Hello there! This blog post will focus on the most magical place I’ve ever laid my eyes on: the Havasupai Reservation in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Havasupai means “people of the blue-green water,” and you will certainly get a full dose of beauty taking in the otherworldy turquoise water that flows in streams over the red rocks and through the five waterfalls of Havasu Canyon: Fifty Foot Falls, Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, Little Navajo Falls and Beaver Falls.
It was quite the journey to get to Havasu, and my mother and I did quite a bit of preparation to make sure we enjoyed our time as much as possible. I want to tell you guys about the permit process, the details of the hike and campground, and of course the falls, to save you the trouble of searching this information out. Havasu Canyon is not to be missed.
The Permit Process
So you’ve seen Havasu Falls on Instagram and you think to yourself, “Wow, I’d like to take a weekend trip there next month!” Well I’ve got news for you. Trying to secure one of the required permits to hike down through Havasu Canyon is an adventure in itself. This year they put the permit system online for the first time! The website is: http://theofficialhavasupaitribe.com/About-Supai/about-supai.html . On February 1, they opened up the reservations for the entire year up until January 31, 2018. I was a little late to the online reservation game, but I was able to snag permits for my mom and myself for the end of February. I think they had some trouble with the online reservations, as is now noted on the website. You can still make reservations by calling their tourism office at 928-448-2121. You actually have to stop in at the tourism office along your hike through the canyon and I was able to observe the phone reservation system in action. AKA there was one man sitting at a desk in the corner of the office taking call after call. Be patient!
The Hike and Campground
The hike into Havasu Canyon is stunning. You start out at the Hilltop trailhead with a panoramic view of the red rock canyon. The trail begins with a series of switchbacks that drop you low to the flat canyon floor, where most of the 10-mile hike into the campground lies. The trail is very clear and there are always parallel trails for the horses and mules that carry resources (and some backpackers’ cargo if you’re willing to pay the big bucks) from the Hilltop to the village of Supai that is eight miles along the trail.
I would rate the hike down into the canyon as moderate. The length and the potential heavy weight of your pack are the two factors that make the hike challenging, considering the terrain is fairly flat. I will say that the hike back is rather taxing, once you reach the base of the steep path back up the Hilltop from the canyon floor. Make sure you allocate enough time to take your time on the return hike, as it is more difficult that the swift journey down on the way in. It took my mom and I about 4 1/2 hours each way, but I made us stop to take photos roughly 100 times on the way in. I was more conservative with my photo stops on the return trip. I will also say that because we traveled here in February, the temperature was very moderate. In the summer, I read the temperature can get up well over 100 degrees. Make sure you bring at least two liters of water per person on the trail, as there are no water sources until you reach the village eight miles in.
Once you’ve hiked the eight miles to the village of Supai, you have to check in at the tourism office and they give you paper bracelets to wear so you feel like you’re entering a theme park. The campground is another two-mile hike past the village. When I booked online, I had to select a numbered campsite, but it turns out the campground was first-come, first-serve. The beginning of the campground is just slightly past Havasu Falls and the campground ends at Mooney Falls (the falls are roughly one mile apart).
The campground is super scenic, with turquoise streams running through it and fairly nice bathroom facilities. My mom and I shared a two-person tent and made our meals using my beloved Jetboil. If you are so inclined, there is actually a diner in the village of Supai. I must admit that we did stop into the diner on our way in and the morning that we left. The people that work there are very kind, but I must warn you not to order the bean burrito. It is literally just beans in a tortilla.
The Most Beautiful Waterfalls on Earth
Now for the best part of the experience: the incredible, unbelievably stunning waterfalls of Havasu Canyon: Fifty Foot Falls, Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, Little Navajo Falls and Beaver Falls. Make sure you don’t miss a single one of them. You have to go off the path to get to some of them. Study the map and observe them from all angles possible.
The largest, most accessible waterfall is definitely Havasu Falls. There’s plenty of room to swim and hang out if it’s warm enough. I did actually go swimming in the frigid water when we were there, but I will say it was not the most relaxing.
The hardest waterfall to access is Mooney Falls. I had a serious adrenaline rush literally climbing on my hands and feet down the slippery limestone rock to get down to the bottom on the fall. You have to actually climb through a couple of fairly narrow caves and climb down rock where you have to hold onto makeshift chain railings for dear life before also climbing some steep ladders. In the end, it was totally worth it. Just know beforehand what you’re getting yourself into.
Our trip to the Havasupai Reservation was one for the books. I’m definitely going to try to go back in the warmer months to get that experience as well. As far as the turquoise water, which gets it’s color from the calcium carbonate, I don’t think there’s much like it anywhere else. I came away thinking it looked like a landscape out of a fairytale. Simply magical.