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Havasu Falls (Approximately 100 FT)
Before much of this becomes relevant, securing a reservation is your first priority. Camp site reservations start February of each year. You can’t reserve ahead of that. Lodge reservations can be made a year in advance. Either option gives you access to the village and waterfalls area. They are difficult to obtain. But if you succeed that payoff is great.
Day trips into the area are not allowed. This is a remote area even to drive to the trail head. So don’t waste time and money attempting a trip in without advanced reservations. There is only one way in, and visitors are checked along the way. Use the main paved roads to drive to the trail head. Don’t take secondary roads (gravel or dirt), or seemingly shortcuts, from the South Rim area of the Grand Canyon National Park, in an attempt to reach the trail head.
All any of us can say is, be prepared for an backpacking adventure trip of a lifetime. No matter what you read, nothing compares to the real thing. This area is beyond real. It will provide you with a surreal experience you will remember the rest of your life.
Havasu Falls and the Native American village of Supai, is Located in northwestern Arizona, USA. In the Grand Canyon area, and just to the south of the Colorado River. As the crow flies perhaps 50 miles or so west of the Grand Canyon’s National Parks, South Rim tourist destination. Havasu Falls, and some of the other falls mentioned such as Mooney and Beaver, are all on Native American Havasupai Tribal lands. They are not part of the Grand Canyon National Park.
Generally about a 12 mile, one way hike, to the campground area. This trip contains some grueling switchbacks right at the trail head. The total altitude change is about 2500 feet. Most of that happens at the switchbacks. Spring and Fall is the favorite of many not wanting to endure the summer heat of the desert southwest. But those preferring to swim in the beautiful turquoise colored waters put up with the heat to enjoy the soak. The water stays a constant 70°F (21°C) all year round. Summer time air temperatures can easily hit 110°F. Winter time air temperatures can hit below freezing. Being desert terrain there is often a wild swing between daytime and nighttime temperatures.
Reservations and General info
The switchbacks in the trail right at the trail head parking area are the most difficult part of the trip. Take your time. The switchback portion of the trail takes about an hour.
The village of Supai is about 9.5 trail miles from the Trail Head parking area.
The water falls beyond Supai are another 1 1/2 miles to New Navajo Falls, and 2 miles to Havasu Falls, from the village.
The center of the camping area is about 2.5 miles from the center of Supai. Making the center of the campground about 12 trail miles from the Trail Head parking area.
You may be able to shave off some distance by cutting every curve and bend as tight as you can. But figure long and enjoy the hike if it ends up being shorter for you.
Camping is available by reservation. Camping is also limited. Be sure to be ready to make your reservations in February to lock in your permits. The campground is just a large area under the shade of trees with the stream flowing through a high slot canyon. Nothing is marked off in any formal way of indicating a campsite, within the campground area. During most of the day the canyon is in shade. During the summer months this is welcomed.
During cooler months this shade means you better be dressed for cooler temps. There is a safe drinking spring near the upstream entrance to the camping area. After that just find any open space next to your favorite rock, tree, or stream bank to call home for your stay. There are several high tech pit toilets in the camping area.
My first priority picking my spot is being close to the drinking water source (Fern Spring), and in walking distance of one of the pit toilets. There is no electric, and no lights. No campfires are allowed. There are a limited number of picnic tables scattered about. Never enough to go around. Don’t plan on one. If you are lucky enough to snag one feel fortunate. Glow sticks come in real handy at night. If you have to make a trip to the toilet in the night, crack a glow stick and hang it near your tent so that it can be seen in all directions. Headlamps or a flashlight is a must have!
My favorite times to go are March through May, then again Sept through Oct. I have gone in the July heat and found the hike miserable. Many go in early June hoping to hit cooler nights, but hot days so they can enjoy swimming in all the pools.
Late June, July, August, and the first half of September are generally real hot. 100+°F daytime temps, and very warm nights. July, August, and the first part of September is flash flood season (desert monsoon season). Rains can be hit and miss. For that matter anytime of the year a flash flood can sneak up on you.
The camp area is in a narrow slot canyon just below Havasu Falls. There have been some treacherous flash flooding that has swept through and caused considerable damage and natural alteration to the canyon, campgrounds, and waterfalls. The area never remains the same. Bear this in mind when picking a campsite. Think about what your escape plan will be if suddenly faced with that type of situation. Know where “high” ground is. I avoid crossing the stream for a campsite.
If you are truly backpacking this, don’t think this trip is any walk in the park as some macho types like to post on social media. Some people boast about how easy it is. Then you find they either helicoptered in or out. Or they used Pack Animals to transport their gear.
These are the ones hard core backpackers say have really never backpacked Havasu. They made the trip, but didn’t backpack it. Take time to plan and prepare. Prepare your gear and your body. If you aren’t going to do a true backpacking trip, which means round trip, carrying all your own gear. You may get by not being so concerned. Each time I have made the trip I run into people with injuries, and those very ill prepared, not having adequate water for the trail, lacking proper gear and footwear, or packing grossly over-weight packs.
