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Tag: waterfall

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hiking Guide

Overview

On any given weekend during May, September, and October, thousands of zealots pour out of vehicles, shuttles, and even busses to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim.

The park rangers have long discouraged this practice, because they have to rescue all of the unlucky ones that don’t make it. On average, 250 people are rescued from the canyon each year. That hasn’t made it any less popular though, because the payoff is enormous.

It’s a huge accomplishment to complete the rim to rim hike – a notable feat even for fit athletes. The 23.5 mile hike offers a full tour of the canyon’s grandiosity, from its chilly pine-covered rims to its sweltering sunbaked bottom, where the mighty Colorado River continues to carve and erode the chasm deeper and deeper.

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, I can’t talk you out of hiking the canyon rim to rim. However, I’d urge you to consider doing it as a multi-day hike if possible. You can apply for a permit on the 1st of the month, four months prior to the date you’d like to start.

Request a Backcountry Permit

The Colorado River from where the suspension bridge meets up with Bright Angel Trail
The Colorado River from where the suspension bridge meets up with Bright Angel Trail

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 23.5 miles
  • Hike Time: 12-15 hours if you’re Speedy Gonzales. 18+ if you’re Sid the Sloth
  • Elevation Loss: 5,850 feet (North Rim to South Rim)
  • Elevation Gain: 4,380 feet (North Rim to South Rim)
  • Fee: $20 per person or $35 per vehicle to enter the park
  • Dogs: No
  • Difficulty: Herculean

Rim to Rim in a Day

Logistics

If you’re still dead-set on hiking rim to rim in a day, and your group size is over 12 people, the park requires that you obtain a Special Use Permit.

Otherwise, you can arrange for someone to drop you off at the North or South Rim, drive four hours to the other side, and pick you up when you finish. Another option is to hire a shuttle service to pick you up and transport you back. Trans-Canyon Shuttle is the only one I know of. They’ve been operating since 1989, and you can make a reservation on their website.

Start as early as humanly possible to give yourself plenty of time to hike across the canyon safely. When we hiked it in October 2019, our group was on the trail by 5:15 a.m.

When we started at North Kaibab Trail, it was dark and bitterly cold at 12° F. At the bottom of the Canyon, it was a toasty 80° F. We finished in the dark and it was in the 40s, with bone-chilling wind atop the South Rim.

The Grand Canyon is a geologist's wet dream, with almost 40 sedimentary layers exposed by erosion
The Grand Canyon is a geologist’s wet dream, with plenty of sedimentary rock layers exposed by erosion

Distance and Elevation

There’s no easy way to hike across the Grand Canyon, but the least challenging route is to hike from the North Rim to South Rim, because it involves more descent than ascent. From this direction, you’ll start at North Kaibab Trailhead, elevation 8,060 feet, then follow Bright Angel Creek down Roaring Springs Canyon, 14.2 miles to the Colorado River.

After descending 5,850 feet, your legs are going to feel tired! Hopefully, you’ve still got some bounce in your step for the 9.3-mile, 4,380-foot climb up Bright Angel Trail.

Alternatively, you can ascend South Kaibab Trail. This route adds 400 feet of elevation gain, but it shaves off a few miles. From Bright Angel Campground, it’s just 7 miles to the top of the South Rim via South Kaibab.

Roaring Springs spills out of the earth below a cliff (lower right)
Roaring Springs spills out of the earth below a cliff (lower right)

What to Expect

Best Time to Hike Rim to Rim

At over 8,000 feet above sea level, the North Rim sits 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim and gets 130+ inches of snow in the winter. Roads to the North Rim are closed between December 1st and May 15th, but services are reduced starting October 16th.

The temperature variation between the North Rim and the Colorado River is vast. As I mentioned earlier, when we did it in October 2019, it was 12° F at the start, 80° F at the bottom, and 40s at the finish.

It’s unwise to attempt a rim to rim in the summer months, because daytime highs often soar to over 100° F at the bottom of the canyon. This increases the likelihood of life-threatening conditions such as hyperthermia, hyponatremia, and dehydration.

For this reason, the best time to hike it is in late May or early October, when it’s not too hot at the bottom and not too cold at the top.

Weather Forecast for the North Rim

Weather Forecast for Phantom Ranch

Weather Forecast for the South Rim

Bright Angel Trail winds its way up endlessly toward the South Rim
Bright Angel Trail winds its way up endlessly toward the South Rim

What to Bring

In terms of clothing, the key to comfortably hiking rim to rim is to use a bulletproof layering system. You’ll want a system that keeps you warm for the freezing cold start and chilly end, but also allows you to strip down and stay cool at the sizzling bottom.

Gear List

Backpack: Black Diamond Sonar

Water: Start the hike with at least 3 liters. There is often potable water at Roaring Springs, about 4.5 miles from North Kaibab Trailhead. You can also treat the water from Bright Angel Creek. There is potable water at Phantom Ranch. There should also be some at Indian Garden Campground, but be sure to check current conditions with the rangers.

Hydration Salts: I dropped the recommended amount of Nuun Sport tablets in my Nalgene bottles to keep up my electrolytes and minerals. Hydration salts are a game changer!

Footwear: I hiked in Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 trail runners.

Headlamp: I used a Black Diamond Spot Headlamp. Take extra batteries!

Food: I brought around 5,000 calories worth of fuel and ate as much as I could stomach. I had flour tortillas, a small block of sharp cheddar cheese, a couple pouches of tuna fish, 6 cereal bars, Haribo peaches, dark chocolate, and beef jerky.

Clothing:

Map: I used the Gaia GPS app. For a paper topographic map, get Grand Canyon North and South Rims by Nat Geo.

First Aid Kit: Before every trip, Kim (my ICU nurse wife) assembles a kit for me. If you don’t have the time or knowledge to make your own, I recommend buying this one.

Sunscreen: Bring high SPF sunscreen and wear it.

Other Stuff: 

Tip: Accidents happen. Learn how to treat cuts and wounds in the backcountry.

The Grand Canyon's scenery is captivating from rim to rim
The Grand Canyon’s scenery is extremely captivating

Training for the Hike

This is not a hike that you should waltz into willy nilly. You’ll want to find and stick to a proven training regimen in the weeks, months, and perhaps years leading to it.

I don’t have a background in coaching people on how to train for a hike of this magnitude. All I can tell you is what I did to get myself in shape. I felt completely prepared for the endeavor and although it was hard, my body handled it great and I never found myself outside of my comfort zone.

The number one suggestion I have is to make sure your diet is in check and that you’re not overweight. Those extra pounds will be taxing for you to get down and back out with.

I may or may not be stating the obvious here, but you should be putting a lot of miles in on foot every week. Walks, day hikes, and runs are the main way I keep myself in good condition for these types of things.

Train Below Your Aerobic Threshold

In the months leading up to our hike, I did most of my activity below my aerobic threshold. This means I kept my heart rate 30 beats per minute less than my lactate threshold when exercising.

You can calculate your maximum heart rate by taking your age and subtracting it from 220. I’m 30 years old, so mine is 190.

To get your lactate threshold, take 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can get this number by multiplying .85 times your maximum heart rate. Mine looks like this: (.85 * 190 = 161.5).

Next, to find your aerobic threshold subtract 30 from your lactate threshold. So, for me it’s (161.5 – 30 = 131.5). My aerobic threshold is 131.5 beats per minute.

If you’re not a math person, you can calculate your aerobic threshold by walking on a treadmill at a comfortable pace. Pay attention to your breathing and slowly increase the incline over a few minutes. The point at which you find yourself breathing from your mouth instead of your nose is when you’ve surpassed your aerobic threshold.

You’re probably wondering why any of this matters, and I’m here to explain. When you’re working out below your aerobic threshold, your body has plenty of oxygen and can use fat, protein, and carbs for fuel.

