Hiking To Havasu Falls:
Location: Supai, Arizona
Cost: $35 Hiking Pass
Start: Hilltop Parking Lot (End of Route 18, 61 miles from Route 66)
End: Havasu Falls (11 Mile Hike, Helicopter Ride, or Mule Ride)
Time Needed: 1-2 Full Days
Prohibited Items: Dogs, Firearms, Drugs, Alcohol
Fun Scale: 10 out of 10
(Printable Map 1 | Map 2)
Hiking to the different waterfalls of Havasu Falls is an awesome and rewarding experience. Located in remote village of Supai Arizona, the turquoise waters of the Havasupai Indian Reservation create some of the best secluded waterfalls you’ll find anywhere. How secluded? Not only does it take over a 10 mile hike into s canyon to get to the falls, but the tiny village of Supai is the only city in America where the U.S. Postal Service still delivers mail by horseback.
Sitting between the Grand Canyon National Park and Las Vegas, we highly recommend the Havasu Falls as the closest thing to a fairytale oasis we’ve found. The water will be chilly and the hike will be long, but it is well worth it. Map sure the print off our maps just in case you cell phone service doesn’t work.
Hiking Distances From Hilltop (In Miles):
Wash Basin 1.5; Havasu Basin 6.2; Supai Village 7.1; Rock/Navajo Falls 8.7; Havasu Falls 9.5; Campground 10; Mooney Falls 10.8; Beaver Falls 13; Colorado River 19
Sights On The Havasu Falls Hike:
*Long before you start hiking our journey to Havasau Falls will start off Historic Route 66 with a 61 mile long scenic drive down…
1. Route 18 Drive: Route 18 is fully paved contrary to many reports but it takes about 2 hours to drive the 61 miles as it is curvy and has some lower speed limit for your safety as there is roaming cattle with little fencing. Be especially careful during any low light driving and avoid driving in the dark unless you are prepared to go very slow. There are no gas stations on Route 18 so make sure to get gas, water, and snacks at either Seligman or Peach Springs on Route 66. Peach Springs is really neat as not only was it the inspiration for the town of Radiator Spring in Disney’s movie Cars, but is also has a ton of Americana Route 66 feel.
*As you make your way to the end of Route 18 it will dead end at the…
2. Hilltop Parking Lot: Sitting at the end of Route 18, the Hilltop Parking Lot sits almost 1,500 feet above the canyon floor and offers breath-taking views before your hike even starts. There is plenty of parking although there are no amenities. There are a few porta potties toilets, but no running water that you can rely on. Get everything you need from snack to water before you get here and remember you should drink at least 1 liter of water over every 1 hour of hiking.
As mentioned above, it takes 2 hours off of Route 66 to get to the Hill Top Parking Lot. In total the Hilltop is 4 hours from the Grand Canyon Visitor Station, 4.5 hours from Las Vegas, and 5 hours from Phoenix. Because the hike is long and the Summer heat is in the 100’s mid-day, you really need to make sure yo get here early to start your hike and if you are going roundtrip in one day you need to start around sunrise.
*Nothing like starting a hike down a steep set of…
3. Switchback Trail: From the Hilltop the hike to Havasu starts off pretty intimidating with a series of sharp switch back that quickly bring you down from 5,200 feet above sea level to 4,000 in just the first 1.5 miles. The switch backs are plenty wide, so you will feel very safe as you do there, just make sure to pace yourself. Like anywhere on this hike you really need to stay away from using head phones as there are tons of groups of pack horses that can pop out from behind any bend and you need to be able to hear them coming. When you hear a pack of horse make sure to move to the side as the large packs won’t watch out for you.
Section Distance Hiked: 1.5 Miles, takes around 30 minutes without stops.
