“Consider bringing a straw”
At 185 feet tall (56 meters), it is taller than Niagara Falls. It dumps snow melt or monsoon rain into the Little Colorado River below. It is famous for its extremely muddy flow which is a major contributor to Little Colorado River opacity. It is said that the waterfalls are analogous to flowing chocolate depending on the amount of water present. Heavy rains or snow melt will produce spectacular viewing, photography and sound whereas the scarcity of water will produce only trickles or no flow at all. Grand Falls was formed when lava from nearby Merriam Crater flowed in to the Little Colorado River creating a lava dam. The river was forced to reroute itself around the dam and Grand falls formed where the reroute rejoins its original course. The waterfall is remote and no major paved roads access it. In fact the closest road, Grand Falls Road, crosses the floor of the Little Colorado River and at times during the year, only a 4 x 4 vehicle can traverse it. The falls are dormant for months of the year and reduces to only a drip. To access the falls a passenger car can reach the south side of the river. A 4 x 4 vehicle is required and only Navajo guides or experienced back country people are advised to take the road across the river. Navajo Nation hiking permit is required to visit the Falls. The site and the roads to it are located in the Navajo Nation so leaving the roads or trails is against Navajo Law. Picnic benches are provided at the viewpoint. The trail is one-half mile long and easy. The Grand Falls was seen in one scene of the 1964 western "A Distant Trumpet" starring Troy Donahue.
A must see place for nature lovers and photographers
Is that a chocolate river???
A beautiful anomaly in the high desert, Grand Falls is a 180-foot plunge in the Little Colorado River. Depending on rainfall and snowmelt, there may be a trickle down its two large steps, a steady flow of muddy water (hence the nickname “Chocolate Falls”), or a torrent of whitewater. It is both a short distance and somewhat longer drive from Flagstaff, owing to the miles of rough road that connect it to paved highway. A property of the Navajo Nation, a permit is required for hiking or camping (see link at end).
Although the access road technically crosses the riverbed just ahead of the falls, it is generally not advisable due to muddy conditions and flash floods. A sturdier vehicle is recommended anyway, given the variations in the road. Expect to encounter cattle or dogs along the way, but not generally at the site.
Within view of the often snow-capped San Francisco Peaks, the landscape is a patchwork of rusty colors and dark grey volcanic rock and sand. Whether clear with crisp clouds, or with a series of storms moving across, it is a unique scenic reward for the I-40 explorer.
Hiking into the basin is possible across and just downriver from the pool. It is a moderate hiker’s descent with some loose soil and gravel. A sort of oasis can be found there, with mist hanging in the air and lush green grass underfoot. The mid-level of the falls can be accessed by this route as well, and great caution should be exercised if doing so. Debris and concealed crevasses are among the incentives to be careful.
Expect an hour’s drive from Flagstaff, or 40 minutes from the Winona Road exit of I-40. You’ll want at least an hour to explore, more if descending.
Navajo permitting is available at http://navajonationparks.org/permits-services/
More information and directions can be found at http://www.flagstaff.com/grand-falls-arizona
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