When you go above your aerobic threshold, your muscles start producing lactic acid to assist with heightened energy requirements. The problem is, this state is unsustainable and you’ll eventually tire out/bonk.

Hiking across the Grand Canyon takes a long time and also requires a lot of effort, especially during the ascent. By frequently training at or below your aerobic threshold, you will increase your aerobic threshold. This means that you will be able to increase your heart rate without producing lactic acid. This is why it’s such a crucial part of your training.

As a baseline routine, I like to walk or hike almost every day for 30-60 minutes. I also sprinkle in 2-3 longer hikes with 1,000 feet or more elevation gain/loss every week. Every 1-2 months, I go on a multi-day backpacking trip where I cover 15-20 miles a day with anywhere from 2000 to 5000 feet of elevation each day.

I sprinkle in some yoga, calisthenics, and barbell strength training into my routine too, but I’m not that serious about any of it. Between all of these workouts and maintaining a healthy body weight, I was fit enough to tackle the hike without any problems.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23921084
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28745473
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23620244

A scarlet monkey-flower and Ribbon Falls, a worthwhile side trip from North Kaibab Trail
A scarlet monkey-flower and Ribbon Falls, a worthwhile side trip from North Kaibab Trail

Map

Location

Directions to North Kaibab Trailhead

Directions to Bright Angel Trailhead

Resources

Guidebooks

Topographic Maps

Links

Photos

My dad and I hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim at age 60 and 30. October 2019
My dad and I hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim at age 60 and 30. October 2019
Ribbon Falls adds another 1-2 miles to a rim to rim hike, but it's worth the effort!
Ribbon Falls adds another 1-2 miles to a rim to rim hike, but it’s worth the effort!

Ribbon Falls. October 2019

Ribbon Falls. October 2019

Ribbon Falls. October 2019

This suspension bridge allows hikers to cross the mighty Colorado River
This suspension bridge allows hikers to cross the mighty Colorado River
It’s always a treat to see The Colorado River, especially at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Desert Primrose near the Colorado River, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Desert Primrose near the Colorado River, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

Video

Upper Tanque Verde Falls Hiking Guide

This article is part of a two part hiking guide on Upper and Lower Tanque Verde Falls.

Overview

While not as tall as the lower falls, Upper Tanque Verde Falls are easier to get to and still beautiful. The upper falls plunge over a 25-foot drop below a gravelly-sand beach that’s perfect for swimming and clothing optional. Both falls are located in Tanque Verde Canyon.

It’s been said that this is the most dangerous hike in Southern Arizona. At least 30 people have died here in the last 50 years. Be cautious and know the forecast before you go! Flash floods can occur at short or a moment’s notice, especially during the monsoon season (June – September).

The Sonoran Desert routinely goes through long stretches without precipitation and during these periods, the falls dry up. Your best bet for seeing the falls run is soon after rain events or during Rincon Mountain snowmelt.

Get the Forecast

Upper Tanque Verde Falls is a scenic waterfall near Tucson with a clothing optional beach
Upper Tanque Verde Falls is a scenic waterfall near Tucson with a clothing optional beach

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 1 mile out and back
  • Hike Time: 30 minutes
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 91 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Hiking to Upper Tanque Verde Falls

There are two approaches to Upper Tanque Verde Falls and they both start from Redington Road.

If you’re driving from Tucson, the first and westernmost trailhead is the more challenging option. It’s only 0.6 miles, but once the trail enters the canyon, you have to wade and scramble over boulders to reach the base of the falls.

When Upper Tanque Verde Falls are raging, take extra precautions to not get swept away
When the falls are raging, take extra precautions to not get swept away

To the right, there are footholds and a rope to aid if you want to climb above the falls and enjoy the beach. Be forewarned – the rope does not appear to be properly anchored. Use it at your own risk!

The less demanding route is to start from Redington Road at the second trailhead, which is a few hundred feet northeast of the first starting point.

Follow the narrow, well-trodden path downhill for 0.4 miles to reach the beach above the falls.

Note: 0.1 miles above the falls, there is a junction with another trail confusingly marked “upper”. This takes you over a ridgeline and down to more water features.

Golden sunset colors and reflections in Tanque Verde Canyon
Golden sunset colors and reflections in Tanque Verde Canyon

Location

To get to Upper Tanque Verde Falls Trailhead from Tucson, drive east on Tanque Verde Road until it turns into a dirt road called Redington Road.

Drive on the dirt road for 0.9 miles until you reach a parking area to the right. Park here to hike the more difficult route to the base of the falls.

Continue a few hundred feet and park to the left across from the other trailhead to hike the easier route.

Get Directions

Map

Gear to Bring

This may be a short hike, but don’t show up underprepared. People frequently have to get rescued from this canyon. The route is rugged and the rocks are slippery. Bring hiking shoes or sandals that provide good traction and trekking poles to help with stability.

Kim’s Picks

Max’s Picks

Photos

Sunset from a waterlogged Tanque Verde Canyon
Sunset from a waterlogged Tanque Verde Canyon. January 2019
Desert reflections above Upper Tanque Verde Falls
Desert reflections above Upper Tanque Verde Falls. September 2019
Sunset from Tanque Verde Canyon
Sunset from Tanque Verde Canyon. September 2019
There is a clothing-optional beach above Upper Tanque Verde Falls
There is a clothing optional beach above the falls. September 2019

More Must-Do Waterfall Hikes near Tucson


Want to hike Tucson’s best trails? Read my Best Hikes in Tucson article or check out our individual Tucson Hiking Guides.

The 15 Best Hikes in Tucson

The natural landscape that surrounds Tucson is far more than a hot, dry, and dusty desert. It is truly a hiker’s paradise, with endless trails and variety. The area is known for its cacti, like the iconic saguaro, but it’s also home to coniferous forests, hoodoo speckled ridgelines, and high-altitude “sky islands”.

Next to the city, five mountain ranges rise to elevations as high as 9,000+ feet. This means in the middle of summer, when temps regularly top 100° F in Tucson, it’s around 70° F on top of Mount Lemmon, Mount Wrightson, or Mica Mountain.

In the winter, you can build a snowman next to a trail in the Santa Catalina Mountains, drive 45 minutes down the Catalina Highway, then get a sun tan hiking in the 60-70 degree wintertime highs that Tucson is known for.

Because Tucson’s trails are so diverse, there is something for every type of hiker. If you want a challenge, you can have it. The area’s two biggest peaks have about 5,000 feet of prominence for you to get after.

If you’re trying to cool off on a hot day, there are numerous desert oases to hike to with beautiful pools and waterfalls. And if you want something easy yet scenic, Tucson has that too.

I’ve lived in the Old Pueblo for three years and I’ve hiked or ran a lot of the trails here. I’d like to share some of my favorites with you. Whether you’re visiting the area or a local looking to get outside, below are 15 of the best hikes in Tucson, organized by type.

Tip: If you’re not convinced that Tucson is worth visiting, Kim gives a few reasons why she loves the place.

Waterfall Hikes

Seven Falls

Seven Falls is one of the most popular hikes in Tucson, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing it. Even on busier days, the crowds aren’t overwhelming and the payoff makes it all worthwhile.

The hike starts at Sabino Canyon Visitor Center, and gives you a great feel for what Sonoran Desert hiking is all about. It’s 8.7 miles out and back with minimal elevation gain. Make sure to carry plenty of water and bring your swimming suit!

Hiking Guide

Seven Falls Tucson Arizona

Romero Pools

If you love water, Romero Pools is another must-do hike found in Catalina State Park near Oro Valley. After ascending 1,217 feet over 3.1 miles, you’re sure to work up a sweat. To cool off, jump in one of several pools or shower underneath a small waterfall. Also, keep your eyes peeled for red spotted toads on the granite rocks. They are extremely well-camouflaged.

