Supai is an oasis in the middle of desert country on the Havasupai Nation reservation in Arizona. Home to a small village and spectacular waterfalls, Supai is a geological wonder and one of the most special and unique areas in the Grand Canyon region.
Supai is nestled at the bottom of Havasu Canyon on the Havasupai Nation reservation. The Havasu river, tributary of the mighty Colorado, appears blue-green against the maroon, travertine landscape. The campground is a 2 mile hike past the village and can hold up to 300 campers. The breathtaking waterfalls (Havasu Falls (100') and Mooney Falls (200')) lie at either end of the campground with Navajo Falls between Havasu Falls and the village.
The water comes from precipitation that is collected over a vast plateau. Falling first as rain or snow, the water filters down through the softer, upper layers of earth until it hits a harder, less permeable layer underneath. It follows along this harder rock layer until Havasu Canyon cuts down far enough to free the emerald green water (photos Supai screensaver).
Supai - Logistics and Travel Guide
Supai is accessible only by hiking, riding a mule or flying in on a helicopter. It's 8 miles from the trailhead to the remote village plus 2 more to the campground. Camping reservations are required and can be obtained by calling the tourist office at 928.448.2141 (open 7-7 Arizona time which does not observe daylight savings. Closed weekends). An entry fee ($35/person) is collected on arrival along with $17/person for each night of camping (as of May 2007). Rooms are available for rent in the village at the Supai Lodge (call for rates and availability 928.448.2111). Be sure to reserve a camp site or a room before arrival.
Supai trailhead parking is available at the Hualapai hilltop on the Havasupai reservation at the end of highway 18, approximately 65 miles from the intersection with Route 66. The nearest major town is Flagstaff, AZ about 150 miles away. Map of the Supai vicinity. Detailed map.
The nearest major airport is Las Vegas which is about 200 miles from the trailhead. Note: there is an hour difference in time between Vegas and Supai in the winter months (may be 2 hour difference during Daylight Savings Time). The Phoenix airport is about 140 miles from Flagstaff or about 300 miles from the trailhead.
There are at least a couple of places to stay the night prior to beginning the hike. The closest motel to the trailhead is Grand Canyon Caverns Inn (928.422.3223) on route 66 within minutes of highway 18. Room rates are around $75/night for 2 people (as of May 2007). Don't expect much other than a place to sleep. In my experience, I didn't get any television stations and signs in the room instructed patrons to request office assistance when making long distance calls. The art work consisted of framed and labeled rocks. The hot water was hot and the room was clean. Good enough.
The Supai Video DVD includes more than 30 minutes of footage featuring Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, Navajo Falls and Supai Falls. Other footage includes the journey to Supai, the hike from the campground to the Colorado River and more. The video would be well suited for:
The video was captured with the Sony DCR-IP55. The camera has a 1 megapixel CCD that captures video at a higher resolution than can be displayed on a television. The video was edited to include scene changes, professional background music, title overlays and a still photograph slideshow at the end. It was encoded to DVD and burned to DVD+R media. These discs are compatible with around 85% of standalone DVD players. To see if your players is compatible, you may check here (click here to check your player). Most newer DVD players will be compatible. You may also request the DVD-R disc instead by entering a note in the comments during the checkout process.
A few notes about the video quality:
[DVD no longer available for sale]
Please note that this video was taken before the flood in 2008.
Supai Video Screensaver for XP
The free Supai screensaver for Windows XP includes 33 photographs, 4, 15 second video clips and 3 background music tracks. Download
Another place to stay in the area is the Hualapai Lodge near Peach Springs (888.255.9550 or 928.769.2334), it's newer & nicer; but more expensive and a little farther away. Call to verify rates. March 2003 update: Rates from April 1 - Nov 1, 2003 = $79.95 for one person, $109.95 for four (plus 10% tax).
You should fill up with gas in Seligman or Kingman. Get an early start on the morning of your hike. You won't want to be hiking in the middle of the afternoon. Remember, it always takes longer to get ready than you think. Speed limits on the reservation are lower than you might expect so the drive takes a while (plan for about 1.5 hours if going the speed limit). One other note, some maps show an unpaved road heading west toward Supai from highway 180. This would seem to be an option if coming from the Grand Canyon South Rim. I inquired about this road and was told it was not recommended for passenger vehicles. If you're coming this way and have a 4-wheel drive, call Supai and ask about it. This route might make it feasible to stay the night before at the South Rim and may be a prettier drive (don't know).
Carry more water on the hike than you think you'll need. Take along snacks, lunch and a sports drink.
Mules can be rented to carry gear by calling the tourist office (928.448.2141). Reservations should be made in advance. Mules rent for $75 each way ($150 round trip) and can carry 3-4 bags. There is a weight limit so you might want to call and ask about it. You can also avoid the cost of the mule by packing all of your stuff in yourself. Alternate transport into Supai includes flying in on a helicopter or riding one of the mules accompanied by a guide. It's only about a 10 minute helicopter ride. One cautionary note about the helicopters, I've heard people complain that they sat around waiting for hours to leave. I don't know if this is typical or not; but the people complaining weren't too happy about arriving at the hilltop just before us and we hiked out. May 2007 update: helicopter rate = $85 each way.
