Deep in the Grand Canyon lives the Havasupai People, the sole guardians of the pristine paradise they call Havasu Falls. “Havasu” means “blue-green water”, and “pai” means people in the Havasupai language. As soon as the falls come into sight, it’s easy to see why these indigenous peoples were proud to carry the namesake of their lands.
The falls are found down river from Supai Village, which is a 10 mile trek from the starting point at Hualapai Hilltop. The trek goes over desert sand, rocky paths, eventually intersecting with an oasis of green that follows the Havasu Creek, a tributary of the Grand Canyon, to the Supai Village. Because there is no way to access the village and the falls upon arrival, all supplies must be carried in by foot, donkey, or other mode of transportation.
Trekking to Havasu is a dream come true for backpackers. A permit is required to attend this bucket list destination. Permits can be obtained through the Havasupai Village. The permits are highly coveted and can often take years of waiting to finally work through the queue of requests and be issued to a party.
The trek to Havasu is a beautiful journey of browns, blues, greens, whites, and blacks; large cliffs loom on each side of the trail, and fine sand crunches underneath hiking boots. It seems unlikely that any sign of civilization would be found here. Once Havasu Creek comes into sight, it’s a short distance from there to the village. Wooden signs begin to pop up along the trail, pointing the way. Before long the canyon and trees open up, and the buildings of Havasupai Village come into view.
Once in the village and in the falls, there’s a plethora of sights, sounds, and activities to keep visitors entertained and content. Village stores sell food, drinks, supplies, and more. Dogs wander the village freely, and almost every house in the area has some sort of livestock grazing behind rickety wooden fences. Many families grow and manage their own gardens; corn stalks shoot up from behind houses, and through the center of the village neatly rowed lines of crops take center stage. One striking reminder of the outside world sits dead smack in the middle of the village – a helicopter pad with a modern, high tech helicopter resting on it. Besides following the path to the starting point ten miles back or scaling the canyon walls (not recommended), the helicopter is the only way out of the village
Beyond the village the river continues to run, and the canyon continues to carve its path downwards. Several falls precede Havasu, building up the excitement to the canyon’s namesake. All of the water in the creek and in all of the falls in the canyon is a vibrant bright blue green, giving it the illusion of being from some fairy tale or made up of a sugary concoction. The creek’s color comes from the large amounts of calcium carbonate in the water that help to form the limestone that lines the creek. This combined with the reflection of the limestone in the creek gives off the blue-green color that the creek and the falls are so famous for.
Only so many people are allowed in the canyon and to the falls at one time, which is why it can take so long to be issued a permit by the village. Despite these limitations, a good number of visitors can be seen swimming in the blue pond below, jumping off rock cliffs near the falls, and relaxing next to the pond, taking in the scenery.
All of the camping is first come first serve, and space near the entrance is extremely limited. Campsites can be spotted all the way through the valley. Hammocks are popular and recommended, as there is a large number of trees that stretch along the creek, their roots digging deep down for moisture in this otherwise dry environment. There is also a pure natural spring that flows conveniently out of the canyonside right in the middle of camp, so freshwater isn’t an issue, and water purifying equipment is not necessarily required, but still recommended.
Generally the weather in the canyon is hot and dry, but rain can and does occur quite often. Flash floods in the Grand Canyon can occur and while they are extremely rare, are incredibly dangerous. When hiking to the village the water line from the previous floods are clearly visible on the canyon walls, giving a firsthand idea of how much water can flow through the narrow channel during a flood. Always check weather conditions and the US National Park Service website before heading out. Hikers assume responsibility for all risks while traveling in the park. Come prepared for hot temperatures – daytime temps can reach up to 115 degrees fahrenheit. No day hiking is allowed, and as mentioned before, permits are required for all backpackers.
Thank you to Daniel Loudenback from Fantasium Media for permission to share the photograph.