LOCATION: Havasupai Indian Reservation, Arizona
ABOUT THE AREA
Havasu Falls is located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation outside of Peach Springs, Arizona. The falls are known for their natural pools which are created by mineralization. High calcium carbonate in the water creates the bright blue in the limestone that lines the creek which reflects the color so strongly.
The creek is also ever changing since anything that falls into the creek mineralizes very quickly and causes new formations and flows of the water. This means that the falls look different every year and sometimes has two chutes of water instead of one. The Havasupai tride have acquired the land after residing in the area for over 800 years and have since turned it into their source of income by making it a tourist attraction. The only access to the falls is to hike down from Hualapai Hilltop.
The hike is a 2,000 foot drop into the canyon for 2 miles and then 6 miles through a wash before you get to the village of Supai. From there, it is another 2 mile hike to the falls and the campground with a drop in elevation of 350ft. You can access the village by hiking, riding horseback, or taking their helicopter (only available on certain days and not guaranteed). The village also only allows around 200 permits per day, which makes this hike very secluded and privileged to say the least.
GETTING TO THE AREA
I was able to do this hike mostly by sheer luck of timing. Reservations, which are required, fill up fast are only available via calling the Supai reservation line. They have four numbers, and only ONE guy answering them to fulfill permits. Result: a very very busy three days calling a busy phone line to get through. Yes, it took me three days to get through. Reservations start February 1st for the year. I started calling on February 3rd. I never got through on the camping line, but did on the lodge phone line and was able to secure the last two nights available for April at the lodge. YAY me!
My friend Logan and I drove up to Peach Springs the night before and stayed at the Grand Canyon Caverns motel. Along the way, you hit Route 66 in Seligman, which was pretty fun for some touristy things to get into.
Route 66 and Peach Springs are last service area before heading to the hike. While the motel looked like something out of a horror movie, it was actually pretty nice.
They had good food, and you could tour the caverns at night for a ghost tour (sadly no ghosts were heard or seen). They also provide a free breakfast in the morning so we could fuel up before the hike started. Other than this service station, the next biggest city was Chino Valley. We bought a pizza there and put it in a cooler and hiked down with pizza in zip lock bags. Probably one of the best ideas ever, it was amazing to have pizza after a long hike!
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING, THE VILLAGE AREA AND THE FALLS
The drive to the hilltop was about 1.5 hours from Peach Springs and consisted of mainly farm land with cows roaming everywhere. You knew you were there based off of all the cars parked along the road. We thought we were going to have a hard time parking with a hike to the actual hike, but it wasn’t as bad as anticipated. Some people choose to sleep in the parking lot the night before and then hike down when they wake. There are bathrooms at the top, so it is feasible, but really the motel was a great option for only $90 a night.
The hike down was 2 miles of switchbacks down into the canyon. It was a really rocky terrain, however the rocks acted more like steps as opposed to having just a sheer walk down. Walking poles helped a LOT!
Once 2 miles in, the rest was through a wash. The scenery around the hike was some of the best I’ve ever seen. Red rocks for miles and miles and just very inspiring. Also through the hike, we had to be mindful of the mule/horse trains passing by taking supplies up to the top and back. These horses were trained on the path and would just run with or without a guide herding them. It was definitely amazing to see.
About a mile outside of the village you started to come across the water. It was so blue and definitely made us excited to see the falls even more. Since we were staying at the lodge, we were able to stay in the Supai village. I had read a few blogs that said the locals were really mean to tourists but that was not the case for us at all. Everyone was very welcoming, nice and helpful.
The village consisted of a cafe that sold breakfast, lunch and dinner, which also had Indian Fry Bread. Indian Fry Bread, which is fry bread with powdered sugar and honey, is insanely good after hiking. YUM! The village also had a school, grocery store (the prices are high), a fire station, police station, and several churches.
There was also a post office, which is unique because it is the only post office in the United States that is served by mule train. Sending a postcard from here is a must, and I’m sure my mom will appreciate the little note I sent her.
After resting our feet a little, we decided to hike the 2 miles down to the falls. The hike was a decent of about 350 feet and was mostly sand. The first falls that we came across was the Little Navajo Falls. They were pretty small falls, but still impressive.
About half a mile further you could hear the rumble of Havasu Falls. As you come around the corner, you could see them in all their glory and they were exactly like the pictures. Actually no, they were even better than the pictures. The water was SO blue, and due to the fact that they don’t allow a lot of permits, there were not that many people at the falls. I would say we shared the falls with about 20 other people. You can’t beat that when most tourist attractions are crowded and unenjoyable due to the crowds. The water was pretty cold (about 60 degrees), so I only got in to my knees, but man was the sight impressive. I could not stop staring at the water and just how blue it was. The rock formations at the top were interesting too since you could see where the falls had been formed in different spots throughout the years.
We only stayed for a little bit since we had a two mile hike out and didn’t want it to get dark, but tomorrow we would be back. In the mean time, that is 12 miles of hiking the first day! YOWZA. Did I mention how good the pizza was to hike with? Yes. Very.
We finished the night like any person camping in the “lodge” would do. Washing our hiking clothes in the sink, and using our camping stove to cook good ole spaghetti on the railing of the lodge. Now that’s camping!
The next day we woke and went to the cafe for their breakfast burrito. It was large and around $8. We also played with the little Dachshund there, his name was The Beast. Not just Beast, but The Beast. He was super sweet.
