Havasupai Indian Reservation / Grand Canyon / Coconino County, Arizona, USA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Havasu Falls (sometimes called Havasupai Falls) has to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. We saw it as a pair of plumes falling side by side as it did a freefall of some 90ft. The underlying cliffs featured travertine formations that gave the reddish cliffs an exposed cave-like quality. The calcium carbonate deposits within Havasu Creek (the creek responsible for the waterfalls here) gave the water its turquoise blue color while also forming travertine dams. These dams, in turn, resulted in swimming holes deep enough for cooling off from the desert heat. Indeed, if there was a place that epitomized a desert oasis that we or most likely anyone else would fantasize about, this would probably come the closest to those fantasies.
Even with that said, however, change always seems to be the norm for Nature doesn't stand still despite its timelessness. Havasu Canyon has seen major flash floods in the past and will continue to see them in the future. With each major flood event, the canyon changes in seemingly dramatic ways - waterfalls disappear while new ones form, the canyon's shape and features change, and even the travertine dams come and go.
In the case of Havasu Falls, prior to the flash flood event in 1997, the waterfall was once 120ft tall in a wider, singular column. The travertine dams were also said to be much larger and almost acted like spas for visitors wishing to cool off and take a dip here. However, since that flood event, nearly a quarter of its height was knocked out from the force of the flash flood. In the process, the singular plunge became the dual plumes you see in the photograph at the top of this page. This flood event also destroyed Supai Falls
More recently, the flash flood event of 2008 caused a change in the creek's course resulting in the loss Navajo Falls
while creating two new waterfalls. In addition, the plunge pools beneath Havasu Falls is said to have gotten smaller from siltation and the width of one of its dual plumes is said to have gotten narrower. Julie and I have been yearning to return here to see these dramatic changes ourselves.
Below is a snapshot snapshot of what we saw and did in November 2002...
In order to get to this waterfall, we first had to pre-book our place to stay. We had a choice of camping or staying in a lodge. Given the limited spaces, we had to book several weeks in advance to ensure we'd be enabled to do this trip, which would be way too ambitious to accomplish in a day, and even two days would be pushing it. One thing we did know pretty early on in our trip planning was that the Havasupai tribe would turn back anyone trying to wing it and come here without reservations.
We'd eventually pick the Havasupai Lodge, which was the lone accommodation in the remote village of Supai, which was at least 8 miles from the nearest road. That distance, by the way, required us to hike that distance from the remote car park known as the Hualapai Hilltop (see directions
below) to the village of Supai. Over this distance, we lost about 2000ft of elevation, but we lost the first 1000ft in just the first mile or so as we were descending from the Hualapai Hilltop into canyon below. That elevation drop would be the last killer stretch of trail if we were to hike back out.
After the initial steep descent, we then had to hike the next 5 miles or so along the sandy Hualapai Canyon Wash. It was during this stretch that we were interrupted frequently by caravans of pack and riding horses. The protocol was to get out of their way when we heard them approaching so the caravans could pass without incident (i.e. we wouldn't be spooking the horses and mules). These caravans often hauled locals, supplies, and paying tourists since the Supai Village didn't have a road going to it. Anyways, as we got deeper into the wash, the canyon narrowed to the point that we started to see patterns in the canyon walls that exhibited evidence of flash floods.
Eventually, Hualapai Canyon joined with Havasu Canyon as the gushing Havasu Creek started to parallel the trail we were on. Not much further from this confluence, we'd eventually make it to the remote Supai Village where we were greeted by some balanced rocks or natural pillars perched atop a neighboring cliff called the Wigleevas. I had read that the Havasupai People believed these rocks were guardians watching over the village. In addition to the lodge, the Supai village also had a small convenience store, a cafe (selling delicious Navajo Fry Bread), and a register station for those who had booked campsites in advance as opposed to the lodging accommodation.
