“A moderate/strenuous run with gorgeous tree-filled landscapes leading to a beautiful waterfall.”
— Hossein Abbaszadegan
Cave · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Waterfall
This run features a beautiful trail, is DSLR camera friendly, and has lots of fun and excitement at the waterfalls. Be warned that it's a grueling return trip, and you must bring an appropriate amount of water and food.
Need to Know
Bring ~ 1-1.5 gallons of water PER PERSON, and enough food and snacks to last a full day. Appropriate footwear, water shoes, goggles / snorkeling gear (optional), and sunscreen are also recommended.
You must purchase parking permit in advance from www.recreation.gov
. Permits are required from May 1 through October 1.
The backdrop is gorgeous with red rocks interspersed with trees, and one can see the open Arizona sky at its best. The new permit system has significantly contributed to crowd control on this trail, and the overpopulation of previous years is no longer an issue (we ran into 3-4 groups of 5-10 people), and the trail itself was overall very clean.
Be careful not to miss the sign for "Fossil Springs Trailhead" as the road will also continue towards the Old Fossil Creek Road, which is no longer in use.
The trail is well marked right up to the point where the trail splits between "Fossil Springs" and the "Toilet Bowl/Dam." The "Fossil Spring" road will take you to a small spring where you can splash water on your face and the side trip is extremely short. From there, you can jump over the small creek and continue on or backtrack to the split in the road for the "Toilet Bowl/Dam." There was a segment of this trail that can be slightly confusing; there will be an opening in the trail (right after you see a sign explaining the rules about running Fossil Creek), and you'll seemingly have a couple paths to choose from. The correct path is along some tall grass/reeds and will have another trail marker once you go a little bit in.
The waterfall area itself is just gorgeous. There is a small cave to explore and sit and relax in. There is a pocketed wall to do some minor rock climbing on outside the cave (though the rock is very harsh on the skin) and the toilet bowl formation is tons of fun itself. People can jump inside the toilet bowl and exit the formation by swimming through a small hole underneath the water, however I highly recommend wearing goggles so you can see where you are going, otherwise do not jump in the bowl. You can also explore the small underhang beneath the waterfall.
Pace yourself for the trip back, as the ascent can be difficult for beginners and tiring for experienced runners. Our group had 3 liters of water and 1 gatorade per person, and we finished nearly all of it by the end of the outing. Protein bars with high calories and juicy fruits (for hydration) are highly recommended.