Guide to the Mooney Falls Hike in Havasupai AZ

As a travel blogger and avid hiker, I’ve seen my fair share of breathtaking trails and magnificent views. But none of them come close to the Mooney Falls hike in Havasupai, Arizona.

At 200 ft tall, Mooney Falls is twice the height of Havasu Falls. It is the tallest of the 5 waterfalls in Havasupai waterfalls located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon.

The waterfall is so strikingly blue, similar to Havasu Falls, but much more powerful.

Not only is it a breathtaking sight, but reaching the turquoise pool at the base of the falls is quite the adventure.

The Mooney Falls hike is not for the faint of heart. It’s adventurous, exhilarating, and downright dangerous. But the reward at the end of the trail is well worth the effort. So much so, that we literally couldn’t stay away. After a timid descent the first time around, we ended up hiking the trail 2 more times during our short stay in Havasupai.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to prepare for the Mooney Falls hike. From how to get there and the quick facts about the falls, to what to expect during the hike, I’ve got you covered.

Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or a first-time adventurer, this guide will help you make the most of your trip to Mooney Falls.

What’s in this guide?

  • Important updates for Havasupai Permits in 2023
  • How to get to Mooney Falls AZ
  • What to expect from the hike to the bottom of Mooney Falls
  • Swimming in Mooney Falls
  • When to go
  • What to pack

More Guides for Havasupai:

Havasu Falls Hike and Havasupai Waterfalls Trail Guide Arizona

How to Hike Beaver Falls in Havasupai Arizona

Bottom of Mooney Falls in Havasupai Arizona

Important updates for Havasupai Permits in 2023

Havasupai is finally open again! After a nearly 3 year shutdown from COVID-19, the Havasupai Indian Reservation is opening for tourism again in 2023. The Reservation officially opened back up on February 1st 2023.

Here’s what you need to know for Havasu Falls permits in 2023:

  • The permit system opened at 8:00 AM Arizona Time on February 1, 2023.
  • Reservations can only be made online on the official Havasupai Reservation website.
  • Current permit holders with reservations between June 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022 will be rescheduled for the same date in 2023. This includes pack mule reservations.
  • New 2023 permits are posted to the Cancel & Transfer List
  • Minimum reservation is 4 days/3 nights
  • Full payment must be made upon permit reservation
  • Only one credit card per group is allowed on file (and that person MUST be present at check-in at the village)
  • Payments are non-refundable and non-transferable, unless processed through the Official Transfer System on the Havasupai Reservation website.

Havasupai permit prices by the Havasupai Tribe tribal council each year and are subject to change without notice. Check the official Havasupai Reservation website for the most up to date information.

Where is Mooney Falls Arizona?

Mooney Falls is located in Havasu Canyon on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, just west of Grand Canyon National Park in Northern Arizona. It is a 3.5 drive from Las Vegas, NV and 4 hours from Phoenix, AZ.

The village of Supai is located within the canyon, and you will need to hike through it before reaching Mooney Falls. The falls are a 1 mile hike from Havasu Falls, which is the last stop on the trail before Mooney Falls.

View from the top of Mooney Falls next to the trailhead in Havasu

How to get to Mooney Falls AZ

The hike to Mooney Falls in the Havasupai Indian Reservation is part of a multi-day backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

To reach the waterfall, you need to prepare for a strenuous and long hike into the Grand Canyon or fly in with a helicopter. Mooney Falls is in a very remote location and is not accessible by car.

An overnight stay at the Indian reservation is required to visit Mooney Falls AZ. You can’t visit Mooney Falls on a day trip.

To get to Mooney Falls, you need to have a Havasu Falls permit. You can obtain a permit and campground reservation through the Havasupai Reservation website.

The hike starts at the Hualapai Hilltop, also called the Havasu Falls Trailhead. This is the trailhead for the 10-mile trek down into the canyon to the Havasu Falls campground.

The actual Mooney Falls trail begins at the northwest end of the Havasupai Campground. To get there from Havasu Falls, follow the path through the campground all the way to the other end.

Mooney Falls Hike from Supai Village Trail Map

A general overview of the Mooney Falls Arizona hike:

  • Difficulty: Difficult due to the steep descent
  • Length: 1 mile from Havasu Falls
  • Route type: out and back
  • Elevation gain /loss: 200 feet
  • Location: Havasupai Indian Reservation, Arizona
  • Beaver Falls Coordinates: 36.2631188° N, 112.7085305 ° W
  • Permit required? Yes. A Havasupai permit is required.

What to expect from hiking to the bottom of Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls is the most adventurous Havasupai falls hike and one of our most memorable moments from our trip to the Havasupai Indian Reservation.

The trail is an old mining route that was established in the 20th century. It’s pretty short, but involves a challenging climb down the cliff next to the waterfall using a series of chains and ladders.

Parts of the Mooney Falls trail are usually slippery from the mist from the falls. It is essential to wear proper footwear, such as hiking boots or sturdy trail shoes, that provide good traction and grip on wet or slippery surfaces.

