Havasupai: Arizona's Secluded Jewel
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | December 2nd, 2018
Located in a remote area of the Grand Canyon, the Havasupai Indian Reservation is a breathtaking stretch of land filled with majestic waterfalls, turquoise water, and impressive red rock formations. In order to get to this wondrous place, travelers must hike at least twenty miles, sometimes in sweltering heat. This journey is definitely not for the faint of heart. But one of a kind sights and other-worldly attractions await those up for the challenge.
How To Get There
In order to get to the Havasupai Reservation, you'll need to drive to Hualapai Hilltop located near Peach Springs, AZ. Once you arrive to the hilltop, you'll need to hike eight miles to Supai Village and then another two miles to the falls and campground. It is best to start the hike early in the morning, so spending the night before in a nearby town is recommended. Driving distances and times to Hualapai Hilltop from nearby cities are as follows...
Peach Springs, AZ - 68 miles / 90 minutes
Seligman, AZ - 90 miles / 2 hours
Kingman, AZ - 120 miles / 2 hours 20 minutes
Flagstaff, AZ - 165 miles / 3 hours 10 minutes
Las Vegas, NV - 225 miles / 4 hours
We stayed in Kingman at the Best Western Plus A Wayfarer's Inn & Suites and had a lovely stay. Rooms are comfy, quiet, and the included breakfast was delicious. Rooms start around $90 USD / night. Kingman has a lot of restaurants, stores, and hotels to choose from, which is very helpful before a big hike. There is also a 24-hour Walmart, where you can load up on camping/hiking goods such as energy bars, food, water, etc.
Peach Springs is the closest town to the Hualapai Hilltop, however, there is only one hotel in the area - the Hualapai Lodge. There aren't any restaurants or stores in the area either. Also, a lot of travelers mentioned how loud the train is while going through Peach Springs, which apparently happens throughout the whole night. But if these things don't bother you, then Peach Springs is a great place to stay due to its close proximity to the Hualapai Hilltop.
Once you park at the Hualapai Hilltop parking lot, you'll begin the hike to Supai Village by descending down a series of rocky switchbacks and then continuing into the canyon along a relatively flat trail. It takes around three to five hours to get to the village and then another hour to get to the falls and campground. Once you arrive to the village, you must check in at the Tourist Center. If you're staying at the lodge, you'll check in there. All visitors MUST check in before hiking to the falls. If you're staying at the campground, after check-in is a great time to stock up on needed food/beverages/supplies from the village's general store and/or cafe before hiking down to the campground.
Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot / Information Booth / Trailhead
There are helicopter and mule/horse services for those who don't want to hike the trail and carry their own stuff. I don't recommend this because I think doing the hike is part of the adventure. Plus, do you really want to make an animal carry your bags? If you must take a helicopter, sign ups are from 7am - 1pm at either Hualapai Hilltop or the Supai Tourist Office, depending which way you are flying, and cost $85 / per person. There are no reservations, only first come, first served. Locals get first priority. Also, the helicopter doesn't fly every day, so be prepared to hike just in case it isn't running the day you planned on taking it. If you want to hire a mule/horse/helicopter to carry your bags, you can do so at the Hualapai Hilltop or Supai Tourist Office. Prices vary.
The beginning of the hike starts with switchbacks.
After the switchbacks, you'll land in the valley.
The valley floor hike is relatively flat.
Parts of the trail can be very rocky and/or sandy.
When you come to this sign, take a left.
Under the graffiti is an arrow that guides hikers left, toward the village.
Where To Stay
Havasupai Lodge is located in Supai Village, eight miles from Hualapai Hilltop, and costs around $175 USD / night (for up to 4 guests). On top of the nightly fee, each person will be charged a $50 USD permit fee. Nearby the lodge is a cafe, general store, post office, police, clinic, and tourist office. Havasu and Mooney Falls are another two mile hike from the lodge. In order to make a reservation, you must call 1-928-448-2111. There is no website. Don't get discouraged if no one answers the phone. Keep calling! It took me about fifty tries until someone finally answered. I recommend calling around 9am EST.
Warning: The lodge is known to run out of hot water for days or weeks at a time. Normal basic amenities aren't always available at the lodge.
The Havasupai Lodge
The campground is located ten miles from the Hualapai Hilltop (two miles from the lodge), right beside the stunning Havasu and Mooney Falls, and prices are as follows...
One Person, 2 Days / 1 Night - $140 USD
One Person, 3 days / 2 nights - $171 USD
One Person 4 days / 3 nights - $201 USD
*Note: All weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), holiday nights, and Spring Break dates will be charged an additional $18.33 per night.
