For an arid state, Arizona shelters some of the world’s most famous waterfalls. Sparkling cascades plunging into turquoise pools deep within Havasu Canyon are the stuff of daydreams. It’s a bucket-list journey for folks from all over the globe.
But what about those waterfalls found outside the Grand Canyon? The state has an assortment of beautiful torrents, big and small, reports The Arizona Republic, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. And in a dry landscape, is there any sweeter sound than that of falling water?
Travelers must treat these special places with respect by packing out their trash, not carrying glass containers and using caution while swimming (if swimming is even allowed).
This desert oasis is worth the climb on the flanks of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Starting from Catalina State Park, the first mile of Romero Canyon Trail winds through saguaro-spiked desert to Montrose Pools, which are usually dry.
The next 1.8 miles is a steep climb up an exposed ridge. You’ll work up a serious sweat, making the rocky pools all the more enticing. A seasonal waterfall feeds Romero Pools, flowing after snowmelt and monsoon rains.
From the Grand Falls to Fossil Creek, Arizona has a lot of spectacular waterfalls to visit.
Nicole Schaub, Arizona Republic
Slicing through Mogollon Rim country forest, Horton Creek east of Payson, Arizona, makes the perfect introduction to waterfalls. It spills downslope, dropping in a series of little cascades. Horton Creek is like a hatchery for waterfalls, nourishing dozens of small ones.
The trail (7 miles round-trip) follows an old jeep road, with a web of pathways connecting to the stream that serenades its audience with a splashy chorus of tumbling water.
The last section of the trail steepens as it climbs to Horton Spring, a frothy geyser that sprays and spills down the rocky hillside carpeted in green moss.
One of only two rivers in Arizona designated as Wild and Scenic, Fossil Creek features the same travertine formations and bright blue waters found at Havasu Canyon.
The calcium-rich stream beneath the Mogollon Rim flows at a constant 70 degrees, making this a popular swimming area in the summer. The 1-mile Waterfall Trail at about the midpoint of the creek is the most in-demand hike.
In 2016, a permit system was put into place to protect the fragile ecosystem.
Located in popular Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in Tucson, Arizona, Seven Falls isn’t exactly a secret, but anytime you can find a multi-tiered waterfall in the desert, make the journey.
Follow Bear Canyon Trail, which winds along a stream for much of the hike, frequently splashing across it. Where the trail forks, take the left branch to the base of the cliff. The waterfall drops in a series of terraced cascades, creating juicy little swimming holes at every level.
Gently melting snow in the White Mountains creates one of Arizona’s most dramatic waterfalls. Grand Falls, 30 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation, roars to life in the spring.
The silt-laden water gives the falls a rich chocolate color that would make Willy Wonka envious. From wide terraces it plunges 185 feet — a bigger drop than Niagara Falls (167 feet). Amid such a furious cascade, floating rainbows can often be seen in the mist.
The road to the falls is graded gravel and dirt, with some sharp rocks. A carefully driven car can make it, but you may be more comfortable in a high-clearance vehicle. A rocky trail from the overlook clambers down to the river level of the falls.
Tucked away in the ponderosa pine forest south of Williams, Sycamore Falls is worth a visit even when water isn’t flowing.
You can access the falls via the Sycamore Rim Trail. Mostly level, the trail makes a languid 11-mile loop through sunlit meadows and fragrant woodlands that break apart long enough to offer enticing panoramas into high-walled Sycamore Canyon.
Five trailheads provide starting points, including one that’s just a short stroll from the falls, a cleft hewed from steep cliffs. Water pours over in a 70-foot drop after snowmelt or monsoon storms. When dry, it’s a popular rock climbing spot.
With fortunate timing, you can enjoy a friendly neighborhood cascade lurking at the far western edge of the Phoenix metro area. The Waterfall Trail in White Tank Mountain Regional Park leads to an ethereal falls, splashing down canyon walls after a strong rain.
The mile-long trail leads through open desert toward looming hills. It’s paved and barrier-free for 0.4 mile, including a stop at Petroglyph Plaza, where symbols are etched into prominent boulders.
The trail steepens a bit as it parallels a dry wash. You’ll get a nice hit of coolness as you approach the cliffs at the head of the canyon and spot the pools of water below. Squeeze through a few cluttered boulders for a peek at the shy falls, or at least the water streaks that mark its path when it exists.
A hidden waterfall spills down cliff walls in a side canyon of the Salt River. Everything about getting there is an adventure.
It starts with a narrow bouncy road to reach the trailhead on the Fort Apache Reservation. From there it’s a 2-mile canyoneering-style trek down a trail that starts along the banks of Cibecue Creek but is quickly submerged as it crisscrosses the stream. Expect to get wet.
As you get closer to the falls, the canyon narrows. The dramatic 80-foot waterfall spills in a straight drop into a wide pool. Don’t be tempted to dive in: Swimming is not allowed.
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