Fossil Springs Trail 18

Tonto National Forest, Arizona

Distance4.3mi
Elevation Gain2,430ft
Trailhead Elevation5,679ft
Top5,695ft
Elevation Min/Max4279/5695ft
Elevation Start/End5679/5679ft

Fossil Springs Trail 18

Fossil Springs Trail #18 is a hiking trail in Gila County and Yavapai County, Arizona. It is within Tonto National Forest and Coconino National Forest. It is 4.3 miles long and begins at 5,679 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 8.7 miles with a total elevation gain of 2,430 feet. The Fossil Springs Trailhead Parking is near the trailhead. Along the trail there are springs. This trail connects with the following: Forest Road 784.

Fossil Springs Trail #18 Professional Reviews and Guides

"This trail takes you to Fossil Springs and a historic diversion dam on Fossil Creek in the Fossil Springs Wilderness. The trail follows the route of an old jeep trail, and descends northeast below the rim of the canyon.

It soon turns northwest and continues its descent for more than a mile through pinyon-juniper woodland. When you reach Fossil Creek, turn left and hike downstream. Although upper Fossil Creek often flows, there’s no mistaking the added volume when you reach Fossil Springs. These warm springs gush from the right bank of the creek."

"This trail takes you to Fossil Springs and a historic diversion dam on Fossil Creek in the Fossil Springs Wilderness. The dam was constructed in 1916, and diverts water into a flume.

Several miles downstream, the water spins the turbines at the Irving Power Plant. Another power plant at the mouth of Fossil Creek, on the Verde River, harnesses the power of Fossil Creek a second time. These facilities were among Arizona’s first hydroelectric generators and are still producing power."

"You cover significant elevation change on this hike, and the initially gentle grade of the old roadway is deceptive. After 0.5 mile, the trail narrows somewhat and alternates between gentle declines and moderately steep drops: here the path is comfortable gravel or packed dirt, there it is loose and rocky.

Wear sturdy footgear (bring along technical sandals for wading) and take your time—on warm days, make sure your hardworking trail dog has plenty of splash time in the creek and plan to break often in the shade on your way out."

"This short and popular hike follows the old jeep trail down into the Fossil Springs Wilderness and to the wonderful riparian area and swimming hole fed by Fossil Springs, some of the most consistent springs in the area. Though the trailhead lies in the Tonto National Forest, the wilderness area does not.

It is, however, absolutely worth crossing a line on the map (not to mention the elevation change) to get to it. The hiking time does not allow for playing in the water- for that, you'll want to leave yourself a couple of hours, if not a couple of days. OUTSTANDING FEATURES: Scenic overlooks, rich riparian area, springs, best swimming hole in the national forest."

"Producing over 30 million gallons of water per day, Fossil Springs (actually a collection of several springs) is considered to be one of Arizona’s most productive sources of groundwater.

The water gushes out at a constant 70 degrees, and the resulting riparian ecosystem is so unique that Congress designated Fossil Creek as a National Wild and Scenic River in 2009. A popular hike to the springs follows the aptly named Fossil Springs Trail."

"Even below the mogollon rim, where many Arizona wildlands support perennially flowing creeks, the Fossil Springs Wilderness is unique. Two small tributaries, Sandrock and Calf Pen, come together to form a basin that narrows sharply before widening into a stunning oasis. Widely spaced springs gush into the creek, producing a flow of 20,000 gallons per minute at a constant temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Opened up by the springs, the creek flows down into large pools overhung by alder, sycamore, netleaf hackberry, cottonwood, Arizona walnut, bigtooth maple, and oak. Canyon grape intertwines tree branches; ferns cascade from rock crevices; blackberry bushes crowd the banks. In warm seasons, monkeyflower and columbine sprout along the creek bottom. On the faces of the sheer cliffs above the springs, tangled thickets of manzanita discourage hikers with any notion of bushwhacking into the oasis. This trail guide covers an area with 9.5 miles of trails."

Fossil Springs Trail #18 Reviews

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8/15/2018
A wonderful hike to a beautiful waterfall and cold, refreshing swimming holes. The heat is so serious, though, and the hike back out is up and grueling. Bring lots of water!!!
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7/18/2009
Great Hike! Bring Tons of water, seriously. There were people along the trail being treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration. Also I would not recommend this hike for dogs as the trail is very rocky and difficult. The spring is the best in AZ and worth spending a few hours in. If you continue on the dirt road past the turnoff for the hike there is a much easier hike into a different part of the spring but if you are in the mood for a hike to a beautiful spring and swimming hole this is the perfect hike.
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8/11/2008
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7/27/2008
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6/1/2008
This is a great place to visit. The water is crystal clear, The hike down into the canyon was a breeze, the hike up, on the other hand was a little bit more difficult, especially after swimming all day.
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11/4/2007
Hiked down to Fossil Springs 1st week of October. Hit Fall colors at thier peak. Absolutely beautiful, an Arizona gem. Sadly, getting loved to death. Human waste, toilet paper trash abounds. Two fires burning on ariaval Sun PM, no one around. Please people, don't destroy this place! I suggest responsible hikers take an extra garbage bag to help clean up. I'm planning to next time.
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4/16/2007
Excellent trail. Carry plenty of water for the hike out. Many people report drinking the water untreated without problems from above the swimming holes. 4 mile uphill hike out! The dam was removed last October and the lower flume trail is closed due to the deconstruction of the Irving Power Plant.
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8/1/2006
Worth the hike down to see and get wet in the springs, but still a bit warm on the lower parts of the trail. The rapid elevation drops and gains would not have been so bad if not for the terrain (basically a very rocky dry creek bed). My dogs give it less of a rating.
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6/16/2001
There are 2 trail-heads that both lead to Fossil Springs. The first one you come to is 4 miles to the spring and dropping 2000 feet of elevation in that distance. The return trip is grueling, it would be a good idea to rest for an hour or so before making the trip back up the steep terrain, especially if you are a beginner. We went on the week-end and found many people at the trail-head and also an ambulance rescuing someone for dehydration. Please be sure to take plenty of water. We heard that there is a second trail-head if you continue down the dirt road toward the power plant. This trail is approximately 2.5 miles each way and easier but we have not tried it. This trail is very pretty, revealing some excellent views of lush valleys and rocky outcroppings. Well worth the trip.
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5/8/2001
from the trailhead to the bottom of the canyon is closer to 4 miles rather than 2.5, the views were fantastic only to be out done by the spring itself. the swimming hole is the cleanest i've been to in the state and is the perfect temp. i would recomend planning to spend a couple of hours or more at the spring. the hike back was as hard as i expected and was not the best trail choice this early into the season as i'm not as thin as i could be nor in as good of shape as i should be. still it was well worth the effort,it's a beautiful area not to be missed. enjoy, steve
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Fossil Springs Trail #18 Photos

Trail Information

Tonto National Forest
Nearby City
Tonto National Forest
Parks
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Accessibility
Moderate
Skill Level
Swimming
Additional Use
Tonto National Forest, Coconino National Forest, Fossil Springs Wilderness Area
Local Contacts
USGS map: Hackberry Mountain
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018