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Supai and Havasu Canyon
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park
Supai
Havasu Canyon Trail
Trailhead area (view N)

Update from Chris J. Eacker: Just saw your write up on Supai and Havasu Canyon. Don't know when you took the trip, but I'm guessing it's been quite some time. There's no longer a stone building by the Fern Spring and hasn't been for some time. Anyway, you should hike this again. The campground has been improved dramatically. The outhouses are the cleanest and nicest of any campground I've ever been to (never ran out of paper and the campground was full all weekend). Most of the picnic tables are 100 percent. Went from the campground to Beaver Falls and they've added several new resting spots with new picnic tables. They've really done a lot of work to make the whole experience cleaner, and the trails more maintained. The horses/mules were in better shape and healthy. The people are even slightly nicer. You might want to give it another try. It seems that the Tribe is trying to improve the experience for hikers and others visiting the area!

Havasu Canyon Trail
Trail through the Coconino Sandstone (view N from near trailhead)

Overview

This is a strange hike and I have mixed feelings about taking the time to post a description. The hike is nice, the scenery is nice, and the water is nice, but the whole Hualapai Indian Reservation thing is depressing, and the campground and facilities are, shall we say, less than one might expect given the price of getting in ($57 for 1 person for 1 night). I got the impression that "rich white people" aren't welcome there. There have also been some serious crimes against hikers down in the canyon.

Despite this, it is a wonderful place. The hike starts atop the Coconino Sandstone and quickly drops to Hualapai Wash below. The walls of the wash get narrower and deeper until the canyon open into Havasu Canyon. The trail follows Havasu Creek to Supai Village, which is in a wide spot in the canyon. The route then follows dirt roads from Supai Village north past two beautiful waterfalls to the campground, which is just below the famous Havasu Falls.

Link to maps.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Trail through gap in the Coconino Sandstone and Hualapai Wash below (view NW)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this route is pretty safe, but there are a few places to stumble off into the abyss near the trailhead, and stampeding mules are a concern in narrow sections of the canyon. Serious crime associated with poverty on the Hualapai Indian Reservation can be a problem. There can be lots of trash, feces, and urine in the campground (especially near the cliffs), so be careful in selecting a campsite; we moved to an open area along the trail without any bushes. If you drink from the creek, be sure to treat the water. Water is not available at the trailhead. This is an Indian Reservation, so U.S. Law does not necessarily apply.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. There is a lot of trash all along the trail; please don't add to it. There is a store and cafe in Supai Village, but the trail is long, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. Be sure that you are physically fit and that you choose routes of the appropriate difficulty for your skills and endurance.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Trail in wash in upper Hualapai Canyon (view N)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located on the Hualapai Indian Reservation, on the south side of the Grand Canyon, far to the west of the South Rim area, but still about 5-6 hours southeast of Las Vegas.

From Las Vegas, drive southeast to Kingman, Arizona. In Kingman, exit Interstate 40 (Exit 53) and turn left onto Route 66. Top off the gas tank here. On Route 66, drive northeast for about 47 miles to Peach Springs. Continue past Peach Springs on Route 66 for 7 more miles to Indian Road 18 (Table 1, Site Road_1), which is easy to miss. Turn left onto Indian Road 18 and drive north (watch for loose cattle on the road!) for about 65 miles to Hualapai Hilltop at the end of the road (Site Road_2). Park here, this is the trailhead.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Standing aside to allow mules to pass on the trail

The Hike

Hualapai Hilltop, the end of the road, has parking, a heliport, and pit toilets. Sometimes Tribal Members can be found selling canned drinks, fried food, and other stuff to the tourists, but don't count on it. Bring everything you need: there is no water, food, or gas at Hualapai Hilltop.

From the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop (Table 2, Wpt. 01), the route starts down the wide path at the north end of the parking area by the outhouses. The path is well worn, and parts were paved, but some parts are worn out and there is the possibility of stumbling off the trail. The trail is not steep, but it is rocky with sand on the rocks that makes them slippery. Switchbacks wind down through the white Coconino Sandstone, eventually dropping through a cleft in the cliffs onto the Hermit Shale.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Narrow canyon bottom

In the Hermit Shale, the trail runs at a moderate grade down the hillside towards the bottom of the canyon. There is some multiple trailing in here, but all trails lead down to the wash. At the end of the slope, the trail cuts down across a hillside with red cliffs into the bottom of the Hualapai Wash (Wpt. 02).

The route runs down the open wash at a gentle grade, heading for red sandstone cliffs at the top of the Supai Formation. Walking down the wash is fairly easy because the gravel is moderately firm in most places, and at each bend in the canyon, there is a trail up on the bank to shortcut the turn. In fact, there are trails up on the bank almost everywhere where the canyon is wide enough for a bank.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Hualapai Canyon opening onto Havasu Canyon (view NE)

Farther down the canyon, cliffs force all trails into the bottom of the wash, although pour-overs are bypassed by the trail. These narrow sections of canyon and narrow sections of trail can be a safety hazard for hikers because mule skinners "run" pack trains down the canyon -- often at a literal run, sending hikers scurrying for clefts in the walls and boulders to hide behind.

After some narrow sections, the canyon widens and opens up into Havasu Canyon (Wpt. 03) with Havasu Creek and Havasu Spring a short ways to the east. The trail becomes more road-like as it runs down the canyon. Up to this point, shade was provided by the towering cliffs, but now shade is provided by dense stands of cottonwood, mesquite, and willow trees.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Outskirts of Supai Village (view NE)

The route runs down Havasu Canyon, following an irrigation canal for a while. Roads and trails start to fork off, but watch for sign such as "Cross Bridge to Village" to find your way.

