Not getting a permit to Havasupai can be frustrating if not depressing. It’s such an incredible area to hike and backpack. Not to fear!
If you’ve still got the waterfall itch, here are some alternative waterfalls or areas to hike or backpack within a 5-hour drive of Havasupai in Arizona, Utah, or Colorado:
1# Coyote Gulch
South of Escalante, Utah
Coyote Gulch is actually a series of waterfalls within the heart of Escalante’s canyon country. The entire area is stunning with multiple natural features like arches and natural bridges. The best part though is almost anyone can hike to Coyote Gulch to see the waterfall. There are a few different trails you can take to Coyote Gulch and each one offers something unique to see. The four main trailheads are Red Well, Hurricane Wash, Fortymile Ridge Water Tank, and Fortymile Ridge Crack in the Wall. The first Fortymile Ridge involves more than one hundred feet of class 5 friction climbing, while the last one will have you driving through deep sand at the end of the road to reach the trail. There is also a massive sand dune on the latter that can be difficult to climb. This is a popular waterfall and hiking area, so you must plan on seeing other people, especially if you visit during the fall and the spring.
#2 Cibeque Falls
Outside of Globe, Arizona
The charming town of Cibecue has been holding a secret for many years and it is the Cibecue Waterfall. Only the local hikers know about this majestic waterfall that plunges eighty feet into multiple pools. The waterfall can be found within the White Mountains Apache Tribal Lands in Cibecue Canyon. The hike to this waterfall is only two and a half miles long and you will be amazed by the foliage you see along the way. A few different plants you will see include yuccas, tamarisks, ferns, and willows. You should also pay close attention to the canyon walls because some of them are incredible. You must cross the creek multiple times to reach this waterfall, so you will get wet along the way. You will know you are getting close to the waterfall when the walls of the canyon start to get narrower.
#3 Lower Calf Creek Falls
Outside of Escalante, Utah
Calf Creek can be found near the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. There are two waterfalls there, Upper and Lower, but the Lower Calf Creek Falls are more accessible during a hike. You will find the hiking trail on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12. The hike itself is six miles in and back and it is well worth the journey when you see the water plunging down 126 feet from the waterfall to the pool below. There are many points of interest to see as you are hiking to the Lower Calf Creek Falls. A handy trail map will give you all the details, but a few of them include beaver dams, a pictograph, and two granaries. If you time your visit right, you may also see wildflowers growing along the trail.
#4 Fossil Creek
Outside of Strawberry, Arizona
The Fossil Creek waterfall is a popular destination during the summer months, which is why you now need a permit to hike there. However, that small task will get you that much closer to seeing the twenty thousand gallons of water rush over the falls every minute. There are nine different trails you can take to hike to this waterfall, but one of them is more difficult than all the rest. The easier trails include Mazatzal, Sally May, Purple Mountain, Homestead, Fossil Creek Bridge, Tonto Bench, Waterfall Trailhead, and Flume Trailhead. The most difficult one was called the Fossil Springs Trails, but the name was changed to Bob Bear Trail to keep less experienced hikers off it. It is a very steep and remote trail and before the name was changed, people were needing to be rescued from it all the time. As you are walking along the trails, you will see many stunning views. However, those views may be obscured at times by the Cottonwood and Sycamore trees that provide a little shade from the summer heat.
#5 Maiden Falls
Outside of Camp Verde, Arizona
Maiden Falls is a waterfall of wonder, as it churns and spirals until it plummets down into the pool at the bottom. It is one of the more remote waterfalls in the state of Arizona, so you must be prepared for a hike to reach it. There are a couple of different trails to choose from. While one is longer, it is also flatter. The other trail is quite steep, but there is less ground to cover. You will see many red rock canyons during your hike, but you might rush past them in your quest to do a little cliff jumping when you reach the waterfall. This is also an excellent place to relax, so take advantage of the tranquility during your visit.
#6 Emerald Pools
Zion National Park
The Emerald Pools are comprised of three different pools inside Zion National Park. The Lower Pool is the easiest one to reach, while the Upper Pool takes the longest. However, it is worth the hike to see all three pools. The hike to the Lower Pool is 1.2 miles, while it is two miles to the Middle Pool and three miles to the Upper Pool. At the Lower Pool, you will see massive rock formations towering over you, but the real magic begins as you walk under the water that is falling from the Middle Pool. There is magic at the Upper Pool as well, especially during the months when runoff is occurring. At that time, the water is moving so fast it becomes a blur with the rest of the Zion Canyon out in the distance.
#7 Seven Falls
Outside of Tucson, Arizona
Seven Falls are seven short waterfalls that can be found within Bear Canyon in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. These waterfalls are popular because the trail is moderately easy and shares magnificent views of the surrounding area. The trail is 8.2 miles long and you will have many water crossings during your hike. However, you can cut that distance in half by taking the tram to the trailhead. If you do that, you will only be hiking 4.6 miles and that is perfect if you get a late start. The foliage on the trail is breathtaking, so take the time to appreciate it as you are hiking along. When you reach the Seven Falls, you will see huge granite cliffs and amazing views. The pools are inviting as well, so be prepared to jump in for a swim.
#8 Ribbon Falls
North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
You can access Ribbon Falls during the popular Rim to Rim hike in the Grand Canyon, but you can also reach it via the Phantom Ranch. This waterfall is located approximately six miles to the north of Bright Angel Creek, and it is 100 feet high. The hike to this waterfall can be done in one day, but many people will camp in the area for a better experience. The distance to this waterfall from the North Kaibab Trailhead is 8.4 miles, while it is only 5.2 miles from Phantom Ranch. Ribbon Falls is about twenty minutes off the main trail and there is a lot of lush vegetation to see during your hike. It is best to take the time to hike up behind the waterfall, so you can stand behind it for a once in a lifetime experience.
#9 Grand Falls
Navajo Reservation, Arizona
Grand Falls is also known as Chocolate Falls and it is in the Grand Falls Recreational Area. The waterfall itself is 181 feet tall and the water begins to flow as soon as the snow begins to melt in the spring. The rest of the year brings only a trickle of water to this waterfall, so you must plan your trip accordingly. You must drive down an eight-mile dirt road to reach the trailhead to Grand Falls, but from there it is only a one-mile walk to reach your destination. When you reach the waterfall, you will have an option to climb to the pool below. Use caution, as it is a steep climb with lots of rocks.
#10 Bridal Veil Falls
The tallest free-falling waterfalls in the entire state of Colorado are the Bridal Veil Falls. They stand 365 feet tall and send water rushing into the pools below. The hike to the top of Bridal Veil Falls is 1.8 miles, but that doesn’t include the trek into the basin. The hike along the trail will have you seeing lots of native birds, the river, and gorgeous views of downtown Telluride and the canyon. However, your most breathtaking moment will be when you reach the falls themselves.
While you might be a little bummed about not getting permits to Havasupai, there are plenty of other amazing waterfalls to check out from our list. All of these waterfalls are within a 5-hour drive of Havasupai and can help fill that hole in your heart- until permits for Havasupai open up next year!
Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When he’s not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.