The American Southwest has always been a haven for those who enjoy the stark and raw landscapes of the high desert. Hidden within the rock walls of places like Arizona, however, waterfall hunters will also find the treasure they seek.
From sacred falls located far from civilization to those that are only a short drive from Tuscon or Flagstaff, there is a waterfall destination for just about any skill and accessibility level. Check out our favorite waterfalls to escape the heat in the gorgeous Southwestern state of Arizona.
Here are among the best waterfalls in Arizona, in no particular order:
Havasu Falls – Grand Canyon SR, Havasupai Res
Havasu Falls is perhaps the most famous set of waterfalls in Arizona, due to the vibrant deep teal coloring in the splash pool below. Despite the popularity, this waterfall has not just become another tourist attraction near the Grand Canyon.
The Havasupai Native Americans whose land the falls reside on do everything they can to protect them, including a permitting system that is mandatory for anyone seeking to take a look at these waterfalls. This incredible natural marvel is currently closed in order to protect the community but be sure to reserve your place when things reopen.
Although this is not a day hike or one for the faint of heart, the three-day trek to the falls can feel a bit like a holy patronage for waterfall lovers from around the world. Starting from the end of the road to the falls clocks in at about ten miles, and it’s not recommended to attempt the trip there and back in one day.
You can hire mules to help with the weight of your packs on the way out, but it’s far cheaper to just pack lightly for this backpacking adventure. Set out early in the day or travel in the off-season to get a solitary view of this sacred site.
While there, be sure to check out both Mooney and Navajo Falls, just a few short miles away from Havasu Falls and its nearby campgrounds.
Fossil Creek Falls – Strawberry
If you aren’t sure you can stomach the ten mile hike to Havasu Falls, take a look into visiting the waterfall trail at Fossil Creek. This one-mile trail leads to a wide set of falls that burst with water during the monsoon season.
Families and solo travelers will find that Fossil Creek Falls is a much-needed respite from the heat of the summer. During its popular season crowds converge on this watering hole to enjoy a dip in the splash pool.
Fossil Creek is a geological marvel due to its seemingly mysterious origin. Raw power gushes over the falls, but its hard to pinpoint the exact spot from which this tide flows. This is because Fossil Creek is fed from an underground spring and provides vital nutrients to the land surrounding it. In a mostly arid state, it’s nice to get away from the hot sands and wade in some historic waters.
Like Havasu Falls, however, you will need a permit to hike, wade, or sunbathe near these waters between April and November. With the fragile ecosystem in mind, a permitting system helps to ensure that it will be protected to educate and entertain generations to come.
Grand Falls – Flagstaff
Also dubbed the “Chocolate Falls” due to their sandy, muddy flow, the Grand Falls are one of the tallest in the state. They even compete with Niagara Falls for sheer size, though far less visitors travel to these scenic falls each year due to their remote location.
Unlike the previous falls on our list, it’s possible to drive to the waterfall overlook without needing to hike far, making Grand Falls quite accessible to those who have physical or mobility limitations.
Coming in at 181 feet high and known for the incredible rainbow arcs its waters create, these waterfalls are among the number-one rated trails to visit if you’re in the Flagstaff area. March and April are the best times of year to see these particular falls, as the snow melts quickly in the arid and dry climate surrounding them.
Clean up after yourself and ensure that you leave no trace. Grand Falls are located on Navajo land and should be treated with respect.
Cibecue Falls – Whiteriver
Coming in at four miles total, the hike to Cibecue Falls is moderate, but the roads to get there can be bumpy and steep for those without 4x4s. Like the previous waterfalls, these are located on tribal lands, so the roads may not be well-maintained. Just before the trailhead, you’ll find yourself crossing a shallow section of creek, a taste of what’s to come.
Much of the trail follows the banks of the creek, crossing over it quite often, so be sure to wear amphibious shoes to protect your feet from sharp rocks. Those without great balance will find themselves tumbling into the creek quite often, but avid hikers and canyoneering fans will have no trouble with this watery trail.
After two miles, you’ll finally arrive at the falls, which stand at around thirty feet high. They gush between the natural walls of red rock that they have carved over the millennia. Like those mentioned before in our list, there is a permitting process to visit these falls to protect them from too much traffic, so reserve your spot before heading out to this gorgeous waterfall paradise.
Ribbon Falls – Grand Canyon NP
If you’re planning to do a rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon as so many outdoor enthusiasts do, be sure to check out Ribbon Falls. Like the Havasu Falls hike, it’s not recommended to try to cover this distance in a day.
Instead, those enjoying a stay down at the canyon’s bottom will also have access to the trail that leads to Ribbon Falls. It’s about eight miles from the start of the North Kaibab Trailhead and around five miles from Phantom Ranch, where people often stay when backpacking through the Grand Canyon.
The hike in is always easier than the hike out. And this particular trail comes with almost 10,000 feet in elevation gain, so spreading it out over a few days will make it easier on your body.
While these falls may not gush as much as some of the others on our list, they’re located in a unique location and provide water for the lush vegetation that surrounds them. Standing at 140 feet in height with two magnificent collection pools that cascade in a duet, this site is a wonder to behold after a day spent hiking in the canyon sun.
Ribbon Falls has carved into the stone of the canyon, creating a giant travertine spire. It’s covered in moss and provides a home to many of this ecosystem’s fragile creatures.
Seven Falls – Tuscon
Fifteen miles from downtown Tuscon, you will find yourself in the midst of another world when you enter the trailhead for Seven Falls/Bear Canyon in Sabino Canyon. Although this hike is quite long at around eight and a half miles total, the trail itself is not overly strenuous.
It places you amidst the stark landscape of the Sonoran Desert. Surrounded by catci and bristly underbrush, making your way to the canyon bottom can be a desert adventure of its own.
You’ll cross the creek several times before you reach the falls, so it’s important to ensure that your feet are protected from sharp and slick rocks. Plan your trip for late winter and early spring for the best chance to catch Seven Falls gushing at its highest.
Even More to Explore in the American Southwest
The Wild West of the United States is an incredibly diverse area, offering all varieties of attractions for those who love the outdoors, Native American culture, and historical sites. If you’re up for more waterfall hunting while in the area, be sure to take a look at the ones you may spot while in nearby New Mexico.
Although both Arizona and New Mexico are often perceived as vast desert states, there are actually a variety of land and waterscapes that can be found in these dry and arid areas. Be sure to include a stop at a natural hot springs in AZ during the cool winter months.