Autumn along the Flume Trail, November 12-13, 2017. Fall colors were at their peak the entire length of Fossil Creek. Daytime tempertures were in the 70°F's.
The Flume Trail starts at the old Irving Power Plant location and follows the line of the now-removed flume that carried the water from the dam to the power plants for generating electricity. The trail ends at the old Fossil Creek Dam, a four and a half mile trek one way. The trail ascends steadily about 500 feet from an elevation of 3769 foot at the trailhead over the first mile. For the next three and a half miles, the trail rolls gently several times in approximately 150 foot elevation changes before arriving at the dam.
The trail is approximately 500 feet up the side of the canyon, offering fantastic views of the canyon and creek below. There is no creek access between the trailhead and the dam. The trail is very exposed and extremely hot in the warmer months. Hikers should carry at least four quarts of water. The trail is in the Fossil Creek Wilderness. Bikes and mechanized vehicles are prohibited. Flume Trail ends at the old Fossil Creek Dam, where the trail joins with Fossil Springs Trail.
Camping is prohibited along Flume Trail, from the Fossil Creek Dam for several miles downstream (west) along the canyon to the bridge. Flume Trail meets Fossil Springs Trail at the old dam. Continue another half mile on Fossil Springs Trail through a narrow section of the canyon to find easy camping near the creek in the springs area. Camping is permitted during the fall-winter season 100 feet or more from the creek. A half a mile from the dam is a marked side trail leading to the first spring source, where many hikers refill their water bottles.
Fossil Creek is one of two Wild and Scenic rivers in Arizona. A series of springs gush 20,000 gallons a minute year-round at the bottom of a 1,600 foot deep canyon, creating a lush riparian oasis rich with life. Over the years these calcium laden waters have laid down huge deposits of a type of limestone called travertine, creating deep pools for miles along the creek. The Wilderness and surrounding area are on the Tonto and Coconino National Forests, and are managed by the Coconino National Forest.
During the spring-summer season, camping is prohibited anywhere in the Wilderness and surrounding area, and a reserved parking permit is required to park at the Flume trailhead at the Irving parking lot. See Flume Trail and Fossil Creek on the USFS Coconino National Forest website for maps, regulations, permit reservations, and other details.
Photo by Deborah Lee Soltesz, November 2017. Source: USFS Coconino National Forest.