When I think of Arizona, I think of red sandstone rocks and the Grand Canyon, not crystal clear blue water, underground caves, and waterfalls, which are the highlights of this particular trail. If you need to see it to believe it, look no further. Hike the “Bob Bear Trail” near the town of Strawberry, Arizona and surely you will not be disappointed.
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Formerly known as "Fossil Falls", the Bob Bear Trail will do nothing but blow you away! I'm not entirely sure why but somebody made a power move and renamed it lol. The trail provides access to the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River in the Tonto and Coconino National Forests. The trail begins at around 5,700 feet and then descends 1,500. Remember, going down is optional but coming up is mandatory! If you are questioning your ability to complete this hike safely, I suggest you hang back for this one. In the summer months especially, the sun can be extremely strong and will add to the difficulty of the hike.
About 1.5 hours South of Flagstaff
Distance: 8.3 miles
Elevation gain: 1,505 feet
Type: Out and Back
Spring-Summer Season (April 1 - October 1)
$6.00 per vehicle per day
Permits are not available at the trailhead, you must reserve them in advance.
Fall-Winter Season (October 2 – March 31): No fees, permits, or reservations are required.
You must print them and put the permit in your dash when parked.
You must obtain your permit from this site:
Permits become available on a month by month basis. Example: The month of June becomes available for reservations on May 1st. I’m not sure how busy it gets in the summer months but I imagine the permits sell our rather quickly. We lucked out since we only booked 3 days in advance but we went in April.
The terrain is moderate but steep on the way up. I think the most concerning factor on this hike is the constant sun exposure and the heat during the summer. Not having enough water could be extremely dangerous.
The trail is pretty well marked except for one spot about a mile from the waterfall, which I pictured below. We made the mistake of going straight instead of turning right at that dry patch. We ended up on the wrong side of the waterfall and had to cross the river above it, from where the second photo was taken. I advise against that because it was extremely slick and probably dangerous.
So, assuming you made all the right turns and ended up where you were supposed to... The first thing you'll see will be the waterfall. The cascading falls are beautiful and you're able to swim in the emerald green pool below. The water is crystal clear but it also gets pretty deep. I'm an absolute terrible swimmer, so I bought an inflatable tube before we went. It gave me peace of mind and I was able to get in the water and enjoy myself with ease!
There is plenty of space to drop your belongings and and take a dip. As always, use caution and keep and eye on them. I like to have faith in humanity but I am also the opposite of naive.
There is a portion of the water area called "The Toilet Bowl" and it's essentially this super aggressive current going 'round and 'round but is super treacherous. It's advised to not go anywhere near there! There's even a sign saying "Do Not Enter". Seriously... please be careful if you go in that area. People have unfortunately drowned because they underestimated the strength of the waterflow.
Once you're finished with the waterfall area, you can continue down to the trees where you'll be level with the river. The walk down to the river gets kind of steep and has lots of loose rocks, so just be careful and have your hands available in case you slip. Also, put your shoes back on for this part! Your feet will thank you. Anyway... This is where you'll enter the water and swim over to the clearest water you've ever seen! I couldn't believe my eyes and it was even harder to believe that this was in the state of Arizona! You're able to climb up on some of the rocks in there, making your own little seat or diving board. I didn't bring my phone or camera inside because I didn't want to risk it but Kev brought his GoPro. The quality is subpar (apologies!) but it definitely managed to get the point across of how fricken clear and blue the water was.
(I made a point to NOT EDIT THEM). The water actually looks like this, it's hard to believe!
Tips/What to Pack:
Bring at least 3L of water per person. We use this hydration pack.
Wear and bring lots of sunscreen!
Goggles! You'll want to look in the blue a$$ water!
Lunch! You'll want to hangout for awhile.
Dry pair of clothes for the hike back
There will be no cell coverage
There are limited supplies in the area so stock up on water, snacks, and anything else you may need before you begin your drive to the trailhead!
If you're feeling fancy, a hammock.
It wasn't too crowded when we were there, which made for a pleasant experience. I recommend starting as early as possible. 8:00am should be a perfect start time and you can hangout down there all day. Plan on spending at least a couple of hours... it's a legitimate oasis down there.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post, this is a truly unique hike and seems like a lesser known hidden gem. As always, let me know if you have any questions, I'm happy to help!