Rumour has it that Water Wheel Falls is one of the single best water hikes in all of Arizona! The Water Wheel Falls hiking trail is second to none.
Check out the incredible, natural beauty of this must-see in Arizona.
Welcome To Water Wheel falls
Something amazing has happened at the Water Wheel Falls on the Tuolumne River.
You’ll find the Tuolumne River in California. It flows from central Sierra Nevada in Yosemite National Park to a merge with the San Joaquin River in Central Valley. This is close to Modesto.
The area of the river that begins below Tuolumne Meadows. It then ends close to Hetch Hetchy Valley, and is known as the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
This is where something magical has happened. The riverbed forms a dramatic staircase through much of the length of the river. The rock bed creates a series of dramatic waterfalls.
The greatest of all of them is the 800-foot Water Wheel Falls, the largest of all the waterfalls on the Tuolumne River. Here, the river cascades down a series of small ledges on an inclined surface. This causes the water to deflect away from the rock surface in the shape of wheels of water.
It’s incredible… during the seasons where the water is higher in early summer the waterwheels can rise up to 20 feet high.
History Of Water Wheel Falls
There’s an old water wheel visible from the trailhead that The Water Wheel Falls Trail is named after. The wheel, which is at the start of the Water Wheel Hiking Trail, was built in the early 1900s. A miner by the name of James Greer is said to have built it to power an ore crusher that extracted gold.
In addition to this, the 1874 version of “The Yosemite Guide Book” called the waterfalls “rocket cascades”. This name, however didn’t stick. It didn’t show up in any maps or appear in any guide books after.
The current name Water Wheel Falls first appeared in 1911.
Visit The Water Wheel Falls Hiking Trail
Once you arrive in the parking lot of Water Wheel Falls you’ll find a dirt path that goes to either the right or the left. Take the trail to the left to get to the waterfall.
It’s a sandy trail, but it’s mostly flat. The East Verde River will run along your right side. Keep going and the dirt path will lead you to a rocky landscape. Keep following along the river. At the time of writing this, the marked trail disappears around this point.
There’s a narrow gorge you can cliff-dive into along the way. Please exercise caution! The cliffs are steep and dangerous.
There are many spots for sunbathing and playing along the way. However, if you want to just get straight there, stick to your right and keep going. Water Wheel Falls isn’t far, and it’s basically the perfect desert oasis for summer swimming.
When To Visit
The waterfall is open year round. The flow, however, is more interesting and beautiful after heavy rainfall. You can also see incredible water wheels after snow melts in the area.
Note that the water is super cold, even in the middle of summer!
How To Get There
To get to Water Wheel Falls, here is a trail map for you.
From the intersection of 87A and 260 in Payson, you’ll take 260 north. Go 2 miles to Houston Mesa Rd. From there, turn right and head north on Houston Mesa Road. Then, continue 7.75 miles to the Water Wheel Hiking Trailhead. You’ll find it on the right side of the road.
Please remember to take only photographs and leave only footprints. All the best to you in your adventures!