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Chasing Waterfalls: Celebrate National Park Week in Arizona

A recreationist’s paradise, Arizona offers parks galore, from iconic cacti-studded landscapes to sandstone canyon walls, thick pine-tree forests and impressive waterfalls worth the hike. Arizona’s 22 national parks, monuments, sites and trails offer views and activities for everyone. No matter the landscape you want to explore, adventure awaits. National Park Week, April 20 to April 28 this year, is a perfect opportunity to get out and explore these gems. Entrance fees to national parks sites will be waived on Saturday, April 20, 2024, to help kick off the celebration and to encourage everyone to enjoy Arizona national parks in person.

While planning any Arizona adventure, preparation is key. The Arizona Office of Tourism’s AppreciateAZ Program principles offer simple, straight-forward suggestions on having a responsible and enjoyable trip. For example, when visiting a park, Principle #1: Plan Ahead and Prepare recommends researching information such as the elevation, terrain and current weather prior to departure to be sure you’re ready.

“Outdoor preparedness is especially important in Arizona and our AppreciateAZ Program provides great help,” says Lisa Urias, CEO of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “This is a perfect time of year to explore our state parks, and a bit of planning can make a big difference in a safe and fun Arizona adventure.”

In honor of 2024 National Park Week, here are a few suggestions that combine great hiking and incredible waterfalls located in Arizona national parks:

Grand Canyon National Park

Cheyava Falls

At more than 800 feet tall, Cheyava Falls is the tallest in the Grand Canyon. It is a spectacular waterfall cascading from the North Rim on the southern end of the Walhalla Plateau north of Honan Point. As an intermittent waterfall, Cheyava is at its most impressive after a wet winter fueled by North Rim snowmelt or immediately after a strong monsoon storm. Many backpackers make the 10-mile up and back roundtrip hike along Clear Creek to visit Cheyava Falls.

Deer Creek Falls

Deer Creek flows through the western Grand Canyon to the Colorado River, ending its journey with a captivating 180-ft. cascade down Deer Creek Falls. As a backcountry destination, Deer Creek Falls is accessible via backpacking or rafting. To explore the canyon above the falls, a trail leads river runners and hikers several hundred feet above to a point overlooking the river. Most rafting trips, both commercial and private, stop at Deer Creek Falls. You can also access the falls via backpacking and camping with a backcountry permit from Grand Canyon National Park.

Ribbon Falls

As a true gem of the North Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon, picturesque Ribbon Falls is located in a side canyon a short distance off the trail. The falls are about 100 feet high and drop onto a giant travertine spire. Ribbon Falls is an 8.4-mile hike from the North Kaibab Trailhead. It’s also 5.2 miles from Phantom Ranch, making it the only falls in the park accessible without backpacking or rafting. The total mileage of the hike is 16.8 miles with a total elevation change of 9,042 feet. Make sure to stay hydrated if you are hiking or backpacking during the warmer months, and get an early start to avoid the peak heat of the day.

Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Bridal Wreath Falls

The route to Bridal Wreath Falls in the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park near Tucson begins at Douglas Spring Trailhead. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you will likely encounter other people while exploring and well-defined trails. The route offers stunning views of the mountains and surrounding saguaros. The time of year will determine the water flow. In the spring, there will likely be more water flow than later in the summer. The waterfall is about 25 feet tall and has a small pool at the base.

Ernie’s Falls

A little downstream from Bridal Wreath, Ernie’s Falls is a spectacular seasonal waterfall right in the middle of the high desert grasslands in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains. Ernie’s Falls hike is a moderately difficult trek in Saguaro National Park’s Rincon Mountain District. This trail begins 2.5 miles into the Douglas Spring Trail, at the junction of Douglas Spring and Bridal Wreath Falls Trail. Ernie’s Falls Trail is level at first and then descends into a wash. The waterfall is located off to the right at a rock outcropping as you descend.

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