If you are in great shape, a seasoned backpacker, or have lots of stamina, then by all means you can throw caution to the wind. If you are new to all of this, many of us that have been doing this for awhile recommend you take these recommendations seriously. Get in shape, have good footwear, go light, and carry plenty of water.
Don’t travel that last 60 mile stretch of road in the dark. It is “open range”. Lots of dark cattle, elk, deer, etc. The road is desolate and no lights. Failing to heed this warning might very well result in a very damaged vehicle or something worse. Don’t be in that big of a hurry,
Office up on the Hilltop Parking area. For dropping gear to be transported via pack animal. This is not the Camper/Tourist check-in office which is down in the village of Supai.
This is the security/pack animal personnel Office up at the Hilltop Parking Area Trail Head
The Camper/Tourist Check-in office is about a 9 mile hike to Supai from here.
Can I Hike in at Night? How about a one day “Day Hike”?
There is no potable water available at the Trail Head. Nor on the trail all the way to the village. The nearest source is 60+ miles back to Peach Springs. Don’t attempt the hike to the village (Supai) without water. If it is summer be prepared to hike early in the morning and carry even more water during times of high heat.
If you are day hiking from the campground area to Beaver Falls, or further, be sure to carry at least a gallon of drinking water per person. No one with adequate experience recommends drinking the stream water unless boiled for an adequate length of time, or filtered using a high end filter with a viro cartridge. Even then it is not recommended for drinking water due to the taste. Sure there are always people that throw caution to the wind, and practice risky behavior. I love the old saying of “I did it and I am just fine”. Yes, that may be true. Things like eColi don’t affect everyone in the same way. Also time of year, recent flooding, etc can also affect things differently. There is also a saying out there “Better safe than sorry”. You make your own personal choice.
Swimming & Water Temperature
The water comes up out of the ground in an off-limits area above the Village of Supai. This spring, Havasu Springs, is an underground river that surfaces. The water stays a constant 70°F (21°C) all year round.
These cooling waters are a welcome relief from heat of summer. During colder months it takes a brave soul to jump into one of the pools. But regardless of month of the year, or cold weather conditions, I always see someone crazy enough to get wet.
It is common for the water to run opaque brown or red during times of rain showers or flash floods. If you are in or near the water when this starts happening, especially in the campground area, do not treat this lightly. Get to high ground. Flash Floods can come without warning producing a wall of water and forces you are no match for. Remember Mooney Falls is at the down stream end of the Campground. You certainly would not want to be swept over that 200ft falls during a flash flood.
Bear backpacking containers might be an option, but those add weight. The local horses also wander through the camping area at times. Food left in a tent might result in horse damage too. A trampled and torn up tent, broken poles, etc., would ruin any trip. Packs hung too low are easy pickings. Someone told me they even saw horses reared up on their hind legs getting into packs. So be forewarned. They are looking for a free lunch too!
Secure your valuables
Medical Emergency It can happen
There is no public Health Care Facilities in Supai. It can be many hours away for medical treatment. Emergency transportation out of the canyon will be very costly. It may not be available at night or during certain weather conditions.
Some suggest liner socks inside your other socks (make sure your boots are fitted to such)
I for one can’t wear wool. I have successfully used cotton athletic socks. But I do several things. I get new ones that provide lots of cushion. I wash them at least once before the trip. I carry extra’s and make a point of changing them during the hike down, and back up….whether I think they feel like I should or not. They are either washed out and completely dried while in camp, or I carry enough fresh ones for the trip out. The fresh ones are kept in zip lock bags so they never get wet or damp if it rains. This might mean carrying 6 pairs of socks. (Consider the weight)
Simply stopping 3 or 4 times during your hike in or out, pulling your socks off and shaking any sand out does wonders. This includes dumping any in your boots. You would be surprised what a few grains of sand can do to the ball of your foot if you don’t practice this simple thing.
For some preventatives concerning products to prevent blisters. First be aware of using products not made for this purpose. Some homemade remedies don’t work. This is not the place to be “testing” out a product. Do that ahead in your conditioning hikes. Some products may block your pores and end up causing more problems rather than preventing them.
One of the most asked questions is, “Can I wear sneakers”. Some do successfully. Some do and pay the price. If you are asking seasoned backpackers for advice they will generally recommend buying high grade boots that cover the ankle, and have sole protecting bottoms. Boots rated for backpacking. These take into consideration that extra load you will carry and the extra foot support required. As an avid life long backpacker I am personally against ever recommending sneakers, sandals, or any open toed footwear, etc, for backpacking. Remember an injury may ruin your trip, as well as for others in your group. Don’t be that person.
Over the ankle footwear is better when used while backpacking under load or used to walking in rough terrain. The terrain on this trip can often cause you to misstep and twist or sprain an ankle. Wearing low cut shoes can raise the chance of injury. Going down with a pack strapped on can cause broken arms, fingers, wrists, and the list goes on.
When backpacking under a load your foot tends to spread out and swell to some degree. Many of us have found boot styles that compensate for this. I personally recommend Keen’s brand after trying many brands over the years. When being fitted you want to take the socks you will hike with. Have the boots professionally fitted. Don’t just grab a pair of cheap boots off a discount rack, in your size, and head out the door for home…or worst out to the trail. They also need broke in!
To avoid toenails popping off trim them 1 week to 10 days prior to your hike. Long nails will rub inside your footwear and can cause the nail to come off. Even if they don’t pop off, many will experience severely bruised nails. Very painful! This is a very common injury. Don’t let your nail trimming go until the last minute. Cutting one way too short right before the hike can result in a painful trip too…so perform this task carefully a week o 10 days in advance. I am sure you will pass some ill prepared people that are doing this hike in everything from tennis shoes to flip-flops. I have seen them limping to get on the helicopter too.
Break the boots in long before you ever do long distance hikes or backpacking. Try them out soon. Wear them around the house, to go shopping, etc. If they don’t feel right take them back while you still can.
Eventually work up to walking several miles in the boots. Then start hauling around some weight in a backpack to prep for your actual hike. Somewhere in your planning and prepping stage you need to be doing several conditioning hikes in the 12 mile range. Don’t do this trip cold turkey with no conditioning. Again some macho types will have you believing going cold turkey is possible with no pain. When you wake up the next morning after your hike in you will know what some of us are talking about. Hiking/Backpacking down, and uphill works muscles you don’t normally work when traveling on flat terrain. Carry your 800mg of Ibuprofen!
More on this later in the Preparing for your trip section found below.
Water shoes are recommended, in addition to what you hike in with. You will want these if you will be doing any wading or swimming in any of the pools. The travertine dams in the stream are often destroyed during flood conditions. These dams break into hard sharp pieces that make up the bottom of the stream. The stream bottom equates to crushed tile in many places. You can use any type of slip on footwear that will protect your feet. I don’t recommend flip flops….but have seen it done. Again its a long hike out with foot trouble. There are more expensive water shoes that will double as camp footwear to allow your hiking boots/shoes to air out. Open tops invite sand and small sharp pieces to end up inside your water footwear. So the closed style provide you better comfort.
Bandana – Hat – Sunglasses – Sunscreen
In warm/hot weather a bandanna is great to have. Soak it in water and tie around your head or neck for cooling. Some have even responded they carry a small spray bottle for spritzing their face to cool down.
The Bandana also comes in handy to cover your nose and mouth in case you encounter winds and blowing sand.
A hat is really necessary in desert conditions. The conditions most of your trek will be in. While any type hat is better than nothing, the type that covers your ears in addition to the top of your head is highly recommended. During summer the type you can water soak adds a great cooling effect.
Sunglasses are a must. Protect your eyes from the glaring sun. They also come in handy during winds and blowing sand.
Sunscreen goes without saying in this climate.
Go ultralight. Read up on it. Change out heavier gear. Reduce, reduce, reduce until your total carry weight is less than 25 lbs. (Highly recommended never more than 25% of your body weight). I am over 200lb and I can assure you I am not about to carry a 50lb pack. Most of us use titanium pots that serve as a coffee cup too. Saw off tooth brush handles, make tooth paste dots….count them out and don’t carry anything extra. This includes all your carry items in pockets, on your belts, cameras, etc. Click to see article on “How much should my pack weigh?”
Just changing packs can save you 5-7 lbs and that is a considerable difference
REI rents some high end backpacks, and other gear such as sleeping pads, etc,…. at some of their locations. If you don’t go often, or are just trying this out, this might be an option for you? Good comfortable packs are expensive.
Also Click to see Pack compare and reducing weight.
Some people prefer to go heavy and have pack animals haul their coolers down to the Lodge or Campground, depending on where they will be sleeping. Ice may become a concern. Normally ice is available for purchase at the store and some report also at the cafe. The last report we have indicates ice is $6 per bag. The trick getting it from the village, the 2 miles to the campground, is another story. This could be entertaining in the middle of the summer heat.
Carry your own Toilet paper. The pit toilets are often out when you make a visit. I just get so I carry it with me just in case. Believe me that “just in case”, happens often.
Sunscreen and bug repellent are two necessary items. I have not been bothered by bugs early in the spring, nor fall. During the warm periods there may be mosquitoes.
Temperature appropriate (night time low temp) sleeping bags are recommended for Fall, Winter, and Spring trips. The camping area is in a narrow slot canyon with very high walls. Even in the summer the camping area is in shade most of the day. Night time temperatures can fool you. Also the low humidity air tends to feel much cooler/colder than the actual temperatures are.