About a mile after entering Havasu Canyon, the road enters the outskirts of Supai Village. The main road is obvious as the route passes farm fields, corrals, and houses. The trail passes the first store (Wpt. 04), the "Sinulella Store" my notes say, with cold drinks and snacks.

Downtown, all hikers must stop at the Campground Office (Wpt. 05) and pay the entrance, environmental, and camping fees. Check the tribal website for current fees, but expect $35 to enter, a $5 "environmental fee," and $17 per person per night for camping, and of course, there is a 10% tax on all fees.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Entrance fee station (view north; heliport and Supai Cafe in background)

Just beyond the Campground Office (Wpt. 05), the trail passes the heliport and arrives at the Supai Cafe (Wpt. 06), which serves cold drinks and fast food. Surprisingly, the prices are reasonable. Across the street from the cafe is the general store, post office, and clinic.

The main road, the route to the falls and campground, is fairly obvious. The road wraps around the cafe and heads west a few steps to the school, where it turns right and runs north outside the schoolyard fence. Beyond the school, the main road turns left at the Havasupai Bible Church (in front of the lodge) and runs west again. After that, other roads fork off, but the main road to the falls remains obvious.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Supai Cafe with indoor and outdoor seating (view W)

The road runs down the canyon, which gets narrower but not narrow, and runs under the shade of cottonwood trees. About 30 minutes from the village, the road passes Navajo Falls (Wpt. 07), which is a cascade with hanging gardens. The falls are pretty, but difficult to photograph. Hike down to the edge of the water for better views.

Shortly after Navajo Falls, the road crosses two bridges (Wpt. 08) to switch back onto the west side of the creek. Shortly after that, the floor of the canyon falls away as hikers approach the top of Havasu Falls (Wpt 09).

The trail runs steeply through cliffs down along the west side of the falls, and other trails cut back to the bottom of the falls.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Route follows dirt road below Supai Village (view N)

At the bottom of the cliffs, the road passes a bank of outhouses and enters the campground (Wpt. 10). The main trail runs down the west side of the creek, with campsites along the creek and against the west wall, plus a few campsites across the creek. Shortly after entering the campground, clean drinking water flows out of a pipe stuck into the cliff to tap Fern Spring.

[out-of-date comments?] The campground is pretty trashed. It was obvious that the entrance, camping, and environmental fees didn't go to much other than managing the outhouses (bring your own paper). Many of the picnic tables were broken, some were thrown in the creek or back against the cliffs, and many campsites had no table. In fact, sites are not defined and campground limits seem to be ignored. It seems that whoever is willing to pay can pack into the camping area.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Navajo Falls - a tree-covered cascade (view SW)

[out-of-date comments?] There was also a lot of feces, urine, and trash in the campground. When we arrived at the campground, the outhouses were being helicoptered out to Hilltop for servicing. Unfortunately, it took some 4 hours for them to come back, and many people couldn't wait. Be careful selecting campsites back against the cliffs because there might be smelly surprises in secluded areas. There is another set of outhouses at the north end of the campground (Wpt. 11), about 0.6 miles away. However, it seems that many people in the middle of the campground, about 1/3 of a mile from the outhouses, don't bother to walk all the way.

Havasu Canyon Trail
Havasu Falls (view E from trail)

Beyond the campground, the trail cuts down a cliff using caves, chains, ladders, and other scary things to get down to the bottom of Mooney Falls. It seemed very exposed and dangerous to me, but nobody seems to fall off and die, so I guess it is okay enough -- but do be careful, especially when trying to pass people going in the opposite direction. Below Mooney Falls, trails continue down to Beaver Falls and eventually the Colorado River.

Return to the trailhead by retracing your footsteps, or consider flying out in a helicopter.

Havasu Canyon Trail

Campground -- open areas under trees, some with picnic tables. The canyon is fairly narrow here: note the cliffs at the right edge of the photo. The creek is just to the left of the photo.

Havasu Canyon Trail

Campground section across the creek (view E). I'm not sure I would want to carry my full backpack across that rickety bridge, but at least those people didn't have hikers walking past their campsite all day and night.

Havasu Canyon Trail

Typical campsite: a picnic table under a tree overlooking the creek.

Table 1. Highway Coordinates (NAD27, UTM Zone 12S). NOTE: This is UTM Zone 12.

Site # Location Latitude Longitude Easting Northing Elevation Verified
Road_1 Hwy 66 at Supai Rd 35.55198 113.31133 290490 3936517 5,264 GPS
Road_2 Trailhead (Hualapai Hilltop) 36.15987 112.70852 346316 4002832 5,189 GPS

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates (NAD27, UTM Zone 12S). NOTE: This is UTM Zone 12. Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation Point-to-Point Time (min) Cumulative Time (min) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead (Hualapai Hilltop) 346334 4002845 5,187 0:00 0:00 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Bottom of Canyon 345349 4003746 4,102 0:35 0:35 1.43 1.43 GPS
03 Havasu Creek 348025 4009420 3,202 2:05 2:40 4.55 5.98 GPS
04 Sinulella Store 348104 4010824 3,231 0:30 3:10 0.92 6.90 GPS
05 Camp Office and Heliport 348354 4011237 3,209 0:06 3:16 0.37 7.27 GPS
06 Havasupai Cafe 348317 4011318 3,225 0:02 3:18 0.06 7.33 GPS
07 Navajo Falls 347542 4012858 3,045 0:32 3:50 1.45 8.78 GPS
08 Two Bridges 347523 4013135 2,919 0:04 3:54 0.21 8.99 GPS
09 Top of Havasupai Falls 347505 4013354 2,906 0:03 3:57 0.15 9.14 GPS
10 Campground Entrance 347297 4013540 2,848 0:07 4:04 0.20 9.34 GPS
11 End of campground 346589 4014204 2,848 0:13 4:17 0.62 9.96 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 141006

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