You know you are in Arizona when you notice your car overheating before you drive it and you no longer associate bridges or rivers with water. It is a hot, tumbleweed ridden desert. A place that only the toughest of animals can endure.
Unbeknownst to many, there is a desert oasis hidden at the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. This place is called Havasupai Falls (“Havasu Falls”). Located two miles north of a Native American village called Supai, Havasu Falls boasts some of the most beautiful waterfalls in North America. When I say beautiful, I mean abso-freaking-lutely beautiful. Words can’t describe the feelings I had when I first laid eyes on these beauties. I couldn’t believe I was in Arizona! Each waterfall is light blue/green, which makes perfect sense since Havasupai roughly translates to “the people of the blue-green waters”. The water is chilly to the touch, refreshing when you dive in. As you progress down the trail, each waterfall gets more impressive than the next.
Navajo falls is relatively small, but after hiking for 10 miles in the blistering sun, you are thirsty, your feet hurt, and you are hot. There is nothing like cooling off to rejuvenate yourself for the remaining hike (a small one) to come.
As you descend the trail to the base of the campground you pass by the 100ft, extremely picturesque Havasu Falls.
We knew there will be plenty of time for pictures and just wanted to reach the campground so we could rest, but we just had to stop for a quickie before setting up camp.
Done. Now to check out the rest of the falls…
To get to Mooney Falls, you have to hike down the river, through the campground, and over all of the rivers’ distributaries. Mooney Falls is a mile or so from the start of the campground, and signifies the end of the campground. There is a lookout where you can stand right above the falls looking at the vast expansion of forest, cliffs, and river ahead. You can also camp right at the head of the falls if your heart so desires.
To make it to Beaver Falls you have to hike down the cliff. The path is a steep switchback, for a short period of time, but quickly turns into wooden ladders, chain ropes, and even underground paths through the side of the cliff. Don’t let this detour you. Keep pressing on. Beaver Falls is about two miles from the base of Mooney Falls (although it takes much longer than a typical two mile hike). There is no direct route to get there and no direct path. If I remember correctly, I believe you are forced to cross the river four times just to make it to the falls. You not only hike across the river, but also through a vast field of green. It is quite spectacular.
Beaver Falls was by far my favorite. As you can see, there are many ‘mini falls’ that make up Beaver Falls. Since people flock from around the world to see these turquoise waters, it’s helpful that Beaver Falls is so spread out. You can climb all of the mini falls, the pools are the shallower than Havasu Falls or Mooney Falls, and there is a sweet cavern behind the waterfall that will fit two people.
How Bad is the Hike?
The entire trip begins at the Havasupai Falls Trail Head, or Hualapai Hilltop (apparently the Native Americans who named this consider a 2000+ ft cliff a hilltop). When you arrive at the hilltop, despite the hour, it is buzzing with energy. We arrived at 2am and saw people both completing and just beginning their hike. I recommend beginning the hike as early as you can, especially if you are hiking June-August (we did it in May at 6am). The decent (and even worse, the accent on the way back) is the only difficult part about the hike. As soon as you make it to the bottom it’s fairly straightforward. You traverse back and forth between hiking on an old riverbed with rocks to dirt paths.
As you reach the village of Supai, you can feel the Arizona desert slowing begin to shift into the oasis I hope can be seen in the images above. Trees start to appear jutting from cracks in rocks. Grass sporadically pokes through the riverbed. The further you travel the greener and more lush the environment becomes, until you cross a bridge and arrive in the town. I wish I could say that’s it, but it’s not. You must pay and pick up your permits and head another two miles before you reach the campground.
For those so moved by this post, reservations and camping permit information can be found at the Grand Canyon National Park website and permits can only be reserved by calling (928-448-2121), (928-448-2141) or (928-448-2180). Line hours are from 9:00am to 4:00pm Mountain Standard Time. Havasupai lodging information can be found here or by calling (928-448-2111) or (928-448-2201). If you haven’t gotten reservations already for 2016, they are sold out. To get reservations for 2017, you literally have to stalk their website for the dates reservations are available (they change every year) and call immediately the day they open. It took me about a week of fierce calling to get squeezed in.
P.S. Many blogs and websites claim that day hikers are welcome and some even encourage it because of no shows for reservations. In the past (pre 2016), you certainly could. However, the tribe has cracked down substantially on day hikers. Meaning, if you plan on day hiking then plan on hiking 20 miles without being able to see the falls. They will no longer even let you in and they have security posted along the entire trail. They tag your backpack and your tent and have a ranger roaming the campground every morning looking for people who don’t belong.