Hiking in Utah
Adventures in Camping, Backpacking, Trail Running, and Canyoneering

Havasupai
Grand Canyon, Arizona

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Overview

Summary | Area Map | Distance and Difficulty | Hiking Description

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Summary
Although my trail adventures on this site normally take place within the state of Utah, this was an experience that is well worth documenting and exploring in Arizona. The 10-mile hike in might discourage some from attempting the trek, but the scenic beauty, beautiful waterfalls, and the fun of splashing in cold pools of water make the effort very rewarding.

Havasu Falls
Map

Havasupai is located in Havasu Canyon, on the south side of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, and the village and falls are not accessible by road. A number of maps can be found online (HERE) with detailed description on the area and directions on how to get there. A number of Web sites listed below can provide historical and geographic information as well as fees and reservations to help you prepare for your trip:

Distance and Difficulty

Your ultimate destination and mode of transportation will determine how long and far your trip will take. Many people will hike all the way from Hualapai Hilltop (the end of Indian Road 18 where you park) to Havasupai Campground, a 10-hike, with all of their gear. It is not a particularly strenuous hike going in, but your load can affect this. Other options are to have your gear hauled in on mules or horses for a fee. Visitors can also continue another eight miles beyond the campground another 8 miles, passing Mooney and Beaver Falls, all the way to the Colorado River.

At the Hilltop parking lot at dusk

Trip Description

Day One

Our group drove eleven hours from Utah, arrived at sunset, and then slept in our vehicles until we started the hike in about 4:00 a.m. The first section is down some steep switchbacks until it levels out, and you follow a dry streambed for eight miles until Havasupai Village.

Hiking into Havasupai

The hike was uneventful, but we were glad we were making this trip in the cool of the morning. The geology of the whole area is amazing in that water thousands and millions of years have carved up the landscape into what we find today. We stopped in the village for a few mintues and then continued on for another two miles or so to the campground. It took us about four hours to make the entire hike.

Hiking into the village

Our first priority was to find a place to camp, and seeing that there are not specific designated or assigned spots, you simply find where you can to hang your hammock or pitch your tent. For us, this turned out to be near the very back of the campground, not too far from Mooney Falls. Everyone in the group had a hammock; I brought a tent instead, but with the wind and sand every present, I wish I had had a hammock as well. Although there are bugs everywhere, mosquitos weren't a problem at all. The greatest challenge, however, was to hang your food in the trees in such a way that the pesky squirrels didn't get to them. We also noticed the spring running out of a pipe about a third of the way into the campground, and that is where people filled their bottles.

Sleeping in hammocks under the trees

It was still early morning once we finished with setting up camp, and the group decided to walk back through the campground back to Havasupai Falls. Fortunately, there weren't the crowds that we saw on day three. We enjoyed jumping into the cool water and enjoying the warm (hot) sunshine. I was still able to get cell phone reception in this area (but not further day in the campground all the way to Beaver Falls), so I was able to send a few pictures to family to chronicle our adventure.

At Havasu falls . . . . before the crowds


Later in the afternoon, we relaxed around camp and then ventured down to Mooney Falls for some fun in the water. The route begins at the far end of the campground, and you have to pass down through two short man-made tunnels and then descend a sketchy route of anchored chains, handholds, and roughhewn steps to the bottom. It's not a route for the timid of heart.

Once at the bottom, you can immediately turn to the left and follow the trail 2.5 miles to Beaver Falls. On this occasion, our group took turns jumping into the water off a rope swing and meandering down the river a short distance.


Day Two

The entire group climbed down to Mooney Falls and then the trail to Beaver Falls in the morning. The journey followed a trail somewhat parallel the river, with a couple of river crossings up to a few feet deep. There are a couple of places where you have to climb up and down some ladders until you downclimb to the falls. There are no natural springs or other sources of water along the way (other than the river), so it is a good idea to bring plenty for your needs or a good water filter.

Beaver Falls

This area is truly a water wonderland. Jumping into waterpools is possible, but as with any spot in the entire Havasupai area, you have to check the depth of the pools. Watch for a rope line on the other side of the falls where you can climb up to the upper section and beyond of the falls. After spending a while jumping into the water, part of the group decided to hike up the river to Mooney Falls, and some of us returned by way of the trail, which my son and I did. As we approached the falls, we dropped back into the river and spent some time plunging into another cool pool.

Throughout the day, I kept asking myself: "Uh, would mom approve of this jump or dive?" Then, I just put it out of my mind. I'm glad she wasn't there.

We also followed a side canyon filled with tadpoles and other life until we came to a giant spilloff where we could go no further. It was certainly a fun day.

Taking the leap off at near Beaver Falls

Day Three

We spent the final day back up at Havasupai Falls. People started climbing up the ledges next to the falls and jumping into the water. I'm not too keen on heights, so I simply watched the entertainment. Afterwards, we hiked along the river toward Navajo Falls. The weather was hot, but the refreshing water helped. The afternoon was spent relaxing at camp and trying to catch lizards.

Day Four

We got up at about 3:30 a.m., finished packing sleeping gear away, and then headed out for the 10 miles back to the parking lot at the top of the canyon. The first two miles back to the village are sandy and slow, but the rest of the trip out seems to go faster. We passed a lot of people hiking in, and we were glad we were going to make it out by the time the sun crested the rim.

Conclusion

Visiting Havasupai should be everyone's bucket list if you find yourself in this part of the country and you enjoy hiking, camping, and reveling in water.

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