A Little Getaway... Havasupai

Havasu Falls (click to enlarge)
This waterfall is for real! I took this photo on our recent trip to HAVASUPAI in the grand canyon. If you are looking for an amazingly GREAT getaway, this is it.

I wrote a pretty thorough post with lots of pictures, so click "Read More" to get the scoop!  With warmer weather upon us, it is time to get out and enjoy nature!  There are few places more beautiful than this gushing gem in the middle of the desert.  I can't wait to go back. 
If that picture above doesn't get you, I don't know what will.

I had been trying to go to Havasupai since I heard about it ...

and saw some pictures of it in 2002. It is part of the Grand Canyon, but on the Havasu Indian Reservation in Arizona. Therefore, you have to pay special entry fees and also have to get a permit to enter. It used to be basically impossible to get a permit – I spent months of my life on the phone (the only way to get a reservation) with no answer. Then I gave up while I was busy being pregnant, nursing, and getting up in the middle of the night with a baby. Then this last year I gave it a try again, and HALLELUJAH! They answered the phone! In 2008 Havasupai had a gigantic flood that changed a lot of the landscape, obliterated one fall, and created two new falls, and they had to close the place down for a bit. But now they are back in action, they cleaned up the joint, and they are answering their phones like gangbusters!

Ok here is the thing though, Havasuapi is REALLY out of the way. This getaway is not for people who can’t handle a little bit of roughing it (or a lot, depending on how you decide to see the place). You have to drive to Hualapai Hilltop in Arizona, where there are no amenities. It is about an hour away from Peach Springs, the smallest town you have ever seen with the only motel for miles around. The motel is actually pretty decent.

Hualapai Lodge - the only motel near Hualapi hilltop (we stayed here overnight before dropping into the canyon). Peach Springs, AZ, about 1 hr. away from the starting point.

Hualapai Hilltop! About to begin my descent!

The hilltop is also about 3-4 hours from Flagstaff, AZ, and 5-6 hours from Phoenix, AZ or Las Vegas, NV. Once you get there, you can either hike 8 miles in to the village (wear good shoes, and socks!) or take a helicopter ($$), or ride a mule or horse ($). You can carry your own stuff in on your back, or hire a mule to carry it if you still want to hike in but not with a heavy pack. Some people bring gobs of camping gear and just have the mules haul it for them... so they can enjoy the "car camping" style in a very remote backpacking area. There are lots of options, but you really have to be prepared and plan what works for you.

Water is a biggie. You have to be sure you carry enough on you because there is no water until the village. We backpacked in, brought all our stuff (including dehydrated backpacker food), but we took the helicopter out to save us an entire day of travel. We wanted to hike out so we could say how hard core and awesome we were, but we couldn't get babysitters for one more day. (True story!!!)

On the long 8 mile hike down to the village

Some people had their stuff packed into the canyon for them, so they could enjoy the hike pain free! :)

the beauty of the Grand Canyon (en route to the village)

after the long dry hike in, you begin to hear water as you near the village...

The gorgeous and alluring Havasu creek - the lifeblood of this beautiful area

About 8 miles in you will reach Supai village. It is lovely and heartbreaking at the same time. The Havasupai tribe have inhabited this canyon for over 800 years. The town has 136 houses, a café, a general store, a tourist office, a post office, a school, a couple churches and other buildings. Tourism is their main revenue. They need the income but don't love all the people traipsing through all the time (at least that is the feeling I got).
There are more dogs here than people it seems. Some dogs may adopt you as you pass through the village and stay with you for the duration of your visit. Seriously, they do! We also witnessed a really brutal dog fight take place while we were there. None of them are spayed or neutered.
The Lodge... for those who want to sleep in a bed, rather than under the stars.
a few shots from the village of Supai

a mule train with campers gear and town supplies passing through town

So once you pass through town, you can stop there to rent a room at the lodge, or or hike/ride an additional 2 miles in the camping/backpacking area. As you are hiking to the backpackers grounds, you will pass 3 falls!!!
First you will see the (formerly known as) Navajo Falls. I think it is now called the "new" Navajo Falls. The ground all around here is very torn up from the flood of 2008 and everything will continue to settle and change over time.
New Navajo Falls

Then you round the bend and see the gorgous Rock Falls, also newly created after the Flood of 2008. There are great swimming and sunning areas around Rock Falls. To get perspective on this photo and how big the falls are, see if you can see the people playing around near the bottom left of the falls.

Rock Falls

A bit further down the trail, you will pass the crown jewel of Havasupai... Havasu Falls. These are the most beautiful and most photographed falls in the world and about 70 feet high. Okay they really are the most photographed... the most beautiful comment is my judgment. (But I doubt I am alone in this thought). You can swim in these beautiful pools and there are slot canyons to explore off the main falls area. A gorgeous way to spend the day, don't you think?

