Havasupai. [big sigh]. People of the blue green water. Our last visit was in 2011 and it remains one of our most favorite adventures EVER. Absolutely breathtaking. It is literally an oasis that is tucked within the canyon far, far, far within the middle of the desert.
Havasu Falls is made up of five different waterfalls that are located within the Grand Canyon. They are not actually part of our National Park, therefore we are not able to just spontaneously plan a trip to visit them whenever we feel like it. They belong to the Havasupai Indian Tribe and are part of their reservation. A permit is required to enter the reservation and the tribe administers all of the permits.
The drive from Las Vegas to Havasupai takes about 3.5 hours. To get to the reservation, you will need to take Historic Route 66 to route Indian 18. Try not to sing this song the entire way:
Once you exit onto route 18, it’s another 60 miles north to “Hualapai Hilltop”. This is where you will park your car, go to the restroom and begin the eight mile hike to Supai village.
You will start the hike at about 5,000 feet. The trail descends into the canyon and for the first 1.5 miles it is all switchbacks.
This is definitely the most challenging part of the hike to Supai. Parts of the initial descent are pretty steep. I remember that my knees were throbbing during this part of the trip. Hiking poles would have made it a more pleasant experience.
Still, it wasn’t the MOST difficult hike we have ever taken on. The MOST difficult hike would be THIS one.
The entire hike took us about 4 hours to complete. It definitely challenges your personal endurance – and yes- immediately upon our return, I invested in a great pair of hiking boots. #regrets
The switchbacks will eventually lead you to a leveled out area, much of which is exposed canyon floor. No need for signage, just follow the trail of poop toward the canyon walls.
Random things I shouldn’t have to warn you about:
People. It’s an eight mile hike through the middle of the desert. Bring water. #duh
Plan to bring about a gallon of water (or wear a camelback) because there are NO rest stops or water available along the trail. In the summer, temperatures can reach up to 115 degrees. Plan to hike in the coolest part of the day. Wear sunscreen, a hat and closed toed shoes that support your ankles.
After you cross the canyon floor, the trail through Hualapai Canyon meets Havasu Canyon.
When you find shade, take advantage of it. STOP. Drink some water. Have a snack. Take a photo. It’s not a race.
“Why are there donkeys?” Well. Because after the first hour of hiking in the blazing heat of the desert sun, you start to reevaluate the necessity of the various items you packed for the trip. EVERYTHING that gets brought into the reservation has to make the eight mile trek in and out of the village, either by foot or by pack animal. God bless the pack animal.
This photo isn’t the greatest but I kept it because I never wanted to forget the way it felt when we first saw this stream. We had been walking for HOUUUURS and then… THIS! I’ve never seen water that blue before!
The village of Supai. Approximately 650 people reside on the reservation.
When you first get to the reservation, just keep following the path and eventually you will see the office, located near the center of the village directly on the trail.
Once you’ve paid your fees, the office will provide each person with a wristband that you must wear through the duration of your visit. At this point, you will proceed to either the Havasupai Lodge or the camping grounds.
At this point, I was delirious and dehydrated. This girl was looking forward to a hot shower and a mattress. There’s no shame in #glamping.
They gave us this nifty little map of the area to help us find our way around. Downtown Supai has a police station, post office, store and cafe that are open to the public during the day. NOTE: most everything closes around 5 PM (and sometimes earlier – open/closing times seemed to be a very fluid concept when we were there).
There is basically one main road/trail that runs through the entire village so you do not have to worry about getting lost. It’s very obvious which path to take.
You will pass this church on the right hand side of the trail:
Not even a mile down the trail, the path opened up…and there it was. Navajo Falls!
Prior to our visit, I learned that Navajo Falls was completely remodeled by Mother Nature in 2008 after a flash flood tore through Supai. The entire village was evacuated and the flood forever changed the landscape of the canyon. Naturally, I wanted to know what Navajo Falls looked like BEFORE the 2008 flood. Thanks to my friends at @wikipedia, this is what I found out:
…frequent flooding has changed the appearance of some waterfalls and caused others to appear and disappear. Navajo Falls is one such example. Until the August 2008 flooding, Navajo Falls was the first prominent waterfall in the canyon….the pool was popular for its seclusion and its ease to swimmers. The falls were approximately 70 feet tall and consisted of separate sets of water chutes.
In August 2008, Navajo Falls was completely bypassed by a flood. According to The New York Times:
Within 12 hours, several surges of high water roared down the creek, destroying the campground, stranding a Boy Scout troop from New Jersey and setting off a massive mudslide that obliterated Navajo Falls, one of four spectacular canyon waterfalls that attract tourists from around the world.
CLICK HERE to see footage of the 2008 flash flood.
This is what the old Navajo Falls site looks like today:
Basically, the mudslide rerouted Havasu Creek, creating two new falls, Upper Navajo Falls and Lower Navajo Falls.
This waterfall just begs you to jump off of it. It’s perfectly designed for cliff jumping… BUT cliff jumping is against the Havasupai Tribe’s rules and is very dangerous. There are large submerged rocks and the depth of the water is inconsistent throughout the pools. While we were there, we saw many people jump from the top of the waterfall into the pool below. Was it fun? Probably, yes. Can you get away with it? DEFINITELY. Is it the wisest choice???
Here’s the thing: it’s not like there is a lifeguard station ready to respond to the consequences of your idiocy. There are no “public health care facilities” in the village. So if you get hurt…it may take many, many hours to get treatment or be transported out of the canyon. Just sayin’.
We hung out for some time at Navajo Falls before we trekked on to Havusu Falls.
Havasu is arguably the most famous and most visited of all the falls. Today, the falls consist of one main chute that drops over a 100-foot vertical cliff. Once upon a time ago, the waterfall was known as “Bridal Veil Falls” because water fell from the entire width of the cliff like a curtain, rather than the single spout that we are familiar with today.
What else can I say about Havasu? It’s absolutely stunning. It’s a real life desert oasis. Every detail was perfect. I felt like we stumbled upon a Hollywood movie set. I kept waiting for Steven Spielberg to come around the corner and yell, “CUT!!!!!” We hung out here the rest of the day and just took some time to exhale. There were oasis pools to soak in, shady trees to lounge beneath. You can even swim behind the waterfall and explore a little rock shelter area. It was absolute perfection.
Side note: beware of the marmots. They are furry bandits that are quite good at making mischief. I assure you that that they are not friends. They are just using you to get to your stuff.
The following day we took on waterfall #3, Mooney Falls. Click Here to read more…