Thousands have come to explore Havasu Canyon and the Havasupai Falls in the Grand Canyon. You can find a series of falls in an isolated area of the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The breathtaking aqua waterfalls and spectacularly sculpted rock attract hikers from all over the world.
Havasupai translates to “blue-green waters people.” A small band of indigenous farmers and hunters found their way to this isolated paradise and etched out a simple lifestyle; one that continues to this day. Supai village is isolated deep within the Grand Canyon and not accessible by road. The Havasupai Tribe administers the land, which lies outside the boundary and jurisdiction of Grand Canyon National Park.
Havasu Creek carved a winding canyon below the South Rim and it is fed by a deep aquifer. The perennial desert stream tumbles over Upper and Lower Navajo Falls, then Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, and finally Beaver Falls on its journey to the Colorado River on Grand Canyon floor. Magnesium and calcium carbonate in the highly mineralized, spring-fed water gives Havasu Creek its distinctive blue-green color.
The Upper and Lower Navajo Falls are a relatively new wonder that resulted from the flash flood that crashed through Havasu Canyon in August of 2008. The flash flood forever changed the landscape of Havasu canyon creating a magical spot for hikers to swim and cool down. It is a short hike from Havasupai Campground and less crowded than Havasu Falls. The two falls are indistinguishable from one another. The Navajo Falls are connected by a series of cascades. Upper Navajo Falls is often missed because it is partially concealed from the main trail and hidden around the corner, upstream of Lower Navajo Falls.
Havasu Falls is not for the faint of heart. But if you want to see a spectacular oasis, it just might be worth the challenge to reach one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Grand Canyon. This hike is for the fit and a place to unplug (there is no cell service). The hike is long (10 miles) and not really child-friendly. The desert terrain can be hot. Day hiking is not permitted. The trail closes when temperatures exceed 115 degrees. Hikers must be well prepared and hydrated. You’ll want to wear water shoes as you will have to cross the river at some point.
A half a mile north is Havasu Creek is Mooney Falls, a thundering, towering waterfall plunging into a series of aqua-blue pools. At 190 feet, Mooney Falls commands your attention. The hike demands you use chains and ladders to cut down through an old mining route tunnel in the cliff face to reach the base of the falls. Plan to hike hands-free. Climb down to the base of Mooney Falls at your own peril; the falls are named after a prospector, Mooney who met his demise back before the existing path was in place. If you are camping at Havasupai Campground, Mooney falls is a short trek away. You’ll find the trail to Mooney Falls at the northwest end of the campground. Go early in the morning. The wait to get down the passageway cut into the canyon wall can be long, after all, people are descending ladders, and the tunnels are narrow.
The trail to Beaver Falls starts at the base of Mooney Falls. It is a fun 3-mile hike. A section of the hike follows Havasu Creek and requires hikers to cross the creek four times through the water. You’ll need to be hands-free again as there are a few ladders to climb and rocks to maneuver. The water is refreshing, and the Falls are breathtaking, natures own infinity pool. You can relax at the little table at the top of the 40-foot cliffs. This is the best spot for cliff jumping. Watch out for circulating currents under the falls. There are two approaches from the north, make sure to explore both. You can hike to the confluence of the Havasu Creek and Colorado River, beyond Beaver Falls.
Permits are required to hike, and visitors are required to stay overnight by the Havasupai Tribe. It is for visitor safety as the hike is 10 miles in each direction and day hiking is not allowed. It is recommended that you stay a minimum of 2 nights at Havasu Falls. Hiking will take considerable time, and you will want to spend time at each of the falls.
Havasu Falls campground is where most people stay. To stay, you will need to bring all of your own equipment. You will also have to carry your gear with you while hiking. There is a Lodge in the village of Supai, which is about 2 miles from Havasu Falls. You will pass through Supai on your hike to the waterfalls. The lodge is fairly primitive, with few rooms, and does not offer food.
The permits and reservations for the campground are difficult to get, so plan early. Call 928-448-2121, 928-448-2141, 928-448-2180 or 928-448-2237. Reservation lines are open from 9a–3p, M-F. The Havasupai Tribe’s website is located here.
Where are your favorite swimming holes? Let me know in the comments below!