I stumbled across the Havasu Falls hike somewhere in the depths of the Web… it looked amazing, and yet I hadn’t seen it in any of my US hiking books: “The Havasupai Waterfalls are the most dramatic waterfalls in the Grand Canyon and possibly even the entire Southwestern United States” and “Havasupai (Havasu Falls) might just be one the the most beautiful places on Earth” are a few of the descriptions of this overnight hike.
It turns out all these descriptions were spot on – the journey through the Havasupai Canyon to Havasu Falls remains one of the most stunning hikes I’ve done…
Day 1 – Down to Havasu Falls and beyond
Arriving at the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead at sunrise, I start the hike to Havasu Falls. From the outset there are impressive views down the Hualapai Canyon, which is a side canyon of the Grand Canyon. A few mules are tethered near the start of the trail – this is the only place in the US where mail is delivered by mule (UK Daily Mail).
The trail drops quickly from 1575m above sea level down into the canyon via a series of switchbacks, before following the dry floor canyon. After about 10km the Havasu Canyon is reached, and some trees and greenery start to appear… another 2km and I reach the village of Supai at 975m).
Supai is an interesting place. Home to the Havasupai Tribe, which has a population of about 600 people, it’s the smallest Indian nation in America. Reached by foot, mule and helicopter, the Havasupai tribe has been living in the area for centuries. The land on which the Supai village is now situated was claimed from the National Park in 1975, after many court battles, granting the tribe a trust title to approximately 185,000 acres (source: Wikipedia). The village now has a shop, cafe, church, post office, health clinic and a lodge, which is where I stayed overnight (day-hikes are not permitted, and it would be a very long day hiking back up to the top of the canyon). The village looks pretty run-down and while many locals are reliant on tourism, no-one appears particularly friendly…
I check-in to Supai Lodge around midday and continue hiking down Havasu Canyon towards Havasu Falls. The best is yet to come: Havasupai is roughly translated as “the people of the blue-green waters”, in reference to the amazing turquoise colour of Havasu Creek, which is formed by leaching from minerals. Navajo Falls is reached first, a short detour off the main track about 3km beyond the village.
It is spectacular. One of those spots where I know the photos won’t do justice to what I am seeing.
I take many photos, and continue… Another 3km and I reach (arguably) the star attraction: Havasu Falls. Being outside peak season there are a few other people on the track and swimming, but there is also a sense of isolation and serenity. It’s somewhere I could happily camp and stay for a few days.
A little further again (another 2km from Havasu Falls) after walking through the fairly-empty Havasu camping ground, and I reach the 70m-high Mooney Falls (these are the highest). The base of the Mooney Falls is accessed through a rough track carved through the cliff and then down some less than confidence-inspiring wooden ladders. But it’s worth the effort. Each waterfall seems to outdo the last in beauty and amazing-ness – and this one is stunning,
There’s one more waterfall, with a 4km stretch to Beaver Falls from the base of Mooney Falls. The track is well-defined, but gets a bit rough in sections, with a number of ladders and steep sections to scramble down as it alternates between the two banks of Havasu Creek.
At last, Beaver Falls. I’ve walked 24km from the start of the hike at the top of the canyon. I still have another 11km back up to the lodge at Supai where I’ll sleep tonight. It’s another 7km further before Havasu Creek meets the Colorado River, and I fear that I won’t be back at Supai village in time to get some dinner.
I take a few (more) photos, and reluctantly head back up the trail. I’ve got enough time for a swim at Havasu Falls – the water is warm and relaxing – and make it back to the Sinyella cafe in Supai on the far side of the village about half an hour before it closes. A cold drink and fry-bread never tasted so good!
Supai Lodge is fairly basic, but I sleep very soundly (after a mix-up with rooms is eventually solved, and I am allocated a room that doesn’t already have an occupant)!
Day 2 – Supai village back to Hualapai Hilltop
It’s an early start again the next day: back through the village, up Havasu Canyon and then the final ascent up Hualapai Canyon to the car. It’s a decent climb and best to start early.
I get back mid-morning. It’s been a spectacular day and and half. I wish I could stay longer. But today, I have a conference to get to.
What’s the best time to visit Havasu Falls?
March through June is considered the best time. Avoid monsoon season (mid-July to August) when flash flooding can occur – and the trail into Havasu Canyon may be closed due to either heat or the risk of flash floods.
Getting to the waterfalls of the Havasu Canyon
12.3km (7.6 mile) from Hualapai Hilltop to Supai village +1.5km (1 mile) to Navajo Falls +2.4km (1.5 miles) to Havasu Falls +3.6km (2.3 miles) to Mooney Falls +8.5km (5.2 miles) to Beaver Falls
More information on Havasu Falls
- Havasupai / Havasu Falls Campground Reservations and Lodge reservations
- The Havasupai Tribe – official Web site
- Scott S Warren, “100 Classic Hikes in Arizona” – Purchase US / AU
- BigBoyTravel blog – Havasu Falls