Havasupai Indian Lands
One of the most popular hikes in the Grand Canyon is the delightful 8-mile trek to the
modern Havasupai village called Supai; its situated in a virtual canyon paradise,
which has been described with almost as many colorful adjectives as the Grand Canyon
itself. At one time a dozen trails led down to the aquamarine waters of Havasu
Canyon, but today there are only two trails hikers are allowed to use the popular Hualapai
Trail, the main means of access for hikers and mule riders from Hualapai Hilltop to Supai;
and the seldom-used Topocoba Trail, which at one time was followed by early postmen
carrying mail from Grand Canyon Village to Supai. The reason for this seeming shortage of
trails is simple enough Many of the old trails and routes to Supai cross the
Havasupais ancestral lands, and there are many areas within these ancestral lands
officially referred to as the Havasupais Traditional Use Lands that the Havasupai
revere as sacred. Justifiably, the Havasupai dont want non-Indian visitors in
these sacred areas, which they refuse to identify to outsiders for fear the areas will be
treated as less than sacred and, perhaps, vandalized or pillaged in the process. If
their historic encounters with and broken promises from the white man are any indication,
their fears are very real. And until the Memorandum of Understanding Between the
Havasupai Tribe and the National Park Service Regarding the Havasupai Traditional Use
Lands is signed by both the chairman of the Havasupai Tribal Council and the
superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park, hiker use is limited to the Hualapai
Trail and the Topocoba Trail. Permission must beobtained from the Havasupai Tribe to hike
either of these trails. Permission to use the Topocoba Trail must also be obtained from
the BRO at Grand Canyon National Park.
Direct your inquiries concerning these trails, and other areas you might wish to hike,
to Wayne Sinyella, Chairman, Havasupai Tribal Council, P.O. Box 10, Supai, AZ 86435; (602)
448-2961. Just remember in your requests that its the Havasupais land you wish
to visit, and youll receive a courteous and friendly reply.
To reach the trailhead for the Hualapai Trail at Hualapai Hilltop, drive 34 miles west of
Seligman or 7 miles east of Peach Springs on U.S. 66 to the Supai turnoff. A
62-mile-long paved road heads across the Blue Mountains, Aubrey Cliffs, and Coconino
Plateau to Hualapai Hilltop. There are no services on this road!
The 8-mile-long Hualapai Trail is well worn and easy to follow.
From Hualapai Hilltop it switchbacks through the Coconino Sandstone and drops
approximately 1,100 vertical feet to the floor of Hualapai Canyon in just over a mile of
hiking. It stays in the bed of this canyon all the way to its confluence with Havasu
Canyon 5½ miles farther, in the process of descending narrow clefts of Esplanade and
Supai sandstone. There is no perennial water along this stretch, and the first youll
encounter is that trickling out of Havasu Springs near this confluence.
From this point on, the character of the trail changes from that
of dry, sometimes sparsely shaded desert canyon hiking to a lush riparian habitat
sprouting up out of the middle of an awesome drainage that begins in Williams, AZ, 80
miles due south -- finally emptying into the Colorado River. Cataract Canyon and its
tributary canyon drains some 3,000 square miles of the Coconino Plateau; in the process,
this runoff continues to provide the lifeblood of existence for the Havasupai people, as
well as an occasional threat to hikers and river runners if they happen to be playing near
the mouth of Havasu Canyon during one of its seasonal flash floods.
Its 1½ miles from Havasu Canyon to the village of Supai,
which is located in a verdant, U-shaped canyon surrounded by impressive cliffs of Supai
Sandstone. Directly east from the village are two towering spires of rock, which the
traditional Havasupai know and revere as wigleeva; one is male, the other is female, and
together they watch over the Havasupai people and their crops.
