OFFICIAL NOTICE: The Fossil Creek 708 Road (Strawberry access) will be closed 5 miles from Highway 87 through April 2013. The Fossil Springs trailhead remains open year round and access into lower Fossil Creek from Camp Verde is open.
Fossil Creek may harbor the finest set of natural springs in Arizona. They pump thousands of gallons of crystal-clear, 72-degree water every minute, water that now flows unrestricted 14 miles into the Verde River.
Fossil Creek Road (aka Forest Road 708) spans just more than 26 miles from Strawberry to just east of Camp Verde, crossing the recently restored creek and providing spectacular views of the canyon, out of which the creek flows. Look carefully along the canyon walls and you can see sections of the old flume that once carried water to the Childs Power Plant.
The road is narrow in some places, twisty in others, and washboardy over nearly all its length. You can make the drive in a sedan (at least in good weather), but you may feel more confident in a high-clearance vehicle.
There are good campsites near the creek. Although the final half of the trip isn't nearly as dramatic as the first part, it's still a fine drive.
Look for a sign to the Fossil Creek Trail about 4.8 miles west of Strawberry. This rugged route drops a little more than 1,300 feet down to the riparian oasis formed by several strong springs. This strenuous, 8-mile round trip is surprisingly popular, even during summer. Avoid the worst of the crowds by going during the week.
Take Arizona 87 northeast from Payson. Continue 22 miles north on Arizona 87/260 through Pine to Strawberry, then turn west on Fossil Creek Road (aka Forest Road 708).
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Hike to Fossil Springs: