The hike to Havasupai was one of the most unique and beautiful hikes I’ve ever done! Now, maybe that’s not saying too much because I haven’t done a whole buttload of hikes, but I’ve always thought Arizona hikes were quite special just because the red rocks really stand out against a blue sky.
This hike had many terrain changes that made it quite pretty and interesting. Also, most hikes I’m used to are on mountains while this one was in a canyon. If you’re a newbie backpacker like I was, you may want to read this post to find out more about planning your trip and what to expect along the hike.
Day 0 – Arriving in Vegas and Driving to Peach Springs
Sorry, I need to backtrack to Day 0 before talking about the hike! I was going to post something separate, but day 0 is kind of boring and I promise this is quick and could be useful. In a nutshell, we arrived in Las Vegas around midday and met my best friend and her boyfriend at the airport. Then we grabbed our car rental so we could be on our way to REI. Why?
We needed to go to REI so we could buy some propane fuel packs for our boilers to heat water for food. You can’t bring these onto planes (either checked in or luggage) so you’ll have to purchase them when you arrive. The store isn’t too far from the airport, and after we got our gear, we picked up some water from a grocery store (Smith’s) across the street, grabbed a rather large bite to eat at Cheesecake Factory, then took a mini-detour (hehe), and headed to Peach Springs, AZ!
Travel Pearl: You will need to check in your hiking poles. Some of you might think it silly to point this out, but for a beginner like me, I had NO idea until my husband told me!
We drove 2.5 hours from Las Vegas to Peach Springs, AZ and stayed at the Hualapai Lodge off Route 66 for the night (~$160/night after taxes/fees). Those of you who read my Havasupai Basics will know that this is the last town you can get gas, food, lodging, water, etc. before the trailhead.
The lodge was decent, though some guests complain of the loud train sounds. From our room, we didn’t really hear it and the 4 of us split a room easily. We used the evening to repack our backpacks after the flight, fill up our water bladders, and take one last shower before we stank it up for 3 days!
The Hualapai Hilltop
The next morning, we had some free breakfast at the lodge (well, it was included!) before driving to the trailhead. Nothing fancy, but good enough to fill our tummies. We wanted to leave earlier, but things always get delayed!
Driving to the hilltop was pretty simple. Head on Route 66 for about 7 miles, then a left on Indian Highway 18 all the way to the end for the trailhead. The total travel time was a little under an hour and a half and we arrived around 8:45am.
We really should have gotten up earlier, but because we got to Peach Springs kind of late the prior night (10pm), we fell asleep too late to force ourselves up at an ungodly hour. It was partially my fault because of my little tourist detour in Las Vegas, but everyone else was up for it too! That, I will reserve for another post. 🙂
Once you get to the hilltop, there are some bathrooms you can use before the hike. The hardest part upon getting to the hilltop is snagging a PARKING SPACE. Some people are parked so far up the road, it’s a hike to get to the hike! Would have been nice to just get an Uber/Lyft to drop us off but they don’t come out that way. I know; we checked. 😛
I don’t know if getting there any earlier is helpful in getting a closer spot to the trailhead because people are parked here for a few days and may not leave either. But if you are lucky, you may just find someone leaving around the same time you’re arriving! (Yes, that was us.) Perhaps because we arrived a little later than we should have to start the hike, we were able to catch some of the first people hiking out of the canyon.
I remember before the trip that I was kind of worried about leaving our rental car at the hilltop, but there are SO many cars there, and people constantly leaving/arriving that you should be okay. Plus, the tribal members do circulate around here operating mules, helicopter rides, and selling hot, tired hikers some cold Gatorade and food. And, hiking nature people are generally some of THE coolest, nicest people I’ve ever met!
In the next section, I have broken up the hike into a few different parts so you can distinguish them when you are hiking and give yourself a mental picture of how far along you are and peace of mind you’re heading in the right direction!
The Switchbacks [Mile 0 – Mile 1.5]
The hike starts with a series of switchbacks down into the canyon for about 1.5 miles. For serious hiking newbies (like me), switchbacks are trails that pretty much zig zag back and forth to get down a slope. I read somewhere that the descent is really hard because of these switchbacks and the steepness, but I didn’t find it to be as bad as it was described. I didn’t even realize how steep the trails were until coming back out of the canyon. But I assume my hiking poles helped!