Havasu Falls viewed from the trail near the top

Havasu Falls viewed from the bottom

Then you reach the campgrounds! By this time, if you have packed in your own stuff, you feel like you are about to die. OK not really, but maybe a little. Time to eat, sleep, and rest.

As a side note to help you out if you plan to do this:  compile a camping/backpacking list of essential items so that each time you plan a camping/backpacking trip you don't have to start from scratch (and you don't forget the hand sanitizer or your head lamp or something essential every time!)

Some useful things to know about the campgrounds: they have these really nice composting toilets that put outhouses and the like to shame... and most of them are even fully equipped with TP! (Bring some of your own though, just in case!) Seriously, they are really rather nice... it almost doesn't feel like camping. My guess is that with all many campers they needed to invest in a really good system, and they did. The campground also has a big faucet with clean spring water for drinking, or you can also bring a water treatment kit and get water from the river. I recommend taking little packets of crystal lite or propel or something similar to flavor the water... the water tastes fine but the sweetness tastes so good when hiking! Dehydrated food also tastes surprisingly delicious when you are camping. Hot chocolate is also a must! Bring Ibuprofen too because you will be SORE!

About a quarter mile below the campgrounds along the trail, you will find this awe-inspiring beauty...
Mooney Falls 210 feet high. Named after a miner who fell to his death here. Seen from the trail near the top.

Mooney falls is absolutely resplendently magnificent. It is also the most dangerous to access. There are carved staircases with chains in the wet, slippery stone, and it is very steep and not for the fainthearted or non surefooted.

me going down to Mooney Falls

a view of the chain system to access the bottom of Mooney Falls
a view from the bottom of Mooney

swimming in Mooney Falls

Below Mooney falls you can continue to hike for miles through canyons with smaller, gorgeous waterfalls, creeks, natural showers and aqua green pools. If you hike for 4 miles or so, you will reach Beaver Falls, and if you hike even longer, you will reach the Colorado River. We didn't go down to Beaver but spent our day exploring the gorgeous areas around Mooney.
But when I go back, I'll go see Beaver Falls.

Pools and canyons below Mooney

Natural showers and caves in the canyons below Mooney

We went to Havasupai in October. That is an ideal time temperature-wise - not too hot, not too cold. I never got cold... except when swimming. The downside of October is that the pools felt a bit cool. Hiking in the summer would be brutal temperature-wise, but the water would be heavenly. Next time, I am going in the summer and I am spending the whole time swimming.

I would not recommend this trip for those with little ones. Some of the best hikes are precarious (Mooney) and just not safe for young children. Hiking around in general can be tricky for children not steady on their feet. And amenities are hard to come by... should your baby need a diaper or a dap of neosporin... if you don't have it, chances are you can't get it, at least not very easily. Any medical emergencies and you would pretty much be out of luck. Plus carrying all the gear for small ones would be a nightmare, in my humble opinion. Those with teenagers and older... perfect! It would be an unforgettable family memory. Or just go as a couple or with some friends for a weekend in a natural paradise.  You will thank your lucky stars that you got to witness a place so beautiful.  Beautiful seems like a ridiculously trite word to use to describe this resplendent paradise.

Here are some hikers back in the village boarding a helicopter on the way out of the canyon. The 8 mile hike in to the village takes all day... the helicopter ride takes 5 minutes and $80 per person. You decide!

Some backpackers about to board the helicopter back to the Hilltop

A view of the hiking trail to Supai from the helicopter...

Get away, reconnect to mother earth, spend time with someone close to you... you will not regret this trip. Ever.

A little video at Mooney Falls.

A little video at Havasu Falls.


All photos and video by me!  Have you been to Havasupai?  Fill us in with any details or tips you want to share! 


Dani said...

I just got home from Havasupi yesterday! Loved your post... I would add a couple of things. We had the mules carry most of our stuff down for about a dollar a pound (we had them pack 35 pounds for each of us)- round trip. I am not in rockstar type shape, but we were able to hike down in 2 hours only carrying our water and some food, and out in about 3. (They don't run the helipcopter on Saturday or I would have done it just for the experience.) We did the 4 mile hike to Beaver Falls and it was my favorite part of the trip. Stunning! Palm trees and all. Totally agree with you on taking kids. I really wanted to bring mine back, until I saw the climb down to Mooney Falls. I think 10 years old would be the youngest I would take. Also, you can make reservations online now. Very easy.

corinne said...

dani, thanks for that great update! i love that you can reserve online now, and i will definitely hike without my huge pack next time. i can't believe you got down in 2 hours and out in 3! that is great news. that is what i'll do next time for sure, as well as beaver falls.

Amber said...

Well I'm convinced this is being added to my must do trips!


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