Two weeks ago I went to Havasupai in northern Arizona. The place is simply amazing. Pictures you see are not digitally enhanced. That’s really the color of the water and really how beautiful it is.
60 miles down a paved road outside of Peach Springs (which is 55 miles from Kingman, AZ), is a parking lot from which almost all outings to havasupai begin. From there it’s an 8 mile hike to the Havasupai Indian Villiage where about 450 members of the tribe live. From the villiage, it’s another 2 miles to the campsite where all tourists stay. We hiked the 10 miles with all our food/camping gear for 3 nights on our backs. Many people send their packs into the canyon on horses, which costs about $20 per pack. I think that most people also hike the 10 miles, but you do have the option of riding a horse ($75) or riding a helicopter ($85) to the villiage. The next time I do it, I’ll definitely pay to have a horse carry my pack in. I’ll probably still hike the 10 miles.
The canyon in which havasupai sits is simply amazing. It’s an offshute of the Grand Canyon and is probably the most beautiful canyon I’ve ever seen (I’ve been quite a few places in canyons).
The indian villiage is small. No roads or cars. Just horses and trails. There is a grocery store, restaurant, electricity, and running water. It’s a pretty cool little place.
After the villiage is where the amazing begins. The whole reservation is an oasis in the middle of the desert. Theres a spring of water that comes out of the ground a few miles above the villiage that brings a river of clean, blue water. It flows into 4 main large waterfalls, along with hundreds of small (1-8 feet) falls. You can see pictures at HavasuFalls.net or at Google.
The first waterfall (Navajo Falls) is like a 200 foot wide wall where there are bunches of thin falls interspersed with tons of green vines hanging down the wall. It reminded me of a drive I took in Costa Rica on the side of a mountain with hundreds of waterfalls along the way.
The second falls (Havasu falls), about a half mile from the second, and less than half mile above the campground, is a gigantic waterfall that falls into a beautiful pool of blue water. The water is cold to the touch, but perfect temperature when you jump in. The pool is great for swimming, as it flows into hundreds of smaller waterfalls over the next mile. We played in this for about 4 hours one day while we were there. We jumped off waterfalls, swam over them, swam through the currents that flowed between small falls on either side, and walked/swam down the river. The great part about playing in the river is that you can see everything because the water is clear. Also, nothing in the water is slippery. You can count on being able to put your foot down anywhere and it staying there, not slipping.
The third falls (Mooney falls) is bigger than the second and is only accessable by climbing down the side of the canyon next to the falls. You have to climb down through two caves and down some “steps” that have chains next to them for you to hold on to. This is somewhat of a scary climb, because the steps are wet because of the mist of the falls. Once again, at the bottom of the falls is a giant pool of blue water where you can swim. You can also swim to the left of the falls and climb along the rocks to get very close to the back of the falls. When you get there you can’t see anything because of the spray of the waterfall, but it’s fun nonetheless.
After the third falls you can hike about 3 1/2 miles to the fourth falls, Beaver Falls. The hike is well worth doing, as it is gorgeous. It’s pretty difficult to describe, but there is a mile stretch where the trail is about 2 feet wide at shoulder level because vines have grown up over the whole canyon floor. The vines grow up the walls of the canyon about 100 feet. It’s totally amazing to see nothing but green anywhere around you.
You cross the river a couple of times and have to climb up a rock that would be very difficult to scale if it weren’t for a rope that people have tied up at the top to help others get up. Right at the rock there is a random giant palm tree. It is really amazing how much of an oasis this place is.
While Beaver Falls itself isn’t as spectacular as Havasu and Mooney falls, it has some cool features. There is a huge pool of water that is fairly shallow at the bottom which you can swim in. There are plenty of small waterfalls to jump off of. About 50 yards down from Beaver there is a cliff about 60 feet high that you can jump off of (if you do, there’s not an easy way to get back up…but it can be done. Three of the people I went with jumped off the cliff. I did not. I’m too scared.
Apparently there is also an air pocket which you can get to somewhere in the falls. Somewhere near the top of the falls, if you jump down a few feet and then swim under the water a few feet you can come up underneath the rocks but inside a pocket of air. Apparently if you get there when the sun is shining on the water it’s pretty amazing. I did not see the pocket, but some people we met while we were there told us about it after we had already been down to those falls.
If you continue to hike about 2 1/2 miles past Beaver Falls you can get to the Colorado river. Along the trail there you come to a sign that says:
Leaving Grand Canyon National Park
Entering Havasupai Tribal Lands
Obviously the sign is facing the Grand Canyon side of the hike. We didn’t make it all the way to the Grand Canyon, but we did meet some people who were on their way up from the colorado river to Beaver Falls. They were on an 18 day river rafting trip. They jokingly asked us how much gas was now and when we told them it was $3/gallon they flipped out. They knew nothing about hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. They were on day 13 of their trip and the hurricane happened about 10 days into the trip. Obviously they’d had no contact with the outside world. That was pretty funny.
We went to the LDS church in the villiage on Sunday morning. That was a cool experience. There were about 6 people there from the reservation and about 20 people there who were camping. There were also 2 people there who had flown in on the helicopter just for church. Everyone was in shorts and sandals and was very dirty. The service itself was very touching and well worth going to.
There are also a few abandoned mines that you can explore. We only did one of them (which is about a quarter mile away from Havasu falls, up the side canyon), but it was amazing. The other cave (mine) we saw was on the side of the canyon. There’s a huge metal ladder that leads up to it, but to get to it you would need climbing equipment.
There are also a few side canyons you can explore that are really beautiful.
On the way out I sent my pack on a horse and hiked the 10 miles out without my pack on my back. Next time, I’ll fly out on the helicopter, as apparently most of the people do. Not only is it a 10 mile hike, but the last mile is about 1000 feet up and when we did it it was in the sun. Needless to say, it was very difficult.
Overall, it’s really an amazing place. While I haven’t been to Hawaii, I’ve been told by others who have been there that havasupai is better. I would say it’s better than what I saw in both Costa Rica and in Brazil. The canyon is almost as impressive as is Zion canyon in Zion National Park, and the hikes were all better than any hike I’ve done in Zion. You really need 3-4 days to fully appreciate the place.