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Fossil Springs Day Hike
May 13, 2006
by Ted Tenny
  GPS Map 
Will we look this good climbing out?
There must be a spring nearby.
Cool, Clear Water.

AZHC President Joe Michalides led us on this warm springtime hike to one of the most refreshing places in Arizona.

We start from a trailhead west of Strawberry, high up on the rim overlooking the Fossil Creek Wilderness. Our trail is an abandoned Jeep road that makes a steady descent west of Nash Point, all the way down to the creek.

We can see part of our route from the top, a trail far below us along the side of a ridge. A patch of lush, green vegetation at the bottom of the canyon gives us a hint of the location of Fossil Springs, but most of our route is hidden by the dry forest.

Halfway down, we stop for a group picture at a bend in the trail with a campsite and shade trees.

Our descent continues relentlessly. The trail steepens. We meet a couple of hikers in distress by the side of the trail. The woman has suffered a broken leg. They have called for help, but need water. Lyndon gives her a 2-liter bottle of ice water, Joe gives them his rain poncho for shade, and we head on down the trail. They were gone when we came back, but Joe’s rain poncho was still there.

A gate marks the National Forest boundary. Farther west the routes divide, with the main trail going right and the trail to Fossil Springs going left. We turn left and go south to the bottom of the canyon.

Cobblestones and slickrock line the streambed in Fossil Creek. The trail is indefinite in this area. But it doesn’t matter. Everyone knows we’re heading south, downstream to the springs. Pools of water give us encouragement along the way.

The routes divide. A cairn marks the upper trail, which makes a roundabout route to the rapids. A side trail branches off to the left into the forest, heading directly for the spring.

There are actually several springs. Our trail goes by the first one, where clear water gushes up out of the ground.

Stepping stones have been placed in the streambed next to the spring. Unfortunately some of them are loose.

Just downstream are the rapids and the ol’ swimmin’ hole. We enjoy an idyllic picnic lunch on the rocks while some young people splash in the water on a rope dangling from a tree limb.

We’d like to stay here forever, or at least until the weather turns cool. But alas, we have to leave this paradise and climb 3.75 miles back to the top in the heat of the afternoon. Joe wisely takes the sweep position, to encourage anyone who might fall behind on their way up.

News release, from the Coconino National Forest, June 20, 2005:
Lunch by the rapids.
The ol’ swimmin’ hole.
How did we climb up from there?
“For public safety reasons, the Coconino National Forest has recently closed the Flume Trail and a portion of Fossil Creek access to the Wilderness boundary below Fossil Springs. This closure is expected to remain in place over the next several years while APS is removing the flume structure and the Irving Power Plant facilities. The Flume Trailhead area above the Irving Power Plant along Forest Road 708 is also closed. Access to Fossil Creek below the Irving Power Plant will remain open as well as the Fossil Spring Trail and trailhead on the Tonto National Forest above the spring.”
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated May 27, 2020