Due to popularity, there is a three night maximum on reservations, however, you may book back-to-back reservations if available. Prices include the necessary permit and fees. The campground has a 'camp anywhere' motto, so hikers have over a mile of campground to choose from. No matter where you stay, you'll be very close to the gorgeous waters of Havasu and Mooney Falls. There are picnic tables and bathrooms, and drinking water is available. Please remember to carry out all of your belongings and trash. If you need anything from the general store, cafe, or clinic, you'll have to hike two miles back to Supai Village. Reservations for the campground open February 1st every year and can be booked on the official website or by calling one of the four numbers below. Phone lines are open Monday - Friday from 9 am until 3 pm (Arizona time). Reservations sell out very quickly, so be sure to start calling right on February 1st. Persistence is key!
Supai Village Cafe
Supai Village Cafe Menu
Supai Village General Store and Post Office
What To Do
Other than camping, the main thing to do on the Havasupai Reservation is to hike. Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls are the most popular sights to see and each one is exceptionally beautiful! There is also a sixteen mile hike that takes adventurers to where the Colorado River meets Havasu Creek, known as the Confluence. Whether you're looking for a relaxing camping trip or a thrilling hiking experience, Havasupai has it all.
The first (and easiest) falls to get to is Havasu Falls. Located ten miles from Hualapai Hilltop, this is the favorite attraction and camping site. Its turquoise waters, captivating red rocks, and ethereal atmosphere attracts thousands of tourists every month. It's fairly easy to get here with no major challenges but be warned...once you arrive, you'll never want to leave.
Visiting Mooney requires a bit more work...and courage. Although the falls are only a half mile from Havasu, the descend down to Mooney isn't for the faint of heart. In fact, many people get injured attempting the descend. Once you arrive at the 'Descend At Your Own Risk' sign, you'll pass through a narrow cave and then climb down a very steep and slippery rock wall. Be sure to bring gloves and hold on to the chains all the way down the wall. At the bottom of the rock wall are two wooden ladders. Once you descend the ladders, you'll have arrived to the gorgeous Mooney Falls. I personally like Havasu better but many people claim Mooney is the more attractive waterfall. Both are definitely worth a look!
Once you've explored both Havasu and Mooney, Beaver Falls should be next on your list! Located a little further away, Beaver is another three mile hike from Mooney. The hike is relatively easy with three river crossings and some ladder climbing. You will get wet, possibly waist deep, during this hike. Also, be sure to start the trek early, as this hike can take up to four hours round-trip.
Grand Canyon Confluence
For those looking for a bit more adventure, I suggest hiking to the Confluence. Located eight miles from Havasu's campground (yes, that's sixteen miles round-trip), this long day-hike takes you to the spot where the Colorado River meets Havasu Creek. The brown color of the river blends with the turquoise waters of the creek and creates a unique sight. The hike is fairly easy but it can be tiring, taking up to twelve hours to complete. If you're up for the challenge, I suggest giving it a go.
When to Go
The best time to visit is during the shoulder months of April & May and September & October. These months have comfortable temperatures averaging around 65° - 85°F. This is my favorite time to visit!
The summer months of June, July, and August bring stifling temperatures, the monsoon season, and possible heat-related complications. Daytime highs can reach well over 100°F degrees and can cause dehydration and heat exhaustion. It is advised to start the hike early in the morning if you visit during the summer to avoid the afternoon's peak temperatures. If temperatures exceed 115°F, the trail into Supai will be closed. Flash floods can occur at any time, and can be deadly. If rain is in the forecast, DO NOT attempt the hike. Also, be cautious of scorpions and rattlesnakes during this time of year. Be sure to shake out your shoes before putting them on. All that aside, summer can be a wonderful time to visit. Just be prepared for the heat, animals, and possible flooding.
We visited in late November and got lucky with the two warmest days of the week. Daytime highs were 65°F but mornings were quite chilly, around 30°F. Every other day that week barely reached 50°F. If you visit during the months of November - March, be prepared for the colder weather. Water temperatures remain around 70°F throughout the year, however, swimming is more difficult during the cooler months.
Hours can be unpredictable at the general store/cafe/lodge/helicopter. Even though signs say 'Open 8am-5pm' they might not be open. We saw hikers along the trail that wanted to take the helicopter out but couldn't because services were closed for 'mail day'. Be prepared for the unpredictability.
The only services available at Hualapai Hilltop are restrooms and a small information center, where you can get info and/or sign-up for the helicopter/mules. There is nowhere to buy or fill up water at the hilltop. Be sure to pack water before driving to Hualapai Hilltop.
Be sure to bring at least two liters of water / per person for the hike. During the hot summer months, it is recommended to bring one gallon / per person. There are drinking water stations in Supai Village and at the campground to refill your water.
If temperatures exceed 115°F, the trail into Supai will be closed for the day.
No day hikes allowed.
Permits are required, must be purchased ahead of time, and can be found on the official website.
Campfires are NOT allowed.
Drones are prohibited.
Alcohol is prohibited.
Due to the remote location, items can be expensive. Be prepared to pay a little extra for food, drinks, and supplies.
Havasupai is the name of the tribe and their reservation. Havasu is the name of the waterfall. Supai is the village.