

Getting a parking permit is fairly simple for Fossil Creek, though you need to keep important dates in mind. When you have done your research and registration is opened, you will be charged $6 per vehicle with no refunds available. It is important to have a paper printout of your permit on your dashboard to be let into the lot.

How High Is Fossil Creek Waterfall

Fossil Creek Waterfall may not be the highest of waterfalls, but it boasts a 25-foot cliff that can mean danger for those who want to cliff-dive. Regulations are fairly relaxed around the falls, but there have been deaths in the area.

Waterfalls are classified anywhere from five to a couple of thousand feet. As long as continuous water is being pushed out from the top, a waterfall is classified as such. At 25 feet, Fossil Creek Waterfall is above the minimum, though it is only one of a few great waterfalls in Arizona, some of which are taller.

The views from above the cliff-face are considered some of the best in the state, however. It is considered both a great viewing point and, for some, a diving point. At that height, the cliffs are considered safe in the right conditions, so it is best to check the water levels below before going for something like a cliff jump.

Can You Swim in Fossil Creek?

Fossil Creek is a great spot for swimmers. It is important to keep safe in waterfall conditions. Do not stray too close to the falls and instead keep to the calm water. The water is crystal clear at an average of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. There are multiple areas where swimming is allowed, with the most popular spots being listed here:

  • Fossil Creek Falls: The falls is the most popular part to swim in all of Fossil Creek. Be aware that there is no lifeguard presence, so swimmers must swim at their own risk. Keeping away from the falls themselves, there is plenty of room to swim for families and individuals alike.
  • Side Paths: The roads leading to the waterfall break off and lead to other areas of the creek. Since Fossil Creek Falls is the most populated area, full of swimmers and hikers, some may want more secluded parts of the creek. The paths lead to many different areas where swimming is perfectly fine.

Swimming at Fossil Creek Falls is more than possible. In fact, it is a staple of your visit to this beautiful area. It is important to be respectful of the water and to pack away your garbage. The water is fresh and clean, though it is up to your judgment if 70 degrees Fahrenheit is the right temperature for you.

What to Expect When Hiking to Fossil Creek Waterfall

Hiking to Fossil Creek Waterfall is a large part of the adventure. After driving for nearly fifteen miles on a bumpy road and entering the lot, you will find yourself with a little over a mile hike to the falls. Again, it is recommended to have a vehicle equipped for rough driving. Here is what you can expect on this relatively easy hike:

  • The Incline: Experienced hikers are typically prepared for inclines of any kind, but note that when heading to Fossil Creek Waterfall, you will not experience much of an incline at all. The path is full of stones, but that is the most inconvenience most hikers will experience on the way.
  • The Area is Secluded: On the way to the falls, while there may be plenty of hikers there already or even on the trail with you, keep in mind that you are not close to emergency services. Some dangerous animals, such as snakes, can be found in the outlying forest. Stay to the path, and do not stray far. 

The hike to fossil creek waterfall can be completed by almost anyone. Many families leisurely hike to the falls and plenty of other age groups and experience levels. Keep basic hiking safety precautions in mind, such as having plenty of water on hand and perhaps invest in hiking shoes before arriving.


Fossil Creek Waterfall is a scenic and popular area. The drive there is long, leading you away from the town of Camp Verde and into the wilderness. Once you are in the lot, you can walk a beautiful nature trail that is welcoming to all skill levels. It will guide you to the falls, and once there, you are free to swim and admire its beauty.  Once you experience the beauty Fossil Creek has to offer you’ll likely be planning your next trip back.