Bob Bear (formerly Fossil Springs) Hike With Secret Tips

In my humble opinion Fossil Springs, now called Bob Bear Trail, is the best day hike in Arizona. Bob Bear trail offers some things that no other hikes in the US even offers!

Bob Bear Trail Hike Fossil Springs 13

Where else in the US can you hike to a beautiful turquoise waterfall, multiple caves & grottos, find swimming holes, cliff jump stop along at beautiful springs along the way and of course… the toilet bowl!

There is so much beauty along the Bob Bear hike with stunning water and a ton of different adventures! I have seen people give this hike lower ratings because they must just see the waterfall and that’s it…

I assume they never find the cave, toilet bowl swim into the grottos or springs along the way. I don’t know if there is any day hike on earth with so many things to do with payoffs as unique and beautiful.

Bob Bear Trail formerly Fossil Springs

This hike often gets confused with is Fossil Creek, which is pretty but only a 30 minute walk after driving down a dirt road for an hour, thus I would definitely do this one if looking for a challenging hike with amazing rewards at the end.

Warning, this hike is definitely long and strenuous thus make sure to pack food and bring a lot of water. Do not do this hike unless you can hike 10 miles in the heat and the parks department asks you leave your dogs at home due to the heat and length.

Bob Bear Trail formerly Fossil Springs

If you want some other Must Do swimming hole and waterfall hikes near Phoenix check out my list here! Or you can see a lot of my Sedona Top 6 Things To Do or Phoenix Best 18 Things To Do As Well!

Be sure to come here from Strawberry, AZ as that is where you will find the hike, not via Camp Verde, where Fossil Creek is located. Google maps will lead you to the Fossil Springs Trailhead 15 minutes from Strawberry, AZ.

Bob Bear Trail Hike Fossil Springs 13

You must have a permit to hike here from April 1st to October 1st and often weekend permits are sold out a month in advance. Click here to get permits.


Bob Bear (formerly Fossil Springs) Trail Hike



Elevation Gain:

1,500 ft


9 mile round trip - 3-5 hours - Out & Back

Located just two hours from Phoenix it is a strenuous hike  with the best payoffs in AZ at the end. It is located at the Bob Bear Trailhead via Fossil Creek rd from the town of Strawberry.

You start the hike at the parking lot descending into the valley of the deep canyon with beautiful landscape views along the way.

Bob Bear Trail Hike Fossil Springs 13

There are a plethora of pictures you can take during the hike with the trees, flowers, springs and stunning views of the valley.

As you reach the valley floor is when the real fun begins. You will start to walk around the water with a ton of build your own adventure paths to come.

Bob Bear Trail formerly Fossil Springs

You can also take some trails off the main one that lead to beautiful springs and mini swimming holes, which are well worth it. Take your time as when will you be back here again! There will be a fork in the road with a sign saying Springs to the left and Dam to the right. Definitely take the extra 30 minutes to go see the springs.

Bob Bear Trail formerly Fossil Springs

After crossing the creek over the stones and about .5 miles into the springs direction is where you will find the perfect little swimming hole and spring spot on your right, there will be a tiny stream waterfall into a beautiful pool of water.

Bob Bear Trail formerly Fossil Springs

There are fish in the streams, frogs and more stuff to see as you are immersed in the springs and neature. This is all before you even get to the best part of the entire hike! Also keep an eye open for crayfish in the stream under rocks.

Bob Bear Trail formerly Fossil Springs

Once you have had your fun in the springs, and probably not have even seen a soul while relaxing there, it is on to the waterfalls, cave and toilet bowl! Another .5 mile hike from the fork in the road you will get to the waterfall.

Bob Bear Trail formerly Fossil Springs

There are caves and grottos all around so definitely take your time around the area. Make sure you swim inside the main cave down the stream, swim in the grotto to the left of the falls, climb up to the waterfall and if you are a good swimmer, test the toilet bowl…

Bob Bear Trail formerly Fossil Springs

I will say, if you want to attempt jumping in the toilet bowl you need to be a strong swimmer. There is now a sign saying no entering the toilet bowl and they took away the tree that used to get you into it.

It is a petrifying 11 seconds under water as you are being pulled around by the current. The small underwater cave opening isn’t that big either and visibility is non-existant with all of the bubbles, you essentially just swim to the light. I almost had to save someone who didn’t take it seriously and he hit his head.

