Pacheta Falls

Camping

Hiking

Permit

Waterfall

Nature

Pacheta Falls is a hidden gem located on the eastern edge of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, offering a serene and secluded escape into nature. While not as grand in height and width as some well-known waterfalls, its cascading waters over rocky ledges paint a picturesque and tranquil scene. This less frequented waterfall is prized for its pristine environment and cultural significance to the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Fed by Pacheta Creek, which originates in the White Mountains, the falls make a dramatic descent, contributing to the area’s rich biodiversity and lush landscapes. Pacheta Falls is a multi-step cascade, gently tumbling over rocks in smaller drops rather than one large plunge.

Access and Hiking: To visit, you’ll need a Special Use: Black/Salt River permit from the White Mountain Apache Tribe. These permits can be purchased in Whiteriver at the Sunrise Gas Station, the Hondah Casino gas station, and an outdoor store. There are several routes to the falls:

  • Direct Drive Route: Allows almost direct access to the falls, but may require a 4×4 during rainy seasons.
  • Creekside Hike: A 1.25-mile hike starting at Y40, where the creek crosses the road upstream. This path includes a couple of low water crossings and does not require a 4×4.
  • Scenic Downstream Hike: A 1.5-mile hike from the end of Rattlesnake Point along Mill Creek. This route, the most picturesque, offers an immersive experience in the area’s beauty.

Visiting Pacheta Falls demands thorough preparation and expertise due to its extreme remoteness and lack of cell phone service. The area’s confusing network of side roads and the perilous terrain near the waterfall significantly increase the risk of getting lost or injured. It’s crucial to bring a detailed map, ample food and water, and backup battery chargers to ensure safety and preparedness for any situation.

Photo by Matt Greir

Permits: Gaining access to Pacheta Falls involves obtaining a Special Use: Black/Salt River permit ($45) from the White Mountain Apache Tribe, as the falls are situated on protected reservation lands. These permits are available for purchase in Whiteriver, Arizona, at the Sunrise Gas Station, as well as at the Hondah Casino gas station and the outdoor store.

Optimal Time to Visit: The best period to experience Pacheta Falls is during late spring and early summer, following the snowmelt in the White Mountains. This time ensures a stronger flow and a more vibrant display. However, it’s important to be mindful of seasonal changes and check local conditions for accessibility.

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