Campers Beware: plan to secure your food in a hard container. Ravens will tear open bags and eat contents even if hung from trees. I lost 2 days worth of food to these smart, persistent pests. Even after piling rocks on top of remaining food they kept trying. I was finally able to keep them out by turning my pan upside down over my food on the picnic table and putting a huge rock on top. This worked well but not all of my food fit in the pan so I had to carry it around.
There is a small convenience-type grocery store in Supai that sells processed foods like chips and soups as well as canned items like chili or ravioli. Fresh food supplies are limited. Buying your food at the store might be an option if you didn't want to rent a mule or carry a bunch of food. I made a trip to the store after losing a couple of days of food to the ravens. Check store hours to ensure you can purchase food on arrival.
A U.S. post office is also located in Supai. It remains the only post office in the U.S. that uses mules to carry mail. I packed all of my stuff in and stopped at the restaurant for breakfast on the way out. It occurred to me to stop in and check to see if it would be possible to mail some of my stuff home. Sure enough, it worked. 10 lbs lighter for about $12. Cheaper than a mule and put a huge smile on my face. Is that cheating? I was really glad toward the end which is the hardest part. Be warned: I wouldn't necessarily count on being able to do this next time because I bought the last box for sale in the post office. March 2003 update: they didn't have any boxes so had to pack everything out. Restaurant opens at 7:30 during the week (not sure about weekends). You can fill up with water on the way out (bathroom faucet).
You might also want to consider mailing some of your supplies to <Your name> c/o General Delivery, Supai, AZ 86435. Call to see if you can do this and send packages with plenty of time to arrive. Mail is carried into Supai by mule and is slower than other places. Plus, packages will probably take even longer. I haven't done this myself; but thought it would be a good idea to check it out. Save the box and include tape to use to mail stuff home on the way out. Post office is most likely closed on Sunday with short hours on Saturday. Call first.
Topographic maps of the area are available from Trails Illustrated (map #207 Grand Canyon National Park). The hike starts at the Hualapai hilltop and descends down into the Hualapai Canyon. There is no shade for much of the route so be prepared... water, hat, water, sunscreen, water, etc.
The trail is easy to follow for most of its length. There is one turn as you get closer to the village at about mile 5 or 6. This is where Hualapai Canyon connects with Havasu Canyon. Watch for signs. Be sure to stay left at this intersection. If in doubt, go downriver.
The village of Supai is at mile 8. You're getting closer if you can see two prominent rocks high on the left canyon wall. A little shop/residence sells ice cream and sodas just off the trail.
"Downtown" you'll find the tourist office, post office, restaurant and store. Stop and pick up your permits at the tourist office. If it's closed, you'll have to come back the next day. It's two more miles to Havasu Falls and the campground. Stop and relax for a minute, check out the store to see if there's anything you might want to come back for later. I have also eaten breakfast at the restaurant on the way out. It makes for nice break after the 2 miles from the campground. Don't dally too long if on the way out as the last part of the hike is hot and exposed.
Down the trail toward the campground you'll hear water flowing and see signs warning hikers to stay away from the edge of cliffs. To the left of the trail, behind a wall of trees is Supai Falls. It's a highly dispersed flow of water and hard to get a good look at. A short distance later, you'll reach Navajo Falls. It's probably a 25 foot, tiered and dispersed flow of water (see gallery). You can hike down to the base of the fall and swim in the pool. There's an alcove to the left of the fall not visible until you enter the pool. This area is not as crowded as the swimming holes of Havasu and Mooney Falls.
A short ways later you emerge at the top of beautiful Havasu Falls. It's breathtaking... (really). A little farther to the campground and you've made it. At the far end of the campground is Mooney Falls. Mooney drops 200 feet compared to Havasu's 100 feet. Potable water pours from a pipe at Fern Springs near the campground entrance. Pit toilets are located near the entrance (bring your own toilet paper).
Signs inform campers not to start wood fires and to pack out their trash. Please observe these rules. Wood fires smoke up the canyon and pollute the air for other campers. Please don't burn plastic. It smells up the whole canyon and can be noticed for at least a half mile. Please pack out your trash so others may enjoy the area after you. Be sure to secure your food. Ravens will get into unsecured food and spread debris.
Early in the fall of 2001, a Supai resident jumped to his death from the top of Mooney Falls. I don't know anything about the circumstances behind the event; but a handwritten sign along the trail late in the season declared the hike to the base of Mooney Falls off limits. When asked about these signs, rangers explained the origin of the sign and said it was okay to go ahead and make the hike.
I arrived Sunday and left Thursday during one week in late October, early November and was one of five people in the whole campground for a couple of those nights. It was very nice. On another trip, we stayed over the weekend in early October and the place was packed. March 2003 update: this is a popular time for groups on spring break to visit. Contrary to the norm, it was less crowded on the weekend than during the week (March 7-13, 2003). If planning ahead and you don't like crowds, you might call and find out when the large groups will be around.
Bring your swimsuit and water shoes/sandals. Bring toilet paper.