Once in Supai, all hikers must check in with the Havasupai
Tourist Enterprise to secure their permits. (Its strongly recommended that you
book reservations at least 6 months in advance by contacting Havasupai Tourist Enterprise,
Supai, AZ 86435; (602) 448-2121. If you havent, and youve hiked all the
way to Supai anyway and find both the campgrounds and the two tribal lodges full,
youll have to hike all the way back out.) A $10 entrance fee is charged for
each hiker entering Supai, along with a $9-a-head daily camping fee; this money is used by
the Havasupai to support their tribal government and to maintain the campground and
ACCOMMODATIONS IN SUPAI
There are two lodges, the Supai Lodge and Schoolhouse Canyon Lodge; rates vary. A
village cafe also operated by the Havasupai offers a menu of Indian fry bread, burritos,
and other hot meals. Mail can be sent out of Supai via packtrain every Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday. And horses can be rented to ride into and out of Supai from
Hualapai Hilltop, or to carry the packs of weary party members. For further
information on accommodations and services offered, contact the Havasupai Tourist
The Navajo Campground is located 1½ miles below -- or north of -- Supai, near Navajo
Falls; its a total of 9½ miles from Hualapai Hilltop, while the Havasu Campground
is yet another half mile beyond. A freshwater spring is located on the west side of Havasu
Creek, midway between Havasu and Mooney falls, and is well marked.
There are three waterfalls in the vicinity of the campgrounds;
south to north, theyre Navajo, Havasu, and Mooney. Of the three, Mooney is
without doubt the most spectacular. Its located just below Havasu Campground
and is reached by descending a steep stairway etched into the travertime and
protected by a chainlink guardrail.
Day Hikes No overnight hiking is allowed below Mooney Falls.
However, the hike to Beaver Falls (another 3 miles downstream from Mooney) and the hike to
the Colorado River confluence (7 miles downstream from Mooney) both make excellent daylong
outings if you have the time and energy. Both of these roundtrip hikes are
straightforward enough, though some attention must be paid each of the numerous times the
trail crosses Havasu Creek. Some route-finding ability is also necessary when the
trail winds around the travertine cliffs on the east side of Havasu Creek above Beaver
Falls. If you keep your eyes open for footprints on these craggy sections, you
shouldnt have any problems staying oriented. WARNING Dont drink the
water out of Havasu Creek.
If you decide to hike to the Colorado River, be careful
scrambling around the slick Muav Limestone near the rivers edge; a hiker recently
disappeared in the cold, swift-moving current long before a valiant Colorado River boatman
was able to reach her.
Spring is definitely the most crowded time to be hiking to, or camping below, Supai.
So unless you enjoy crowds, you might plan your visit for another time. Also,
the Havasupai flying squirrels are something else to reckon with; no, they dont
actually fly, but the author has watched them make 4- and 5-foot leaps into unwary
hikers packs, which were carefully suspended with cordage, textbook-fashion, from
tree limbs. So if youre camping in one of the crowded campgrounds during peak
hiking season, and someone in your party isnt watching your packs, these amazing
(and fat) little buggers will probably compromise your security system.
TRAILS & ROUTES
Hualapai Trail, Topocoba Trail, and Colorado River.
Approximately 5,200 feet at Hualapai Hilltop to 3,200 feet at Supai to 1,800 feet at
TOTAL ELEVATION LOSS & GAIN
4,000 vertical feet (2,000 each way) Hualapai Hilltop to Supai. Approximately 2,800
vertical feet (1,400 each way) Supai to Colorado River.
8 miles to Supai, 11 miles to Havasu Campground, 14 miles to Beaver Falls, 18 miles to
Havasu Springs, Supai, campgrounds, and Colorado River. (Dont plan on using river
water, as access is extremely dangerous.)
Secluded areas of Hualapai Canyon
All year. Summer is hot hiking, but the swimmings great.
Supai, Havasu Falls, and S. B. Point quadrangles (7.5 minute).
NEAREST SUPPLY POINTS
Seligman, Peach Springs, Supai.
[ Pages 182-188 Hiking the Grand Canyon (Revised and Expanded) by John Annerino, Sierra
Club Books, San Francisco, 1993. http//www.sierraclub.org/books ]