Wanderlust Wednesday: Havasu Falls, Arizona

Havasu Falls is an iconic natural wonder seen on many calendars and screensavers, and worldwide through television, magazines and online media. Perfect for an overnight road trip to or from Lake Havasu City, hiking to Havasu Falls is a bucket-list adventure for experienced hikers on the quest for the hike of a lifetime. Hiking and helicopter tours are also available.

Located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, just outside of Grand Canyon National Park, Havasu Falls is often confused with Lake Havasu. Both are beautiful water paradises, but it actually takes four to five hours just to get to the trailhead for Havasu Falls from Lake Havasu City. From there, hiking to Havasu Falls is a ten-mile hike downhill to the waterfall from the trailhead.

The trail is challenging so hikers need to be in excellent physical condition. It sounds like a lot of work (and it is), but the payoff from hiking to Havasu Falls is well worth it.

Havasupai means people of the blue-green waters. Havasu Falls plunges more than 100 feet into a wide pool of clear, bright blue-green water. Calcium carbonate and magnesium occur naturally in the waters that feed Havasu Falls. The waters get their blue color from the magnesium. As the pools deepen, the calcium carbonate is slowly released from the water, creating blue water that becomes more brilliant as the relative magnesium content increases.

Contrasting against the red rocks of the canyon behind it, the sheer beauty of this scene makes for an awe-inspiring experience unlike any other on earth. As the creek originates from a spring, the water rarely deviates from 70 degrees Fahrenheit year round.

Camping and swimming holes are available, but camping space is in short supply. Day hiking is not allowed and all visits to Havasu Falls require a reservation prior to arrival. Visit the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information about reservations, fees and current conditions on the reservation.

Havasupai Campground

The trailhead is located at Hualapai Hilltop just off Route 66. The trail is downhill on the way in and uphill on the way out. The best time to visit Havasu Falls is in the late fall, winter or early spring. During the summer months, plan to hike as early as possible to avoid the heat. Remember to bring plenty of water for the hike, as there is no water available for hikers and the trail can be dry, hot and dusty.

Fill up your tank with gas, as no services including fuel, food or lodging are available. But at times, drinks and snacks might be available from local vendors. At the 8-mile mark, you pass through a small Indian village where basic supplies are for sale.

Havasupai Lodge

If camping isn't your thing, the Havasupai Lodge is a no-frills hotel offering basic amenities including two double beds, a private bath and air conditioning. No telephone service, television or roll-away beds are available.

Getting to the Havasu Falls Trailhead

The trailhead for hiking to Havasu Falls begins at Hualapai Hilltop. To access this area from Lake Havasu City, go north on Arizona 95, then east on Interstate 40. Access Route 66 either by (1) going north on East Andy Devine Ave./Route 66 in Kingman ( map ), (2) or going north on Hackberry Rd./Hwy. 141 ( map ), or (3) going north on Route 66 in Seligman ( map ). Go north on Indian Road 18/Hualapai Hilltop Hwy ( map ) and continue for approximately 65 miles to the end of Indian Road 18, which drops you at the Hualapai Hilltop parking area.

It's about a 4 to 5 hour drive from Lake Havasu City, depending on your route and speed of travel. From Lake Havasu City to the trailhead is approximately 175 miles via the Kingman/Route 66 route.

NOTE: Travelers are advised that some maps to the trailhead include a primitive road coming directly from the South Rim area of Grand Canyon National Park. This route requires a vehicle with 4-wheel drive and has a longer drive time than the one from Interstate 40 to Route 66 to Indian 18.

The parking lot is safe for vehicles overnight, and there is a security guard patrolling the lot. However, it's best to remove all valuables from your vehicle as security is not guaranteed.

Hiking to Havasu Falls

From the parking lot, the hike starts off steep and winds down switchbacks for at least 1½ miles. The trail is rugged and rocky so wear well-fitting and comfortable hiking boots or hiking shoes. The trail carves through a narrow canyon as you make your way to the village. Please listen and watch out for mule pack trains that frequent the trail during tourist season. Wearing headphones while hiking in is not recommended.

Refrain from touching the pack horses, as not all are tame and may bite or attack. As you near the village, you'll hear and see the creek water. Follow it downstream and make sure you cross the bridge to connect to the trail leading to the village.

For Your Information

  • Drones are prohibited anywhere on the Havasupai Reservation.

  • Alcohol is prohibited anywhere on the Havasupai Reservation.

  • Havasu Canyon is subject to flash flooding; check the weather prior to your departure into the canyon.

  • Immediate closure of any part of the canyon is possible at any given time due to unstable ground conditions.

  • Peach Springs has the nearest services including gas, food and water. No services are available at the Hualapai Hilltop (trailhead).

  • Hiking from the Hualapai Hilltop (trailhead) to Havasu Falls (Supai & Mooney Falls) is not a day hike. An overnight hike is required; a three-day hike is even better if you're planning on hiking in and out.

For more information, visit: https://www.golakehavasu.com/havasu-falls

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