Fossil Creek is opening. Here’s when and how to visit

Fossil Creek, a popular recreation area in central Arizona that’s known for its natural swimming pools and other recreational opportunities will reopen to the public on Nov. 3.

Fossil Creek has been closed for 16 months after the Backbone Fire tore through the area in the summer of 2021. According to Coconino National Forest officials, the closure was necessary to allow the landscape to recover from both fire and monsoon damage. Road and infrastructure repairs were made during the closure. 

Ready to see experience the scenery the draws so many people to this site each year?  Here’s everything you need to know about Fossil Creek’s reopening. 

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Why was Fossil Creek closed? 

The Backbone Fire that began on June 16, 2021, caused extensive damage to the wilderness area between Strawberry and the Verde Valley. The blaze was sparked by lightning and burned over 42,000 acres between mid-June and mid-July. 

The closure was needed because of post-fire hazards such as dead trees, the potential for flash floods and debris flows and debris dams, Brady Smith, Coconino National Forest public affairs officer, told the Arizona Republic in April 2022. 

The Tonto Bench stretch of Fossil Creek in Coconino National Forest.

Do you need a pass to go to Fossil Creek? 

Permits will not be required when Fossil Creek opens on Nov. 3. They are required in the busy spring and summer seasons, however. Permits will be required beginning April 1, 2023, and can be purchased beginning March 1 at

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What parts of Fossil Creek are open?

All Fossil Creek sites will be open starting Nov. 3, including the Childs Dispersed Camping Area. The Dixon Lewis Trail (formerly known as the Waterfall Trail) will be closed until repairs are complete. The trail is expected to reopen later this month. 

Will Fossil Creek close again?

According to a news release from Coconino National Forest, the area continues to recover from the Backbone Fire. Fossil Creek is likely to close during the summer 2023 monsoon season because vegetation has not fully grown back, creating a greater risk of flash flooding.

Fossil Creek also will likely close temporarily in early 2023 to complete resurfacing of Forest Road 708.

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