Hiking Guide

Romero Pools Tucson Arizona

Lower Tanque Verde Falls

Lower Tanque Verde Falls is only 2 miles out and back, but don’t underestimate it, this is a tough hike! Boulder hop, scramble, and wade your way to the end and you’ll be rewarded by several waterfalls, the last of which is the most impressive. You can bring your dog, but the route is treacherous so don’t push beyond your furry friend’s limits.

Hiking Guide

Tanque Verde Falls Tucson Arizona

Bridal Wreath Falls

While it’s not the world’s biggest waterfall and has a tendency to dry up, Bridal Wreath Falls is lovely when it’s flowing. The hike is 5.8 miles out and back from Douglas Spring Trailhead in Saguaro National Park East. It has 1,025 feet of elevation gain, lots of saguaros, and tremendous views.

Tip: I highly recommend timing this one so you get back to the trailhead around sunset. Some of the most magical sunsets I’ve ever seen have been from this spot.

Hiking Guide

Bridal Wreath Falls

Hutch’s Pool

Nestled deep within the West Fork of Sabino Canyon, there is a Sonoran Desert oasis with a swimming hole called Hutch’s Pool. It has water year round, but you’d be wise not to hike there in the summer heat. Spring or Fall are the best times to do it.

To get to Hutch’s, walk 3.8 miles up Sabino’s paved canyon bottom, then hike another 4 miles from the trailhead there. At 15.6 miles out and back, this can make for a long day of hiking! You can shorten it however, by taking the tram. This bypasses 7.6 miles, which reduces your hike total to 8 miles out and back.

Hutch's Pool. January 2019

Hikes with a View

Blackett’s Ridge

If views are what you’re after, then look no further than Blackett’s Ridge. This sun-scorched ridgeline divides Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon. The trail to its highpoint ascends 1,700 feet over 3 miles. There are some steep sections that will tire you out, but it’s worth it! Persevere to the end and enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery of Tucson’s mountains.

Hiking Guide

Blackett's Ridge Trail

Lemmon Rock Lookout to Wilderness of Rocks to Mount Lemmon Trail Loop

No trip to Tucson would be complete without driving up the Catalina Highway (aka Sky Island Scenic Byway) to the top of Mount Lemmon. Next to the observatory and near the summit, there is a parking lot labelled “Mount Lemmon Trailhead Entrance” on Google Maps.

At first, the trail splits off in many directions. Stay to the left and follow the Lemmon Rock Lookout Trail past the fire lookout (closed to the public), 2 miles to its junction with the Wilderness of Rocks Trail. Bear left here and continue another 2 miles to the next junction. From here, bear right onto the Mount Lemmon Trail and hike 4 miles uphill back to where you started.

This hike is 8 miles roundtrip with 2,000 feet elevation gain. It has unbelievable views of the entire Tucson region, temps are a lot cooler, the air smells like pine trees, and most of the trail is shaded. As an added bonus, it takes you to the Wilderness of Rocks, an interesting amalgamation of boulders and rock formations.

Mount Lemmon in the Winter

Mount Wrightson

There are a few different approaches to the top of Mount Wrightson, which offers expansive views of Southern Arizona and the northernmost edge of Mexico. At 9,456 feet, it’s the tallest peak near Tucson. To summit, you’ll gain nearly 4,000 feet elevation over 5-6 miles and get up close and personal with Madera Canyon, a sanctuary for migrating birds and other wildlife.

Hiking Guide

Mount Wrightson From Below

Agua Caliente Hill

Agua Caliente Hill is probably my favorite dog friendly hike in Tucson. I hike it a lot, but most of the time I turnaround at Cat Track Tank or the saddle above it. If you have the time and energy, the 8.8 mile out and back to the summit is worth doing. You’ll gain 2,588 feet and be recompensed with great views throughout the entire hike.

Hiking Guide

Sunset on Agua Caliente Hill

Wasson Peak

Wasson Peak has a similar elevation to Blackett’s Ridge, but it’s on the opposite side of the valley and provides a completely different perspective. Via the Kings Canyon Trail, it’s 7 miles out and back with 1,700 feet elevation gain. You can also summit Wasson from the other side via Sweetwater Trail, but the approach is longer with more elevation.

Tip: This would be a great hike to do in tandem with a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is across the road from the trailhead. Be sure to finish out the day by watching the sunset at nearby Gates Pass.

Wasson Peak

 

Short Hikes

Mica View to Cactus Forest Trail Loop

When mine or Kim’s folks visit from Utah, we like to take them on easier hikes with little to no elevation gain/loss. Broadway Trailhead in Saguaro National Park East is one of our go-tos.

Tip: You simply can’t visit Tucson without going to Saguaro National Park. Just do it!

The first 0.6 miles on Mica View are paved with compressed mud. Once you reach the picnic area, continue to the other side where Mica View picks back up. After 0.3 miles, bear left at the junction with Cactus Forest Trail. Follow it 1.1 miles back to where you started.

Mica View to Cactus Forest Trail Loop Saguaro National Park East

Sabino Canyon Dam

If you’ve got your heart set on a short but scenic walk, the Sabino Canyon Dam is a great option. During Tucson’s driest months (April – June), the water tends to disappear, but otherwise this is a good place to picnic and swim.

From the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center, walk eastward and follow signs for “Hiking Trails”. Once you reach the pavement, turn right and continue until you reach a cul de sac with restrooms. At this point, walk down to Sabino Creek and follow it up until you reach the overflowing dam.

Sabino Canyon Dam

Sweetwater Preserve

On the westside of town, at the foot of the Tucson Mountains, sits Sweetwater Preserve. It is a protected natural area that has a hodgepodge of dog friendly hiking trails. The trails are well-marked and easy to navigate, so I suggest parking in the lot and choosing your own route.

Sweetwater Preserve Tucson Arizona

Gates Pass

West of town, Gates Pass Road winds up and over a saddle in the Tucson Mountains with stunning views of Avra Valley and the mountains beyond it. This is arguably one of the best, if not the best places to view the sunset in the Desert Southwest.

From the parking lot, walk westward to reach Gates Pass Trail. Once you have descended to the valley, this trail connects to a myriad of others in Tucson Mountain Park.

Golden Gate Mountain from Gates Pass Tucson Arizona

Marshall Gulch to Aspen Trail Loop

Thanks to hoards of Tucsonans seeking a break from the heat, I can’t recommend doing this hike on a summer weekend. If you can swing a weekday, the Marshall Gulch to Aspen Trail Loop is a sublime retreat to high elevation, cooler weather, and shaded trails.

Starting from Marshall Gulch Picnic Area, bear right onto the Marshall Gulch Trail and follow it until you reach a junction with four other trails. Here, bear left and follow Aspen Trail back to where you started. The loop is 4 miles with 800 feet elevation gain/loss.

Tip: After your hike, head over to the Cookie Cabin in Summerhaven for giant homemade cookies topped with ice cream. You’ve earned it!

Marshall Gulch to Aspen Trail Loop Mount Lemmon Tucson Arizona


Want to hike Tucson’s best trails? Read my Best Hikes in Tucson article or check out our individual Tucson Hiking Guides.

Havasupai Backpacking Guide

Overview

People often say “Havasupai”, when referring to Havasu Canyon, a tributary of the Grand Canyon. It has been made famous by illustrious images of turquoise waterfalls set in red rock canyons and is a true oasis in the Arizona desert.

This sacred land is stewarded by the Havasupai, meaning “people of the blue-green waters.” They have lived here for at least 800 years and operate as an independent, sovereign tribe with their own constitution.

The main attractions at Havasupai are as follows: Fiftyfoot Falls, Navajo Falls, Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, and the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River.