The Mooney Falls hike AZ starts at the "descend at own risk" sign at the top of the waterfall

Mooney Falls is at the northwest end of the Havasu campground. The trail starts at the top of the waterfall next to the sign that says “descend at own risk”.

Just after the sign you will see a hole in the rock that was part of the old mining passageway.

We were hesitant to enter the first time we saw it because it’s small and dark, and we didn’t know what to expect. But just trust the process go through the cave. It’s not very big and opens up to the coolest view of Mooney Falls!

Just after the "descend at own risk" sign, there's a hole in the rock that was part of the old mining passageway used to get to the bottom of Mooney Falls in the 20th century

Tip: Up until this point, the trail isn’t very steep. If you decide not to continue, you can stop at this point in the trail and admire the view of Mooney Falls from here.

Some of my favorite photos (like the one below) were taken from this spot. It’s a really spectacular view of Mooney Falls and makes for some epic photos!

The first real obstacle you will encounter on the trail is a steep descent down some stairs carved into the rock. There are chains bolted into the rock on either side to help you get down.

Tip: It’s easiest to descend facing the wall.

This is where I spent a few minutes trying to decide if it was better to go down facing the wall or go down like a set of stairs. I quickly learned that it was significantly easier (and much less scary) to face the wall and use the chains to help lower myself down.

Descending Mooney Falls trail using ladders and chains in Grand Canyon AZ

After the stairs, you end up on a narrow ledge that leads to a set of ladders and chains. This section of the trail is especially tricky. From here, you will descend several steep ladders. Keep a firm grip on the chains. They can be slippery from the mist off the waterfall.

The final descent to the waterfall’s base is the most precarious because the chains and ladders in this section are almost vertical.

Be sure to use extreme caution and go slow as you descend. The drop-offs are steep, and a misstep could be dangerous.

How fast you get down depends entirely on your comfort level and how many people are behind you. There might be a line of people waiting for you to go down the ladder during peak times. But don’t let them rush you! Take your time so that you make it safely to the bottom.

View of the Mooney Falls AZ hike as seen from the bottom.

Once you reach the bottom of the falls, you’re rewarded with a stunning view of the 200-foot tall waterfall! 

At the base of Mooney Falls, you have two options: 

  1. Hang out and enjoy the beauty of the falls before starting the ascent back up the trail. It’s important to remember that the hike back up can be just as challenging as the descent, so take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
  2. Continue your hike to Beaver Falls AZ, which is 3 miles one-way from the base of Mooney Falls.

Overall, the hike to the bottom of Mooney Falls AZ is an unforgettable hike that requires a bit of physical effort and a lot of caution. But with the right gear and mindset, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t want to miss.

Can You Swim in Mooney Falls?

Yes, you can swim in the pool at the base of Mooney Falls in Arizona. The turquoise pool is a popular spot for people to cool off and enjoy the stunning scenery. Like all of the waterfalls in Havasupai AZ, Mooney Falls stays a consistent 70 degrees Fahrenheit all year.
However, Mooney Falls is a very powerful waterfall with a dangerous under-current. If you’re not a strong swimmer, stay in the shallows and don’t get too close to the waterfall.

How hard is the hike to Mooney Falls?

The hike to Mooney Falls in Arizona is moderately difficult due to a steep and slippery descent on chains and ladders. While it seems intimidating, the hike to Mooney Falls is totally doable as long as you prepare, use caution, and wear the proper footwear. You do not need any prior climbing experience.
Parts of the trail are usually very slippery from the mist coming off Mooney Falls. It’s important to wear proper footwear, such as hiking boots or sturdy trail shoes, and use extreme caution when navigating the steep sections of the trail.

How long does the hike take?

Making the 200 foot climb down to the base of Mooney Falls doesn’t take long. It took us maybe 10 minutes. But this time will be different for everyone, depending on your comfort level and how many people are on the trail at once.
The trail is technical and narrow, with no room for two-way traffic. This means you will have to wait for people to complete the climb before you can go, which may add a bunch of time.

What is Mooney Falls named after?

Mooney Falls was named in 1882 after the death of D.W. “James” Mooney. Mooney was a miner and early explorer of the Grand Canyon. He died trying to climb down to the waterfall before the trail was established.

There are a few different versions of exactly how he died. One story says James Mooney fell to his death trying to climb the falls with someone on his back. Another story claims he died after getting hung up on a rope he was using to scale the side of the falls.

When to Hike to Mooney Falls Arizona

Mooney Falls is accessible all year and water temperatures stay a consistent 70 degrees Fahrenheit year round.

However, the best time to visit Mooney Falls in Havasupai is in the spring (March – May) and late fall (October – November) when daytime temperatures are cooler and perfect for hiking.

Summer months  (June – September) are most popular for swimming but can bring monsoons and flash floods.