Go, enjoy your trip & come back to the site afterwards to get some pictures! ;-)
Hiking Supai and other activities
I would suspect most people come to Supai to relax, enjoy the waterfalls and swim. You could easily spend a day between Havasu & Navajo Falls and another day at Mooney. The trail continues downstream from Mooney where there are several good swimming holes, some of which are even equipped with rope swings. Continuing downstream you'll find Beaver Falls (past the rope assisted climb before the descent around the corner). For the hardcore, adventurous types, you can hike all the way to the Colorado River. It's somewhere between a 14 and 16 mile round trip hike to the Colorado from the campground (March 2003 update: watch for updates to the photo gallery for pictures from this hike).
A tentative plan might look like:
Day 1 - arrive in the area and stay at a motel the night before
Day 2 - hike/ride/fly in, take a break in town, continue to the campground stopping by Navajo Falls. Continue past and return to Havasu Falls. Dinner.
Day 3 - hike to the bottom of Mooney Falls, play in the water (March 2003 update: the climb to the bottom of Mooney Falls has become somewhat more difficult. The uppermost ladder (see photo) is missing so the climb is a bit hairy at that point. Many people were still descending but a few had trouble with this spot. Please use extra caution.)
Day 4 - hike to the Navajo Falls pool and swim, go back to camp for lunch, swim at Havasu
Day 5+ - Hike the trail up high... this lesser-known trail appears on the topo map running parallel to the main trail to the campground. I thought there was a mistake on the map the first time I visited. The trail is accessible by climbing up the cliff between Navajo and Havasu Falls near the cemetery. Don't enter the cemetery (sacred). If hiking from the campground, the climb is just before the cemetery (on the Havasu side). There's some beautiful views of Havasu and Mooney Falls from here. Be careful, the cliff face is straight down and gets higher and higher as you progress downstream.
There's a side canyon to the left of Havasu Falls. You'll get boxed in after a while; but there's an abandoned mine about half-way down on the right. Do Not Enter without lights and be careful as there's a vertical mineshaft you could easily fall down if not paying close attention.
Hiking to the Colorado River (or part of the way) is also an option. The trail crosses the river several times so be prepared to get wet and wear appropriate shoes. The hike passes through an area of the canyon where grape vines have taken over. It's very weird but interesting. The hike also involves a rope-assisted scramble and a climb back down to the river. I hiked only part of the way to the Colorado so haven't experienced it first hand although I've heard it's worth the effort. March 2003 update: I hiked to the Colorado. It's a great hike passing through a beautiful part of the canyon. Plan for an all day trip and start early. I hiked non-stop on the return in 4 hours but would plan for a 10 hour round trip to include breaks and photo opportunities. If you want to explore any of the areas along the way, plan for a longer trip.
Look for swimming holes and rope swings downstream.
Please send me a note if you've discovered anything I haven't mentioned. I always enjoy hearing about things I haven't seen and may want to explore.
Tell me some more things I should know when visiting Supai...
Take stamps so you can send postcards from the post office (only mule-carried mail in the U.S.)
Take postcards unless you want to buy the oversize postcards at the Supai store (these require regular stamps).
Take money to purchase items at the store and pay for permits.
Don't forget your addresses.
Consider mailing supplies to yourself via General Delivery (see comments above and call first)
Secure your food! ... in a hard plastic or metal container. Ravens will eat it if you don't.
fyi, The campground holds around 300 people and is administered by locals.
Havasu Falls is approx. 100 ft, Mooney approx 200 ft.
Bring Tevas or other river hiking sandals or shoes.
Bring toilet paper.
Carry plenty of water.
Take some Gatorade or other sports drink for added energy.
Eat breakfast at the restaurant on the way out. Stop for ice cream on the way in.
Pack your trash out to Hualapai Hilltop.
The toilet near Mooney is closed. Toilets and drinking water are on the Havasu Falls side of the campground.
No wood fires. Smoke tends to linger in the campground so please be respectful of fellow campers. Please don't burn your trash (it stinks).
You can rent mules to carry your stuff although it's relatively expensive (best if shared between 3-4 people). Call 928.448.2141 for more info about mules.
Recommended reading: Havasu: Grand Canyon Trail Guide. Scott Thybony with photos by Tom Brownold. Grand Canyon Natural History Association 1989. ISBN 0-938216-32-5 (buy it from Amazon.com). This is an 18 page pamphlet of background information about Supai and the trail. Interesting light reading to carry along or read beforehand. PS - You shouldn't have to pay more than $5 for it.
You might find Frommer's Grand Canyon National Park helpful if you plan to combine your trip to Supai with a visit to Grand Canyon National Park. I used the 1st edition of this book (now in it's 3rd edition) to plan my trip to the area and found it very useful. The book is well organized and is easy to get a basic understanding of the area relatively quickly. It also includes suggestions on activities, lodging, dining, etc. Follow the hyperlinks to read reviews or purchase from Amazon.com.
Click the graphic to see more books about the people and culture of the Havasupai
Thank you for visiting!
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Disclaimer: information provided in good faith with no warranty or obligation attached. Be prepared for your adventures.
Your safety is your responsibility. Explore with respect.
Copyright 2002 K. Venator