I used and recommend taking a zippered tent. Especially during the time of year snakes are active. Some backpackers opt not to, and use hammocks to stay off the ground. Bugs are a slight nuisance during the warmer months.
Carry a minimum of 1 Gallon of water…more if you go when it is hot. One gallon is going to increase your carry weight another 7.5 lbs. Supper hydrate yourself before starting the hike. I start drinking water the last 30 minutes of the drive. Use dehydrated meals and don’t carry extras. Carry Ultralight stoves, or use all no cook foods. You can make the 9.5 miles to the village and buy there if you want to deal with pack weight for only the last 2.5 miles. But there are no backpack type foods available there. Just canned and boxed. All heavy stuff.
I use Freeze Dried Food and practice Zip-Lock Bag cooking to lighten my pack and eliminate the need for dish soap, dish cloth, and dish towel.
My stove is a Jetboil PCS. It is lightweight, compact, has a self ignitor, does not have problems in the wind, an integrated pot/stove to prevent the pot from sliding off and dumping. Fuel stores inside the unit. I never put food in the pot, ever. I use it to boil water and then use instant drinks and freeze dried meals that are eaten out of a cooking pouch…or use the zip-lock bag cooking method. No clean-up cooking.
Take your sunglasses, a hat that covered your ears, and sunscreen. In hot months use some of your extra water to soak down your hat and a bandanna. With the dry air the evaporation will help cool you to avoid heat stroke.
Practice “Leave No Trace” Soap use, trash, trail poop
Always carry adequate drinking water when hiking this area. Factor in drinking, cooking food, and wetting down hats and bandana’s. During the summer be sure to carry at least 1 gallon of water per person. There is no water source at the trail head or anywhere close. Depending on which directions you are coming make sure you have adequate water with you. You can pick it up in Seligman or Peach Springs as you pass through.
I always make sure I have additional water stashed in my vehicle for my return hike up out of the canyon.
Once you start down the trail head you have to make about 9.5 miles to the village center of Supai before you have water. Just prior to the village the stream is available but be sure to filter since animals may cause severe gastrointestinal problems created by bacteria or parasites. The horses, among other animals, do walk through, poop, and pee, in that water.
There is a water spigot at the Camper Check-in building, in Supai. Some report it is safe, but tastes funky. I don’t know if that is treated water?
You can normally purchase bottled water, up to gallon sizes, from the store in Supai.
SHOULD I FILTER???
The official Havasupai Website is now recommending you filter any stream or spring water.
The next source beyond the village for water is in the campground, about 2.5 miles beyond the center of the village. This source is Fern Spring. While many use this unfiltered and never seem to have problems, I have suffered the ill effects of drinking water that can really make you miserable for several weeks and require hospitalized medical attention. My experience was not from the Havasu area. But I did contact E. Coli once that landed me in the hospital for 3 days on IV’s. So I do filter even that spring, as I do any other place now. Also be aware simple filters are not 100% effective either.
If you are day hiking from the campground area to Beaver Falls, or further, be sure to carry at least a gallon of drinking water per person. No one recommends drinking the stream water unless boiled for an adequate length of time, or using a high end filter. Even then it is not recommended for drinking water.
Havasu Creek running through the area, over the falls you will visit, and all the way down to Beaver and beyond to the Colorado, I would definitely boil or filter with a high end filter & viro cartridge before using….but I wouldn’t even use that unless it was an emergency. You are downstream of too many contaminants regardless if it appears pristine. Others have also used this water.
A note on filter choice:
Using a filter on the spring (based on life experiences and having problems) is a must by me. It is a personal choice. I also go to Beaver, etc and in a pinch I might use the stream if it meant life or death. I would rather go prepared instead. The stream in this area is mostly downstream of the village, many swimming, and those inappropriately bathing because they have no sense. That stream water is questionable for sure.
I use a high output Katadyn Vario which pumps on both the up stroke as well as the down stroke. It also direct attaches to the most popular water bottles and hydration bladders. I also attach a virus/iodine cartridge. Most of even the best filters do not remove some of the microscopic threats. Chancing not filtering is not worth taking the few extra minutes for the added safety.
E.Coli is just one caused from microscopic particles of feces, either human or animal. Fine restaurants struggle to avoid its contamination of food. To me it is not worth following the lead of many that don’t filter and claim everything is safe and wonderful. You wouldn’t know until it was too late. It has nothing to do with how iron clad you think your stomach is, or how healthy you consider yourself. Even Fern spring occasionally has been tagged that it needs to be filtered. But that contamination notice has been rare. Still the tribe on its website indicates to filter all streams and springs.
It all boils down to personal choice and the risks you are willing to take. If you think you are impervious just please don’t try to convince others to follow that thinking.
