Hiking to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon
"Destination of a lifetime", really? This is a strong statement, but it's true. Standing in front of Havasu Falls, hearing the thundering falls, seeing the unbelievable blue-green waters spilling over the travertine cliffs, feeling the cool spray in the hot desert air ... yes, this is the destination of a lifetime.
Logistics of visiting
Located in the Grand Canyon, further west along the Colorado River from the South Rim area, Havasu Falls is not an easy place to get to. But, this just adds to why this is such a special place.
The easiest way to experience Havasu Falls is to book with an expedition company and take the weekend helicopter ride to Supai Village. Then there is only a two-mile walk to the falls and your overnight tent accommodations are all set up and waiting for your arrival. This was not for us though, so here are the required logistics and our notes of our trip.
In order to hike to Havasu Falls, you must have a trail permit and accommodation reservations from the Havasupai Tribe. Without these, you can't experience this wonder. First you must obtain an overnight reservation at either the campground or the lodge. Once this is secured, then you can obtain the trail permits.
For the campgrounds there is a website to make your reservation. If you want to stay at the lodge, as we did, to avoid carrying all of the sleeping gear, you need to phone (928) 448-2111, or (928) 448-2201, and hope your call is answered. Either way, plan to make your reservations up to a full year in advance, as space is very limited. (We did learn later that you can hire a pack mule to haul your camping gear to the campground; reservations can be made on the website. This is another way to hike down to Havasu Falls with only a day pack.)
Leaving the RV
Having successfully booked our reservations almost ten months in advance, we started our adventure, by pulling off Route 66 at Peach Springs Caverns RV Park. This is the closest place to leave our Winnebago. This RV Park is a pretty funky place, celebrating the Disney movie, "Cars" (allegedly, Radiator Springs was modeled after this area), with old cars and props. We spent some time checking out the museum and the relics scattered around this park, but we mostly just used this RV Park as a short-term storage area.
The adventure begins
The next morning, traveling in our hiking partners' truck, we drove the 1.5-hours to the Hilltop Trailhead, arriving at 8 a.m. There were some small RVs parked in the lot and along the road, but there was definitely not enough room to leave our 31-foot Winnebago, so we were glad we didn't drive our RV to the trailhead.
We checked in at the hiking shed at the trailhead and picked up our trail permits. Then we began the eight-mile hike to Supai Village. Starting early in the morning was a smart move, as the first two miles ascends 2,000 feet in the wide-open desert environment.
As the day heated up, we were walking through the canyon with some sun protection. We arrived at the Village by 1 p.m., checked out the local grocery and general store, and then headed to the Lodge to check-in.
Finding the falls
The following morning, we continued the two-mile hike to the three falls. We walked along the rushing blue-green waters on our way to the first of the three, Navajo Falls. In 2008, a major flood re-sculpted these falls. Navajo Falls was not as dramatic as before the flood, but still a great precursor to what was to come.
Next, we walked through the campground which has random sites along the many tributaries of the Havasu River. There is fresh spring water for resupply and a small Fry Bread & Taco Stand.
Then, we arrived at Havasu Falls! Absolutely mind bending and beautiful to watch the blue-green waters spilling over the travertine cliff. We climbed down to its base, where we picnicked and watched the other campers swimming in the pool at its base.
We finally left and continued to Mooney Falls, another incredible waterfall. To get to its base, it required climbing down a somewhat "sketchy" ladder and chains for handholds. We decided to enjoy the views from the top of these falls, and then head back for more gaping at the Havasu Falls.
Back to reality
Dinner this night was at the one and only restaurant. Local fare included fry bread, and typical tourist eats of burgers and chicken tenders. There is also the general store across the street for other food choices.
Hike out day was easier than expected. We got an early morning start and hiked the 8-mile, 2,400 ft climb, from the Lodge to the Hilltop Trailhead, arriving back by noon. The last two miles was the most strenuous and hot, so we're glad we started early.
Such an incredible place, we're already making plans to go back!