You can visit Mooney Falls at any time of day. However, try to avoid doing it in the dark due to the technical nature of the trail and risk of accidents.

I recommend doing this hike sometime in the morning. There are less hikers on the trail early in the day, which means you can take your time climbing down ladders without feeling rushed. This will also give you plenty of time to explore the cascades downstream, like Beaver Falls or the Colorado River.

We hiked Mooney Falls multiple times between 7:00 – 9:00AM throughout our visit in March. Several times we were the only people there!

The best time to photography Mooney Falls is midday when the sun is overhead. This waterfall is more shaded than the other 5 Havsaupai waterfalls due to it’s position in the narrow canyon. Unfortunately, you don’t find very dreamy light here because most of the canyon is in harsh shadow early and late in the day.

Cascades of blue-green water in Havasu Creek

Tips for your hike

The hike to Mooney Falls Grand Canyon is exhilarating! While it is certainly not for everyone, it is definitely doable for most people as long as you are prepared, use caution, and have proper footwear.

Here are a few essential tips to be aware of before you hit the trail:

  1. Be prepared: Mooney Falls is a challenging hike that won’t be suitable for everyone. Do your research ahead of time so you know what to expect. Then you can decide if this is a hike for you.
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  2. Wear proper footwear: I know I sound like a broken record, but proper footwear is non-negotiable for your hike down Mooney Falls. The ladders and stone steps get extremely slippery when the mist blows off Mooney Falls. Having the proper footwear will prevent you from slipping.
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  3. Don’t push yourself: One of the most important rules of hiking is to know your limits. If you have a fear of heights, consider seeing Mooney Falls from the top instead of climbing down to the bottom. If you are unsure how you will handle the climb down, either don’t do it or get an early start to beat rush hour. And finally, remember it is always okay to stop if you decide this hike isn’t for you.
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  4. Take your time: The Mooney Falls trail is narrow and doesn’t allow for two way traffic. It’s nerve wracking to look down and see a crowd of people waiting for you to get down the ladders, but don’t let them rush you. The ladders and chains become very slippery from the mist off the waterfall so always take your time and use extreme caution to avoid slipping.

What to Pack for Mooney Falls Hike

Leave your backpacking and camping gear at your campsite before you hike to Mooney Falls Arizona.

Instead, grab your day pack and the few essentials outlined below.

Make sure to dress appropriately for the trail conditions. You need proper hiking boots or trail runners with a good grip.

In addition to the 10 essentials, here’s what to pack: 

  • Quality daypack or dry bag: Leave your big backpack and your camping gear at your campsite. Only take a daypack or a dry bag for your hike to Beaver Falls.
  • Shoes: No flip flops. You need sturdy shoes with good traction for the slippery descent down Mooney Falls.
  • Clothing: You don’t need long hiking pants. Shorts or leggings are fine. Bring a hat, sunglasses and a sun shirt to protect yourself from the baking sun. Check out this post for the best clothes to wear for desert hiking.
  • Bathing suit: There is nowhere to change at Mooney Falls, so I recommend wearing your bathing suit underneath your clothes.
  • Sunscreen: The desert sun is no joke!
  • Plenty of water: Fill up your water bottle before you leave the Havasu campground. A general rule for hiking is to bring 1 liter of water per person for every 2 hours of hiking.
  • Snacks: There is nowhere to get snacks once you leave the campground, so make sure to pack some with you to fuel your hike. If you need to stock up, there is a small general store in Supai village.
  • Gopro: Expect to get wet on the Mooney Falls trail. GoPros are perfect for this hike because they’re small, lightweight, and waterproof even without a housing.

If you extend your hike to Beaver Falls, keep in mind that you will hike an additional 6 miles round trip through varying conditions on the Beaver Falls trail. Prepare for river crossings, slippery ladders, and rocky pathways.

Read next: What to Pack for a Day Hike: Essential Gear and Complete Packing List

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The hike to the bottom of Mooney Falls is not for the faint of heart and certainly will not be for everyone. But with good planning, some preparation, and a little nerve, the Mooney Falls hike will be an unforgettable experience that you’ll talk about for years to come.

Did this guide inspire you to tackle the Mooney Falls in Havasupai, AZ? Let me know in the comments!

More Guides to Havsaupai and Arizona

Havasu Falls Hike & Havasupai Waterfalls Trail Guide Arizona

How to Hike Beaver Falls in Havasupai Arizona

Las Vegas to Sedona Road Trip (3 Jam-Packed Itineraries to See it All in Less Time)

Hiking Guide to the Hidden Birthing Cave in Sedona, Arizona

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Jackie - Adventure Travel Blogger and Author at The Adventures Atlas
( Adventure Travel Expert )

Hi, I’m Jackie! I’m a travel photographer and content creator based near the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. I’m also a millennial who works full-time, yet I still find ways to travel frequently without breaking the bank, because traveling is what makes me feel most alive. Now I help fellow travelers who also work 9-5 and are looking for ways to travel more with limited PTO.

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