Preparing for your trip
We usually have a group pack weighing get together the week before the trip. We start eliminating similar items the group can use. For example; as a group we always take a water filter. 5 or 6 of us do not need to each bring one. Someone is assigned to bring that item for group use. Does everyone need to bring a stove? No. Share them. Someone carries a stove, another carries the fuel. Smaller people may need to even trim their pack weight further….yes it is difficult. But in most cases you might be down there 3 nights?
Don’t take anything but the bare minimum. Wear one pair of underwear, and pack only one extra. Wash the first pair the first night so it is dry for the next day. The same method is used for T shirts, and socks. I do carry extra socks to avoid ever hiking with wet or sweaty socks……fastest way to get blisters. Buy hiking socks that wick perspiration.
Crotch or inner leg rub is another common discomfort. Badly fitted pants or underwear are often the culprit. Or if you have upper legs that naturally touch while walking. First I would make every attempt to eliminate clothing that causes this. Sweating causes this to intensify. Salt coming out of your body builds up more in certain materials.
This constant repeated abrasion will effectively sand through your skin. This can be a real trip killer. By the time you reach the campground you could be rubbed to the point of bleeding. You will not heal fast enough for the trip out. I have experienced this with an ill fitted pair of pants. There are several home remedies that may or may not help? One of which is using corn starch.
Then there are commercial products to help prevent chaffing. One is a silicone product called SportShield. These too may or may not help.
This goes back to conditioning yourself prior to this trip, as well as pretesting your gear and clothing. Carry your pack weight and hike around with the boots and clothing you will be using on your trip. Don’t buy something new right before the trip to be looking good….but not wear tested.
Don’t wear tank top styled tops while carrying a backpack. This causes a rub point that will become painful of time and distance.
Use high grade hiking boots or hiking shoes that are fitted properly, and that are well broke in. At times you will be walking on small rocks that will beat up the soles of your feet if you use inferior footwear. Use good socks. There are some specifically made for hiking that wick moisture. Never hike in damp or wet socks. Stop and take the time to change to dry ones.
To avoid toenails popping off trim them 1 week to 10 days prior to your hike. Long nails will rub inside your footwear and can cause the nail to come off. This is a very common injury. Don’t let your nail trimming go until the last minute. Cutting one way too short right before the hike can result in a painful trip too…so perform this task carefully a week o 10 days in advance. I am sure you will pass some ill prepared people that are doing this hike in everything from tennis shoes to flip-flops. I have seen them limping to get on the helicopter too.
Indian Road #18- The drive in to the Trail Head
You eventually have to take #18, north off old RT66. There are no services for 65 miles (one way). So that is a round trip of about 140 miles for gas or water. Gas up and water up, before you get close. I suggest at Peach Springs or Seligman depending on which direction you are coming from. #18 is a lonely 2 lane blacktop road. It does have some severe rough spots in places (in years past). You will rarely see a building, the entire distance out to the dead end at Hilltop Parking Trail Head. There are no street lights. This is open range with animals walking on the roadway. Please take my advice…Do not to make this portion of the drive while it is dark. It isn’t worth ruining your trip. Come up on black cattle in the dark at 50 or 60 MPH, and you could be toast!
The Trail Head – Hilltop Parking lot
Many get to the trail head the night before or early morning. The trail head is a flat paved parking lot teetering on the edge of the canyon. There is a sheer vertical drop of a thousand feet or more off the west facing side. The other side is a steep cut into the east canyon wall; complete with loose falling rocks…I wouldn’t park my vehicle along that rock face.
This area is often times filled and very busy. Many have to park off the edge of the road leading up the hill away from the parking area. There is another gravel area about 1 mile back on the road, where there is some larger garbage dumpsters located. Don’t block the dumpsters or trucks needing to dump them in if you park there. I had to park back there one time. It added nearly a mile to my hike….each way. The end of this road is right on the edge of the canyon at times. In some places there it not enough room to pull off the road to park on the edge. The road, eventually dead ends at the trail head parking lot.
This is not a good place for attempting to camp out the night before. Though some sleep in their vehicles. You might get run over if you try sleeping outside. There are no lights here.
It is also a tough area to come into if you are pulling a trailer.
There is a pit toilet at this location, but that is it. There is not a water source for drinking or filling water.
During the busy season there are enterprising local people selling bottled water, soda, and snacks. But I have hit it when they are not around, so don’t depend on that as your water source. I always stash extra bottled water in my vehicle for my return.
On some earlier trips I started hiking in at dusk and camped in the rocks below the switchbacks. But you have to pack all waste out and no fires allowed…..and I am not sure if it is acceptable to do this? We asked some of the local guys that handle the horses. The ones we talked too seemed OK with it. After doing this several times I recommend staying close (motels or campground about 65 miles away), grab your water before making the drive, then drive to the trail head early morning. Make the hike down fast in the cool of the early morning. You can be in the village in 4 hours. It is not worth setting up tents and breaking camp in the a.m. somewhere on the rail.