*With the Switchbacks behind you, everything quickly flattens out to the…
4. The Wash Basin Hike: As you get to the Wash Basin floor the steepness of the switchbacks vanishes and you are left at the sandy bottom of an old creek that once formed this section of canyon. The views from the basin are awesome and it’ll be hard to even make out the Hilltop Parking Lot almost 1,500 feet above you. The initial vastness of the Basin is hard to warm your head around, but the vastness of your foot blisters will also strike you if you don’t wear the proper shoes and gear. The majority of the hike will be mainly a gradual slope but because of the heat, distance, and fine sand it will do a number on your feet if you aren’t ready for it. Being in relative hiking shape, having broken in hiking shoes, and an extra pair of socks or two will save your feet.
From the beginning of the basin to the end it is roughly 4.5 miles and you’ll pass through an bunch of great sights to take in. In addition to the large number of pack horse you’ll cross you’re bound to see a number wild horses and even some long horn sheep at the start of the Basin. Remember that theses animals are wild and you should always keep a safe distance. Just over 1 mile into your hike the Basin will start to narrow quite a bit which will block some sunlight giving you some much needed shade. It is at about the same point you cool rock overhang caves will start to pop up and even sections of Reef Rock which is a formation of deeply tilted layers of sandstone.
Section Distance Hiked: 4.7 Miles, takes around 90 minutes without stops.
*When the Canyon starts to open up again you know you are hitting the…
5. The Havasu Basin: It’s clear you’re getting close to the river as you hit the Havasu Basin not only from the sound of the water of also from the explosion of green and trees that hit you as the Wash Basin opens up. The Havasu Basin serves as a cross road from the Wash Basin as you will hit it at a T intersection. The signage directing you to the left is pretty obvious but if you somehow miss it remember you need to be heading downstream. One girl that accidentally went right ended up on an episode of Animal Planet’s “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” show after she was stranded for almost 2 weeks.
While crossing the wide bridge over the river you’ll be amazed at how crystal clear the turquoise tinted water is. The water is definitely worth a closer look as the cool shallow stream is bond to be your first time seeing water this water. The turquoise color comes from the high concentration of dissolved lime the water picks up from the sedimentary rock of the canyon. The unique color seems to get even richer the deeper it gets. Section Distance Hiked: 1 Miles, takes around 20 minutes
*After over a 7 mile hike you leave the remoteness of Havasu Canyon and spring into tiny…
6. Supai Village: The village of Supai Arizona only has a population of 208, but it will seem like a regular metropolis after hiking in the Canyon for so long. We love taking photos of the gnarled trees and majestic horses enclosed in large pens with weathered fencing. Looking back at our camera we seem to almost take as many pics in the village each times as we do at the actual falls.
The entire village is about a mile long and right in the middle of it you’ll have to stop by the Campground and Hiking Office. This is where you will pay for your hiking pass and if you have a balance to pay for camping they will also give you your bag tags. Just past the office is a quaint school plus very handy General Store where you can buy snacks and drinks. We always side on bringing enough food and water in case the store isn’t open as it can be very dangerous to hike so far unprepared, but we’ve never seen the store closed. Because Supai is the only city in the United States to still get their mail by Pony Express the post office is a very unique place to send a postcard back home. If you are wondering where the Hotel, it is only a short walk behind the cute little stone church.
Section Distance Hiked: 1 Miles, takes around 20 minutes
*From the North end of Supai Village it is less than a mile to…
7. Navajo & Rock Falls: As you approach the waterfalls you’ll hear them before you see them and then bam, Rock Falls is right in front of you. Rock Falls is a ton of fun but didn’t exist until 2008 when it was formed when flooding shifted the River’s flow. Although small rapids branch off of it, the main part of Rock Falls is 60 feet tall, 100 feet wide and shields an accessible cave hiding behind the rushing water. You’re bound the see other travelers swimming in the large calm pool below the Falls, but the real treat is the cave. If you’ve ever dreamed about finding a secret passageway behind a waterfall this is your chance. Hugging the far side of Rock Falls there is a very easy to navigate path that goes right behind the water into a protected rock shelf cave. Although it is fairly safe, like any water areas watch your step on the slippy rocks and consider wearing sticky water shoes. If you are braze you can even jump through the falls and canyon ball into the swimming pool, just double check for boulders first.