There’s some shade in the morning when you head into the canyon from the shadow of the canyon walls. Obviously, the earlier you leave, the more shade you’ll have. If you leave pretty soon after sunrise, you mayyyyy want a light long-sleeve shirt too because it can be slightly chilly in the morning. By 9am when we headed in, it was already pretty warm and I didn’t feel cold in my T-shirt. And I get cold easily.
The Desolate Desert [Mile 1.5 – Mile 6]
Okay, so it’s not actually that desolate. There’s quite a decent amount of people hiking in–but don’t worry, it’s not swarms of them either that might trample you. Once you get to the bottom of the switch backs, you’ll essentially be in the canyon and no longer protected in any shade. At the bottom of the canyon, it’s completely exposed to any sun overhead, with a clearly marked white sand/rock path. There are some places the path forks but usually the paths always meet somewhere and you won’t be detouring too much. When in doubt, just follow people going in or head in the direction of them coming out!
Travel Pearl: You can usually be sure you’re heading in the right direction if you see/hear horses and mules coming through. You’ll want to step aside when you hear them or see them so they don’t run you over, especially on the switchbacks! They can create a lot of dust in their wake, so sunglasses are good to have, as well as a handkerchief to cover your nose/mouth from the dust.
For the next ~4.5 miles, there won’t be any water sources and it can be pretty hot and exposed. If you roughly estimate half an hour for each mile, that means for 2-2.5 hours, it’ll be hot and water will be unavailable, except for what you bring in. But don’t despair; there actually ARE some shady spots when you walk by the giant red rocks. The week that we went, there was also a group of 80 students (I’d estimate grades 6-8 maybe) and all of them including chaperones were able to fit under the shade a huge rock wall for lunchtime!
Take advantage of the shade when you can. Duh. I didn’t really need to give you that advice 😛 Rest, drink some water/Gatorade, eat a snack! Take a photo. The red rocks are absolutely stunning!
Be mindful of your water supply, but definitely keep hydrating too! You don’t want to get heat stroke or have your muscles fail on you. Something to keep in mind when deciding what kind of gear to bring is your water supply. We used water bladders which made it easier to get access to water without having to reach for a bottle or take off all the backpack straps before getting to a water bottle. Just simply grab the mouthpiece that attaches to your backpack strap and bite down for water! The downside? You can’t see how much water you have left. Unless you took off your backpack of course and moved everything out of the way…in which that kind of defeats the purpose in the first place.
Water bottles can be more convenient to see how much supply you have left but a little bulkier and harder to reach for. But they may be easier to refill too from the spring. So…your choice! We saw many people with bottles and bladders.
But bottom line, just remember: Muscles failing + fainting = no chasing waterfalls. 🙁
Travel Pearl: There were times I thought we were taking too much time to stop and take photos and videos of the hike. I kept thinking, ughh let’s hurry up, we can take these photos on the way out! SPOILER: NO YOU WON’T. On the way out, either it will be too dark because you left at 3am OR you will be too hot and tired to care. You especially won’t look pretty because of all the sweat, and all you will want to do is beat the sun out of there! So go ahead and take a little bit of time to take your photos on the way in. I give you permission. 🙂
Hark, There is Water! [Mile 6]
Roughly at mile 6 from the trailhead you’ll start to see traces of water. There’s nothing majorly significant about this location except to know you’re heading in the right direction and you’re close to an important junction. It’s actually more like 5.5 miles and if you want GPS coordinates: 36.215954 , -112.695255. You can type those into Google Maps to get an idea! My husband bought a GPS Sattelite device thing before we left and that’s how he was able to record some of the coordinates.
I remember crossing this huge section of rocks where we started to see water. It wasn’t a roaring river, but there were very small traces of water and lifted my spirits because I knew we were getting closer!
The Supai Sign [~Mile 6]
Next, watch out for a big sign not too much further (~0.5 miles) that says “SUPAI” and “You’re almost there!!” with a big arrow pointing in the correct direction of the trail (which is to the LEFT). PAY ATTENTION. This is really the only time you’ll need to follow directions! If you miss it, you could potentially keep going straight and then I’m not sure where you’ll end up!! You’ll probably find it eventually but could be mislead for a little while.
