Camping Near Fossil Creek, Arizona

Camp near Fossil Creek in central Arizona.
Camp near Fossil Creek in central Arizona. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The clear blue waters of Fossil Creek in Arizona sparkle over travertine beds as they tumble through lush riparian vegetation en route to the Verde River in Coconino National Forest. The springs gush from the ground in a remote canyon between Camp Verde and Strawberry, supplying the creek with thousands of gallons of 72-degree water every minute. Once the site of a hydroelectric plant that harnessed the stream's energy to supply electricity to nearby towns, the river has been restored and is now a designated Wild and Scenic River. Camp nearby and enjoy the recreational opportunities of Fossil Creek, including swimming, fishing and hiking.

Campsite Selection

Camping is regulated in the Fossil Creek Area to limit impact on the environment. You can camp above the Fossil Creek Bridge that leads to the Old Fossil Creek Dam, providing you are more than a quarter mile away from the creek. Below the Fossil Creek Bridge, your camp must be more than 100 feet from the edge of the creek. You can camp creekside from the head of Fossil Creek to Old Fossil Creek Dam, which includes the Fossil Springs area.

Leave No Trace

You'll be required to follow Leave No Trace principles when camping in the Fossil Creek vicinity. More than 60,000 people each year visit the restored creek, resulting in trashed-out areas and trampled vegetation that have left the creek less than scenic in some areas. More stringent guidelines have been enforced to help minimize environmental impact. Campfires are prohibited within a quarter mile of the creek along its length. Clean up after your pets, and pack out all garbage or use the dumpster near the Fossil Springs trailhead. Use the portable restrooms provided along the creek or bring your own portable toilet. You may also bury human waste a minimum of 6 inches deep as long as you are more than 100 feet from the creek or any other water source, including dry arroyos. Seal your used toilet paper in a baggie and pack it out along with your trash.

Hot Springs

At the confluence of Fossil Creek and the Verde River, you can camp near the decommissioned Childs Power Plant. A short hike from the campground brings you to Verde River Hot Springs, a former resort with pools still available for bathing. Choose from small rock-lined pools along the river, a large main pool big enough for a number of people or little pools in cliffside caves. You can camp at Childs Dispersed Camping Area for up to five days. A pit toilet is available on-site.

Accessing the Creek

You can access the creek from the towns of Camp Verde or Strawberry. From Camp Verde, you'll travel 21 miles of rough dirt road that winds around narrow hairpin curves with sheer dropoffs. Pulling a trailer or driving an RV over 22 feet is not recommended. Traffic on this highly used route can be bumper-to-bumper on summer weekends, and the road may be closed at Highway 260 when traffic reaches capacity in the area. The other route from Strawberry is 3 miles and is the most convenient way to reach the Fossil Springs Trailhead at the upper end of the creek. The road is closed indefinitely below the trailhead.

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