As a visitor, please be respectful of the Havsuapai Indian Reservation’s rules, regulations, and way of life. Enjoy the area responsibly and pack out all of your trash!

There are no roads to the remote village of Supai, so everything has to be helicoptered in/out or transported on mules. Unfortunately, a lot of junk/trash left by campers doesn’t make it out. Please do not contribute to this shameful problem.

Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls. March 2019

Permits

Obtaining a permit for Havasupai is difficult and can be frustrating because there are limited quantities and huge demand. In an effort to improve the process, all permits are now acquired online at Havasupai Reservations.

My Experience

In 2019, permits opened on February 1st at 8:00 a.m.

In the days leading up to that, a message on the website’s homepage instructed users to create an account beforehand and log in so they would be ready to make a reservation at 8:00 a.m.

I followed these instructions and refreshed my browser at that time. A link appeared that said, “Make a Campground Reservation.” I clicked on it, selected the number of people in my reservation, and clicked continue but nothing happened.

I clicked to go back to the previous page and tried several more times before attempting to sign out and sign in again. In hindsight, I would not recommend doing this because I could not get back in for 2 hours. Finally, I was able to get back in, select dates with the calendar widget, and purchase permits.

Get a Permit for Havasupai

Alternatives

Can’t get a permit for Havasupai? Try one of these other great waterfall hikes in Arizona:

If you’re dead set on blue-green water, take a look at Salt Trail Canyon. This hike is not for beginners and requires a permit from Navajo Nation.

Pricing (Updated for 2020)

All permits available to the public are for 4 day, 3 night campground reservations. Weeknights cost $100 per person and weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) cost $125 per person. This puts your total cost between $300 and $375 per person.

Transfers (Updated for 2020)

Permits are transferrable. To transfer your permit(s), log in to the official website, click the “Campground” tab to view your reservations, and click the “Transfer Reservation” button.

You can either transfer the permit directly to someone else or list it on the cancellation page for anyone to see. Your permit is purchased at full price by another party and 90% of your money is refunded.

For buyers: If you do not see the dates you want on the cancellation page, visit the Havasupai Transfers Facebook Group.

Mules

The Havasupai Tribe provides a pack mule service in/out to the campground entrance for $400. However, I am against doing this because I think it’s a soft move. Carrying your own gear is a boss move. It’s more rewarding, builds character, and makes you more appreciative of your natural surroundings.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Havasupai is during Spring or Fall, when highs are usually in the 80s and lows are in the 50s.

Summertime is sweltering hot and triple digit temps are the norm, but once you reach Havasu Creek you can jump in to cool off. The water temperature stays at 70° F all year, thanks to geothermal springs.

Winters are mild by most standards but there’s a good chance of freezing temps at night.

Get the Weather Forecast

Hiking Havasupai

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 20 miles. (36 if you go to the confluence)
  • Hike Time: 4 days
  • Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet (3,500 if you go to the confluence)
  • Fee: $300-$375 per person
  • Dogs: No
  • Difficulty: Hard

The Trailhead

The trailhead is at Hualapai Hilltop, elevation 5,200 feet. There is a parking lot here with limited spots, so you might have to park on the side of the road. Be careful where you put your vehicle though, because the mountainside is eroding here. During storms, rockfalls and mudslides can occur.

There are restrooms at Hualapai Hilltop and great views of Hualapai Canyon. To make sure you get an early start, consider sleeping in your car here the night before your hike.

Hualapai Hilltop
Looking north from the switchbacks below Hualapai Hilltop

Hiking to the Campground, Navajo Falls, and Havasu Falls

From Hualapai Hilltop, it’s an 8 mile downhill hike to the village of Supai. From there, it’s 2 miles to Havasu Campground, elevation 2,700 feet. In total, you will be hiking 10 miles on the first day. Give yourself 4-6 hours to get to camp.

The hike begins with a somewhat steep grade down switchbacks. You are sure to encounter multiple mule trains (lines of mules carrying gear) between here and Supai. Make sure to move to the side of the trail and let them pass when you see or hear them approach.

A mule in Hualapai Canyon
A horse takes a well-deserved rest in Hualapai Canyon

After about a mile and 1,000 foot descent, you will reach the bottom of Hualapai Canyon. The grade mellows out here as you head down the wash to your right. Follow the wash for 6 miles until you reach a junction at the confluence of Hualapai Canyon and Havasu Canyon.

There are two signs here that you can’t miss. One has the word “Supai” on it, but it’s barely legible thanks to a smorgasbord of stickers people have left there. Next to it, there is a wooden sign that reads “Hualapai Hilltop” with an arrow that points in the direction you came from. Bear left here and walk another mile to reach Supai.

Two signs at the junction of Hualapai Canyon and Havasu Canyon
There are two signs at the junction of Hualapai Canyon and Havasu Canyon

In Supai, you will need to visit the tourist check-in office, provide your camp reservation confirmation, and show photo ID. They will provide you with a wristband and from there you can continue to the campground.

The village of Supai
The village of Supai

The final two miles to the campground are where the hike becomes breathtaking. First, you will pass Fiftyfoot Falls (not directly next to the trail), then Navajo Falls, and finally, just before your reach camp – Havasu Falls.

Navajo Falls
Navajo Falls

Potable water is available out of a tap at Fern Spring, found at the center of camp. You can also drink the water out of Havasu Creek but make sure to treat it.

The campground has restrooms with composting toilets and most sites have picnic tables.

Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls

Hiking to Mooney Falls

Distance from Camp: 0 miles

Just below the campground, the trail is replaced by a sheer down climb (partly through a cave) to the bottom of Mooney Falls. There are chains anchored into the rock by steel bolts and a few ladders to aid this process.

When I visited in March 2019, I noticed one steel bolt that had come loose from the rock and one ladder that pulled away from the rock about 6 inches when I pulled on it. Proceed with caution!

I also suggest that you go down in the morning, spend the day below Mooney Falls, then go back up in the late afternoon. The climb is single file and can become congested with hikers.

Fun Fact: Mooney Falls is named after D. W. Mooney, a prospector who fell to his death there in 1882.

Mooney Falls
Mooney Falls

Hiking to Beaver Falls

  • Distance from Camp: 6 miles out and back

Beaver Falls is a lesser visited set of short cascades over stunning travertine dams. It is 3 miles from the campground. In total, you will be hiking 6 miles out and back so give yourself 3-4 hours to do it.

You must pass through the steep Mooney Falls route to get to Beaver Falls. Make sure you know what time the sun sets during the time of year you visit; ascending this trail in the dark is best avoided.

You will cross Havasu Creek at least three times on the way to Beaver Falls and possibly more if you lose the trail. It’s difficult to stray too far from a good path on the way to Beaver Falls, so don’t worry which one you take. As long as you continue downstream you will make it there.

Once you are close to Beaver Falls, you will pass a palm tree as you ascend a bench on the right side of the canyon. Soon after, there is a ladder fixed by a frayed rope that you climb up.

Beaver Falls will come into view and from here, you have the option to climb down a taller ladder to reach the bottom.

Beaver Falls
Beaver Falls

Hiking to the Confluence

  • Distance from Camp: 16 miles out and back

Only the most adventurous hikers will make it to the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River. Those who do will be rewarded with a remarkable sight: The turquoise waters of Havasu Creek tumbling into the chocolatey Colorado River.

From Beaver Falls, it’s another 5 miles to the confluence. Instead of bearing left and down to the bottom of Beaver Falls, look up to your right and you will see cairns that mark switchbacks.

This part of the route will take you high onto a bench that follows the right side of the canyon. It’s fairly exposed and requires vigilance, but it’s easy to follow and pretty short.

Once you get back down to the creek, look for a cairn that marks a crossing. Bear right here and follow the other side, but before you do that, look back at what you just descended.