Bob Bear Trail Hike Fossil Springs 13

The cave is located just down around the corner from the waterfall and across the water. You will swim across the stream into it and will be rewarded with one of the prettiest caves I have ever seen, probably the prettiest.


  • The most “payoffs” of any day hike in Arizona or that I have ever seen.
  • Great for kids if they are fit enough for the hike.
  • Amazing pictures throughout the hike.
  • On the drive there or back you can do a pit-stop in the adorable quaint towns of Strawberry or Payson.


  • I really don’t have any… it can get a little busy but the pass system has curbed that a little.
  • You need to purchase a pass in advance, which isn’t really a con as it keeps it from being overcrowded.
  • It can get pretty hot so you should be fit to attempt this as you are exposed in the sun for a lot of it.


  • Permits are only required April 1 to October 1 and are $6 per vehicle.
  • If you plan on doing the toilet bowl make sure others are around and you need to be a strong swimmer, it isn’t a joke. In fact there is now a sign saying you cannot enter the toilet bowl.
  • Permits are made available on the first of the month one month ahead of time. For example, permits for the month of April are available beginning March 1.
  • Take your time. When will you be back? Go checkout the springs and the entire area.
  • Bring a picnic. It is a long hike and you will want to stay down there and hangout for a while.
  • Bring extra water as even if you don’t need it maybe another hiker will be struggling.
  • Check out Payson and Strawberry. There are lots of quaint shops and places to get dinner before the drive back.
  • The water is 70 degrees year-round so it actually might feel warmer in cooler months, meaning don’t hesitate to get in.
  • To avoid confusion make sure you go to the right Bob Bear Trailhead, which is just outside of Strawberry, AZ. Do not go to Fossil Creek.
  • It is very hot in the summer months so be prepared with plenty of water and snacks.


Hola! I’m Fraser & this site is a guide to help you reach your goals, travel the world and create amazing food in between. Get inspiration for travel, recipes & to follow your dreams.

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28 thoughts on “Bob Bear (formerly Fossil Springs) Hike With Secret Tips”

  1. Hi! For this hike, do I purchase the permit pass for bob bear trailhead? I called the ranger because on the website it says that bob bear trailhead does not access the waterfall, and she said that this hike is out of strawberry and doesn’t access the water.
    Thank you for any insight!

    1. Fraser Inspires

      Hi there, that is weird. Yes, you would get that permit and then hike all the way down to the falls. I think they mean it doesn’t give “direct access” to the falls and you also can’t get to Fossil Creek falls from there in a day but you can hike down to the Fossil Springs falls. Some sites are also saying it is closed? I tried calling the ranger but no one answered. The government contact said as long as you can purchase permits online, it is open.

  2. Hi! I am also super confused on where the trailhead you describe here starts. I bought a permit for Bob Bear Trailhead but it sounds like you are saying that’s not correct. Is it possible for you to drop a pin for the trailhead or explain how to get there? I’m unclear based on the map posted but thank you so very much for the great post and information!!!

    1. Fraser Inspires

      Hi Jenn, right, it can be as clear as mud, which may be part of the reason they changed the name from Fossil Springs to Bob Bear so that people stopped getting Fossil Springs and Fossil Creek confused. With that said, on Google Maps “Fossil Springs Trail” will take you to the trailhead. You will get to it from the town of Strawberry and then down Fossil Creek Trail rd. The fact that the road is named Fossil Creek Trail road but nowhere near Fossil Creek waterfall just adds to the confusion ha. However, it is 12 minutes from Strawberry so that should help!

  3. This looks like an amazing place! I’m going to stay out of the toilet bowl, you are braver than me!! Thanks for sharing this place!

      1. Hi there! So if there is no direct access to the falls, how long in total would the hike there be? Would it require us to camp? Thanks in advance!

        1. Fraser Inspires

          Hi Nikki! The hike is 8.5-10 miles depending how much you go see in the area. The hike would take anywhere from 3-5 hours round trip depending how fast you go. I ran it one time each way in 45 minutes or less, so just depends if you take breaks or walk fast etc. There is no camping nope. For a great leisure time I would say stay 4-6 hours and hangout to site see around the falls, eat lunch and also go see the springs.

  4. I’m often intimidated to go for hikes in Arizona due to the heat. I also feelt that nowhere in AZ is worth hiking to. After reading a couple of these articles I’msurprised that there’s places this beautiful I’m looking forward to going and hiking and checking it out thanks for this article!

