Hiking the Havasupai Trail to Havasu Falls

by Mark Wiens on February 28, 2012 · 3 comments

Hiking the Havasupai Trail

Hiking the Havasupai Trail

One of my all time favorite hiking and camping destinations is Havasu Canyon in the northern part of Arizona, United States.

Located on the Havasupai Native American reservation, the park is not US Government run (like the nearby Grand Canyon), but is instead operated by the Havasupai Tribe.

Havasu Creek is a tributary of the famous Colorado River that flows through the mighty Grand Canyon.

Along with a few of my relatives, we planned a much anticipated three day backpacking trip to the beautiful canyon.

To hike and stay at the campground requires getting permits and paying fees (as a fragile natural environment, the park authorities take precautions to limit the amount of visitors per day).

We packed our supplies for the trip, mostly sleeping bags, food and water (in the summer in Arizona you don’t really need a tent because it rarely rains and it’s not too cold – just make sure to look at the forecast before you go).

We started the 16 kilometer hike to the official campground from a point known as Hualapai Hilltop. The trail wound down into the canyon following a rocky, bone-dry trail.

To be honest, the beginning of the hike was not really all that scenic and it got  outrageously hot as well.

Eventually, we arrived into the main part of the canyon, passed through the Supai village and were well on our way to what we were all looking most forward to: the waterfalls!

Havasupai is a term that translates to people of the blue and green (turquoise) waters. As soon as I came around the bend and peered over the cliff for my first glimpse of Havasu Falls, I knew why.

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls is a picturesque waterfall of magical blue-green water that hurls itself off the edge of the jagged red rocks into a sparkling pool of turquoise water below – and all this in the middle of a desert. It’s a spectacular view.

While trekking in Sumatra was jungle beautiful, trekking the Havasupai trail with its desert conditions was equally incredible.

What was even more amazing than the initial view was dumping our heavy packs at the campsite and running to take a dip in the cool water.

Swimming in the Havasu Creek

Swimming in the Havasu Creek

For three days we hiked around, swam in multiple locations and visited a number of other waterfalls along the same creek.

Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls, just a short hike from the campsite, is the highest waterfall in the area with a height of over 190 feet.

It was a steep, slightly gnarly climb down ladders and rock foot holds to get to bottom of the falls, but the view and the water below was absolutely worth it.

While Havasu Falls is blocked by a rock at the top before it falls, sort of spanning it out and thinning the water, Mooney Falls is a straight vertical tumble.

The water crashes violently into the deep blue pool at the surface.

Navajo Falls

Navajo Falls

The third falls that I spent a lot of time exploring was Navajo Falls. 

(Note: Unfortunately, due to a flash flood that took place in 2008, the falls are no longer in existence – the water has taken a new route.)

Much less pounding than the other two waterfalls, Navajo Falls was a gentle series of rock steps and soothing pools.

As the three days came to an end, we packed our belongings and began the acsent to Hualapai Hilltop and eventually back home.

Havasupai is one of the most memorable hiking and camping trips I’ve ever had!

About the Author:

is the author of 164 posts on Go Backpacking.

Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the US for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @migrationology, and add him on Google Plus.

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Categories: Features, United States
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3 Comments

Julia February 28, 2012 at 8:35 am

These photos are gorgeous — had no idea this was in our very own Arizona! Man, the sheer size and diversity of the USA still surprises me regularly!

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Vagabond List February 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Wholeheartedly agree with Julia – great shots. We’ve hiked to these falls before, yet our photos don’t look quite as nice… Pity to hear about Navajo Falls. Gosh has it really been over four years since we did this hike? Time flies – travel hard.
Again, great stuff. We featured this article in our morning travel links session: http://www.vagabondlist.com/dailylinks/item/77-morning-travel-links-22812

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Michelle December 27, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Love these pictures! This is something that we’ve been really wanting to do.

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