Unless you've been hiding under a rock, and have had no social media influence in your life (props to you if this is the case!), you've likely seen an almost unrealistically beautiful turquoise blue waterfall in a tropical desert setting. While this has been a well known waterfall, somehow recently a sudden influx of new adventurers and travelers are finding out about this beautiful series of waterfalls. Now due to social media, this location is receiving a TON more of people determined to visit this desert oasis hot spot.
My journey here all began in early 2017 when I had spoken with some friends about making a trip to the Southwest desert region of the United States. There had always been a lot of parks and sights I have wanted to see down here, and this seemed to be one of the best times of year to travel to this region. I had completely forgotten that the majestic series of waterfalls were located in the Grand Canyon area in a off shoot canyon known as Havasu Canyon, until a friend mentioned he wanted to go there.
After that conversation, I began to frantically plan how to make a trek to this sacred waterfall in the desert. I knew it was notoriously difficult to secure a permit to camp here, and also expensive (at the time was about $95 just to hike here, along with $25 to camp) I will talk more about my simple strategy to reach someone to reserve a permit for my hike later on in this article.
I eventually was able to make contact with someone at the reservation and was able to secure a permit for a random Tuesday in April (18th to be exact). I pretty much planned the rest of my trip and flight dates around this specific date. That's how important this hike was to me!
After getting everything squared away for this hike, I was excited to finally be going to this very sought after destination. I definitely felt very lucky to obtain this opportunity to go!
This hike was going to be the first of several experimental hikes the next year or so that I planned on testing myself physically. I also planned on testing new gear as I prepare to take on a whole new level of hiking in the highest elevations in the world, but I'll wait to share more details on that later!
A lot of this trip was going to focus on my ability to go long distances with a heavy backpack filled with necessary camping and camera gear. It was also an experiment with a new type of hiking shoes, or trailer runners more specifically. Prior to this trip, I have always been the type to wear heavy, ankle high boots. After I concluded this 20 mile hike to Havasu Falls, I have determined that trail runners were going to be my shoe of choice for long hikes from now on! I will dedicate a blog entry to this decision in the near future. Stay tuned.
Getting to Supai Village & Havasu Falls
The journey to Supai Village and Havasu Falls begins by a long single lane road that heads towards the Grand Canyon, but on the far west side. This road has one destination, the Hualapai Hilltop parking lot. There is a few other structures in this area, but there is no gas stations, markets, or anything of that sort in the area. Come prepared, its about an hour drive to the nearest town, which is Peach Springs. The hilltop is basically a large parking lot on the side of a cliff with a few bathrooms, a ranger station, and spots for horses and mules to rest. This is also where you drop off your gear if you decide to take the lazy route and not carry your own gear to the Supai Village (where the lodge is) or the campground.
When you park at the lot, take your time to prepare and get your pack settled. It sucks getting a few miles into a hike only to have to rearrange your pack just because you packed it in a haste and something is uncomfortable.
This is a good spot to lather up in sunscreen. This hike gets hot, and shade isn't very common throughout most of the day. Don't get me wrong, there are nooks and crannies along the way you can hide in to escape the sun, but most of the spots aren't overly convenient.
Make sure you also have easy access to water. Some sort of Camelbak or water bladder with a hose would be most ideal. It's easier to access, and really doesn't require stopping to reach a bottle or flask. It's much more efficient!
Once your all geared up, sun blocked, and hydrated its time to make this epic hike!
Its a little confusing at the top. There's a check in station, that I never checked in at mainly because no one was there. I don't think there's any issue, just make sure you can prove you have a permit for the campground/village before you leave. They should have an electronic record once you get to the village, but its always good to be on the safe side with a physical receipt of your purchase.
The actual hike itself
The actual hike itself, for the most part is not very strenuous and I would rate it at moderate due to its distance, heat, and sunlight factors. Also, I did this hike with about 45lbs of gear on my back. It was no easy feat to do this either way.
The first mile and a half going down into Havasu Canyon is quick and easy. Everyone loves going down hill on hikes for the most part. It gets a little steep, and it is filled with switch backs, but it goes by rather quickly. It also offers some great views of the canyon floor below.
This is that point in the hike where you see fellow hikers returning from the falls and they look like they are in complete and utter misery. You also snidely think to yourself that that wont be you because you are much more fit than these people. You will power through this steep canyon wall. I should also mention that many of these miserable looking grumpy folks had barely anything more than a small back pack, which probably held water and snacks (much less a tent, sleeping bag, pillow, cooking gear, camera gear, tripod, nearly two gallons of water, and clothes, among other supplies).
The thing that gets you most on this trip to the Supai Village and Havasu Falls campground is the distance and temperatures. Its relatively flat and easy after the 1.5 mile journey into the canyon. Once you are in the canyon, it's rock river bed and loose sand seem to be your common path most of the way.
You'll keep wondering to yourself how much longer you go after you go through repeated canyon bends for miles. You also begin to realize that water erosion is extremely powerful in carving out these canyons over long periods of time. It really is amazing.
Eventually, you will reach a old sign that states that you're almost to the Supai Village. Immediately, your energy levels begin to restore and you become motivated again. While you are approaching the village, you will begin to come across a stream, and some irrigation canals built by the tribe. It's basically your guide the rest of the way to the village as the hiking trail accompanies the river.