Summer will be here before you know it and Phoenix will feel like the surface of the sun. But there’s a paradise a short drive away where you can go to escape the searing heat.

An oasis that will cool your bones and enchant your eyes, Fossil Creek is an Arizona gem.

[SLIDESHOW: Gorgeous photos!]

Fossil Creek is a perennial stream near Strawberry. It’s about 2.5 hours north of Phoenix between Camp Verde and Payson.

“It offers beautiful scenery, shade, pools, swimming,” Carrie Templin with the Tonto National Forest said.

This is second year a permit system in place because the creek was becoming overcrowded.

“We had trash, we had people angry because they couldn't find a parking spot,” Templin said. “It was just being loved more than we had capacity to accommodate."

For $6, you can park in one of a several spots close to the creek. In some cases, you will need to hike a bit so come prepared.

"You need to have good walking shoes and you need to have plenty of water because there is no drinking water up there,” Templin explained.

Once you get there, beautiful blue waters greet you. And this is a special place for sure -- one of only two waterways in Arizona designated as a National Wild and Scenic river. Most people come to Fossil Creek to sunbathe, wade, hike and birdwatch. It's also a great place to take photographs. The lushness of the riparian area strikes a sharp contrast to the brittle desert that surrounds it.

National Forest Service websiteTemplin says a bit more planning is needed with the permit system, but it has done wonders to keep this Arizona creek and its banks clean for all of us.

"Our amount of trash has gone down by 50 percent since we instituted the permit system so that has been really helpful,” she said.

If you go, you'll need a permit now through Oct. 1, and you have to buy it ahead of your visit. Permits for the nearly 150 designated parking spots are available one month ahead of time starting at 7 a.m. on the first of the month. For example, April permits became available on March 1. On Saturday, permits for May went on sale. (Please see planning note at the end of this story.) You can only reserve one permit every month.

Be sure to bring your permit with you, and, of course, your camera.

For updates on conditions and road closures, you can call the Fossil Creek Hotline 24 hours a day at 928-226-4611.The Red Rock Ranger District has implemented a reservation system for parking at the day use sites and trailheads in the Fossil Creek and Springs area. From April 1 to October 1, a parking permit purchased and printed in advance is required to park in the Fossil Creek area.

Fossil Creek reservation system informationPlanning note from the U.S. Forest Service

Portions of the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River Corridor will be temporarily closed May 1 through May 14 to allow for installation of vault toilets.

During this time, reservations will be unavailable for the Waterfall, Irving, Tonto Bench, Fossil Creek Bridge, Homestead, Sally May, Purple Mountain, and Mazatzal parking lots. Reservations for the Fossil Springs Trailhead can still be made.

The public is warned that there is no direct access to Fossil Creek from the Fossil Springs Trailhead. This trail is a very difficult, 8-mile round-trip hike.

[MAP: Fossil Creek]

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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