    1. Fraser Inspires

      Glad we could help! You are going to love it and let me know how it goes! Cibecue Falls is another great one to escape the heat for ya!

  5. A group of us hiked the Fossil Springs Trail (from Bob Bear Trailhead, just outside of Strawberry), on June 24th. It was awesome! 95 degree high for the day, which perhaps kept people away as it was not crowded. We went straight down the trail to the Dam as we wanted to spend most of our time at the waterfall and caves/grottos there. We arrived at the Trailhead parking lot with our permit (placed it on our dash but no one was there to check us in) at 8 am as we read that the parking lot didn’t open until 8 am. It took us about 2 hours to reach the Dam (starting at 8 am) and we spent hours there, swimming and exploring the large underwater cave (floating around it in the current on our floatie tubes) and jumping off the small rock outcropping across from the big waterfall. The water was cold and refreshing. We took a less traveled path that ran along the opposite side of the creek on the way back so we could see the springs and the creek. Not sure it was worth it as we got quite scratched up, but it did keep us in the shade a bit longer as we connected with the main trail at the Springs area. We started back up the trail at 2:30 pm, in the heat of the day. It was strenuous because of the heat and steep path. We passed a young couple a half mile up the trail who were struggling. They had some water, but no food and protection from the heat. They were so unprepared that we tried to help them and hope they made it out okay. We each had 3 liter Camelbacks and we ran out of water anywhere from 1/2 to 1 mile from the top of the trail. We made it fine, but wished we had a bit more water. A gallon is definitely the amount to carry during the summer months. We had no bug issues but carried bug wipes because of reviews we’d read. We did carry water shoes and were glad we had them so we could swim in comfort. The current was stronger than we thought, so nonswimmers be prepared. Avoid the toilet bowl at all cost – knowing of the drownings and injuries caused in it, it is not worth it. This is an amazing hike and we’d do it again!

    1. Fraser Inspires

      Sounds like an amazing trip! Yes, that water is definitely needed in the summer heat! Appreciate the feedback and glad you loved it!

  6. Absolutely beautiful spot. I’ve been an Arizona native and in and out of flag and Sedona my whole life. This definetly tops the cake. Great directions from you brother. Thanks so much for everything 👏🏽

  7. Hi thanks for the information on this website. I had a great day out hiking with my girlfriend.

    Really cant explain how amazing this hike was and i never would of found it if it wasn’t for the information i found on this page..

    Thanks again

  8. My daughter and I plan to do this hike from the Bob Bear trailhead in late December 2020. Should we take the Dam trail or the Springs trail? Which is the more scenic and which offers the best watering hole experience? Have you hiked this trail in the winter? Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Thank you!

    1. Both trails are offshoots at the very bottom. Only the Dam trail leads to the waterfall, cave and toilet bowl etc. The Springs Trail is still great to go down 0.5 miles or so to cross some creeks and see some pretty springs throughout. Would do that first then come back to the trail to the waterfall. Never hiked in the winter as you’d typically want to do it when it is warm and can swim into the caves, grottos, in the swimming holes etc. The good news is the water doesn’t drastically change temperature so maybe can still brave getting in. Have fun!

  9. Currently it says you can’t access the trail because the road from Strawberry AZ is closed because of poor driving conditions. Is this a new development? It would add an additional 10 mile hike just to get to the now closed permit parking lot then, 4 mile hike to get to falls. Has anyone recently, within last couple months gone to Bob Bear trail/falls via Strawberry, AZ?

    1. Fraser Inspires

      I think you are looking at the wrong road. That is the road from Camp Verde to Strawberry that has been closed for two years. The road from Strawberry to the Bob Bear (Fossil Springs) Trailhead is open and tons of people have gone this month alone so not to worry. Just get your permit and good to go!

  10. Is it possible to camp here? I’m looking to visit friends in AZ (I’m from the UK) and a camping trip here looks idyllic

  11. Hi, the trail said it opens at 8am. Do you know if it is possible to park and start hiking prior to 8am? If I have my pass printed out already? Or is there a gate keeping you from accessing the parking lot? Thank you for all the tips!

    1. I haven’t been there in a year or so, the last time I went there was not a gate but that may have changed. Maybe give the ranger station a call?

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