Notice the step-like rock shelves you just came down and take a mental note, or better yet, a photo for reference. These are easy to miss on the way back.

The rest of the way is mostly straightforward as you continue along a path that crosses the creek many times.

After 4 miles, the trail becomes rockier and harder to follow as it ascends to the right. Slow down and watch for cairns and you should have no problem navigating it.

Before long, you will reach a tunnel. Hike through it and soon you will reach a section of narrows. From here, you can either swim through to the Colorado River or take a path to the left that leads up onto a bench overlooking the confluence.

The confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River
Jason and the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River

What to Bring

The biggest mistake beginner backpackers make is bringing too much stuff and hauling too heavy of a pack.

When I visited Havasupai in March 2019, I saw a lot of people with way too much on their backs. Some people brought so much crap they had to carry some of it in their hands!

I guarantee your trip will be much more enjoyable if you pack light.

The 10 mile hike back to Hualapai Hilltop from camp isn’t easy. You will gain 2,500 feet and the trail is mostly rocks and gravel. Your entire body (especially your feet) will thank you for not overloading it.

Tip: Not sure which lightweight backpacking gear to buy? We’ve done the “heavy lifting” for you. See our top picks.

Gear List

Tent: Jason and I slept under his MLD TrailStar, a shaped tarp made from DCF, which is an ultra lightweight but durable material. If you’re more of a tent person, here’s my list of the best lightweight backpacking tents.

Backpack: I used the Zpacks Arc Haul-Zip on this trip. If your base weight is under 20 lb, this is a comfortable, lightweight option. It’s included in my best lightweight backpacking packs list.

Sleeping Bag: I stayed warm and cozy under my EE Revelation 20 quilt, which is included in my best lightweight sleeping bags list.

Sleeping Pad: I used the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol, a closed-cell foam sleeping pad on this trip. Although not as comfortable as an air mattress, the Z Lite Sol  doesn’t run the risk of deflating overnight. It’s included in my best lightweight sleeping pads list.

Cooking System: I used my trusty MSR Pocket Rocket (included in my best backpacking stoves list), TOAKS Titanium 1000ml Pot, and Optimus Titanium Long Spoon on this trip.

Water: I treated the water from Havasu Creek with Aquatabs and carried it using two 1L Smart Water Bottles. Start the hike with at least 3 liters in the summer.

Footwear: I hiked in Salomon Wings Pro 2 trail runners. I chose them because I knew there’d be stream crossings and they dry fast. I thought about bringing my Teva sandals, but they would’ve been uncomfortable during the long haul between Hualapai Hilltop and camp. I didn’t bring boots because they get waterlogged, heavy, and stinky.

Jason brought Salmon Quest 4D 3 boots and a pair of lightweight DIY sandals by Xero (read my Z-Trail review). He affectionately called them his “Jesus sandals” and I was covetous of them.

Headlamp: Don’t forget yours like I did! I have a Black Diamond Spot Headlamp that I usually bring.

Food: I brought homemade meals with ingredients that I dehydrated at home. If you’re feeling lazy, here are my favorite freeze dried and dehydrated food options.

Jason and I packed all of our food with us on our day excursions. The rodents in the Grand Canyon are ferocious and will chew through any material to get to food. If you decide to leave food at camp, put it in a rodent-proof bag.

Clothing: 

Map: I used the Gaia GPS app and the map found in Non-Technical Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau by Michael Kelsey. For a paper topographic map, get the Grand Canyon West by Nat Geo.

First Aid Kit: Before every trip, Kim (my ICU nurse wife) assembles a kit for me. If you don’t have the time or knowledge to make your own, I recommend buying this one.

Sunscreen: Bring high SPF sunscreen and wear it. The Arizona sun is not something to be trifled with.

Other Stuff: 

  • Camera – I recommend the Sony a6000 or RX100 with a Pedco UltraPod II tripod. You’ll also want an ND filter to take long exposures of the waterfalls.
  • Pocket knife

Tip: Accidents happen. Learn how to treat cuts and wounds in the backcountry.

Fry bread taco in Supai
A “Supai Taco”: Fry bread, refried beans, lettuce, diced tomatoes, and shredded cheese. They were out of ground beef that day

Map

Location

From I-40 East

From I-40, take exit 53 in Kingman and follow Route 66 east. Continue for 53.9 miles then turn left onto Indian Road 18. Continue for 60.2 miles then you will arrive at Hualapai Hilltop, the trailhead for Havasupai.

Note: There are no gas stations past Peach Springs, so make sure to get fuel there.

Get Directions

From I-40 West

From I-40, take exit 123 in Seligman and follow Route 66 west. Continue for 32.4 miles then turn right onto Indian Road 18. Continue for 60.2 miles then you will arrive at Hualapai Hilltop, the trailhead for Havasupai.

Note: There are no gas stations past Seligman, so make sure to get fuel there.

Get Directions

Trip Reports

March 2019

In March 2019, Jason and I went on a backpacking trip to Havasupai. We spent 4 days, 3 nights there and had time to hike to all of the waterfalls. We also hiked to the confluence.

Weather conditions were partly cloudy for the most part, with a few periods of full cloud cover and some scattered showers. Highs were in the 60s and 70s with lows in the 40s.

Day 1

  • Distance: 10 miles

Made it to the trailhead and started hiking around noon. It was windy with 40 mph gusts. We made it to Supai at 3:30 p.m. and promptly got Supai tacos. We then checked in at the tourist office and made it to Navajo Falls at 4:30 p.m. 15 minutes later, we got to Havasu Falls and found ourselves a campsite at 5:15 p.m.

Day 2

  • Distance: 16 miles

Started hiking toward the confluence at 9:00 a.m. and made it to the bottom of Mooney Falls a half hour later. Got to Beaver Falls at 11:00 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., we met a desert bighorn sheep.

A desert bighorn sheep next to Havasu Creek
A desert bighorn sheep next to Havasu Creek

Made it to the confluence at 2:00 p.m. and realized that neither of us had headlamps. This lit a fire under our butts because we didn’t want to go up Mooney in the dark (especially without headlamps).

Thankfully, we made it back to the bottom of Mooney at 5:30 p.m. with an hour of daylight and plenty of time to photograph the falls.

Arrived back to camp at 6:30 p.m.

Day 3

  • Distance: 7 miles

This was basically a rest day, but we managed to cover 7 miles hiking to Supai and back for fry bread (this time with powdered sugar and honey). We spent a lot of time taking photos of Havasu Falls, Navajo Falls, and Fiftyfoot Falls.

Arrived back to camp at 3:45 p.m. and spent the afternoon hanging out, talking, and watching clouds dance across the sky.

Once it got dark, we shot timelapses and watched the moonless night sky. While we were enjoying the stars, a teenage Havasupai boy marched into our camp with a blinding flashlight and harassed us. It was pretty startling! He told us he was on a night shift doing security.

Day 4

  • Distance: 10 miles

We woke up at around 7:00 a.m., made breakfast, packed up our camp, and began marching toward Hualapai Hilltop at 8:30 a.m. We got to Supai at 9:30 a.m., then stopped only once for a quick snack. We made it to the bottom of the switchbacks at a quarter to noon and finished at 12:15 p.m.

Resources

Guidebooks

Topographic Maps

Links

Photos

Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls (without a prickly pear cactus in the foreground)
Another shot of Havasu Falls
Another shot of Havasu Falls
Mooney Falls
Mooney Falls from below
Mooney Falls
Mooney Falls from above
The confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River
The confluence
Max Karren wading into the narrows before the confluence
Me (the author) wading into the narrows before the confluence
Narrows before the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River
Just before the confluence

Backpacking Across the Santa Catalina Mountains Trip Report

Hatching a Plan

I didn’t intend to move to Tucson when I first visited in January of 2017. But there’s something magical about winter in the Sonoran Desert. Washes are flowing, flowers are blooming, the cacti are plump and green – every day is a good day for hiking. The desert sunk its claws into me and I haven’t left since.