I must admit, I was concentrating on the ground and it was HOT by the time we got to the sign, so I actually almost missed it and kept going straight because I didn’t look up! I didn’t even take a photo of the sign (sorry!) because I was desperately aching for shade.
Also, there was a lady resting on the sign, which kind of would have ruined the photo anyway. She shouted to us, “Good luck! You’re almost there *pointing to the sign*…but, actually maybe not really. Another mile or so!!”
…Thanks, lady. Not.
But the good thing was that once you see the sign and head in the right direction, the trail starts to change. The rocks go away and become more of a red dirt path that’s slightly easier on your feet, and there’s suddenly trees and shade! Then if you’re observant, you’ll hear the rushing water first. And then you’ll see it! The first glimpses of a live, babbling brook with the tint of that blue-green color in the water that you came to Havasupai to witness!
Oh, it was glorious to see and hear! We walked just slightly off the path to greet the creek and run our hands through the cold water to cool off from the hot sun. The shade helped a lot, but this cold water was delightfully refreshing!
Don’t get too distracted because the creek goes for another mile before you reach the village of Supai. However, the gentle sound of the meandering water is reassuring and guides your way. The water also means there’s trees that shelter this part of the trail and offers a welcome break from the beating sun.
Supai Village [Mile 8]
At mile 8, you will finally see Supai Village! When you enter, you’ll mostly see a few houses and horses and mules grazing. Up ahead on your left, you’ll see a store — the Sinyella Store. This is one of a few buildings where you can get food and you’ll probably be tempted to stop here because there’s actually a shaded picnic bench area next to the store that will look mighty inviting!
We actually stopped at this store because we were hungry and it was already after 1:30pm. This kind of makes sense seeing that we left around 9am from the hill top and technically without breaks should have taken 4 hours to trek 8 miles. Besides for being hungry, there were signs that said “Ice Cream!” and that did it for me.
My best friend and her boyfriend rested at the picnic benches with our packs, while my husband and I went to peruse the store. There were two giant coolers of popsicle sticks, ice cream sandwiches, and generally icy treats galore. Hubby grabbed us two popsicles of our choice and contemplated getting a cold Gatorade before deciding that we probably could just drink our own and lighten the load.
The store carried other snacks–instant ramen, chips, cookies, your basic junk food. A sign outside also advertised food like hamburgers, fries, burritos, nachos, etc. But when we asked about this, the two girls manning the store apologized and said the cook never showed up yet today (it was almost 2pm) and they had no idea when he would. Ha. Maybe he had a wild night last night. 😛
I’m not sure if they took credit card but we paid with cash. And we probably paid like $4 or more for a dinky popsicle. But hey, I’ve already bought $7 water bottles in Bora Bora. I’m getting my damn popsicle!
And it was. the. best. popsicle. of. my. life.
After my best friend grabbed some cold Gatorade with her boyfriend, we trekked a little further into the village and found the Tourism Office on our left. I didn’t pay as much attention to it and we may have missed it on a different day, but remember those 80 school kids who were also hiking into Havasupai? Yea, they were all gathered outside this office and making a ruckus, so we were naturally drawn to go check in there.
There’s a water spigot outside the tourism office where you can refill your water if you need! We didn’t drink from this so I don’t know how it is, but I’m sure it’s good if everyone else does it too!
Further past the Tourism office, there was another general store/post office on the right that even sold some fresh fruits and veggies and a cafeteria across on the left side where they were making food. But it took a very long time to get your orders placed and we didn’t really want to wait around for food to be made, so we skipped on eating here and started our hike to the campgrounds. Also no backpacks allowed in the cafeteria, so you will have to hang them outside on some of the hooks, or leave them on the ground.
When checking in at the tourism office, they will check to see that you had a paid reservation. It’s under the name of the person who paid and they will check your ID to make sure it really is you. Then, everyone in the reservation gets a wristband that clearly shows the dates that you have reserved and when you are entering and leaving as well as the number of people in your group. They ask you to write down the names of everyone in the group as well.
I cannot remember if I also put down names of members going to be in the reservation when I booked our spot, but it must not be important then because they never checked the names I wrote down in the office with any existing list. The wristbands are important since the park rangers will check to make sure you have it.
