Waterfall Hikes to Explore While Rafting the Colorado River

Rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is a trip of a lifetime. But there’s more to this epic trip than the mighty Colorado and the beautiful canyons it has carved. Take a break from the Colorado River to explore the incredible trails that lead you deeper into red-rock side canyons to improbably gorgeous waterfalls. Here are the top five waterfalls worth beaching your raft or kayak for awhile.

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1. North Canyon

North Canyon in the Grand Canyon. Photo by Whit Richardson

North Canyon in the Grand Canyon. Photo by Whit Richardson

Mile 20: Hike one mile up-canyon, scrambling over boulders, to reach a stream where pools are carved into the slickrock. During times of plentiful precipitation, the stream transforms into water slides dropping into plunge pools.

2. Elves Chasm

Water from Royal Arch Creek tumbles into Elves Chasm. Photo by Whit Richardson

Water from Royal Arch Creek tumbles into Elves Chasm. Photo by Whit Richardson

Mile 116.5: It’s a quick half-mile scramble to reach this fairy-tale like paradise. Waters from Royal Arch Creek pour over a cliff, creating a waterfall and fern-decked grotto. Climb up on the rocks and jump into the deep, green pool.

3. Deer Creek Falls

Deer Creek Canyon in the Grand Canyon

Deer Creek Canyon in the Grand Canyon

Mile 136: From Deer Creek Falls that cascade just off the Colorado River, hike for 1.5 miles up-canyon through the curving Deer Creek narrows. You will find a stream shaded by cottonwood trees and canyon walls that contain ancient petroglyphs. Here at Deer Creek Spring is a second waterfall and an excellent swimming spot.

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4. Beaver Falls

Beaver Falls near Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Reservation in the Grand Canyon. Photo by Whit Richardson

Beaver Falls near Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Reservation in the Grand Canyon. Photo by Whit Richardson

Mile 157: From the river, hike up narrow Havasu Canyon to reach a set of waterfalls that look more like a scene in Hawaii than a desert canyon. The blue green waters of Havasu Creek cascade hundreds of feet over travertine formations and land in deep pools that are nothing short of paradise for hikers on hot summer afternoons. These falls are located on the Havasupai reservation and sacred to the tribe. Beaver Falls is 4 miles from the river.

5. Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls in the Grand Canyon

Mooney Falls

Mile 157: Continue up Havasu Canyon another 2 miles (6 miles from the river) to reach this mother of all Grand Canyon waterfalls, Mooney, which drops 200 feet into a swimming pool in Havasu Creek.