Name: Grand Falls/Chocolate Falls
Located across the Little Colorado River in the high desert region of the Navajo Reservation northeast of Flagstaff, this waterfall roars back to life each spring during the annual snowmelt from the slopes of 10,064 foot Mt Baldy and the White Mountains in Arizona and New Mexico. These falls are also known as the Chocolate Falls because of the brownish color of the cascading water. The turbulent rush of water falls downward some 185 feet which is greater than the drop of the world famous Niagara Falls.
Why You Should Go: Waterfalls are not common in the desert regions of Arizona, so visiting these falls when they are gushing is a unique adventure in Arizona. The roaring energy released by the surging waters creates dancing rainbows in the rich, foaming display of chocolate colored water.
When To Go: March and early April during the annual White Mountains snow melt
Insight: These falls are in an isolated and rustic part of Arizona. There is no drinking water nor restroom facilities available. They are located 32 miles from Flagstaff. Take I-17 north to Flagstaff. From Flagstaff follow AZ State Route 89A North past the Flagstaff Mall turning right onto the Townsend/Winona Road - the falls are 31.7 miles from this turn. Travel 8 miles before turning left onto the Leupp Road. Travel another 14.7 miles and just after entering the Navajo Reservation, turn left onto Navajo Road 70 (Watch for a sign advertising the Grand Falls Bible Church). Travel 8.5 miles on Navajo Road 70 (which is a wide, cinder road) . At the 8.5 mile mark, a small passable dirt road will veer off to the left toward the Little Colorado River. Just before the river, a small road to the left leads to the overlook. Warning: Do Not Attempt to drive across the Little Colorado River in a vehicle. A rustic trail leads from the overlook down to the river level of the falls.
History: The Grand Falls are a natural creation of an ancient lava flow from the local Merriam Crater that filled the 200 foot deep Little Colorado River Canyon gorge some 100,000 years ago. After the lava cooled, a natural basalt dam was formed blocking the original river channel. Seasonal river water would pool behind the basalt dam while continually seeking a way to escape and rejoin the ancient Little Colorado River channel. After cascading over the wide spillway of basalt, the water finally plunges over a final wall, forming the Grand Falls.
The chocolate color comes from the river water having to travel some 150 miles through this high-desert region picking up tons of sand and clay. The silt-laden water then tumbles over the waterfalls creating the distinctive brownish color. Once over the falls, the water reenters the original Little Colorado River channel and continues on a 70-mile journey to the Grand Canyon.
Distance from I-17/Carefree Highway: 157 miles
Good advice - contact the Flagstaff Visitor Center for latest information about the flow of the Grand Falls - 928-213-2951
Hours open: 24/7/365
Location: 32 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Az
N 35° 25.675’
W 111° 11.975’
|Navajo Highway 70|