You may have seen Navajo Falls on some maps or heard it dried up on other guide website, but the Falls are actually alive and well. The original Navajo Falls actually moved a couple 100 yards because of the same flood that formed Rock Falls. Most visitors don’t make it to Navajo Falls because is requires about a 1/5 of a mile off trail hiking over some large rocks upstream. The main draw to Navajo Falls isn’t just that it is a cool 50 foot tall wall of water clinging tight to the rock face, but that there won’t be many, if any, other tourists at the Falls. Something just feels cool about having a waterfall to yourself for a little while.
*From Rock Falls, make sure to stay on the trail that hugs the River for almost a mile to the main attraction of…
8. Havasu Falls: After 9 1/2 miles of hiking you finally get your first glimpse of the entire reason you likely started off on this hike, Havasu Falls. The coolest thing about the approach to almost 100 foot tall Havasu Falls is that you arrive at the top of the falls and walk down the canyon side to its base. During this descent is where we’ve taken our best photos of the bright turquoise water spilling out of the red rock canyon into a large pool. Words can’t eve express how pretty the contrast of bright colors mixed with the serine roar of the powerful falls can be.
As you finally make your way down to the picnic area are the base of Havasu Falls we suggest resting on a bench for a few minutes just to be able to take is the size and strength of the Falls. The large red rock wall Havasu Falls bursts out of is covered in Gothic looking stalactites fingers which help to enhance the Falls power. This entire wall was a 200 wide waterfall until flooding in 1910 carved out the current path and consolidated the flow. The same flood that formed Rock Falls in 2008 also altered Havasau Falls by busting out part of the rock shelf reducing the height of the Falls by almost 40 feet. Don’t be worry though, even with a shave off the top, the Falls are huge and still about as tall as Niagara Falls in New York.
As you wade in the large pools at the foot of Falls can you feel the pokey bottom of the pool? Instead of being sandy as you might expect it is a lot stiffer due to a high level of calcium carbonate in the water that builds up in the pools. The calcium carbonate slowly builds up the edged of the pools allowing them to hold more water and even forms numerous smaller shelf-like pools as you move down stream. High levels of minerals is also the reason why the waters so turquoise. This bright color mainly comes from the high level of magnesium in the clear, spring fed waters. Because it is easy to get mesmerized by the tranquility of Havasau Falls make sure to keep track of time if you plan on hiking back out the same day. We could think of worst places to be stranded though than one of the World’s most beautiful waterfalls.
*As you head further downstream from Havasu Falls you quickly run up on the edges of the…
9. Havasu Campground: Even if you aren’t staying overnight at the campground, it is awesome to walk through. The water here is fairly shallow and is easy to navigate with a series of makeshift, but sturdy wooden bridges. Although the campground is very shaded by trees, many campers still go the extra to cool off and plop their picnic table right into the thigh high water and pop a squat.
As you make your way through the jungle of tents, the Campground literally turns into a jungle of vines as you reach Fern Spring. Huge mountains of ferns and vines line the hiking paths giving the area a Jurassic Park-like feel. Why so much green? Why Fern Spring of Course. Although the Spring is underground, and hand pump well will get you some free ice cold fresh drinking water in no time. Because is comes right out of the Spring, the water is typically clean enough that most hikers don’t need to use a filter. We have found it cold and refreshing. Anywhere else on the hike you will need to use a filter to ensure the water you are drinking is clean just like on any other wilderness hike. Again the best bet is to bring enough water with you so you don’t have to chance it. At the end of the Campground is a very nice set of raised bathrooms which are a welcomed addition to the Falls area. Although they don’t have water, the stall are private and spacious so you have a place to change clothes if you are only day hiking instead of staying overnight. If you are camping, be grateful you won’t have to poop outside anymore.
