Paradise – Arizona style

Water – it’s precious anywhere, but in Arizona, it takes on a value that I think only desert dwellers can understand. Think 115-degree summertime temps and near-zero-percent humidity, and you get the picture.

So, when there’s a spot where sparkling, blue-green water is gushing through a rugged desert canyon, it gets people’s attention.

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That is the case with the waterfalls along Fossil Creek. Once, the creek was a little-known, word-of-mouth kind of destination. I had heard about it years ago, and it’s been on my must-list forever. But for a variety of reasons, I had never made it to the remote location in the middle of the Coconino National Forest.

In the meantime, though, Instagram and Facebook happened to Fossil Creek, and all of a sudden, the spot was a statewide sensation. Because, really, this place is super photogenic.

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I finally made it to Fossil Creek over the weekend, and I have to say that it lived up to the hype. Sure, there were flocks of bikini- and board-short-clad college students waiting to leap from the top of the waterfall.DSC06699

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For the most part, though, it’s a laid-back scene, and there are plenty of spots to wander off by yourself.

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And did I mention the water?

I’m accustomed to the run-off water that flows through Arizona creeks during the rainy season. This isn’t that. The Coconino National Forest describes Fossil Creek this way: “One of two ‘Wild and Scenic’ rivers in Arizona, (it) seems to appear out of nowhere, gushing 20,000 gallons a minute out of a series of springs at the bottom of a 1,600 foot deep canyon. Over the years these calcium laden waters have laid down huge deposits of a type of limestone called travertine. That rock-like substance encases whatever happens to fall into the streambed, forming the fossils for which the area is named.”

So yes, the water is special.

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Because of Fossil Creek’s growing popularity, the Forest Service imposed a permit requirement, starting April 1. Since we visited in March, we didn’t have to worry about that. But info is available on the Coconino National Forest’s website.

A couple of other caveats on Fossil Creek. First of all – as I mentioned – it gets crowded. When we visited on March 19, the parking lots were packed by the time we headed out. I would recommend going early if you want to get a space. We arrived by about 10:30 a.m. and left at 1:30 p.m.

And second – probably most important – is that Fossil Creek is very remote. After driving through Camp Verde on the paved Highway 260 for about 10 miles, we headed off onto a dirt road. The Forest Service directions: From State Route 260, between road mile 228 and 229, Forest Road 708 (Fossil Creek Road) will intersect SR260 to the south, signed as Fossil Creek/Verde River. Travel 14 miles down this rough dirt road (high-clearance vehicles recommended) to the intersection with Forest Road 502.

And when they say it’s a rough dirt road, they mean it. I didn’t have a high-clearance vehicle, and I made it OK, but it definitely would have helped. There are many places where sharp rocks protrude from the road, and I had to drive very slowly. And IT’S 14 MILES!

Also, about the trail: It’s a fairly easy one-mile hike from the main parking lot to the falls. Still, parts of the trail are fairly rough and rocky.

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Overall, though, the obstacles are so worth it. In my mind, Fossil Creek is as close to paradise as you’ll get in Arizona.

2 Comments on “Paradise – Arizona style

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