Tip: Want to hike Tucson’s best trails? Read my Best Hikes in Tucson article or check out our individual Tucson Hiking Guides.

In mid January 2019, my friends Jason, Justin, and Mike flew in from Northern Utah to escape the winter and bask in the Sonoran Desert sun. I wanted to plan a backpacking route that would take us through some of the best scenery in the area. With any luck, the desert would cast its spell on them too.

I mapped out a 40 mile thru hike of the Santa Catalina Mountains, from Catalina State Park to La Milagrosa Canyon.

Justin Carrell poses in front of a waterfall in the Santa Catalina Mountains
Justin Carrell poses in front of a waterfall in the Santa Catalina Mountains

The Route

Using Topo Maps+, I created a route that follows Romero Canyon up over Romero Pass, onto the Arizona Trail, down the West and East Forks of Sabino Canyon, down Sycamore Canyon (and past Sycamore Reservoir), over Shreve Saddle, past Gordon Hirabayashi Campground, through Molino Basin, over an unnamed saddle and down La Milagrosa Canyon to the neighborhoods of Tanque Verde. Here, we would walk the last few miles of pavement to my house. I included side trips to Hutch’s Pool and Seven Falls.

Santa Catalina Mountains Route

The Hike

Day 1

  • Distance: 9.5 miles
  • Ascent: 3,490 feet
  • Descent: 1,307 feet

The fellas got in late the night before, so we were in no hurry to leave the house in the morning. I made a big breakfast in the cast iron, complete with french toast, scrambled eggs, and bacon. We were going to need our fuel for the hike ahead.

At noon, we started up Romero Canyon Trail. Temps were in the high 60s and the skies were clear. Just shy of 2 hours in, we arrived at the most significant waterfall at Romero Pools.

The waterfall at Romero Pools. January 2019
The waterfall at Romero Pools. January 2019

In typical fashion, we lost the trail for a moment. After boulder hopping up the creek a ways, we bushwhacked out of the drainage and back onto a berm where we found the trail again.

As the sun dipped behind Mount Kimball, we continued up the steep switchbacks to the top of Romero Pass, elevation 6,037 feet. I had hoped to reach Hutch’s Pool and make camp there, but it got dark and we stopped short at a nice spot next to a running creek.

Day 2

  • Distance: 17 miles
  • Ascent: 2,669 feet
  • Descent: 3,035 feet

We left camp at 10:30am and headed toward the junction with Hutch’s Pool. I missed the turnoff, crossed Sabino Creek and mentioned to Jason that I was interested in seeing it. He told me he had seen a cairn on the other side of the creek, so we crossed it again and backtracked.

There was a lot of water flowing, so the crossing was somewhat difficult to make without getting our feet wet. It was my first time to Hutch’s Pool, and I look forward to going back to take a dip on a hot day.

Hutch's Pool. January 2019
Hutch’s Pool. January 2019

We continued down the drainage, bearing left at the next junction then immediately right onto Sabino’s East Fork Trail. At 2:30pm, we arrived at the junction with Bear Canyon.

Here, I suggested we drop our packs, stuff our pockets with snacks, and take some water with us to visit Seven Falls. By this time, temps were in the 70s and they continued to rise as we descended into Bear Canyon.

California poppies in the Santa Catalina Mountains. January 2019
Mexican poppies in the Santa Catalina Mountains. January 2019

Admittedly, I underestimated how far the out and back was. I told the group it was 2-3 miles to the falls and 1,000 feet vertical descent. It turned out to be 4 miles and 1,200 feet. The final stretch involves some gnarly looking switchbacks surrounded by precipitous cliffs.

“We’re not going down that, are we?” asked Jason, painfully.

“Yes we are. It’s worth it, you’ll see!” I exclaimed (with guilty excitement).

The group paused and stared at me, all carrying different expressions. Mike had a maniacal grin, Justin had a look of mental perseverance, and Jason seemed to begrudge my existence. In his defense, I had patently undersold how tough this hike would be.

At 5:15pm, we arrived at Seven Falls and it was roaring. This is not always the case, because rain in the desert is inconsistent. I was happy that my friends got to see it in peak form. We were also treated to a wonderful sunset.

Darkness fell rapidly as we hiked back up to where we had left our packs. However, the waxing gibbous moon rose and lit up the landscape. I took the opportunity to turn off my headlamp and see by moonlight.

At 8:45pm, we found a good camp spot next to Sycamore Reservoir. By this time, the temperature had plummeted and it felt great to make a hot meal, relax, and eventually turn in for the night.

Day 3

  • Distance:  7.2 miles
  • Ascent: 1,086 feet
  • Descent: 1,369 feet

We woke up to find chunks of ice in our water bottles, which surprised me. I did not expect to encounter freezing temps on this trip. We left camp at 11:15am.

A climber nears the top of a cliff near Gordon Hirabayashi Campground. January 2019
A climber nears the top of a cliff near Gordon Hirabayashi Campground. January 2019

After hiking over Shreve Saddle and down to Gordon Hirabayashi Campground, we went to a nearby waterfall and continued onto Molino Basin Trail. At this point, I noticed Mike falling behind. When he caught up, his knee was noticeably stiff and he was in a lot of discomfort.

A waterfall in the Santa Catalina Mountains. January 2019
A waterfall in the Santa Catalina Mountains. January 2019

We were almost to Molino Basin Campground and the Catalina Highway, which was a great place to have Kim pick us up. There was no sense in putting Mike through more misery just to complete the planned route. The only problem was, none of us had cell phone service.

Justin and I opted to continue up to the next saddle, where I had remembered finding service once. On our way up, I started to question my memory. I confided in Justin and we had a good chuckle. Luckily, we found service and I got ahold of Kim.

Before we got back to Mike and Jason, we devised a ploy.

“We should tell them we didn’t find service just to see their reaction,” I said.

“Good idea, let’s get into character,” Justin replied.

We both giggled. I put on my best face and broke the bad news.

“Really? Because Kim is on her way to pick us up,” snickered Jason. “I was able to send her a text.”

We all laughed and before long, Kim arrived. Right away, we headed to one of our favorite fast food joints, Jason’s Mexican Restaurant, where we ordered Sonoran hot dogs and Tostilocos (chips and toppings in a Tostitos bag).

A week later, I had Kim drop me off at Molino Basin and I finished out the final 11 miles to our doorstep.

Chiva Falls Hiking Guide

Overview

Chiva Falls is an outstanding waterfall in the shadow of the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson. Found in Joaquin Canyon, it only flows after heavy rain events, periods of consistent rainfall, or during snowmelt.

Accessed from Redington Road, visitors must find their way to Chiva Falls by navigating a series of harrowing jeep trails. I mean it when I say this; there are some tough sections of road here that will destroy your vehicle if you are ill-equipped or unexperienced.

As you might expect, many people opt for lifted 4×4 rigs, UTVs, and ATVs but others get there by foot or mountain bike. I wrote this guide for people interested in hiking to Chiva Falls. To avoid the bulk of vehicular activity on the way, I recommend going on a weekday and getting an early morning start.

The approach to Chiva Falls
Chiva Falls. January 2019

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 8.7 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 4-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 690 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Description

From the parking lot/trailhead, take the jeep trail on the east side of Redington Road, marked #4417. Follow it about 2 miles until you reach Chiva Tank, a small reservoir that is sometimes filled with water. To the right, there is a single track footpath you can use to bypass a small portion of the vehicular route.

After a short walk, the footpath meets back up with a jeep trail marked #4426 – High Rd. Follow this for a few paces then immediately bear right onto #4055 – Mesa De La Osa. Almost right away, you will drop down into a gully and cross Tanque Verde Canyon.

