The Grand Falls (Chocolate Falls) is one of the five highest waterfalls in Arizona. At 185 feet high it is taller than Niagara Falls (183 feet) though not nearly as wide. Grand Falls is part of the Little Colorado River. The Grand Falls are known for the beautiful rainbows created by the impact and spray of the falls. These muddy falls are a spectacular sight to be seen. Known in the Southwest for its many tiers of water and strong flow, the Grand Falls are an incredible phenomena. These falls were created by volcanic runoff from Merriam Crater and created a lava dam. Located 30 miles East of Flagstaff, this waterfall wonder sits on Navajo Nation land in the Painted Desert.
- Trip Outline
- Check the Falls
The Grand Falls (Chocolate Falls) is one of the five highest waterfalls in Arizona. At 185 feet high it is taller than Niagara Falls (183 feet) though not nearly as wide. Grand Falls is part of the Little Colorado River. Most of the year the Little Colorado River does not flow so we need to plan ahead to see the falls when running. The Grand Falls is so muddy it is also known as Chocolate Falls.
These muddy falls are a spectacular sight to be seen. Known in the Southwest for its many tiers of water and strong flow, the Grand Falls are an incredible phenomena. These falls were created by volcanic runoff from Merriam Crater and created a lava dam. Located 30 miles East of Flagstaff, this waterfall wonder sits on Navajo Nation land in the Painted Desert. The falls are fed by the snow melt and rain from the White Mountains and flows into the Little Colorado river. For this reason there are only specific times that the waterfalls are actually flowing.
During our drive in to the Grand Falls we will enjoy fantastic views of the San Francisco Peaks. This is a volcanic mountain just north of Flagstaff. The highest summit in the range, Humphreys Peak, is the highest point in the state of Arizona at 12,633 feet in elevation.
Best Times to View the Falls
- When Are the Falls Running Strong? Click on the tab labeled “Check the Falls” to learn how to check the status of the flow of water over the falls before you book this trip.
- March and April – During this time there is snow melt from earlier in the year.
- Summer Months – The falls are strong during Monsoon Season (July and August) when there is heavy rainfall in the region.
Possible 1/2 Mile Hike – If the road to the rim is too muddy or flooded we will need to hike in from the parking area. The hike is distinct and covered in black rocks. This hike is only a half mile long and easy, but you must use caution as there are loose rocks.
Hike Down to the Bottom of the Falls – There is a path to hike down to the bottom of the falls. It is a very slippery path and great care must be taken. This path can at times be very muddy. Sturdy hiking boots are strongly suggested. Hiking poles are good to have for assisting your footing. You will be closer to the spray of the falls. Protect your camera lens, and be prepared to clean your glasses.
Things to Bring
- Change of Shoes – You MUST bring with you a change of socks and shoes as well as a plastic bag to store them in afterwards before entering back into my Jeep.
- Cover for Nose and Mouth – Having a cover for your nose and mouth is a good idea so as to not breath in too much dirt from the fine mist spray of the falls.
- Food, Snacks, and Drinks – The area where the Grand Falls is located is rather remote. So during this excursion it is best to bring food, snacks, and water with you. You will have the option to go to eat dinner in Flagstaff before driving back home if you choose to.
Grand Falls Day Trip
Time : 10:00 am
Meet in and Depart from Fountain Hills. (Hotel Pick-up Included)
TRAVEL (PART 1)
Time : 1:30 pm
Travel on-road for 3 1/2 hours up north through Flagstaff and Winona, to the Grand Falls.
TRAVEL (PART 2)
Time : 2:00 pm
Travel off-road for 1/2 mile to the parking area.
There is a potential for this portion to be very muddy.
Time : 2:00 pm
If the road in is blocked or too muddy we may need to hike in. It is an easy 1/2 mile hike to reach the various viewing locations of the falls.
Rest for Food
There are tables where we can rest and eat food or snacks while enjoying the view of the falls. You must pack in your food and drinks.
Time : 4:00 pm
Hike back out 1/2 mile to return to the Jeep if we were not able to drive the road to the edge.
Dinner in Flagstaff
Time : 4:30 pm
You may choose to eat dinner in downtown Flagstaff before we return home.
Time : 8:00 pm
Drive back 3 1/2 to Fountain Hills.
How to Check if the Grand Falls Are Flowing
Before you book your trip to the Grand Falls you need to check the status of the water flow over the falls.
Go to this link: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/az/nwis/current/?type=flow
Scroll down to the Little Colorado River Basin section.
There are two measuring stations to check:
- LITTLE COLORADO RIVER NEAR WINSLOW, AZ (before the falls)
- LITTLE COLORADO RIVER NEAR CAMERON, AZ (after the falls)
If the discharge feet per second at BOTH of these stations (one is before and one is after the Falls), is several hundred, or better yet, over 1,000fs, then you can be sure the falls are flowing strong that day. (Below is an example of the chart.)
How to Receive Email Notifications of Winslow Stream Flow:
Winslow is upstream of the Grand Falls. If there is a good flow at Winslow there will be a good flow at the Grand Falls a few days later. It takes about two days for a heavy flow recorded in Winslow to make its way downstream to Grand Falls. Here are instructions of how to sign up to receive an email or text alert sent to you when stream flow at Winslow exceeds a certain amount.
- Go to this link: USGS WaterAlert Subscription Form
- Match the chart below to what you see online.
- Follow the instruction you will receive in your email to confirm your subscription.
- Add their email address to your contacts to avoid it going to a spam folder.
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