If you’re a soon-to-be first-time hiker to Havasupai, you will naturally have all kinds of questions about the trail. How long is it? What’s it like? Is it hard? What do I need to bring? Will I get lost?
The short answers
How long? 8 miles from Hualapai Hilltop to Supai Village, another 2 miles to Havasu Falls Campground
What’s it like? Rocky, dusty, and HOT
Is it hard? If you’re not prepared, definitely. If you are prepared, just a little.
What do I need to bring? See our “gear” page
Will I get lost? Not unless you hike at night without a flashlight
The world-famous waterfalls of Havasupai are located at the bottom of a side canyon within the Grand Canyon. There is no vehicular access to this area. The only 100% reliable means of getting there is on your own two feet down a dirt trail that has been used by hikers for decades. The trail from the canyon rim to the canyon floor begins at Hualapai Hilltop. After a member of the Havasupai Tribe verifies that your party has proper permits, in the form of reservations at the campground or the lodge, you are free to start hiking down. Day hiking is not allowed.
The Havasupai trail is anywhere from 6-8” wide the whole way down, so it is very easy to follow. There is no water on the trail whatsoever, so be sure to fill your water containers at the hotel you stayed at the night prior, or at Hualapai Hilltop. 2-3 liters of water per person are recommended for the hike from the Hilltop to Supai Village. Be aware that this trail is also traveled by Havasupai Tribe members and their livestock. Be prepared to give pack horses, mules, and occasionally cattle the right of way.
The first mile of the trail will have you descending about 2,000 feet down the red sandstone cliff face via a series of steep switchbacks. The trail’s surface consists of deep sand and golf ball-sized gravel, so be sure you’re wearing sturdy, broken-in footwear. The switchbacks end and the trail changes direction when you reach a plateau marked by a makeshift rock and cement rest stop. From there, the trail widens as it descends more gradually off the plateau, eventually flattening out as it parallels a dry stream bed. Shortly thereafter, the sparkling blue-green waters of Havasu Creek come into view. Follow the streambed for approximately 5 miles until you are directed to veer left. Soon, you’ll begin to see indications of habitation, including homes, gardens, and horse corrals. These are private residences and should not be entered without the express consent of the occupants.
After crossing a small bridge, you’ll be in the town center of Supai. Here you’ll find a small convenience store, and other public buildings, including Supai Lodge and the tourism/camping office. Upon checking in and having your permits verified, you are free to continue down to the falls! The distance from Supai Village to Havasu Falls is approximately 2 miles. The trail continues to make a gradual descent until you get near the top of Havasu Falls, where it sharply slopes downward, eventually hugging the canyon wall to the left. There is a spur trail to the right of the main trail that will take you to the swimming area at the base of Havasu Falls.
The campground is a further .5 miles from Havasu Falls. After selecting and securing your campsite, and refilling your water containers, you are then welcome to continue on to Mooney Falls, another .5 miles from the campground. This is where you’ll want to have gloves with some sort of grip to steady you on the steep descent through a travertine tunnel, where chains and ladders have been installed to provide stable footing on wet surfaces.
A further 3 miles down the trail from Mooney Falls is Beaver Falls. For this section of the hike, you’ll want to have water shoes or sandals like Tevas, Chacos, or Keens, as part of the trip involves walking in Havasu Creek. There does come a point on the trail where you are given the choice of climbing a ladder or crossing the river. Crossing the river is generally regarded to be the better option as it leads directly to the travertine pools at the base of the falls where you can enjoy a refreshing swim.
Those who have several days to spend in Havasu Canyon might save one of those days to hike all the way to the confluence, where Havasu Creek meets the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. This is a 16-mile round-trip hike on a trail that is very poorly marked in some areas, and requires going up and over a ridge. Good trail-finding skills and hiking companions with prior experience in this area are strongly recommended.
Now, here’s where the cardinal rule of Grand Canyon hiking comes in: “what goes down, must come back up.” The most difficult part of hiking the Havasupai trail occurs at the very end of your trip, when you’re like to already be sore, hot, and tired. While the hike as a whole is ranked as “moderate” for individuals in relatively good health, you will be hiking mostly uphill on the return trip to Hualapai Hilltop.
The trail from Havasu Falls to just beyond Supai Village will ascend gradually, then once you get to the end of the plateau, you have to navigate those switchbacks again. Yes, they’re steep, and yes, you probably feel like giving up at this point (especially if you’re hiking in the summer). But this part of the trail is only a mile and change, and there’s no rule stating that you have to be quick about it. Take it one step at a time, stop when you need to, drink plenty of water (you did fill up at the campground or Supai Lodge, yes?), and you’ll be back at Hualapai Hilltop before you know it.
There’s no sugarcoating the fact that during the warmer months of the year, this hike is crazy-hot. Taking certain precautions can make it easier on you, such as supplementing your water with electrolyte replacement. Nuun and Hydralite (formerly known as Gookinaid) are well-known products, but there are lots of options out there. Another tactic used by savvy desert hikers is to get the bulk of their exertion done during the cooler part of the day, which, during the summer months is actually night. Strapping on headlamps and hitting the trail well before the crack of dawn is not unheard of, but rumors have circulated of late indicating that the Havasupai Tribe may discontinue allowing this for safety reasons. Be sure you find a source of accurate information on this and other aspects of hiking the Havasupai Trail before you set off on your trip.