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Hiking the Havasupai Trail to Havasu Falls

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 operated by the Havasupai Tribe.

Many people that come to the Falls every year are also on a Grand Canyon rafting trip.

This is a great way to add this scenic location and some adventure together at the same time on your vacation.

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 number 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 need a tent because it rarely rains and it’s not too cold – make sure to look at the forecast before you go).

Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls

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.

The beginning of the hike was not all that scenic, and it got outrageously hot as well.

Eventually, we arrived into the central 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 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, the Havasupai trail with its desert conditions was equally incredible.

Mooney Falls
Mooney Falls
Swimming in the Havasu Creek
Swimming in the Havasu Creek

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

We hiked around, swam in multiple locations, and visited several other waterfalls along the same creek for three days.

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

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

While Havasu Falls is blocked by a rock at the top before it falls, 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 fall that I spent a lot of time exploring was Navajo Falls. 

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

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

As the three days ended, we packed our belongings and began the ascent to Hualapai Hilltop and eventually back home.

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

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:


Thursday 27th of December 2012

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

Vagabond List

Tuesday 28th of February 2012

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.


Tuesday 28th of February 2012

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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