Looking east at the Rincon Mountains on the approach to Chiva Falls

Note: Further down this drainage, there is a wonderful hike to another beautiful waterfall called Tanque Verde Falls.

Once you have ascended back out of Tanque Verde Canyon, continue following #4405 for a half mile until you reach another junction. Stay to the left on #4405A and Chiva Falls will soon come into view.

From here, you can head left or right to reach the base of the falls. For the extra adventurous, there is a way up to a cave behind Chiva Falls found to the right. It requires a Class 2 scramble over slippery exposed granite, so proceed with caution.

Chiva Falls is a rewarding hike
When flowing, Chiva Falls is a rewarding hike. January 2019

Location

From Tucson, drive east on Speedway Boulevard then turn left onto Houghton Road. After 1.1 miles, turn right onto Tanque Verde Road. When Tanque Verde Road crosses Wentworth Road it becomes Redington Road. After 3.5 miles of pavement, Redington Road becomes unpaved. At this point, reset your odometer and continue 4.1 miles to reach a corral. Park in the lot to the right of it at Chiva Falls Trailhead.

Get Directions

Map

Download GPX File

Gear to Bring

Don’t show up underprepared for this one. It’s a long haul to the falls and you’ll encounter lots of sun exposure. Bring a hat, hiking shoes or sandals that provide good traction and trekking poles to help with stability.

Kim’s Picks

Max’s Picks

Photos

Chiva Falls in January 2019
Chiva Falls. January 2019
A large pool at the base of Chiva Falls
There is a large pool at the base of Chiva Falls
Chiva Falls from the cave behind it
Chiva Falls from the cave behind it. January 2019

More Must-Do Waterfall Hikes near Tucson


Want to hike Tucson’s best trails? Read my Best Hikes in Tucson article or check out our individual Tucson Hiking Guides.

Kanarraville Falls Hiking Guide

Overview

Kanarraville Falls is a picturesque waterfall set in a slot canyon near the sleepy town of Kanarraville, Utah. Although many hikers turn around once they reach the iconic Kanarraville Falls, there is another significant waterfall above it and several more cascades.

Part of what makes both falls so intriguing are the ladders that have been built next to them. I imagine local townsfolk constructed them some time ago. They are fashioned from fallen tree logs with metal rungs bolted to them and make it possible to journey up Kanarra Creek Canyon without technical gear.

Even so, please proceed with caution as the ladders are slippery. Also, do not enter the canyon if there is a chance of rain in the forecast, especially during late summer (July – September).

Over the past decade, Kanarraville Falls has experienced a huge surge in popularity and Kanarraville officials have struggled to keep up with the challenges this has created for their township.

The canyon itself is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, but the parking lot, trailhead, and first mile of trail are in town. Furthermore, Kanarraville gets its drinking water from Kanarra Creek. Please consider this during your visit, follow all rules, and use the restroom before hitting the trail.

For information on seasonal closures, FAQ, and to acquire permits, visit KanarraFalls.com.

Be prepared to get your feet wet on the hike to Kanarraville Falls

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 3.8 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 2-3 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 350 feet
  • Fee: $8
  • Dogs: No
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Description

From the parking lot, follow the unpaved access road about a mile until it enters the mouth of Kanarra Creek Canyon, a drainage that has eroded out of Hurricane Cliffs.

During this portion of the route, the road crosses Kanarra Creek a few times before reaching the trail. You might as well get your feet wet here, as it will soon be impossible to avoid.

After a half mile of meandering in and out of the creek, the canyon narrows and becomes a true slot canyon.

Kanarra Creek Canyon narrows

A few paces further and you will come around a bend that reveals the main attraction, Kanarraville Falls.

Kanarraville Falls
Kanarraville Falls

If you feel like continuing, carefully move up the ladder to the right of the falls. Soon after, you will come to a small waterfall next to a massive boulder. The best way around this obstacle is to scramble up the right side.

The small waterfall just above Kanarraville Falls

Afterward, continue winding your way up the canyon to reach the “second waterfall”. This one has a less secure ladder next to it and its condition varies from year to year.

If you scramble any further, you will eventually come to a point that is impassible without technical canyoneering gear and experience. Proceed at your own risk.

Location

From St. George, get on I-15 northbound. Continue on I-15 for 33.3 miles, then take exit 42 for Utah State Route 144. Turn right onto Utah State Route 144, then turn left onto Old U.S. 91. Continue 4.5 miles, then turn right onto 100 North. Continue on 100 North for 0.4 miles until you reach the Kanarra Creek Trailhead.

Get Directions

Map

Kanarraville Falls Map

Resources

Links

Photos

Kim on the jerry-rigged ladder next to Kanarraville Falls
Kim on the jerry-rigged ladder next to Kanarraville Falls
Unlike many slot canyons, Kanarra Creek Canyon is easy to access
Kanarra Creek. September 2016

More Great Hikes Near St. George


Want to hike Utah’s best trails? Check out our other Utah Hiking Guides.

Water Wheel Falls Hiking Guide

Overview

This short hike near Payson, Arizona, meanders along Ellison Creek through a playground of boulders, pools, and natural water slides with Water Wheel Falls as the grand finale. The trail is not well established and involves several creek crossings and scrambling over slippery granite, but should be manageable for most dogs and kids over five.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 1.8 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 150 feet
  • Fee: $9
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Hiking to Water Wheel Falls

Water Wheel Falls gets its name for a defunct water wheel that greets hikers at the trailhead. The wheel was used to power a gold ore crusher for a nearby mine during the 1930s. Great Depression era ingenuity is evident in the wheel’s blades, which were built from halved milk cans.

There is plenty to enjoy on this short jaunt along Ellison Creek. Most of the hike brings you near the water, and there are ample opportunities for swimming before you reach the falls. The water flows from snowmelt on the Mogollon Rim, so expect it to be cold.

The beauty of this area makes it hard to believe that it was the site of a disastrous flash flood that killed 10 people in 2017.  Massive piles of debris along the canyon floor serve as a reminder of the monstrous power that water can wield in this desert environment. It is important to exercise extreme caution in any canyon during the monsoon season. In Arizona, it begins June 15 and ends on September 30.

To be completely safe, you might consider staying out of canyons during the monsoon entirely. If you absolutely must go, check the forecast and go as early as possible. In general, storm cells build in the early afternoon and reach their peak later in the day.

Location

From Payson, follow Houston Mesa Road north east for eight miles. The trailhead is well marked and has space for about 40 vehicles, with overflow parking available along the road.

Once you reach the parking lot, head eastward along the East Verde River for about 1200 feet until it meets Ellison Creek. Then, follow Ellison Creek southeast.

There is a short section in the middle where the creek passes through a narrow rock canyon with a beautiful waterfall. You will need to pass to the left of it for about 200 feet on a granite slab. From there, continue southeast until you hit Water Wheel Falls.

Get Directions

Map

Water Wheel Falls Map

Gear to Bring

This may be a short hike, but don’t show up underprepared. The route is rugged and the rocks are slippery. Bring hiking shoes or sandals that provide good traction and trekking poles to help with stability.

Kim’s Picks

Max’s Picks

Tips

  • Water: Carry 1-2 liters of water.
  • Best Time to Travel: April through October. Use extreme caution during the monsoon season (June 15 – September 30).
  • Safety: Watch for deer on Houston Mesa Road and rattlesnakes on the trail. Do not enter the canyon during storm activity (or if their is any potential for it).

