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To create a uniquely memorable backcountry hike, Havasu Canyon is one of those places where a breathtaking natural setting combines with the fascination of native peoples. The Havasupai Indians are comfortably isolated from the maddening rush of the outside world, living for the past several centuries within this beautiful side canyon of the Grand Canyon.
The spectacular waterfalls that are formed as Havasu Creek tumbles toward the Colorado River and adding to the Garden of Eden ambience of their home are the clear blue green waters of the creek.
Over the course of about one mile, the trail begins with a drop of about 1,000 feet on a series of switchbacks. You don't want to do the switchbacks in the full sun on your return trip. The trail is a gentle grade to Supai, which sits at about 3,500 feet after the switchbacks.
About 9.5 miles away from the start is the campsite below the village of Supai. Charging up the trail carrying gear are streams of pack horses, and it gets old really fast to jump off the trail to avoid being trampled by them!
All good and fine, you pass Redwall Limestone, Supai Sandstone, and layers of Hermit Shale. You just want to get to where you are going, and you attempt to entertain yourself looking at a few interesting things along the way, but you've been on much more scenic roads. You are ready to see the blue green waters!
Redwall Limestone Just Below Sandstone
You have another 2 plus miles to go downhill to the campground, after walking a dirt, flat road about half a mile through town to the Havasu Cafe.
Enter Supai along a wooded trail and walk parallel to Havasu Creek. You finally see the blue green waters. Wow, it looks wonderful! The Havasu Canyon flattens out and widens up around the town. A little store that sells items and some snacks, you come upon fast.
Past some houses and fields, you walk along a dirt road. A small Mormon church is here. To pick up your camping permits, stop in the Tourist Office. You will come upon the Havasu Cafe after the tourist office. Considering the effort needed to get supplies, the prices are unbelievably low!
You can even get veggie burgers! Although, the fry bread was the main event for sure. And to sip a Coke was divine, and sit inside, sheltered from the wind! Across the street from the cafe, there is a small grocery store. From approximately 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., both are open.
It is a about two plus miles downhill to the campground from the cafe. You walk alongside a dirt road. You see a waterfall to your left, about 1.2 miles down the road from the cafe. You see another waterfall coming out of a cliff that is covered with trees if you look just a little upriver.
Both of these are about fifty feet, relatively short, wide falls. Since the epic flood of August 17, 2008 that rearranged things down here, these are new waterfalls. The running blue green water is spectacular and these new falls are quite nice! There was a waterfall in this general area known as Navajo Falls, prior to the flood.
Today Navajo Falls is dry, because the flood changed the waterflow. Erosion control, roadwork, etc in this general area, the Havasupais are doing quite a bit of restoration work. You come upon the top of Havasu Falls, about one mile from the road viewpoint of these two new falls.
Today Navajo Falls Is Dry
Havasu Falls is around ninety feet high. You get a pretty good view of Havasu Falls as you head down toward the campground, which you reach in about half a mile, after the road takes you steeply to the left of it. Via a trail that connects with the main road, you can access Havasu Falls. Today it has one plume, prior to the flood, Havasu Falls had two.
A new artificial reef has been put in place and travertine is slowly starting to form again, since the floods washed away the travertine reefs at the base of Havasu Falls. At the base of Havasu Falls, the reef creates a large pool.
The Base Of Havasu Falls
Havasu Creek runs through it and the campground is well below the village at about 2,800 feet. When the flood hit, it is easy to see why so many people were stranded in trees here. It feels almost like a marsh. There are lots of nice camping spots and it is heavily wooded. Also, there is a water pump. The water from the pump doesn't need to be treated.
Havasu Creek By Campground
Only one bathroom is actually open in the main camping area, but there are several. Toilet paper is hard to find. Bring lots of toilet paper with you! It's a great time to take the short hike back up to the pool below Havasu Falls for a refreshing, cleansing, and cold swim, along with photos or videos, after setting up camp! Have some dinner and hit the sack, after you swim and take photos. The next day, Mooney and Beaver Falls await you.
