Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fossil Creek Rd - Central Arizona

Wow, what a cool 'off the beaten path' drive tucked away in central Arizona. I took the Fossil Creek road trip on the recommendation of Mister Windshield who fixed my RV's windshield ding and gave me the area scoop all at the same time. The west entrance to Fossil Creek road (FR 708) starts about 10 miles outside of Camp Verde, AZ at Interstate 17 on Hwy. 260 and continues 26 miles to the small town of Strawberry, just west of Payson.

I started from out from Distant Drums RV Park in Camp Verde. I was a bit disappointed the first few miles of road. There was a lot of wide open spaces with some scrub brush, cacti and Yucca and a couple of dry creek beds with broad leafs that were just starting to change. I resolved myself to the fact that I was just to late in the year to see what I thought was 'the' creek flowing.

As I kept driving the terrain began to change and become a little more hilly and had more vegetation. Finally I came to a Tonto National Forest sign and a turn off that stated the Verde River and a Power plant were 6 miles ahead. I took the turn off and found the creek. What a beautiful creek! Clear cool blue water, rapids forming dozens of little waterfalls. What was once open scrub land was now forest albeit with cacti mixed in (it is still Arizona). I think the only other place I have seen water like this is in Glacier National Park.

The creekside was a great place for lunch and some exploring. I never made it the 6 miles down to the power plant and to the Verde river and the Hotsprings. I was told that the Hotsprings was a place where nudist sometimes hang out. I have nothing against nudist but I hadn't had lunch yet and didn't want to chance it. I was throughly enjoying the scenery were I was.

There were many pullouts and dispersed camping sites around the creek area. One area along the creek, which looked as if it could double as a swimming hole, curiously had cairns stacked all around and in it. Empty on my visit, it sort of had a mystical sense about it. Just me, the water the weird cairns and dozens of butterflies.

Further up the road I ran into a curious older man on a horse with two pack horses for the second time.

When I went back to the main road and continued to Strawberry there were many more pullouts and campsites along the creek. The blue water thrilled me each time I got a glimpse of the creek. Finally the road started winding out of the valley and up the mountain side. The views were great.

I made it back to Hwy 260 in Strawberry where the pine trees were everywhere. The next small town towards Payson was Pine. I found this to be a nice place to stop and check out a little gallery. I continued further and stopped at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. I found it scenic enough and would have explored more if there had not been a huge bus of school children also exploring the park.

Now getting late, I headed back to Distant Drums via Hwy 260 which climbed back through the pine forest to the high desert scrubland. It was a fabulous day trip. Fossil Creek Road is unpaved and washboard a lot of the way, (more so on the west side than east) but easily passable in a passenger car on the main drag. For the more adventurous drivers there were many inviting off shoots that would have required 4wd and high clearance. I did not check them out. This was a very scenic and enjoyable drive. I did this on a week day and only passed 4 other cars (and the unusual horseman). I hope to do this trek again, maybe in the spring when the all the dry creeks are flowing and yuccas blooming. Next time I will allow more time, do some of the hiking trails in the area and maybe even venture to the hot springs.

Note:   I went to drive this route in April 2012 but apparently they are reconstructing a bridge over the creek and you can not get all the way through to Strawberry from the route starting at Hwy 260.  There is signage at the beginning of the route by Hwy 260 & you can get down by the river & creek this way just not loop back to Strawberry for the moment.    April was a little early to see all the Yucca & Prickly Pear in bloom but there were a couple small patches of poppies.


Larry said...

It sounds like a great place to explore.I like the shot of the water where it has a greensh tint to it.-Nice photos of scenery overall.-I would love to camp out at a place like that.

Adventurous Wench said...

Looks lovely, and makes me want to follow your drive myself! One of these days...

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend this trip to anyone. The pictures are fabulous, but still don't do it justice. It really is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to in AZ.

Vinnie G said...

been here on a backpacking trip ..... The trail is nice going down very easy going down ! Up is a workout but I cannot wait to explore the new parts of the creek in my jeep... Sounds like a blast ! Can't wait to go again !