Friday, March 27, 2009
GRAND FALLS Navajo Nation Nicknamed the “Niagara of the Desert”, Grand Falls, located on the Navajo nation, puts on a thunderous water show worthy of comparison to its upstate-New York cousin. The 180-foot-high terraced falls were formed roughly 20,000 years ago when lava flows from nearby Merriam Crater (the prominent cinder cone visible on the drive in) dammed the gorge of the Little Colorado River forcing it to swerve and pour over the canyon walls. Bone-dry most of the year, the falls come to life in a rush of sediment-rich, muddy waters during spring snowmelt season (February – April) and following summer monsoon rains (July- September). Although there are no official trails at the falls, it’s easy to walk along the cliffs where a field of volcanic cinders and solidified tongues of black lava dripping over ochre-colored sandstone walls create an eerie, visceral landscape. Adventurous—and well-equipped—hikers can scramble down into the river channel for up-close views of this geological wonder. BEST SEASON: March-April and following summer monsoon rains ELEVATION: 4,700’ Distance from Phoenix: 180 miles northeast GETTING THERE: From Flagstaff, travel north on Highway 89A to Townsend-Winona Road (County Road 510). Turn left onto CR 510 and continue for just under 2 miles to Leupp Road (County Road 505). Follow Leupp Rd. for 15.2 miles and turn left onto Navajo Route 70, which is located just past a “Welcome to the Navajo Nation” sign. Drive north on Route 70 veering left at two junctions. At the 8.6-mile point, turn left onto an unmarked, primitive road that leads to the sun shelters and parking area. Route 70 is rough dirt, but passable by sedan.