In all of North America, there may be few more strenuous camping hikes with a greater reward at the end than the 10-mile adventure to Havasu Falls in northwest Arizona.
Havasu Falls is a 100-foot waterfall in the Grand Canyon famous for glistening aquamarine pools at the base. The pools, colored by a limestone-like mineral substance acquired en route over the cliff, fill every summer and fall with weary backpackers well justified in splashing around in celebration of their achievement.
Hiking from Hualapai Hilltop trailhead to the falls is an endeavor best approached with complete understanding of the payoff as well as the effort. It’s no easy chore simply reaching the trailhead, on the remote Havasupai tribal reservation 200 miles north-northwest of Phoenix and 235 miles almost due east of Las Vegas. Havasupai means “People of the Blue Green Water.”
An Arizona Adventure
Experts agree the safest route to the trailhead by car is Indian Road 18—but be on the lookout nonetheless for livestock and other wildlife. Indian Road 18 is accessible off state Highway 66, which is accessible from either Phoenix or Las Vegas off Interstate 40 at Seligman. Las Vegas tourists who have made day trips to the North Rim via the Grand Canyon Railway may also be familiar with Seligman as the last major stop-off en route to the rail line’s southern terminus in Williams.
It’s important to know that the tribe regulates the number of daily hikers and requires reservations. If you anticipate making your hike during the prime months—May, June, September or October—be sure to inquire about reservations months in advance, using contact information on the Havasupai website.
Hiking in July or August isn’t recommended. Sun exposure along the unprotected rocky terrain creates too great a risk in those months. Descending the craggy rocks, steep in places, requires exertion anytime of year.
Though challenging, the trail isn’t merciless. Eight miles from the trailhead, hikers can rest and buy supplies at the Indian village of Supai, where they must also check in. The supplies are not expensive in the village, owing to the difficulty and expense of keeping them in stock. Prepare to bring what you can and buy only what you absolutely need. If necessary, hire a mule to help transport your gear .
Havasu Falls is an additional 2 miles past the village. A mile beyond Havasu Falls is another waterfall, Mooney Falls. In between the two is a campground, although hikers register to stay overnight at a lodge in Supai and return there from the falls.
But don’t be in a hurry to go anywhere once you’ve reached the falls. Dive into the pools, splash, swim, laugh … and linger. You’ve earned it.