This is snake area…I make sure I have a tent that zips up. I wouldn’t trail camp in just a sleeping bag to save time trying to bivouac overnight.
The trail from the Trail Head (Hilltop Parking area) takes switchbacks down the east canyon wall. This is steep downhill hiking in loose gravel and dirt. There are numerous railroad tie steps along the way. Sometimes going downhill is just as hard on your feet, ankles, and knees, as climbing back up when you leave. You will share the trail with horses and mules carrying loads.
You have to be alert and watch at all times. Don’t get hit in the head by a cooler strapped to a pack animal that comes trotting by…and yes it happens. Not a place to have ear buds in, listening to music, and drowning out your surroundings. Enjoy the views, enjoy nature, and enjoy your trail partners!.
Pack animals have the right-of-way. Always yield. Move to the canyon wall side of the trail to avoid being knocked over the edge..
The switch backs go about 2 trail miles down until you reach a wide dry wash. The rest of the trip to the village is relatively gradual; though walking in loose gravel makes it more difficult than walking on hard pack. It is suggested you wear well broke in high quality hiking boots. Change your socks if they get sweaty to avoid blisters. Trim toenails prior to starting, preferably a week ahead. Blisters and popped off toenails are the most frequent injuries. Painful feet make for a miserable experience.
The Village center (Supai) is 9.5 GPS walking miles from the Trail Head parking lot. It would be difficult to get lost. A map is not necessary. Though there is a general overview map in one of the files for your use.
The total altitude change between the parking area and the village is about 2500 feet. Most of that happens at the switchbacks.
The campground area is another 2.5 miles beyond the village. That mileage can vary based on how much you wander on the trail, or where you locate in the campground.
Getting Close To Supai
About 2 miles before the Village you will come to a narrow spot in the canyon. Most times of the year a trickle of water will be at this location. There is a “seep” on the left canyon wall (left facing down-hill) The trail will cross from the left to the right and the path will drop quickly downhill for several hundred feet. At the bottom of the incline you will be walking in some larger than usual stones. Round river stone type rocks. The canyon will widen out and actually Y off. Going downhill you will want to veer to your left. At times there is a sign in this area pointing you toward the village. You have 1.5 miles to go.
From a June 2012 Trip
You will soon walk into a treed area. Clear rushing water will soon be on your right. This is Havasu Creek running toward the village. Shortly after that you come to a foot bridge that will allow you to cross the stream. This is a pleasant part of the hike. For those that have made the trip before, we always get excited at this point knowing the village is just up over a few more rises in the trail. The trees are a welcome relief providing cool shade. For now we walk and enjoy the oasis of vegetation, in stark contrast from the red rocks and sparse vegetation of the past 7 miles or so.
The Village (Supai)
You will eventually come down a small rise in the trail and hit the edge of the village. You will continue on a dirt path that meanders through houses, fenced off property, statues of old dead trees, and locals going about their day to day living. A small rodeo arena will come up on your left.
Shortly after the small arena, you will come to a T in the path… you need to bear to your right. The path will go a short distance then a 90° curve to the left. You will be heading generally north at this point (down canyon direction) through a few more homes on either side. Soon a larger building will come up on your left (west side of path). Look for the “Camper Check in office”.
CAMPER CHECK-IN OFFICE a.k.a Tourist Office
Check the opening/closing hours when you get down there. The cafe hours vary with the season. (Normally 8am-5pm) The Cafe is a good place for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner. But don’t expect a large selection. Prices are high too.
We have gotten so we sometimes hike back up from the campground early mornings just to enjoy breakfast. It’s a 45 minute hike with no pack. It gets the stiffness out of the legs from the previous hike in. You get to enjoy the early morning light and two waterfalls on the way. Then a leisurely $12 breakfast :-). By then the store opens and it’s a frozen Gatorade run. Then back past the two waterfalls, and the rest of the day ahead of you.
Supai Store – Photos courtesy of Danny Negrete
Hours 7am to 530pm (M-F)
8am to 5pm (S &S)
We always joke there must be the locals price and the tourist price. Knowing the merchandise is shipped down via animal pack train or helicopter, it is understandable the prices are higher than you are used to paying.
There is a pretty good variety to choose from. Mostly in smaller packages similar to a convenience store. Frozen Gatorade is my favorite treat. They have canned goods, boxed food, and limited fruit and produce. Depending on your eating choices, you actually could outfit yourself from this point if you didn’t want to backpack the weight down from your vehicle.
I normally buy a couple gallons of distilled water and replenish my drinking supply at this point.
Bear in mind you have to pack out your trash!
The Post Office is attached to the store on the east side of the village center. On all trips I mail post cards to my friends and family and also one back to myself. I want the unique postmark that your stamps are canceled with. These make a perfect memento of your trip, so send one to yourself.
Sometimes the office is closed so be sure to bring your own stamps if you don’t want to hang around waiting. There is a drop box on the outside if you have your own stamps. Post cards are available in the Camper Check-in office, or the store.