*Working toward the end of the Campground the faint of heart often turn around at the huge…
10. Mooney Falls: It is a little tricky getting down to your first glimpse of Mooney Falls as the top of the trail is a no mans land of stone steps, but it is worth it. After getting the first series of steps you can see Mooney towers almost twice as tall as Niagara Falls at 196 feet tall. Since you approach Mooney from above like Havasu Falls you can see the massive gully the Falls have cut out of the Canyon over time. The sight of the gully is very impressive when you realize the ground at the bottom of the 200 foot drop below you was once level with the ground you are standing on.
To get a closer look at Mooney Falls you will head into a series of natural tunnel caves with steps cut in them to start your further decent. The tunnels are a little cramped and you have to watch your step, but it is very manageable. As you pop out of the first tunnel you have a small view point a couple hundred feet above the canyon floor with only a short sketchy chain as a guardrail. We find climbing in the caves to be very safe and fun, it’s just the next part as you head out of the second cave that is a little tricky. Coming out of the second tunnel, everything really opens up and the path becomes a bunch of tall narrow steps with only a loose chain to hold on to. The easiest, and by far safest, way to navigate this stretch is to go down slow and backwards. As long and you regroup before you start and take your time on the way down it really isn’t that bad, just double check the holds of the chain if you are using it on the way down. For the most part the chain is fine, but it can be loose on some steps so checking first is always good. The steps end about 12-15 feet shy of the bottom and you do the last part with an oversized ladder. It is nice the ladder is big and wide, but for whatever reason the rungs always seem spaced out too far from one another.
Congrats you made it to the bottom of Mooney Falls which half the people get to scared to get all the way to the bottom. You will only feel proud of yourself until you look up and see an 80 year old woman doing the same route 3 times faster then you did with no fear. All of your shame from being scare washes away instantly when you turn around and see the almost 200 foot falls before you. The pool Mooney Falls makes it much wider than Havasu Falls and many campers bring pool toys lay on a float their cares away. After you get your swimming on, you have to make sure to check out the large series of cascading calcium carbonate pools downstream from Mooney Falls. These pools are where you will get your best chance to see calcium carbonate in action and the multi-tiered waterway is bound to give you some amazing photos.
*Just past Mooney Falls cascading pools you stumbling into the …
11. Valley Of The Vines: Just like the jungle near Fern Springs, the Valley Of the Vines will bring back version of dinosaurs. These vines are way larger and more abundant than the ones near the Campground and you may have to make your own path if you plan on off-roading it, but it is fun. We enjoy popping out of the ferns and vines and pretending like we are in a real life Jurassic Park. If you look closely on your walk near the Valley of the Vines there is actually an old mining cave you can check out.
*A couple miles further down is the last major waterfall in the Canyon at…
12. Beaver Falls: These falls are very tricky to hike to as not only are they almost 3 miles past Mooney Falls, by they require fording the river a few times and using a questionable rope to get past a rock ledge. Tons of people make it all the way here, but if you are day hiking don’t even consider it and just turn around at Mooney Falls instead. You should only attempt to go this far if you are stay overnight here. If you are well rested the last couple miles to Beaver Falls is very manageable and you are reward with a cascading series of mini-waterfalls up to 8 feet in height. In the grand scheme of things the calcium carbonate pools at Mooney Falls are probably more interesting though and will save you an extra 6 mile roundtrip hike.
*You are a superhero if you make it all the way to…
13. Havasu Rapids At The Colorado River: If you have made it all the way to the Colorado River you are a true wild person as it is a boggling 19 miles each way from the Hill Top Parking Lot. The turquoise waters of Havasu make a define color line as it mixes with the brown waters of the Colorado which is a contrast very popular with photographers. It is possible to hike the entire way especially if you are staying a couple nights in the campground, but most visitors only get to the rolling rapids if they are on a Colorado Rafting trip. Some of the best rafting trips will let you branch off the Colorado by kayak as the last couple miles of the Havasu waters are the most bright turquoise color.