After breakfast, we headed back to the falls to play. Sadly, the water was still too cold for swimming. I was amazed at all the people that did manage to swim in that water, definitely not me! After playing for awhile we had lunch at a table near the falls since we brought the camping stove. You can’t beat that view for lunch. I never wanted to leave! We decided to check out the campgrounds to see what we were missing. There was a lot of land to spread out and they definitely could make more permits available for the amount of space. However, I really enjoyed the secludedness so no complaints there. A good majority of the campers had hammocks set up as well. I was envious of their relaxation. I would have loved to be able to camp, but the lodge got me here so I’ll take it! About a mile away was the start of the hike to Mooney falls, which is the largest of the falls in that area. While the hike is not far, the hike down to Mooney Falls is extremely dangerous and difficult. It includes climbing down chains, ladders and walking along sheer cliff sides. I wasn’t ready for that, but the top of the hike did provide a nice view of the falls that quenched my need to see them.
Afterwards, we headed back to the lodge. Milage for the day: 6. We were exhausted, well…I was and with an injured foot and knee, I decided the hike out and UP 2,000ft of the canyon would be pushing my pain too hard. In the village, you have the option to rent a horse or a helicopter. The helicopter was NOT guaranteed as it was first come first serve and the locals and construction workers had priority access.
It would be horrible to line up at 6am to find out at 1pm that you wouldn’t get a ride. Also, the guide said that Friday (when we were leaving) was going to be very windy, and the flights may not happen. Looking for a guaranteed way out, I decided to go with the horse rental. I’m happy with my choice too as it was quite the experience. The next day, as Logan hiked out, I saddled up on horseback and had both of our packs strapped on to a mule train while an Indian guide followed behind.
We started out slow and hadn’t even caught up to Logan walking and I thought this was going to take forever. They said a normal ride to the top took 3 hours. I believe it! We came around a bend where the guide usually lets the mule train run free and he asked if I wanted to “run” the horse so that we kept up with the train. I obliged and we were off! My horse was galloping so fast and we sped by Logan and most hikers as they hollered at me for a ride. It was fun, but man was it painful! I can literally say that hiking out of the canyon was a pain in the ass! (A week later and I’m STILL in pretty bad tailbone and back pain).
The switchbacks with the horse were extremely fun and nerve-wracking at the same time, but we ascended to the top in a little over 2 hours. Can’t complain, hiking to Havasu, meeting Native Americans, sending a postcard by mule train mail, eating Indian fry bread, and galloping through a canyon all in 2.5 days. That seems like an adventure to me! For those looking to hike out, Logan said it wasn’t too bad. Take lots of water, preferably hire a mule to take your pack out and just take your time. A good majority of the hike is in the shade, so that helps a lot. After all that hiking, we decided to celebrate by getting our kicks (or margaritas) on Route 66!
THINGS TO KNOW
Havasupai’s website is http://www.havasupai-nsn.gov/ Don’t bother emailing them, they will not answer.
Distance: Hilltop to village is 8 miles. Hilltop to falls/campground is 10 miles. Campground to Mooney falls is .05 miles. The hike from hilltop to village took around 4 hours but we also took lots of photos. Difficulty was not bad. I’d say moderate for hike in, hard for hike out and the trail condition was great!
You MUST have reservations to go there. They will turn you away, and there are no day hikes. Reservations start February 1 of each year and fill up that week for the ENTIRE year. To make camping reservations call one of these numbers. It’s only one guy answered all four lines, so keep at it and be nice and patient.
928-448-2180, 928-448-2121, 928-448-2141, 928-448-2237
Camping costs are $35 per person entrance fee, $17 per person/night camping and $5 per person environmental care fee
To make lodge reservations call 928-448-2111 or 928-448-2201. Prices for lodging are $145 per night with a $40 deposit per room/night and $35 per person entrance fee.
Helicopter reservations are first come first serve with the locals and construction workers receiving priority. The helicopter takes reservations from 10am-1pm but you need to get in line at 6am if you want to get out. The cost for one way is $85 per person
Horse reservations for yourself, or your pack are made in advanced and costs $88 per person from the lodge area or $95 per person from the camping area.
I read blogs about the mules and horses being abuse. I can assure you they look and act healthy. The local horses not for hire look stressed, but the ones for hire look very good and I did not feel bad using them. I read a blog that the locals are mean too, I did not get that vibe at all and everyone was very friendly.
Be careful of the mule train. They just GO and will run your over. Stay close to the wall and move out of the way.
The Cafe offers burgers, hotdogs, fry bread, breakfast burritos, and other items. They range from $5-10 and do accept credit cards or cash. The general store offers most items you would want or need including ice. This store was pretty pricey, but if you need it, you need it!
Essentials to bring:
Backpack (do not pack over 30lbs, it’s just too much for the amount of miles you’ll be hiking
Lightweight tent/hammock and sleeping bag/pad
2 liter Hydration bladder
Camping stove/cookware and read to eat meals, ramen, etc.
First Aid Kit
Hiking shoes and socks
Walking poles – they helped a lot
Trash bags if camping as you will need to hike your trash OUT
Water filter. There is water at the store, and a fresh spring at the campground so you’re covered if you don’t want to bring a filter.
PIZZA. I can’t stress this enough. haha
This is a dry reservation, and they don’t allow alcohol use. However, the locals also turn a blind eye (and some of them were in fact drinking). So, a collapsible bladder of wine couldn’t hurt either.
WOULD I DO THIS AGAIN? In a second!!!! Best hike ever
*Thanks Logan for accompanying me on this adventure.