My wife likes waterfalls. Perhaps obsession is a better word. On most of our vacations, she has managed to work in some sort of quest to find a waterfall. I decided to make 2017 “The Year of the Waterfall.” First, we visited Niagara Falls. Next, we hiked to waterfalls in Algonquin Provencal park in Ontario Canada. The waterfall highlight of the year was a trip to Havasu Falls in Arizona.
Before I describe the logistics required to get to this place, let me say Havasu Falls is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The remote and difficult access helps make it special.
Here are a few photos I took on the trip.
Havasu Falls is part of the Grand Canyon lying outside of the national park in the Havasupai Indian reservation. This is a 3-4 day hiking backpacking trip. If you are a regular backpack camper, you can make this trip without a guide. You do need a permit from the Havasupai Indians. Obtaining this permit can be difficult. We chose to go with a guide service and selected Wildland Trekking for our trip. Wildland Trekking did a great job for us on this trip. The food and logistics were managed well and the guides were knowledgeable and friendly.
The trip originated at a hotel in Flagstaff. We were picked up at 2:45am to start our adventure. We drove for 3 hours to get to the trailhead with our goal being to beat the Arizona heat. We made this trip in early June. Obviously, it is very hot in Arizona, if possible, I recommend making this hike in the spring or fall. There were 10 other folks in our group. We would get to know these people well over the next 3 days.
You can’t drive to Havasu Falls, you can only get there by hiking, mule or helicopter ride. We arrived at the trailhead and started our 10 mile trek to the remote village of Supai. Supai is the closest town to the falls and the most isolated community in the lower 48 states. The hike stated with about 1.5 miles of steep switchbacks lowering our elevation 2500 ft. After arriving at the canyon bottom, the hike was mostly level covering rocky ground. Because of our early start, we were in the shade most of the time. As I came to learn, shade in Arizona is priceless. Most of our group seemed to be at the same level of hiking ability. The only exception were 3 ladies who ran marathons. These wonder women were always at the front of our group, sort of pulling the rest of us along.
After a couple of hours, we arrived a Supai. Supai has a population of about 200 members of the Havasupai Indian tribe. The only source of income for this town comes from the Havasu Falls hikers. Supai is where the helicopter lands. I discovered traveling by helicopter to and from Supai is not trivial. The cost is around $90 and you may end up waiting all day and still not make the trip. Havasupai Indians have priority and can usurp a place in line at any moment. We refilled our water containers and rested for a bit in Supai. They also had a small store where several folks purchased snacks and drinks. Supai is where you receive your wristband permit to proceed to the falls. Our permits were included in the package purchased from Wildland Trekking. We departed Supai and continued 2 more miles to the falls and campground.
Upon arriving at the campground, we encountered Navajo Falls. We viewed and took pictures of these beautiful falls. We became inspired to forge ahead to Havasu Falls. Havasu Falls was simply breathtaking. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and lounging at this amazing place. That night we had dinner and slept in tents. It was hot and it took a while to fall asleep. We awoke the next day at 6am to begin our 8 mile hike to see more waterfalls. Our first stop was at Mooney Falls. Mooney Falls is a tall majestic waterfall. In order to get to the bottom of the falls, we had to climb down a set of ladders and go through some caves. This was the most physically demanding part of the hike. The ladders are slippery and steep but manageable if you go slow and focus on 3 points of contact at all times. After descending the ladder, we pressed ahead to Beaver Falls, our plan was to stop and relax at Mooney Falls on the return trip.
The hike to Beaver Falls was mostly flat with several creek crossings and a few ladders. Beaver Falls was another amazing waterfall. We had lunch there and swam for a couple of hours. This entire hike took most of the day. After returning to camp we had dinner and went to sleep.
The next morning, we woke up at 3am to start our hike back to the trailhead. It was dark so we all were wearing our headlamps. After about 8 miles of hiking we came to the 2500ft elevation gain. I was dreading this part. As an older member of our group, I didn’t want to delay our party by taking too many breaks. I noticed everyone else was drinking Gatorade with their water. I was just drinking water. This hike up the switchbacks was in the hot Arizona sun and I became a bit dizzy due to the extreme heat. I stopped and talked to an Indian for a bit and he jokingly asked me if I was going to cry. I must have looked pretty bad. I boldly told him I would die before I cry. I am not sure what I meant but it sounded courageous and empowering to me. Eventually I made it to the top of the trailhead and I was not the last person in our group to arrive. I did learn the value of drinking Gatorade to replace lost electrolytes. The love of my life, Lisa, made several attempts to get me to drink some Gatorade, I stubbornly stuck with my water only plan. It is amazing how I am still having to learn things the hard way!
In summary, if you like waterfalls and a bit of camping and hiking, I highly recommend Havasu Falls. Here are my top recommendations for this trip.
- The hiking is moderate to strenuous. You need to be in good shape.
- Good, broken in, hiking boots are your best friend.
- Drink Gatorade (bring the powder to mix with water).
- Bring a quality backpack, even if you use a guide.
- If you have any knee problems, use hiking poles.
- Get your permit early or use a guide service.
- Avoid hiking in the direct Arizona sun as much as possible.
FYI after completing this hike we continued our vacation in Arizona by traveling to Grand Canyon National Park, Page, and Sedona.
Let me know if you have any follow up questions about my trip to Havasu Falls.
Make the most of this day!