Travel Pearl: The most important thing when booking your reservation is to make sure the person who books it/pays for the group will actually be there. The person that the reservation is under cannot resell their reservation spots, and refunds are not allowed. I’m not sure what would happen if you really couldn’t make it since this is the first year they implemented this rule, but if anyone knows, please share!
To the Campgrounds!
Once you’ve checked in, you can walk past the cafeteria and make a left. Then you’ll follow the road until you see the church, at which point you make a left again and follow the trail along the mountains. The path will fork again and you will want to stay on the right. Remember, follow the mountains and keep them on your right. The path will take you to the campgrounds, which is about another 2 miles in.
If you booked to stay at the lodge in Supai, the lodge is to the right, past the church.
The WORST part of getting to Havasu Falls, in my opinion, is this roughly 2 mile stretch between the village and the campgrounds because you are literally walking through a ton of soft, fine, red sand! I was already tired, my back and shoulders were aching and the sand just kept sifting into my shoes!! I could tell there was sand in my shoes, but I wasn’t able to do anything about it then.
Along the trail to the campgrounds, you will actually spot Fifty Foot Falls and New Navajo Falls before you reach Havasu Falls. These falls will require a little detour to get down to, but I’d reserve it for another day after you have dropped off all your camp gear. New Navajo Falls has some nice little pools on the top of the falls that lots of people swim around in.
Havasu Falls [~Mile 9.5]
Once you’ve seen the first falls, keep your head up! You are ALMOST THERE! Havasu Falls will be around the bend and you’ll hear the roaring and suddenly see everyone stop along the rocks to take it in from above. You will see Havasu Falls before you see the campgrounds.
Here the road down to the campsite will be pretty steep and sandy, so don’t be staring at the waterfall while trying to walk…really watch your step and stop before you want to take a photo. I say this with all the klutzes out there in mind because I am one myself!
The Campgrounds [~Mile 10]
To get to the campgrounds, you’ll pass a large cleared section for where the horses and mules gather during times of the day and a little stand that sells fry bread, hot dogs, snacks. We didn’t get to try any, but the natives sell these so check it out if you’re hungry. They’re usually there until 6pm too but we just never got the chance to stop by again.
By the time we reached the campgrounds, it was around 3:30 in the afternoon and a lot of the good camp sites along the creek were mostly taken. There may have been more spots too but we also wanted not to be too far from the water source as there is only one!
Travel Pearl: Campsites are first come first serve as I mentioned in my Havasupai Basics post. I’d advise to pick one near the Fern Spring water source as there is only one. OR, you can camp along the creek and use the running water from the creek.
Running water = drinkable. || Still water = bad.
There are 4 bathroom sites as well throughout the mile long campground. We stayed relatively close to the water source so we could easily lug back 4 liters at a time in our Platypus GravityWorks Filter back to our camping spot. I’ll post more on supplies later, but I’ve linked our water filter here. (Disclaimer: I get a tiny commission if you click my link and decide to buy this. No cost at all to you, and all proceeds are for funding my blog :))
You can see where I’ve starred on the map is where we picked to camp. The spring water is against the mountainside and you cross a tiny creek over a very questionable slab of wood? cardboard? to get to it!
Travel Pearl: If there’s chance of rain, which means chance of flash floods, you may want to opt camping on the left side of the creek. If you cross the creek to camp on the right side of it, you might get stuck there if a flash flood comes (especially in the narrower grounds) because you’re along the mountain there too. Just be mindful!
The bathroom also isn’t too far from the spring source. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal to be close to the bathrooms, but if you need to go in the middle of the night, it is pitch dark as hell and gets confusing to navigate the campgrounds, even with your headlamp!
We also chose our spot for a picnic table that was pretty much all ours. This was pretty useful for packing/unpacking and cooking our food!
Travel Pearl: We were advised not to pitch tents against the mountainside by some other campers who said if the winds picked up at night or if it rained (wasn’t that likely when we were there), there were possible rockslides. And that would be no fun in the middle of the night!
Further down the campground, others set up sleeping hammocks between trees along the creek and big tour groups might set up actual grills to cook food for their campers. You can camp all the way down the campgrounds by Mooney Falls too, which is just a little bit further down from the last bathrooms.
And there you have it! How to hike to Havasupai!
Since this post was rather lengthy, I’ll share more of our Day 1 in the next post–mainly about actually visiting Havasu Falls after we ate something and pitched a tent! Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have questions!