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Mooney Falls Overview

Mooney Falls is the tallest of the five wonderful waterfalls located along Havasu Creek in the Grand Canyon (nearly 200 feet tall!). Hiking down to Mooney Falls is a great, short adventure when camping at the Havasupai Campground. Not only that, it is certainly the most adventurous to reach, requiring travelers to hike down through a menacing passageway cut through the side of the canyon wall by miners at the turn of the 20th century. Descend to the base of Mooney Falls at your own risk; the falls are named after a prospector (Mr. Mooney) who fell to his death way back when, prior to the existing path being in place (still dangerous). Please note: the ratings for this outing assume you have already descended to the Havasupai Campground. While Mooney Falls makes a great destination, I would strongly encourage it to be only one stop along your way to the many cascades, Beaver Falls, and the Colorado River further downstream.

Logistics

For overall information on hiking into and camping in Havasu Canyon, see the Havasupai Guide that gives an overview. The hike to Mooney Falls is a relative short hike, ranging anywhere from 3/4 of a mile to a few hundred feet depending on where in the campground you make camp. If you are going to do this hike, I would advise that you go early in the morning to avoid a long wait trying to get down the passageway cut into the canyon wall (see adjacent picture). Personally, my favorite time to do this hike is at first light (make sure you have plenty of light to safely descend!). This will also allow plenty of time to explore many of the cascades downstream of Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, or even an all day adventure hiking to the Colorado River and back. Spending some time downstream of Mooney Falls will help get much of the downhill traffic out of the way, allowing for a somewhat easier ascent in the early to mid-afternoon so two way traffic is minimized. I have made this descent in ‘peak traffic’ and have waited as long as 20 minutes on the side of the canyon wall waiting for slower travelers to descend; see adjacent image for an example of two way traffic. If you have a fear of heights or are not in a state of great physical fitness, please do everyone a favor and either don’t descend, or descend late in the morning after ‘rush hour’.

The Mooney Falls Highway - Single Lane, Two Way Traffic

The Mooney Falls Highway – Single Lane, Two Way Traffic

A few other notes for both your sake and those also making the journey:

  • If you have ever had a propensity for claustrophobia, make sure you do not enter a fully enclosed section of the canyon-side passageway until you know you can get through to a section of the passageway that has a view of the falls. Sometimes there can be a traffic backup and you could get stuck inside an enclosed area for an extended period waiting for those in front of you to descend.
  • When you reach a platform with enough space for two way traffic to pass through, holler ahead to see if traffic is coming from the other direction. It is much easier to make a little noise and coordinate with others than to get to a tricky one-way section of the passage and you or others have to backtrack to get to a point where you can safely negotiate two way traffic.
  • There are amazing views of Mooney Falls on your way down the passageway. If you’re going to take a photo, be quick so it doesn’t cause a traffic jam. Also, keep presence of mind that you are on the side of a cliff; be careful!
  • On tricky portions of the trail, be sure to observe the standard rock climbing policy of keeping three points of contact at all times on a sturdy rock, chain, or other hand/foothold (i.e., only be moving one hand or foot at a time, while the others are securely in place.
  • WATCH OUT FOR YOUR HEAD! There are some extremely low rock ceilings in the passageway and you want to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.
  • Keep plenty of space between you and others around you. On that same note, keep an eye out for others above and below you; you would not be out of turn to ask them to give you a bit of space.
  • Make sure all of your belongings are securely fastened to your body or your other gear. If not, you could seriously injure someone below you if an object fell.

Please note the rating on this post assumes you are starting from the Havasu Canyon Campground and are already setup in the canyon.

Gear and Gadgets

There is a lot of flexibility on what you should bring, pending what your plans are after descending to the base of Mooney Falls. However, the one thing you should absolutely plan on bringing is a good pair of hiking shoes! The rocks can be quite slippery from the spray from Mooney Falls and rocks at other sections of the trail can be quite jagged. Flip Flops are not a good idea. I typically will wear my hiking shoes/boots for the canyon-side passage, then change into my water shoes once I’m at the bottom (bring a carabiner so you can snap your hiking shoes/boots to your day pack).

There are a few fun spots at the base of Mooney to throw out a blanket or beach towel and hang out for a bit sun bathing, reading, or whatever else fits your fancy. Make sure you have plenty of water; if the canyon-side passageway gets backed up, you might be down at the base of the falls for a while.

If you are planning on exploring the creek and cascades down stream of Mooney Falls, check out the Day Trip Gear Guide and bring what you believe to be appropriate for your given journey. Remember, the only place to camp in the area is at the Havasupai Campground; nowhere else.

Further Reading

Day Trip Gear Guide

Photography Gear & Gadgets

Leave No Trace Principles

Outdoors and Wilderness First Aid

Havasupai Campground & Overall Logistics

Beaver Falls

Havasu Falls

Lower Navajo Falls

Upper Navajo Falls

West Mesa Trail

About The Author

Jeremy Meek is a native Arizonan with a passion for adventure and discovery of unique experiences. Whether exploring Arizona or setting out on an adventure abroad, Jeremy is constantly scouting truly great adventures and experiences.

One Response

  1. Anonymous

    I have been through all of the locations and most excellent representation of each hike. Your blog is really really very impressive!

    Reply

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