Havasu Falls, Arizona, USA – In the Western edge of the Grand Canyon’s Southern Rim lies the Supai village, home to the Havasupai Tribe, also known as the People of the Blue Green Waters. The Supai reservation is a scant 188,077 acres of protected land in and around the canyon, and within those boundaries is the famed Havasu Falls, our intended destination.
Our hike began at the Hualapai Hilltop where we descended into the Grand Canyon through a series of switchbacks leading to the canyon floor. Once at the bottom we found a path along a dry riverbed that lead us to the Supai village. Essentially cut off from the rest of the world, Supai is a very quiet and pious locale where the people go about their daily business and tend to pay little attention to the hikers passing through.
Further beyond the village is the Havasupai campground. There we spent 3 nights camping downstream from Havasu Falls in wonderfully calm desert weather. During our stay I continued exploring the canyon and followed the trails to both Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls. To get to Mooney Falls, hikers must climb down a cliff side with in-cut rock stairs and steep ladders, and much of the path to Beaver Falls consists of wading down and across a small river at various junctures.
It was a very cool experience to walk these kinds of paths, and it was a great way to spend my time there. To finish our trip we hiked back out the way we came in, which meant a difficult finish up the switchbacks to Hualapai. Hiking, camping, and swimming in the desert — what a great time!
Hualapai to Supai village: 8 miles
Supai Village to Havasu Falls/campground: 2 miles
Campground to Mooney Falls: 1 mile
Campground to Beaver Falls: 3 miles
Total distance hiked: 28+ miles!
You need a permit to visit Havasu Falls, and you must reserve your permit days way ahead of time. Reservations for the whole year open up early February so be prepared to plan your trip in advance. Due to the location’s rising popularity, many tourism companies buy up large chunks of permit time in the first few days, and it can be difficult (but not impossible!) to get a good space.
Train for the hike!
The 10 miles from Hualapai to the campground is no joke, especially with a heavy pack. If you’re unaccustomed to this kind of hiking distance, spend some time before the trip taking longer walks around cities, parks, or even the treadmills at your gym. It’s worth it.
My bag initially weighed 38 pounds, and the hike down was miserable because of it. It turned out I didn’t need many of the things I had packed, a large amount of food being the major culprit. Think essentials only. (Note: You can reserve a mule to carry down your pack if you decide you really need one.)
Beware the squirrels
‘They are adorable!’ you think to yourself when you first see them, but the next morning you realize they’ve chewed a hole in your pack and eaten some of your food. The squirrels at the campground are smart. And devious. Hang your pack or put it in your tent to keep it away from these cute little demons.
One of the most important things I took away from this trip is that being on the Supai reservation really brings you in close proximity with a group of people who live in a state of secluded poverty. There was a stark contrast between their state of living with the relative affluence I unwittingly displayed with my high quality technical pack, hammock, and shoes, and it really got me thinking about how luxurious some kinds of travel must seem to those we encounter on our journeys.
Altogether, this trip really had a lot of ‘firsts’ for me. It was my first trip into the American desert, and I was amazed at the beauty that environmental scarcity had created there. It was my first ever true hike (go big or go home), and it was the first time I truly connected with the outdoors as an overnight camper. Perhaps it had something to do with the sweet new hammock I was sleeping in, but Havasu Falls brought me the serenity I needed at that point in my life. I had a great time, and I would recommend this trip to anyone who wants to find their own new connection with the outdoor world.