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Chocolate Falls – Arizona

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Grand Falls is a natural waterfall system located 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona in the Painted Desert on the Navajo Indian Reservation.

At 185 feet tall (56 meters), it is taller than Niagara Falls. It dumps snow melt or monsoon rain into the Little Colorado River below. It is famous for its extremely muddy flow which is a major contributor to Little Colorado River opacity. It is said that the waterfalls are analogous to flowing chocolate depending on the amount of water present. Heavy rains or snow melt will produce spectacular viewing, photography and sound whereas the scarcity of water will produce only trickles or no flow at all.

Grand Falls was formed when lava from nearby Merriam Crater flowed into the Little Colorado River creating a lava dam. The river was forced to reroute itself around the dam and Grand falls formed where the reroute rejoins its original course.

Grand Falls near Leupp, Arizona

The waterfall is remote and no major paved roads access it. In fact the closest road, Grand Falls Road, crosses the floor of the Little Colorado River and at times during the year, only a 4 x 4 vehicle can traverse it. The falls are dormant for months of the year and reduces to only a drip. To access the falls a passenger car can reach the south side of the river. A 4 x 4 vehicle is required and only Navajo guides or experienced back country people are advised to take the road across the river.

Navajo Nation hiking permit is required to visit the Falls. The site and the roads to it are located in the Navajo Nation so leaving the roads or trails is against Navajo Law. Picnic benches are provided at the viewpoint. The trail is one-half mile long and easy.

The Grand Falls was seen in one scene of the 1964 western “A Distant Trumpet” starring Troy Donahue.

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