Real Life Willy Wonka Chocolate Waterfall
By Lauren Wong
Just wow… It’s hard to put such a remarkable sight into words. If you’re not actively searching for this place, you’d never know it existed, which I think makes it all the more special.
You’ll turn off onto a dirt road which you’ll take for about 10 miles to the falls. Four-wheel drive is ideal, but it’s not necessary, just be careful and watch for potholes. That being said, Grand Falls should 100% be on your bucket list.
Pictures don’t do this place justice. In looking at a still picture you don’t hear the thundering rush of water throwing itself down the multi-tiered red rocks. You don’t feel the impact of the falls as mist swirls around you. You don’t get to look up and feel humbled by this massive, towering, natural phenomenon of chocolatey waters.
It truly is a sight straight out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. You wouldn’t expect mud to be so beautiful, but let me tell you, it is.
Located 30 miles East of Flagstaff, Grand Falls is located in the Painted Desert on Navajo Nation land. Believe it or not, standing 181 feet tall, it’s actually bigger than Niagara Falls.
There’s only a short time frame in which you can come and see the falls in action. The chocolatey water you see running into the Little Colorado River comes from snowmelt and rain from the White Mountains. Your best bet is to come during March and April or during the summer monsoon season.
Honestly, the landscape surrounding the area did not look like Arizona to me. It brought me back to when I studied abroad in Iceland. Yes, you have the amber falls running down the red rock, but if you turn around, you have black sand with bouts of greenery popping through.
It was such a vast contrast to see these landscapes collide, it was something unlike anything I’ve seen before.
After you take in the view from the top, hike the half mile down to the base. For me, it wasn’t until I was standing by the river that my brain processed just how big it was. As you make your descent you watch as the people above you slowly shrink in size, until they’re just tiny specks off in the distance.
Years and years ago, lava used to flow at this site. What you’re looking at is a path cut through the landscape from the lava that once flowed out of a volcano, carving its way into the Little Colorado River.
The reason the landscape is so rigid is because the lava had completely changed the river’s course over the years. Every twist and turn has been chiseled throughout the years.
If you plan on visiting (which you should), be sure to wear boots! I also recommend wearing a raincoat because the mist that shoots out from the waterfall is a mixture of mud and water. I’d also say if you bring a camera, don’t lose your lens cap like me, I was constantly rubbing smears off my lens.
Some of the mud down at the base looks like it’s sturdy, but actually will sink under your weight. You’ll feel like you’re navigating your way through quick sand so be careful!
Grand Falls seriously looks like it’s straight out of a picture book, so if you’re able to, make the trip.