Havasupai Reserve

Waterfalls and Tribal Trails: Backpacking Beauty in the Havasupai Reserve 

Photo: Getty Images

Why is the Havasupai Reserve one of the best recommendations for a trip to Arizona? The hike to and through the canyon can only be described with one word: breathtaking. 

Although the Havasu Canyon is part of the Grand Canyon National Park, it is not the National Park Service that takes care of this fascinating part of the world which looks like a setting straight from a western film.

The Havasupai Indians manage their reserve - and a landscape that is unparalleled. The basin, which includes the village of Supai, is located on a side trail of the majestic Grand Canyon. There’s no chance of cruising there comfortably by car and for those who don’t fancy the journey on foot or with the help of horses and mules, you’ll be forking out for a helicopter flight.

However, a hike is a highlight in itself. Even if it requires a lot of effort. 

Tour start at the Hualapai Hilltop 

Hualapai Hilltop

© Flickr/Jon Roig

At the end of Indian Road 18, 698 miles north of the famous Route 66, and located high above the rim of the canyon sits the Hualapai Hilltop. It’s not much more than a car park but from here the tour of the reserve begins. From this point it’s about 8 miles to the village and while larger goods must be transported by air, everything else goes by horses to Supai. 


Means of transportation in Supai

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Taking just a day to visit to Supai and the waterfalls isn’t really recommended so you’ll want to arrange a place to stay.

There are two choices: either in a tent at the campsite or a lodge. Both should be planned well in advance as short-term bookings especially in the case of the lodge are almost impossible. The cheapest trip choice is to walk, when you transport your equipment yourself, followed by a stay at the campsite.

The following charges apply:​

  • Entrance to the Canyon – £26
  • Environmental fee – £4
  • Camping accommodation per person per night – £13

One night in the lodge costs about £112 for a room with up to four people while a 10 per cent tax is pitched on all charges. 

Hiking in the canyon

The art of existing. #havasupai

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The locals recommend starting the descent on foot shortly after sunrise from the car park. So it’s usually necessary to stay there the night before. However, there’s no campsite here so it’s a case of a spot on the ground or in the car. A good basic fitness is required for the rather rocky road, and hiking sticks are recommended for those with full luggage. 

A word of caution: there is no water until you reach the village, so make sure you’re covered with enough supplies. The steep trail grows ever narrower as you trek down through Havasu Canyon. Here, at last, you will experience the uniqueness of this amazing location where the Havasu Creek turns the stone landscape into a green oasis. A little further and you are in Supai where you will register and receive your permit. The village boasts a mini supermarket, a post office, a small restaurant and the helipad.  

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Your evening’s accommodation  

Spent the last 4 days in HEAVEN #havasupaiadventures

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The campsite lies about 2 miles down towards Colorado River. Halfway there, all your efforts so far  will be rewarded when you encounter the wonderful Navajo Falls. The 22 metre-high waterfall splashes into a pool which is perfect for swimming - the word ‘fresh’ doesn’t do it justice . From here the Havasu Falls and the campsite quickly follow. The Havasu measures an impressive 30 metres and forms a pool of turquoise-green water, and a little piece of paradise. 

Sunset over Havasu Falls. #havasupai #havasufalls

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More magic, and the return trip 

About half a mile from the campsite, down a steep adventurous trail towards the river, flow even more impressive and beautiful waterfalls. The jewel is Mooney Falls standing an imposing 60 metres high.

Mooney Falls

© Flickr/Jon Roig

For those seeking to walk further on the wild side and hike to the Colorado River, you should plan for some extra time or nights. The trek requires a day and when you finally start off back to the car park at Hualapai Hilltop you’ll want to get up early. Those who leave it until the afternoon should be ready for the evening with a headlamp or torch although the Havasupai Natives don’t recommend walking the trail at night.   

Tourists come in their droves to explore the Havasu Creek where four awe-inspiring waterfalls are formed. Without the water flow and its enticing constant temperature of about 21 degrees, this would be just another parched uninhabited side trail in the Grand Canyon which would attract little attention.

Instead, while the journey may be gruelling, the reward is a place of breathtaking beauty.   


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08 2016 The Red Bulletin

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