The school is on the north end of the village center. The trail to the campground will wind around the school to the west between the school and the cafe, then turn to the right (north) at the corner of the school property. You will wander past the school and see a church coming up in front of you.
Make a choice at Church
At the Church just north of the school, should you bear slightly to the right you would come to the Lodge. Again, you need reservations for lodging. Don’t expect to walk up and find a room available.
At the Church just north of the school, should you bear to the left and follow the trail you will be heading for the waterfalls and campground area. Heading off in this direction you will cross a small wash, follow an irrigation ditch on the right, and an outcrop of rock right up to the right side of the trail. A couple houses and fenced in lots on your left then brush close to both sides of the trail.The stream will come rushing up alongside the trail to your left (west) for a short distance then veer off. You will hike up a couple rises and eventually start down a long grade into some trees and a steep hill rising up on your right, from the edge of the trail. As you finish off the grade you should be hearing your first waterfalls off to your left.
This falls is actually the first below the village of Supai. Most people miss this one. It is hard to see from the main trail. If you are on the main trail looking toward Little Navajo Falls, 50Ft Falls will be up above and off to the left. It almost appears as water coming out of the tree line. Well worth a little side trip to check these beautiful waterfalls.
Photo: Courtesy of Rick Beach
Little Navajo Falls This waterfalls area off to your left of the main trail, heading downstream, is Little Navajo Falls (Some locals used to or still do call this Rock Falls). The bit of water/waterfalls, in the very upper left seemingly falling out of the tree line, is a glimpse of 50 Ft Falls, from the trail.
The Falls in the foreground with the side rapids/falls is Little Navajo. A few years ago a flash flood completely altered this immediate area.
This shot is how it appeared 6/5/2012. In 2012 it looked very different than I remembered from a previous trip.
The Bridge and the Burial Grounds
As you continue downstream you will be much higher than the stream. It will be in a canyon cut way deeper than the trail. Evidence of a fire that wiped out many of the trees on the opposite side of the stream. You will make a sharp turn to the left and immediately start down a steep grade. At the bottom of the grade you will be more at level with the stream. The stream will come up along side the trail.
Ahead you cross a foot bridge over the stream…the water is rushing now to plunge over Havasu Falls which is not too much further ahead. After you cross the bridge there is a steep bank on your left. On a small plateau looking over the stream and trail, is a burial ground. This is sacred ground. Do not enter or even take photos out of respect for the wishes of the tribe.
Shortly after crossing the footbridge you will start down another steep grade. You will now start hearing the roar and probably feel the thunder of plunging water falling over Havasu Falls. From your trail vantage point you will be looking down at the pools below….and also a trail that drops at about a 45° angle as it hugs a overhanging rock wall the entire way down.
The Fry Bread Lady
Just beyond Havasu Falls, as you follow the steep trail downhill to the campground area. Continue downhill on the trail past Havasu Falls. You will pass through some cuts in the rocks. If you look closely you will see the rocks are actually old sections of the waterfalls and travertine pools that once existed before the stream was diverted by some natural event. A few cactus and prickly pear seem to dominate the vegetation in this area. At the end of this steep grade you will dump out into a fenced in horse corral area.
At this location, there is often times someone making fresh fry bread. This is in the location where the trail abruptly levels out to some shade of trees and large house size rocks. This is the general area of the campground entrance and area the pack horses unload. This is also the drop point where you need to leave your packs being carried out via a pack animal on departure day. Some of the native people will often times have a Coleman stove going and frying the bread in a hot cast iron skillet sizzling with hot oil. They also sell a variety of frozen and unfrozen Gatorade. It’s like the local Starbucks some mornings. Expect a line. It is a great treat if they are set up and cooking.
In the barbed wire fenced area there is a people passageway (Cattle guard passage) through the fence that is off to your left. The campground guard house/building/shack just beyond that. Sometimes there is someone there to check your pass. Other times not. If your packs were packed down on a pack animal it will arrive in this area. Incidentally, if you made arrangements for your pack to be picked up on departure day, you drop them off to the right of the passageway through the fence. Lay them along the fence with your payment/name tag securely attached. (Word of warning put your pack on high ground just on the other side of the barbed wire. The horses are tied to the fence posts and have a tendency to drain their radiator on the packs that are in their way.) ….ask me how I know!! At this point you are about 2.5 GPS walking miles from the center of the village of Supai.
Just inside the fence of the campground entrance you will see the first pit toilet building. Raised up high, you must ascend the steps. I think each has about 3 to 4 individual doors? There is no water even for washing hands.
The camp ground is not organized spots….just find a place to set up camp. I like high ground, and river left (facing downstream) in case of an unexpected flash flooding. If you are on the other side of Havasu Creek during a flood you will have a hard time getting out of the campground and to high ground. You would have to cross the stream or hope you can get high enough to wait it out. The trail out is on river left (facing downstream).
