Nothing excites one more while hiking in the desert than access to water. Bonus points if a waterfall is included. That is why the Waterfall Trail in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a local favorite after a heavy rainstorm.
The Waterfall Trail is short and easy enough for a quick outing which makes it perfect for the entire family- kids, furry ones, and those visiting from out of town. The only trouble is timing it right to actually see the waterfall flowing!
In this guide we’ll go over how to time it right, how to get there, and all necessary trail details. I’ve even added a connecting loop you can add in if you want more of an adventure!
This is 1 of 3 Easy Hikes In White Tank Regional Park. Check out the guide for more!
White Tanks Waterfall Trail Stats
- Hiking Distance | 1.5 miles
- Difficulty | Easy
- Elevation Gain | 238 feet
- Total Time | 1 hour
- Permits/Fees | $7 entry fee
- Trailhead | Waterfall Trailhead
- Road Conditions | Paved
- Dog Friendly | Yes
Below is a map of the route of the Waterfall Trail.
The waterfall trail is an easy trail since it is short in distance and doesn’t climb too much elevation. About half of the trail is actually concrete so if you’re looking for an easy stroll you can go to the end of the concrete portion and back.
Since Waterfall Trail is within the Regional Park you’ll have to pay an entrance fee. If you’re a local I highly recommend investing in the annual Maricopa Regional Park Pass!
About White Tank Regional Park
Entry Fee | $7 entry fee or free with Maricopa Regional Park Pass.
Activities | Good for: hiking, backpacking, running, biking, and horseback riding.
Permits | Only for backcountry backpacking in established sites.
Camping | Tent or RV camping available in developed sites, fees apply.
Hours | November 1st – April 30th: 6am – 8pm daily, May 1st – October 31st: 5am – 9pm daily.
Dogs Allowed | Yes, very dog friendly park!
The White Tank Mountain Regional Park lies on the west side of the Phoenix Valley and is a modest mountain rage full of outdoor recreation opportunities. The trails can be enjoyed by hiking, running, biking, or horseback riding.
This regional park offers a variety of trails for exploration. Some are rated easy while others can be connected to map out a difficult and rugged loop.
The Waterfall Trail is tucked back into the park at the base of the mountains. It doesn’t travel too deep into the mountains, just far enough to give you a bit of a canyon experience.
When To Hike The Waterfall Trail
So, how do you time it so the Waterfall Trail actually has a waterfall? You’ll have to keep an eye on the weather and have some room for spontaneity. I wish there was an easier way but rain storms in the desert tend to be few and far between.
Official monsoon season is between mid June-September, with rain usually not starting until August. That is when the valley gets dumped on (if it is a good year), but, the best times for hiking in the Phoenix Valley is during the months of November-April due to cooler temperatures and winter storms. Hiking outside of these months will be extremely hot and isn’t usually recommended.
Rule of thumb- pay attention to the rainy seasons and start very early in the day to beat the heat if it is during the summer monsoon season. Also keep in mind that you don’t want to be in a canyon like this one during a storm- please wait until after it has passed! But hurry! The waterfall can dry up within 1-2 days afterwards.
Regardless if the water is flowing or not this easy trail in the White Tank Mountains is still worth exploring for it provides beautiful views and fun for the family.
Hiking The White Tanks Waterfall Trail
Getting to the trailhead is very easy for Google Maps leads you right to it. The park also has decent signage so you if you drive around you’ll see signs and won’t miss it.
There is plenty of parking here! You have the option of the main parking lot or additional parking spots lining the main road. I’ve never seen it fully packed to where there were no spots left open.
The Waterfall Trail does get busy during peak times, though, so don’t expect to be alone here!
The first half of the trail is flat concrete which makes it accessible for just about anyone. It leads you towards to base of the mountains and then eventually up into a canyon where it dead ends at the waterfall.
Along the way there are stone benches if you need to take a break as well as informational plaques lining the trail. Unfortunately a lot of these plaques have been faded by the sun so I’m hoping the park replaces them soon.
An added bonus to the Waterfall Trail are the many rock panels of petroglyphs along the way! Pay attention to the signs for they’ll mark where the petroglyphs are plentiful, just off the trail. Please be respectful and stay on the trail and refrain from approaching them. We want to preserve this history!
The petroglyphs were left behind by the Hohokam, a Native American tribe who lived in the White Tank Mountains thousands of years ago. It is estimated they abandoned the mountain range sometime around A.D. 1100.
While they occupied the mountains they farmed cotton, corn, bean, and squash. During this time they dug extensive canal systems in order to irrigate their crops, some of which Phoenix’s canal system follows today.
Beyond the two main petroglyph panels the park call attention to there will be even more scattered about. They are difficult to spot if you’re not paying attention so don’t forget to keep an eye out!. Some can be seen on the boulder in the image below, right next to the steps that lead up and into the waterfall canyon.
There is no way to miss the waterfall for the trail ends right at the base of it. If you’re lucky it will be flowing and if not it will likely be dried up. Monty and I had visited right after some rain hit the valley, but clearly it was not enough.
Pools of water sat within the canyon but there was no flowing water. You’ll have to scramble some rocks to get a little deeper into the canyon and see the top of the waterfall. It looks amazing when it is flowing so I hope to return one day soon and see it for myself!
Once you’ve cooled off in the shade of this small canyon just retrace your steps back to the trailhead. Or, if you’re up for a little more milage and want to add in a loop hike you can connect to the Black Rock Trail Loop.
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Recap: White Tanks Waterfall Trail
Monty and I visited the White Tanks Waterfall Trail right after a rainstorm passed through over night. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough rainfall to give us a waterfall, but it was still a nice afternoon for a hike!
I didn’t feel like our day was totally wasted since we were able to get outside and be active, witness the petroglyphs along the trail, and connect to the Black Rock Trail for even more exercise.
My fingers are crossed we get some good winter storms this year so I can return to actually see a waterfall! It looks like there are levels to it and it will be quite impressive.