Continuing on the main trail beyond the village, we had to hike for the next two miles before eventually reaching the gorgeous Havasu Falls. Once at the falls, the trail descended alongside a cliff overlooking the plunge pool and waterfall providing a variety of angles to check out the scene. I recalled there was one informal trail that led right to the brink of Havasu Falls, but we definitely had to be careful as the cliffs were exposed to drop offs and the stability of the cliff edges was such that they could go at any minute (in other words, don't get too close to the edge!).
At the bottom of this descent, we then took a short path leading to the edge of the large plunge pool of the falls. That was when we could check out the travertine dam formations while also getting even more post card views of Havasu Falls juxtaposed against red rocks with blue green waters beneath. A short distance beyond the plunge pool area was where we found the campsite area as it was situated along Havasu Creek as well as adjacent to the main trail itself.
For just Havasu Falls, this would be the turnaround point. However, most people who do this excursion would camp here, and it seemed like these primitive sites were ideally situated to relax to the sounds of the creek and the falls after a long day of hiking and carrying packs.
Finally, if you did fancy what the minimum physical exertion would be required, it's said that the one-way hiking distance from the Hualapai Hilltop to Havasu Falls was 10 miles (8 miles to Supai Village and 2 miles to reach this waterfall). Combined with the roughly 2000ft elevation loss, the round trip distance would be a whopping 20 miles return and a regain of that lost 2000ft on the way back. That's why I'd say masochists would even think about doing this waterfall as a day trip, especially given all the driving required to even get here.
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At the beautiful and colorful base of Havasu Falls in November 2002
Looking down at the beautiful pools and travertine dams from the brink of Havasu Falls in November 2002
Although Havasu Falls resides in the Havasupai Indian Reservation, it's technically part of the Grand Canyon. Accessing the Grand Canyon's South Rim is about another 2 hours drive further to the east
Within Hualapai Canyon in early morning
Tall canyon walls as we get closer to Supai Village
The trail beyond Supai Village
Further on the trail in the two miles between Supai and Havasu Falls
Angled view of the falls as we descended the trail
More direct view of Havasu Falls as we descended even further down the trail
The base of Havasu Falls
Profile view of Havasu Falls from within a natural shelter as we tried to avoid the rain that fell upon us during our visit
Helicopter about to land in Supai Village
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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS
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The way we did it, we drove east on the I-40 heading towards the town of Kingman
. Just east of Kingman
, there was an exit to get onto the historic Route 66. We followed Route 66 for around 50 miles to the Hualapai Tribe town of Peach Springs
. Peach Springs
was our last chance for gas, but we did fill up at Kingman
so we weren't quite as concerned about our fuel situation.
About 6 miles east of Peach Springs
, we encountered an easy-to-miss (if you're going too fast) turnoff onto Indian Road 18 on our left. We then took this road (paved all the way during our visit) for around 60 miles to the road's end at the Hualapai Hilltop. Even though there were quite a lot of spaces for parking up here, parking would have been a little difficult to find had we come later in the day (we made it to this trailhead by 7am after getting a very early pre-dawn start from Laughlin
This car park was where we left our car and began our hike.
Given the logistics of this trip, we pretty much had to have to treat this trip as a multi-day backpack. Even if you were physically fit and would be capable of pulling off this hike in a day, the amount of time spent driving to even get here would practically assure that some after-dark hiking or driving would be necessary.
Finally, if you're not up for the hike, it's possible to book horseback rides between Supai Village and the Hualapai Hilltop as well as the quicker but more expensive eight-minute helicopter option.
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For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.
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MAP OF THE FALLS
Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map
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For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.
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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES
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What Other Visitors Have Said
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Havasu is great and photogenic downstream 2 miles is Mooney Falls is nearly twice as tall and even more beautiful. Was there in 1970. The stream braids …
The moment I had my first glimpse of Havasu Falls, I knew it was somewhere I needed to go. After months of planning, we loaded up our backpacks and made …
Paradise Lost (Havasu Falls)
If you want to see the falls and not deal with the problems associated with the Indian reservation, do this trip in one day. Take the helicopter in, hike …
I was there in 1995
Since the devastating flood in 1997, I'm afraid to see what's left of the beautiful Havasupai waterfall . Such a shame.
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