The camp area is located in a fairly narrow high walled slot canyon. During the summer the sun will make it down to your campsites depending on where you set up. During months that the sun is lower toward the horizon, and therefore the cooler months of the year, expect to be in the shadows. The cooler month’s means you better have the sleeping gear and extra layers of clothing to deal with cooler days and cold nights depending on the weather.
On river right (when facing down-stream), or the east side of Havasu Creek there is a small area that is slightly higher and may catch sun a small portion of fall, winter, and spring days. It is about half way through the campground across a foot bridge (log or log with boards). Look for the only pit toilet on that side of Havasu Creek. If the weather is cold this might be a better place to set up to have sun.
Winds can come ripping up this canyon without warning. When picking your campsite and setting up your tents look above you. Check for questionable trees/limbs and dead wood that might come crashing down on you. We made this rookie mistake one time. A thing all of us even knew better not to forget. In our excitement to be there, we never thought once about it. We ended up moving all our gear and tents when a storm came up. That kind of sucked in the rain. This could be a terrible experience if this happens in the darkness.
Fern Spring in the Campground area
Practice “Leave no Trace” when visiting the entire area.
Image Courtesy Rick Beach
The camp ground is a narrow oasis in a high steep walled slot canyon. I venture to guess it extends close to 3/4 mile from Havasu Falls to Mooney Falls. So Mooney is just downstream of the end of the camping area. Trees get a little sparser down at that end too. Mooney Falls is about 200 ft. high. There is no alternate route to descend to the base of Mooney (that I know of)without taking one scary footpath on the face of some rocks, going through 2 hand chiseled short low tunnels, then descending the final 75ft vertical cliff face using chiseled footholds, chains, and a couple of vertical ladders chained to the rock. The final 75ft is also bathed in the mist and spray from the falls. To top that all off there is traffic going up and down at the same time. Anything you carry to descend Mooney you will want in a pack to protect it and to have both hands free. Click to see article & video on Mooney Falls.
Hiking beyond the campground area and Mooney Falls requires carrying drinking water. This would include day trips to Beaver Falls, and on beyond that to the Colorado River.
If you are day hiking from the campground area to Beaver Falls, or further, be sure to carry at least a gallon of drinking water per person, per day. No one recommends drinking the stream water unless boiled for an adequate length of time, or using a high end filter. Even then it is no recommended for drinking water.
Image courtesy Rick Beach
Beaver Falls for the normal person is another day hike from the Camping Area. Take a day pack, swim suit, towel, lunch and water. Wear water shoes. Much of your trip will be walking in knee deep water either walking the stream, or crossing it many times. The trail is less traveled, but fairly easy to follow…though some say they lose the trail and give up. There are a couple wood ladders you must use to scale some small cliffs or large rocks. If you made it down Mooney, this is a piece of cake. Enjoy Beaver, have lunch. Make sure you leave on this trip early in the morning, and start back giving yourself ample time. You don’t want to get back and attempt scaling Mooney Falls, chains, ladders, and that cliff trail after dark. If I didn’t make it back in time I would hunker down below Mooney until daylight…..and that might be a cold night. If you get caught in such a situation, get back away from the mist of the falls that will really lower the air temperature during the night.
Colorado River Beyond
Below Beaver several more miles, the canyon and Havasu Creek continues on to merge with the Colorado River. I have never made this section. I understand it is about a 16 hour round trip for a normal hiker, from the Camp area to the Colorado, then back to the camp area again. The trail is less defined since most people never attempt that section. It is a slot canyon and you shouldn’t get lost but I am told you might have to make your own way in places. The merging of the Turquoise waters of the stream with the Colorado’s more muddy water is supposed to be a spectacular sight.
The Hike out
After doing the full pack and backpacking both down, and back up, several times. I now opt out of packing it out on some trips. I do still pack all my gear down to the campground.
You can arrange for a pack animal to haul haul your gear out. Prearrange at the Camp Office on your way in. Get your paid pack tag, at the camper check in office. Tag your pack, then drop your pack the day of departure. Your tagged pack is left at the campground entrance near the corral fence. Tie up any loose straps. Most of the time my pack weight is 20-25 lbs. We try to share an animal and split the cost. If you carry heavier packs you may only get 2 on one animal.
If you need to meet a time deadline on your trip out I would not depend on pack animals, and your own gear out.
I carry a camelbak water bladder that goes with me on the trip back up. That and a couple power bars, and my camera gear. I can usually make it from the campground back up to the Trail Head parking lot in 4 hours….and I am 63 years old and not in the best of shape.
I fill my water the night before. The last couple trips I tried to be up and on the trail before 4am. My objective is to be up the switchbacks before the sun comes far enough from the east to take the switchbacks out of the shade. That starts happening around 9 to 9:30 am. I am usually up at the top by 8 to 8:30.
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