About one mile from the beginning of the campground is the distance to Mooney Falls. About two miles to Beaver Falls, after that.
For about one mile, the campground straddles Havasu Creek. You come upon the top of Mooney Falls after following the creek downstream to the end of the campground. Mooney Falls is around 200 feet high. To the bottom of Mooney Falls, there is a steep descent. There are some footholds here and there and bolts and chains for you to grip. Also, you go through two narrow, short tunnels.
The downclimb is wet at the lower half. It won't be for everyone, the descent to the pool at the bottom of Mooney. A big backpack will really get in the way and make it more difficult for you to balance yourself, so you won't want to take it with you on this descent.
At the bottom of Mooney, the pool also has an artificial reef. If you've come this far, you should consider going about two more miles to Beaver Falls, even though staring at Mooney is a fantastic use of your time. Just follow the creek down. Sometimes there's no trail, sometimes there is one. Sometimes you'll walk on the right side of the creek, sometimes you'll walk on the left side. You'll even walk in the creek sometimes.
You'll see amazing small waterfalls, pools and travertine reefs! Also, you will enjoy a hike through a large field of Canyon Grape vines. You will be looking for the only Palm Tree you are going to see around here, about one and a half miles from Mooney. There will be a canyon wall that shoots up from the water, it will be on the right side of the creek, and just behind it. To a cliff side hike that takes you to the end of the Reservation and into the Grand Canyon National Park, scaling this canyon wall is the traditional route.
Be very careful, there may be a rope there. You may find the existing rope to be terribly frayed at its anchor point. Further downstream fortunately, you can find another entry point to the cliff side path. You can only go so far in the water is the reality you'll face. Beaver Falls is a series of falls that will ultimately stop you in your tracks, since the canyon slots up a bit. Also, you may end up going down a fall and can't get back up!
On the cliff side hike, you need to stay above the falls to the right! You can see Beaver Canyon from the juncture of the Reservation and the National Park. You also have a great view of the Blue Hole, which is a phenomenal, big pool and the falls. You will not find a safe way to the Blue Hole, but trying to find a path down to it, you may get close. About another 4 miles downstream from here is the Colorado River. Today, after the flood, the hike is said to be even tougher.
You may come upon a herd of Bighorn Sheep, on the way back to the campground, near the upstream end of the field of Canyon Grape vines. They apparently are not very afraid of people and they are in that area a lot. This makes the Beaver Falls hike, which is already incredible, even better after seeing them.
In Havasu Canyon, the hike to Beaver Falls is definitely best done over three days. The hike to the campground should be day one. The hike to Beaver Falls and the end of the Reservation should be day two. The hike out should be day three. Found in the blue green waters is the heart of the trip to Havasu Canyon! The fact that, in the bottom of a canyon in a remote region, there is a village, it is something to see and is very cool!
Especially those with an eye for geology, the hike to the village might be interesting for some people. It's really all about the blue green water! It is really when you get downstream from Mooney that the connection with the beauty of this place is strongest, as impressive as the initial falls are. You can explore to your hearts content and you get into the nuances of Havasu Creek. The Bighorns hang out here. They know a good thing when they see it!
Many times, people will compare Havasu Canyon to Hawaii. Instead of Hawaii, the blue green waters color reminds some people more of the Caribbean. It might have been one of the new falls, if there was any Havasu Canyon fall that might have looked like a waterfall in Hawaii. Just outside of the village, the one that comes from the forest on the edge of the cliff. Such comparisons do not show the beauty that Hawaii has. Nor do they show the depths of beauty that Havasu Canyon has.
Akaka Falls, Hawaii
The region is so different from its surroundings is what makes the depths of Havasu Canyon special. Almost to be expected is a waterfall in a lush tropical forest in Hawaii. Not to be expected are blue green waters, pools, and waterfalls in the middle of a dry, dusty, and barren landscape. That is what creates the special draw of Havasu Canyon. Beyond comparison, perhaps, lies the stark contrast that magnifies the unique beauty of the land of the blue green waters!
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