Chasing Waterfalls in Havasupai: Mooney Falls

On Day 3 of our adventure in Havasupai, we took on Mooney Falls!                                     (You can read about the first part of our adventure here)

Although there is actually a waterfall named, “Havasu Falls”, it is not the only waterfall on the reservation.  The “Havasu Falls” are made up of five different waterfalls that are located within Havasupai.   Mooney Falls was our third stop along the way.

Mooney Falls, Havasupai Reservation.  Stunning Photo Credit given to: @outboundcollective


We woke up early and headed to the Supai cafe:


Time out!  This seems like an opportune moment to discuss said cafe.

Downtown Supai offers a police station, post office, general store and a cafe that are open to the public during the day.  NOTE: most everything [reportedly] opens at 8 AM and [reportedly] closes around 5 PM.  Open/closing times seemed to be very “fluid” in the village when we were there.   I think it goes without saying that village life induced a great deal of anxiety within my soul.

Supai Cafe.  Photo cred:



The cafe offers a favorites menu that consists of:  cheeseburgers, double cheeseburgers, bacon cheeseburgers, and…[wait for it]…CHILI cheeseburgers!

Attention “plant based” people:  bring your own snacks.

You also have the option of purchasing food at the general store.  They accept Visa/Mastercard (and you will be thankful that they do).  Due to the remote location of the village, “transportation of commodities” is rather difficult.  Prices are adjusted to reflect this cost. [ahem, $8 for a can of SPAM].

photo cred:

OK!!!  Getting back on track.  We are supposed to be talking about Mooney Falls today!

mooney falls - image ALE
stunning photo credit:

Mooney Falls is the tallest of all of Havasupai’s waterfalls at just under 200 feet.  It is a mile away from Havasu falls and located at the end of the Havasupai campground area.

mooney falls - 613plus
Whoever took this image LITERALLY risked his life doing so.  Extraordinary capture.  Well done,; however, don’t get any ideas, @markdhooge

As you can see, the waterfall pours into an oasis pool and has more of a sandy beach area.  I remember it was a very soft, clay type sand.  In contrast, Havasu Falls felt more like pebble rock sand.

For the #historydorks like me:

Mooney Falls is named after a miner named, D.W. “James” Mooney, who fell to his death in 1882 while attempting to climb the walls of this canyon.  Mooney was a part of Alphonso Humphrey’s mining party.  This team is credited today for cutting the route through the travertine formation at Mooney Falls.

mining team 1884
This isn’t the real Alphonso team – but it WAS taken in the year 1884….right around the same time as the Humphrey expedition.           So I thought it would add to the story 🙂

Once we passed Havasu Falls, we stayed to the left.  The trail led us through the campground and to the edge of the falls area.


Now, because I am an obsessive planner, I had already consulted my friends at @wikipedia and was prepared that the day would include “a very rugged and dangerous descent“.  HOWEVER…………

This is it.  This is all we saw.

No ladder.  No switchbacks.  No hook and/or rappelling device to help lower us down.  We literally came to the edge of a 210 foot cliff [that was named after a man who fell to his death] and saw a piece of plywood stuck in the ground with the words, “descend at your own risk” written in blue marker.

Instant replay:

Are we supposed to climb down?  

Naturally, I check my notes:

“…at this point the trail becomes very difficult and precarious. There is a small passageway that is large enough for the average human, and leads to a small opening in which another passageway is entered.”

Wait. What?  A small passageway?  Large enough for an AVERAGE HUMAN?  What’s an average human?  I’m a size 14!  Is that “average” for small passageways????

the view from the cliff

Mark [he who is never anxious about small passageways], starts looking around for a “small passageway” and finds THIS:

mooney falls passageway

He says, “I think we are supposed to go this way”….

objects in this photo actually seem LARGER than they appeared.  Please note: the consuming darkness.

[time out]


First came denial:



This CAN’T be the small passageway!  Average people can’t fit in there???? 

No way.


Let’s just keep looking.


“Please baby.  I don’t want to do this.  Please don’t make me do this.  We don’t even have a flashlight!  THERE’S NO LIGHT IN THERE!!!  What if you’re wrong and this is just a random hole and we get stuck inside and nobody knows we are in there!!!!!  I can’t die like this.  I WON’T DIE LIKE THIS!!!  Let’s just go back to Havasu falls – remember how relaxed we felt at Havasu falls, honey?  We’ll go back to the falls and I will rub your back tonight for like an entire hour.  Ok????” 




“I can’t do this.  I’m not strong enough.  I’m so sorry.  I’m always holding you back.  I don’t want to be the one who holds you back.  You deserve to be with someone who owns a pair of hiking boots and isn’t at risk of getting wedged inside of small passageways…”  


“Fine.  You go first.”

Into the tiny, dark, crevice we went.


At the end of the second passageway,  you find yourself on another cliff.


Strategically placed chains, re-bar and footholds have been drilled into the rock to help you descend into the canyon.  This would be the “rugged and dangerous descent” that my @wikipedia friends warned me about.


Mooney Falls, 2011

Was it worth it?

OF COURSE it was worth it.  It always is.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Mooney Falls and never ventured beyond the beach.  We had hoped to visit the last waterfall, Beaver Falls, but we were unable to find the next trail.  I’m not sure what it would be like now, but in 2011, we couldn’t find any clear signage that directed us to the trail.  This was a pretty big disappointment for us.

Beaver Falls is another 3 more miles down the the canyon.  The trail to Beaver Falls is supposed to take you through grapevine fields, requires three river crossings and provides an opportunity to see desert bighorn sheep.   This last waterfall is known for its gorgeous cascades and large pools, perfect for wading and swimming.  photo credit: @outboundcollective
Detail shot of the canyon walls at Mooney Falls.


Do you want to chase some waterfalls too?  Here is some stuff that you should know as you plan your trip to Havasupai!


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