Chiva Falls in Tucson, Arizona

Chiva Falls


Mileage: 8.5
Elevation gain: 1264 feet
Time to complete: 4-5 hours
Stars: ★★★★
Difficulty: 2/5 (Ratings explained)
Long hike, uneven terrain

The hike to Chiva Falls follows a Jeep road through an ugly desert adorned with the occasional saguaro cactus, cattle and fences, garbage left by unscrupulous folks, and acres upon acres of catclaw. Although the hike is nothing special on its own, Chiva Falls is so magnificent that it more than makes up for the hike in (if you catch it at the right time). Plus, if you have a Jeep and some guts, you can skip the hike and just drive in. Don’t expect to get there any faster than the hikers, though.

Trail Description

Chiva Falls requires a significant amount of rainfall to flow, and we heard from someone we met out there that it hadn’t been flowing as hard as what we saw in 20 years. It had been raining for several days before we went, so this is one of those hikes that you have to time just right to get the most out of it.

The Road

The road to get to the trailhead is not too bad. The worst we experienced was big puddles and lots of potholes, but we saw a Volkswagen Jetta out there making its way. So, it’s possible for a passenger vehicle, but take caution if you decide to drive this road in wet, muddy conditions.

Once at the Chiva Falls Trailhead, the road out to the falls is technically passable by a capable 4×4 with high clearance, but we did not want to chance it. We saw three Jeep Wranglers and two side-by-sides driving it. One Jeep driver said he bottomed out a few times, but he also seemed unfazed by the road, proudly proclaiming, “This is what it’s made for!” Jeep owners are a wild bunch.

Chiva Falls Trail

The nice thing about this road being so rough is that you won’t have much traffic to interrupt your hike, and the traffic you do have are mostly cool Jeep people who drive through a big, muddy puddle just to make sure they don’t disappoint you. Yeah, that happened.

Since it is a road, it never gets very steep, and you won’t have to deal with overgrowth or evil plants. Just some rocky, uneven sections where you’ll be wondering how in the world these Jeep people do it.

The 4x4 road to Chiva Falls

Unless, of course, you decide to try a “short cut,” which leads you in the completely wrong direction, and then you decide to get back on track by going cross country through thick beds of catclaw and soggy mud bogs. Yeah, who would do that? Not us, never.

As for the scenery. Meh. It’s a bit higher elevation, so the saguaro cactuses are few, and the landscape is dominated by the occasional shrubby tree and catclaw as far as the eye can see. Mica Mountain looms in the distance, which sometimes it has a pretty layer of snow on it, so at least you have that to look at.

Chiva Falls

After a couple of miles, you’ll be able to see the canyon that contains the waterfall in the distance. Get excited, people! Your drab journey is about to get way more exciting! If you persevere through it all, you’ll eventually arrive in the canyon, and it is an awesome sight to see when it’s flowing hard.

Chiva Falls in Tucson

Behind the waterfall on this right is a small cave that you can climb up into. Once there, you can also carefully make your way down behind the waterfall.

Behind Chiva Falls

Be advised, you might get a little bit wet! It was all worth it, though, right? See, I told you.

Now hustle out, and you can beat the Jeeps, but don’t go taking any shortcuts.

Map & Directions

Location Coronado National Forest, Tucson, Arizona

Chiva Falls Trailhead

Fees/Passes None

Trailhead Facilities None

Download KML or GPX

Preview this Hike

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Disclaimer Outdoor activities have inherent risk, and we will not be able to tell you all the risks you may face. You are responsible for your own safety, so prepare as well as you can and know your limits. Follow this guide at your own risk. And have fun!

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