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Grand Falls: Arizona’s Chocolate Waterfalls

Grand Falls: Arizona’s Chocolate Waterfalls

In the high desert northeast of Flagstaff, the Grand Falls waterfall roars 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.  Read more information about the waterfall at moreover, you can request a topic, for example, for research, this will make it easier for you to collect material and analyze data.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 — more than the drop of Niagara Falls.

chocolate falls
Grand Falls, aka Chocolate Falls, get their color because the river picks up sand and clay during a 150-mile springtime journey as the snow melts. Photos by Linda and Dr. Dick Buscher

Why You Should Go

Waterfalls are not common in the desert regions of Arizona, so seeing Grand Falls in action is a unique adventure. The roaring energy released by the surging waters creates dancing rainbows in the rich, foaming display of chocolate color.

When To Go

March and early April during the annual White Mountains snow melt, especially after heavy rains.

History & Geology

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 re-enters the original Little Colorado River channel and continues on a 70-mile journey to the Grand Canyon. 

grand falls
The waterfall is on the Little Colorado River in Arizona.

Get Directions

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IF YOU GO: Chocolate Falls

Distance from I-17/Carefree Highway:  157 miles. These falls are in an isolated and rustic part of Arizona. There is no drinking water nor restroom facilities available.

DIRECTIONS: Take I-17 north to Flagstaff, then 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, then 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). Go 8.5 miles on Navajo Road 70 (which is a wide, cinder road) until it dead-ends at the Little Colorado River. Just before the river, a small road to the left leads to the overlook. A rustic trail leads from the overlook down to the river level of the falls.

Warning: Do Not Attempt to drive across the Little Colorado River in a vehicle. 

COST: Free

HOURS:  24/7/365

How Taking Photos Affects Experiences
The picture is far from clear on how nonstop photography affects enjoyment and memories of those Kodak moments. But here’s one viewpoint.

Linda and Dr. Dick Buscher
Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher are retired Arizona public school educators who brought their wealth of Arizona knowledge to the In&Out Publications team in 2007. Together they have been teaching and writing about the state since the 1970s. The Buschers co-authored an Arizona history program titled “Ali-Shonak: The Story of Arizona,” which is still used in many of the 4th grade classrooms in Anthem and around the state. The Arizona history portion of this program is available in the iTunes bookstore under the title “Arizona: The Grand Adventure.” The Buschers are also authors of “Historic Photos of Arizona,” available at local bookstores.

  • Grand Falls: Arizona’s Chocolate Waterfalls
  • Grand Falls: Arizona’s Chocolate Waterfalls
  • Grand Falls: Arizona’s Chocolate Waterfalls
  • Grand Falls: Arizona’s Chocolate Waterfalls
  • Grand Falls: Arizona’s Chocolate Waterfalls
  • Grand Falls: Arizona’s Chocolate Waterfalls
  • Grand Falls: Arizona’s Chocolate Waterfalls

Help Save Our Community
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our country and even more so this community. Supporting local businesses during this crisis can help keep our community economically viable. Please strongly consider supporting the businesses below, In&Out Magazine's display advertisers, as well as those in the Classifieds section of the magazine (see the full April 9 issue in PDF form). Many of these businesses have been part of the fabric of this community for two decades, not just serving our professional, service and retail needs but stepping up to support local charities, sports teams and so much more. Tip: If you know you’ll need to schedule a service, consider contacting a local business you trust and paying the standard fee for the deferred service. The links below go to their web sites.

Adult & Pediatric Allergy Associates • 602-242-4592
Anthem Senior Living • 602-909-9550
Appliance Pros • 502-501-5501
Business Network of Anthem • 623-455-9630
Carroll Law Firm • 623-551-9366
Century 21 Real Estate - Jeff Huff • 623-223-1221
Creative Home Enhancements • 623-551-5409
Daisy Dream Homes Real Estate • 623-879-3277
Daisy Mountain Dentistry • 623-551-5250
Desert Foothills Air Conditioning • 480-595-0938
Edward Jones • 623-551-0523
Element Dental Centers • 623-551-5555
Hand & Stone Massage • 623-551-6602
Kendallwood Design • 602-252-3844
Kodiak Roofing • 602-501-7717
Luv My PC • 480-703-6609
Merrill Gardens • 623-201-4881
North Valley Water Solutions • 623-551-0515
Preferred Business of Anthem • 623-551-0523 
Prickett Realty • 623-551-8111
ProSkill Services • 623-551-7473
RE/MAX Professionals - Mike Higgins • 623-640-7502
Rise Above Remodeling • 623-551-2013
Soft Water Plus • 623-551-7383
SonoranScapes Landscaping • 602-842-9948
State Farm Insurance - Justin Simons • 623-551-3700
Storage at Anthem • 623-226-8634
Sunset Cabinets • 623-687-6579
Thompson & McGinnis Attorneys at Law • 602-952-2666
Titan Tree Care • 623-444-8448
Titan Pest Control • 623-879-8700
Wyman Plumbing & Mechanical • 623-551-6688

For more local businesses, see In&Out Magazine Classifed Ads >>>