On the second day of our journey to Havasu Falls, we decided to take on the challenging Mooney Falls climb and then hike down to Beaver Falls. Mooney Falls sits on the far end of the Havasupai Campground and as such our tent was perched on the cliffs right above the waterfall which was very cool. We had an amazing campsite to hear the crash of the water as well as views down the canyon.
- Permit: Required to hike to Havasupai & Mooney Falls
- Type: Out-and-Back
- Distance: 0.5-mile from Havasupai Campground
- 11.5-miles from Hilltop Trailhead
- Class: Dangerous (read on)
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 200′
Use These Links to Navigate to Any Part of This Journey Through Havasu
- Havasu Falls Introduction
- Havasu Reservation
- Hiking to Havasu Falls
- Havasupai Campground
- Climbing Mooney Falls
- Hiking Beaver Falls
- Hiking Fifty Foot Falls
- Things to Know and Pack
Descending Mooney Falls
The 200’ descent down to the base of Mooney Falls isn’t for the faint of heart. This is by far the most challenging area along our entire journey. The trail down starts easy enough with some switchbacks on rocky terrain. It is fairly easy and some handrails have been installed in certain areas for safety. The biggest concern here would be catching a protruding rock and tumbling over the cliff edge. Use caution and it is easy enough.
The Tunnels of Mooney Falls
The next section, however, is more difficult. The path enters into some man-made tunnels. The steps cut into the earth are irregular and difficult to see because it is dark in tunnels :). The first tunnel drops onto a terrace overlooking the falls with a chain railing for safety. The trail continues into the next tunnel which is shorter but the steps are still uneven.
Spikes and Chains
Exiting the second tunnel intrepid travelers find themselves on a ledge looking straight down a series of steps that are etched vertically into the cliff face with spikes and chains to assist with the descent. Gloves are usually laying about in the cave areas and I suggest putting a pair on as the metal chains and spikes are covered in water spraying off the 200’ high Mooney Falls. The remainder of the descent is increasingly slippery.
The Tree Trunk and the Small Ladder
Nearing the end of the gauntlet of chains and metal spikes there is a tree trunk with five steps cut into it that is used by hikers to lower themselves onto a ledge above a small ladder. The tree trunk is the most difficult obstacle that we encountered on the path. Next is the small ladder. Don’t lean back too far on the ladder as it does have some play in its bindings and it will shift about 4-inches if you do. Those unprepared for the shift might lose their footing.
The Long Ladder
The last obstacle is a much longer ladder. The most difficult part of which is getting on to it. Once on just be aware that the rungs will most likely be covered in mud from previous users. Keep in mind that this path down is the one that must be taken back up as well.
I figured a worded guide would not do the Mooney Falls climb justice so I made this video of my ascent of the entire section.
When to Climb Mooney Falls
My suggestion is to get an early start on your descent to Mooney Falls as it is much easier with fewer people. The line into the tunnel had started to form up at about 8:15 AM when we were there. Our initial descent was very slow and with that many people, the danger level goes up. If someone above you slips they will most likely take you and everyone else with them on their way down.
The view from the base of Mooney Falls is amazing. It is well worth the adventure and effort to get down the gauntlet. While Havasu Falls is a better spot for splashing and swimming around in the waters below, Mooney Falls is twice as high and has more gravitas. There is an enticing rope swing into one of the pools below Mooney Falls, so it does have some recreational opportunities as well.