Hiking The Havasu Falls
The 20th most popular hiking trail in Arizona.
Thursday 19 October 2017 03:53 GMT
Northwest of Flagstaff and far west of Grand Canyon Village, the 10 mile hike down to the spectacular Havasu Falls is a popular red rock journey. The turquoise Havasu Falls is the heart of this adventure, but it’s only one of several waterfalls along the way. You’ve probably seen one of the many solitary photos of the blue water falls, but don’t be fooled - a lot has changed over the past 10 years. This former hiking path is now dominated by mule trains carrying the hundreds of daily visitors, so the trail is now very dusty and covered with piles of mule droppings. And, if you’re planning to camp, you’ll be alongside 500 others who tend to bring ridiculous brand-new Walmart camping gear in the wrappings and big coolers. Keep in mind that the fees are very high to camp including the hiking permit fee, the campsite fee and the mandatory garbage removal fee. As for noise, be prepared for boom boxes and dozens of helicopters dropping of visitors coming from either the trailhead or even Las Vegas. Many hikers also tend to be disappointed by the water color since they are expecting the bright torquoise blue seen in all the photos - but most summer afternoons there is rain which turns the water brown for a couple days later.
If you’re still up for hiking, the one-way route descends 2,800 feet through rugged chaparral red-rock terrain and slots with towering canyon walls. The view of blue-green waters flowing over red-rock with some green undergrowth is hard to beat. The are four main waterfalls, but it’s the 100 foot tall Havasu Falls that attracts most of the 20,000 annual visitors. With 30,000 gallons of water per minute, the refreshing 68F blue-green water is perfect for cooling off in the high desert heat. The signature water color of the falls comes from a high concentration of calcium-carbonate.
The Havasu Falls hike starts at the remote Hualapai Hilltop trailhead in the heart of Havasupai Tribal Lands. From the high parking area, the wide path leads down into the canyon towards Supai, which is 8 miles from the trailhead. This remote Indian town offers a cafe, general store and small lodge. While many visitors are expecting solitude, don’t be surprised to hear loud modern music coming from the windows.
During the long summer season, hikers need to be prepared for big crowds, heat and storms. Inside the canyon, the summer temperatures regularly exceed 100F. The afternoon rain storms come on suddenly and result in dangerous flash floods. After rains, the falls turn to murky brown for days until the water level drops. If you’re expect solitude, this may not be the place with the regular helicopter flights from the trailhead down to Supai, and the horse/mule trains.
To reach the trailhead for the Havasu Falls from Flagstaff, head west on US40 to Exit #123. Then, head west on Historic Route 66 thru Seligman (last fuel) and past the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn for a total of 37 miles from the highway. Turn right heading north on Indian Road 18 for 64 miles to the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead parking area. The parking lot accomodates about a hundred cars, but that is too small. You’ll probably end up parking along the road a half mile or more from the trail.
Note, all hiking trips within the Havasupai Indian Reservation requires a permit. While permits can be purchased on the reservation, it is highly recommended to purchase in-advance online since only a limited number are suppose to be allowed each day. There are various permits and fees required if you plan to camp or to stay at the lodge overnight. In light of all the camping related fees, it may be more cost effective to stay at the lodge in Supai (1 year advance reservation required). Make sure to have the permit with you at all times, since you will be asked for them.
In terms of packing, there are a few things to remember. First, if you pack it in, you are required by Navasupai Tribal Land regulations to hike it out. With the high heat, you will need to drink a lot of water, so a water purification method is a must. Also, there are numerous opportunities for water crossings, so some form of water shoes is highly recommend.
Overall, Havasu Falls is the 20th most popular hiking trail of all 49 hikes in Arizona. Several of the better hiking trails are nearby Havasu Falls including South and North Kaibab Trails, Bright Angel Trail and Grandview Trail.