Photos

This water wheel at the trailhead used to power an ore crusher for a gold mine in the 1930s
This water wheel at the trailhead used to power an ore crusher for a gold mine in the 1930s. May 2018
Arrow giving a grin in front of the old water wheel
Arrow giving a grin in front of the old water wheel. May 2018
Halved milk cans served as the blades
Halved milk cans served as the blades. May 2018
A memorial to the victims of the 2017 flood at the trailhead
A memorial to the victims of the 2017 flood at the trailhead. May 2018
A memorial to the 24 year old Maribel, one of the victims of the 2017 flood, with flood debris viewable in the background
A memorial to the 24 year old Maribel, one of the victims of the 2017 flood, with flood debris viewable in the background. May 2018
A pool on the route to Water Wheel Falls
A pool on the route to Water Wheel Falls. May 2018
The trail takes you above and to the left of this stunning waterfall
The trail takes you above and to the left of this stunning waterfall. May 2018
Piles of debris remain from last year's deadly flash flood
Piles of debris remain from last year’s deadly flash flood. May 2018
Reflections on Ellison Creek
Reflections on Ellison Creek. May 2018
Wildflowers on the route to the falls
Wildflowers on the route to the falls. May 2018
A downed log in front of Waterwheel Falls has makeshift stairs carved into it. Half of the log was destroyed in the 2017 flood
A downed log in front of Waterwheel Falls has makeshift stairs carved into it. Half of the log was destroyed in the 2017 flood. May 2018
Kim and Maia soaking up the sunshine near the waterfall
Kim and Maia soaking up the sunshine near the waterfall. May 2018

More Must-Do Waterfall Hikes in Arizona

Fossil Creek Waterfall Hiking Guide

Overview

Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River Recreation Area is nestled between the towns of Strawberry and Camp Verde in Central Arizona. This riparian oasis features plenty of opportunities for swimming in the 70 degree water or just hanging a hammock and enjoying the sunshine. The heavy calcium content of Fossil Creek gives the water a vibrant cerulean sheen and contributes to the jagged rock formations adjacent to the creek.

Fossil Creek Falls is a 25 foot waterfall accessed by a pleasant and easy hike along the creek. The most difficult part of this journey is the 16 mile dirt road that starts near the town of Camp Verde. Permits are required April 1st – October 1st and can be obtained at recreation.gov. Permits guarantee you a spot at one of eight parking lots along Fossil Creek. Your total hike length will depend on which lot you park in.

Fossil Spring Falls Kim and Maia
Kim and Maia enjoying the pool below the falls. May 2018

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 2-5 miles out and back, depending on where you park
  • Hike Time: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss:  200 feet
  • Fee: $10
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Description

Although Fossil Creek Road (otherwise known as Forest Road 708) used to run all the way from Camp Verde to Strawberry, frequent rock slides forced the closure of the eastern half of the road closest to Strawberry in 2012. This portion is no longer maintained by the Forest Service and is impassable by vehicle.

Taking the road on foot is possible but strongly discouraged by the Forest Service. Fossil Creek’s Upper Spring can be accessed from the Strawberry area via a strenuous eight mile round trip hike. Both of these adventures are accessed by the Fossil Springs Trailhead lot, which also requires a permit.

Fossil Spring Falls Road Closure
The road to Fossil Creek from Strawberry has been closed since 2012. May 2018

The easiest way to gain access to Fossil Creek is to follow Forest Road 708 from Camp Verde. The 16 mile drive takes about an hour due to severe washboarding. High clearance vehicles and 4WD are recommended, but sedans have been known to successfully make the journey. Tire blow outs are a strong possibility if you take the road quickly.

The gate to the permit area is manned by a Forest Service ranger who will check your permit. You must have a paper copy to place on your dash. The gate is open to entry from 8 AM to 4 PM, and you must exit by 8 PM.

Parking at any lot except for Waterfall requires you to walk northeast along the road until you reach the trailhead. From the trailhead, it is one mile to the falls along Fossil Creek. The trail is well marked, level, and partly shaded, with some walking over granite and sand.

Cliff jumping is possible from a ledge to the right of the falls. The afternoon is a popular time for young people with loud music, coolers of beer, and folding chairs. If this is your scene, right on. If not, you may want to plan your visit for the morning.

Location

From Camp Verde, take Highway 260 south for 1 mile until you see signs for Forest Road 708 (near mile marker 228). Follow the road for 16 miles until you reach the access gate and the parking area designated by your permit. The trailhead is at the northeast end of the Waterfall Trailhead lot.

Get Directions

Map

Fossil Creek Map
© US Forest Service

Gear to Bring

This may be a short hike, but don’t show up underprepared. Bring hiking shoes or sandals that provide good traction and trekking poles to help with stability.

Kim’s Picks

Max’s Picks

Tips

  • Water: Carry 1-2 liters of water.
  • Best Time to Travel: April through October.
  • Safety: Watch for rattlesnakes. Water currents can be strong, closely monitor young children. Cliff jumping requires some difficult scrambling over a precipitous outcropping, proceed cautiously.

Photos

Fossil Spring Falls Trail
There are multiple smaller falls along the trail. May 2018
Fossil Spring Falls Kim and Maia Cerulean
The waters of Fossil Creek have a beautiful color. May 2018

More Must-Do Waterfall Hikes in Arizona

Bridal Wreath Falls Hiking Guide

Overview

Bridal Wreath Falls is a short hike to a waterfall in the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park, east of Tucson.

The route to Bridal Wreath Falls begins at Douglas Springs Trailhead, at the easternmost end of Speedway Boulevard. To get to the falls, follow Douglas Spring Trail for two-and-a-half miles, then bear right at Bridal Wreath Falls Trail. Both trails are well-maintained and marked by signs.

Note: Hike statistics were recorded with Gaia GPS app.

Sunset on a hilltop along the Douglas Spring Trail. November 2017

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 5.8 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 3 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1025 feet
  • Fee: $5 (Valid for 7 Days)
  • Dogs: No
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Description

Albeit small, Bridal Wreath Falls is a delightful waterfall that is worth paying a visit. Accessed from Douglas Springs Trailhead, the trail to the falls winds its way through a forest of mature saguaros, up a scenic ravine. It offers sweeping views of the Catalina Mountains, Rincon Mountains, and the Tanque Verde Valley below.

It is important to note that Bridal Wreath Falls only flows after recent periods of significant rainfall and Rincon snowmelt. The best chance of seeing it is soon after a fall or winter storm, early spring, and the Monsoon season from mid July to late September.

After a mellow first half mile, the trail begins a steady ascent with moderate steepness for the next two miles. At the junction with Three Tank Trail, the slope becomes more gradual. Soon after, you will reach a junction marked by a sign with trails to Ernie’s Falls, Douglas Spring, and Bridal Wreath Falls. Bear right onto Bridal Wreath Falls Trail and hike a quarter mile to reach the falls.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can scramble up the left side of the falls and scale a 15 foot ledge to get above them. As if it grew there to help with this process, a gnarled tree root provides excellent handholds. To the right of the root, ample footholds can also be found. Once you reach the top, there are more smaller waterfalls and pools to enjoy.

Use this tree branch as a climbing aid

Location

To get to Bridal Wreath Falls from Tucson, head east on Speedway Boulevard. Follow East Speedway all the way to where it curves 90 degrees to the left. Here, turn right into a paved parking lot that holds a couple dozen cars.

Get Directions

Map

Download GPX File

Tips

  • Water: Carry 3-4 liters of water. Douglas Spring may not be running.
  • Best Time to Travel: March through November.
  • Safety: Check flash flood warnings and know the forecast before you go. Watch for rattlesnakes.

Photos

A smaller waterfall and pool above Bridal Wreath. March 2018
Me shooting the sunset. Taken by Mario Martinez
A view of Douglas Springs Trail at golden hour. November 2017
Saguaros make an excellent foreground for astrophotography. November 2017

Want to hike Tucson’s best trails? Read my Best Hikes in Tucson article or check out our individual Tucson Hiking Guides.