We have friends, Russ & Susan, who are always up for an adventure, and this past weekend, we decided to check out The Grand Falls up near Flagstaff, aka The Chocolate Falls. Before you go, it’s a commitment. It is a full 3 ½ hours drive from Phoenix one way, and there isn’t anything else there. That being said, if you have a chance here in the near future to go see them, you must!
First how to get there: Take I-17 North to I-40 East and exit Winona north for about 2 miles until you reach Leupp Road where you will turn right onto the dirt road for 20.3 miles. This is a bumpy ride full of washboards. Any vehicle can go on it, but be prepared for your dentures to fall out! The glove box kept popping open, and the windshield wipers went on all by themselves. Russ is a pilot, and he kept expecting the oxygen masks to drop down! Off Leupp Road, turn left on BIA 70 and follow the brown signs to “Grand Falls.” At this point, you are on the Navajo Reservation, but no permit is required. Parking is free, dogs are welcome, and it has human restrooms. Note: You might want to bring your own toilet paper as it isn’t serviced very often. You are in the middle of nowhere!
Now, about The Grand Falls: It is taller than Niagara Falls, which is 176 feet, coming in at 181 feet tall, and it gets its nickname of The Chocolate Falls from the muddy, chocolate flow that is fed by the snowmelt and rain from the White Mountains into the Little Colorado River. Usually the best times to see it are in March and April, but because of all the rain we’ve been having, it was spectacular!
To put it in perspective, we read that 300 cubic feet of flow would make the falls beautiful. Well, the day we went, there was 4,500 cubic feet flowing down the rocks. We encourage you to check conditions before you go as the water can disappear as quickly as it arrives. Life in the desert. The roads were a muddy mess the day before, but thankfully, they were dry for us.
We weren’t the only ones who had the idea to check the falls out, and we ended up parking at the lower lot (restrooms are in the upper lot). Although it was busy, everyone had room to view the falls and take their pictures. I have to say, we were the envy of everyone there. After a long, bumpy drive, everyone else had to get in their cars and drive home because there isn’t anything else there to do – no hiking trails. We, on the other hand, had chairs and a table for our lovely picnic with a view. We had cold drinks and yummy food to eat. People kept eying our lunch, and I was wondering if I would have to protect our food. Woof! A few picnic tables are set up, but you might want to bring your own chairs just in case.
We sat and enjoyed this amazing wonder. You could see all the debris floating through, and it was a reminder of the force of nature. The water was coming from miles and miles away, and at any moment, could increase from a monsoon. I’ve said it before: keep your eye on the sky and watch out for flash floods.
The temperatures were rising, and the humidity was thick. We packed it up and got back on Mr. Toads Wild Ride Road. Mom did some research and found a nature park on our way back that would break up the drive. The Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve park is located at 3920 N El Paso Flagstaff Rd in Flagstaff AZ. As soon as you get off the dirt road, you should have cell service to plug it in. You’ll come to I-40 and go just an exit, I think, and you’ll be there.
Once again, parking was free, dogs are welcome, and they had a port-o-potty for humans. Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve is a great place to hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, and enjoy wildlife viewing at certain times of year. Unfortunately, the temperatures climbed more than expected, and the clouds disappeared. We would have hiked longer, but we all got sweaty.
You have several trail options to chose from, and there’s map with the distance. We just went out on Tom Moody for a while and turned back around. We will have to go back as the canyon is supposed to be very cool, and we hear the fall color can be awesome. The canyon has petroglyphs, but we didn’t get far enough.
Back on the road we went, but we were on paved roads, although Flagstaff gets a big, fat F for road maintenance! From the preserve, it was only 2 ½ hours, and we didn’t encounter any traffic issues. It was a very full day, but we are glad we went with friends. Remember, if you go, you will be out in the middle of nowhere without cell service for quite a while. Go prepared with lots of water, food and emergency equipment. Get ready for a grand time!
My mom, Lorraine Bossé-Smith, is kind enough to help me share my Great Adventures, big and small. My mom is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, executive recruiter, business consultant, coach, fitness expert, and author of nine published books. More importantly, she’s the best doggy mom ever!
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Get outside! You never know what you’ll discover, and our paths just might cross. Happy tails!