Known as the Garden of Eden in the desert, the Havasupai Reservation is not only home to the Grand Canyon area's indigenous Native American tribe, but it is home to the reservations crowning glory - the Havasu Falls. As one of the most famous and beautiful waterfalls in the world, the waterfall attracts almost as much interest as the rim of the Grand Canyon. Helicopter and horse tours to the village of Havasupai are all popular and easy ways to visit. However, the real hikers will want to make the challenging trek that travels through the barren desert and baking sun on the 10-mile Havasupai Trail from Hualapai Hilltop.
Due to the challenge of the hike, day hiking along this trail is not allowed. Hikers must reserve at least one night at the Havasupai campground. Some hikers pay the camping fee and hike the trail in one day despite the risk, but that leaves little time to enjoy not only Havasu Falls, but the other waterfalls in the area.
As the Havasupai natives wish to preserve the natural beauty of Havasu Falls, only a select number of camping reservations are issued each year. Hikers may have to book trips up to 6 months in advance to find an opening.
|Trail Length:||20 miles (roundtrip)||City/State:|| Supai,
|Elevation:||3,250 feet loss
As the Supai village in Havasu Canyon is not accessible by any road, the hike begins 10 miles away on the Hualapai Hilltop. From Interstate 40, turn north on Historic Route 66. Hikers can either take Exit 53 and drive for 45 minutes or wait for the Seligman exit to cut the trip down to 25. Regardless, both roads lead to State Secondary Road 18 that dead ends into the large Hualapai Hilltop parking area.
Before setting out, or even making plans to set out, be ready for what is ahead. While the end destination is beautiful, the path there is pretty desolate. Hikers are in for a 10-mile trek, which in and of itself may not be so bad, but it is 4 to 7 hours of hiking in the hot sun. There is no fresh water available until hikers reach the village, so hikers will want to bring at least a gallon.
The hike at the trailhead begins with a solid mile of switchbacks that lead down into the Hualapai Canyon. Those who love sweeping views over the desert will love this section. Aside from the waterfalls, the switchbacks host the best views of the hike. Although the trail is downhill, the 2,000-foot descent is nothing to sniff at. Hikers will also want to be mindful of the mules that the Havasupai people use to transport goods to and from the village. They are not afraid to kick or stomp on the feet of those who crowd them; however, most of the trail is wide enough to pass. Note the U.S. Mail Crates on their backs as they pass by though. Havasupai is the only place in the United States that still gets their mail by muleback. It is worth being mindful that mules aren't the only animals that hang around the trail; wild horses, lizards and the occasional rattlesnake enjoy the trail as well.
At the end of the switchbacks, hikers are in the washed out bottom of the canyon. Unfortunately, the canyons walls give little in the way of decent shade. Aside from being very sunny and very hot throughout the year, there isn't much of interest on the rest of the hike until the villages gets closer. For about the next 8-or-so miles, the trail follows the gently sloping wash as the canyon gradually drops down over layers of Supai sandstone. One notable landmark is the junction between the Haulapai Canyon and the Havasu Canyon.
Obviously, hikers will want to bear right and venture into the Havasu Canyon. However, most will note the nature of the canyon floor begins to shift soon after. As hikers approach the Havasu Springs, the area begins to look more like its nickname, a veritable Garden of Eden.
The Havasu Springs are the spawning point of a small, but striking river that runs through the canyon. The clear water of this spring runs a light turquoise color that leaves quite the impression. As the trail follows the little river, hikers are immersed in the welcome shadow of tall willow, tamarisk and cottonwood trees.
From the confluence, it is just a mile and a half to the village of Supai. However, hikers shouldn't expect a bustling little town. There is actually not too much there aside from a few public buildings and houses. Hikers will need to check in at the tourist office to confirm their reservations in the middle of the village. Be sure to stock up on supplies at the convenience store before continuing on.
From here, the trail heads back into a narrow stretch of the canyon on its way to the campground. However, before heading to the campground, the trail does show off what brought hikers here. At two miles from the village, the Havasu Falls drops 100 stunning feet into its crystal clear pool below. The trail actually starts atop the falls before it meanders down.
A half mile further is the campground complete with fresh water and shaded campsites. However, after a long hike most visitors are slow to set up camp and will instead go for a quick dip in the Havasu Falls. While Havasu Falls may have been slightly damaged during a flash flood in 2008, contrary to what has been said, it has done little to change them. The only result is Havasu is slightly less powerful than it used to be. However, when it comes to cliff jumping and scenic swimming, nothing has changed.
In a half a mile in the other direction from the campground, Mooney Falls is less magical looking, but much bigger than Havasu. The largest of the Havasupai waterfalls, Mooney Falls drops 190 feet into the pool below. Unfortunately, reaching it is no easy task. Descending to Mooney Falls requires hikers to travel through a small sloping tunnel before climbing down a series of chains, ladders and metal handles that allow visitors to descend the cliff.
This area is often a less crowded swimming spot. However, it is not recommended to do any cliff jumping here as the water is so shallow.
From Mooney Falls there is yet another fabulous waterfall. The trail down river continues three miles towards Beaver Falls. However, as the trail is often just walking through the river, hikers should be prepared to get wet during this leg. Beaver Falls are much shorter, but they are the more complex. Hikers can either cross the river or climb down the ladder near the falls. The ladder is actually the longer trail for those that just want to get to the swimming pools. However, it does boast some great views of a dense, vine-covered canyon below.
Have you visited the incredible Havasu Falls?
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