Havasupai Falls sits near the top of nearly every outdoor adventurer’s list of “must see” places. The bright turquoise colored streams and falls nestled away in the western portion of Arizona’s Grand Canyon draw visitors from all over the world. If you look online, there’s an abundance of information regarding the waterfalls, but not much detailed information on the hike to see them. Before visitors can catch a glimpse of the falls at Havasupai, an 8 mile hike to the town of Supai is required just to check in and pick up a reserved permit. From Supai, the trail continues for another two miles past Navajo, Havasu, Mooney Falls, and the designated camping area.
The 8 mile hike to begin a Havasupai Falls backpacking trip begins at Hualapai Hilltop. In this post I’ll feature directions, a map, an elevation profile, photograph, key points, and a hike description. I’ll cover the hike to the waterfalls, permits, gear, and camping information in another post.
Directions And GPS Tracks:
- Getting to Hualapai Hilltop is a long drive regardless of where you’re coming from. If you’re driving from west of Arizona. Head east on HWY 40 towards Kingman AZ and take Route 66 towards Peach Springs. East of Peach Springs you’ll see Indian Road 18. Take this until the road terminates at Hualapai Hilltop. If you’re coming from the east, head west on HWY 40 past Flagstaff until you reach Seligman. From Seligman, join Route 66 and follow the instructions above.
- Click here for directions on Google Maps
- Download GPX
- See my track on Strava
- Distance: 8 miles (one way)
- Elevation Gain: -1963ft (+1963 on the return leg)
- Minimum Elevation: 3195ft
- Maximum Elevation: 5158ft
- Time: 4-8 hours
- Difficulty: Intermediate to difficult depending on weather
- Dog Friendly: No, not permitted
- Permit Required: Yes
- Season: Year round
- Trail Condition: Well maintained trail. Well marked and easy to follow.
- Flood Warning!: Be on high alert for flash floods.
- Water: There is not potable or reliable water source between Hilltop and Supai. Come preapred.
- Weather: This is the desert. Expect very high temperatures much of the year with extreme heat.
Hike Map And Elevation Profile:
This map and elevation profile is for the full hike from Hualapai Hilltop to Supai, Havasu Falls, Havasupai Campground, and Mooney Falls. The hike from Hualapai Hilltop to Supai goes from mile 0 to mile 8. I will cover the hike to the Falls in a follow up post.
The Havasupai Trail begins at Hualapai Hilltop, which is at the end of Indian Road 18. The Hilltop is the location of a helipad for human and supply delivery to and from Supai. There are portable toilets at the trailhead which were fairly clean. At the far end of the lot, there is a wooden structure office where workers manage the pack drop offs by mule and horse train. There are a high number of mule and horse trains that run between Hualapai Hilltop and Supai. You can reserve a horse or mule for $75 each way if you would like to avoid carrying your pack.
The Hualapi Trail loses 1000ft of elevation in the first 1.5 miles, so be prepared for a descent if you’re not used to hiking with a heavy pack (A lot of online posts list the descent at 2000ft for the first mile. That is false information). The trail then levels out and loses the next 1000ft of elevation over the next 6.5 miles.The trail is wide and easy to follow, with mostly soft dirt underneath due to the churning of hooves by the mule and horse trains.
From Hualapai Hilltop, the first mile of trail cuts a series of switchbacks deep into the sandstone walls of the Grand Canyon. Try to leave early in the day for cooler temps and a shaded trail. Once the clock reaches noon, this trail is hot and exposed.
For those that have never visited the Grand Canyon, make sure to keep you eyes open and enjoy this stretch of hiking. As someone who has hike from the South Rim to the North Rim and back (R2R, R2R2R), I can tell you there is nothing like hiking down into 2 billion years of sedimentary geology. Kicking of your shoes covered in tapeats sandstone, bright angel shale, and redwall limestone at the end of a long day is an honor few can claim.
As I approached the two mile mark on the Hualapai Trail, I crossed paths with a few mule and horse trains. Make sure to give them enough space if you’re on a narrow stretch of trail. I was fortunate to be on a stretch of trail that was composed of five or more use trails. The mules and horses got to choose their own path. Julia, Owen, and I just stood still and enjoyed. As much as I enjoyed watching the horses and mules, my favorite part of the entire morning was watching the dogs that run alongside the mule and horse trains.
After the two mile mark, the trail sits near 4000ft of elevation and begins to level out. This section is a dry wash known as Hualapai Canyon. The Canyon follows the wash for 5 miles and drops 900ft before reaching the Havasu Canyon junction for the village of Supai. The first three miles of Hualapi Canyon are completely exposed, and can get very hot in the warmer months. As the switchbacks of the first few miles meet the trail in Hualapai Canyon, things get mangled in the mule train use trails. Keep an eye out for a “Hilltop” sign to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
The stretch of trail along the wash basin isn’t the most eventful, but it is pleasant. Following the stream bed, the canyon begins to narrow as the trail approaches mile 5. This is the section where I realized just how dangerous a flash flood could be on this hike. Be vigilant. There is also an increase in vegetation, with a few beautiful trees dotting the canyon floor.
At around the 6.75 mile mark, Hualapai Canyon Meets Havasu Canyon, the final stretch towards the village of Supai. Look for a junction sign as the two canyons meet and make a left towards the willow and cottonwood trees.
After taking the junction towards Supai through Havasu Canyon, you’ll be treated to your first views of the famous blue green waters of Havasupai. A creek runs alongside the trail for a short while before a bridge take hikers up and over to the other side.
After crossing the bridge, it’s only a few more steps to the village of Supai. I was surprised how large the village was when I first arrived. I was expecting to see something the size of Phantom Ranch, but was in awe at the number of buildings and structures.
Follow the road through town until you see a green building on your left. This is the tourist office where you will need to pick up your permit and check on for camping/lodge reservations. Just after the tourist office, you’ll find the cafe and the market in the village center. This concludes the 8 mile hike to Supai. I will be covering the 2 mile hike to the waterfalls and campgrounds in a follow up post.