Gone Outdoors

How to Hike Havasupai

by Jodi Thornton O'Connell

The hike to the Havasupai waterfalls on the west end of the Grand Canyon begins on a remote desert hilltop 60 miles from the closest town. The trek rates as mildly difficult on any given day, but is much tougher in weather ranging from freezing winter rain to days in the 100s during summer. The hike through the Havasupai Indian reservation has limited access for hikers, so you'll need to make a reservation before starting down the trail.

Planning Your Hike

Make your hiking reservation as far as six months in advance to get the date you want. Contact the Havasupai Tourist Office by phone to reserve your hiking date and pay fees. You'll pay a per-person entry fee and a nominal environmental care fee for the group. You should reserve your campsite or room at the Havasupai Lodge at this time too. Those showing up without reservations get charged double. You can also elect to have your luggage transported by mule for an extra fee.

Getting There

Peach Springs is the nearest town to Hualapai Hilltop where the trail begins, and many elect to spend the night there before the hike. The paved, 66-mile road to the trailhead winds through pinyon, juniper and pine forests before emerging onto the Kaibab Plateau. The last few miles of road dip into a tributary canyon, ending at Hualapai Hilltop. You won't find any restrooms or water services at the trailhead, but you'll know you're in the right place by the helipad and mule corrals. Despite the remote location, you'll find the road and parking areas busy in early morning and late afternoon as nearly 500 people per day visit the area.

Hiking to Supai

The trail descends from Hualapai Hilltop along steep switchbacks that drop you 1,100 feet in elevation over the first 1.25 miles. The descent is gentle thereafter, spreading the remaining 900 feet of elevation loss over 6.75 miles to the village. There is no shade on the first 3 miles of trail, and you'll need to carry enough water to reach the village. The trail narrows as it winds through a narrow canyon along a creek. Should a mule train overtake you on this narrow stretch, stand on the uphill side of the trail to let the animals pass. When arriving at the village, check in at the tourist office next to the cafe. You'll find limited beverages, groceries and supplies for sale in the village.

The Falls and Beyond

Follow the trail past the mule corrals and out of the village to head for Havasupai Falls and the campground, 2 miles away. You'll find a single water spigot here, as well as a spring where you can purify water to drink. Beyond the campground, the trail gets treacherous en route to Mooney Falls. You'll descend ladders and rough travertine steps guided by chain handrails to get down to the falls and the trail beyond. A four-mile hike past the falls takes you to Beaver Falls, with several waist-high creek crossings along the way. Beyond Beaver Falls, 4 miles of trail brings you to the Colorado River at Havasu Rapids.

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