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Sierra Club Havasupai Information

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; it’s 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 Havasupai’s ancestral lands, and there are many areas within these ancestral lands officially referred to as the Havasupai’s Traditional Use Lands that the Havasupai revere as sacred.  Justifiably, the Havasupai don’t 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 it’s the Havasupais’ land you wish to visit, and you’ll receive a courteous and friendly reply.

Hualapai Trail
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 5 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 you’ll 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.
     It’s 1 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.  (It’s 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 haven’t, and you’ve hiked all the way to Supai anyway and find both the campgrounds and the two tribal lodges full, you’ll 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 trails.

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 Enterprise.

CAMPGROUNDS
The Navajo Campground is located 1 miles below -- or north of -- Supai, near Navajo Falls; it’s a total of 9 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, they’re Navajo, Havasu, and Mooney.  Of the three, Mooney is without doubt the most spectacular. It’s 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 shouldn’t have any problems staying oriented. WARNING  Don’t 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 river’s edge; a hiker recently disappeared in the cold, swift-moving current long before a valiant Colorado River boatman was able to reach her.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATION
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 don’t 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 you’re camping in one of the crowded campgrounds during peak hiking season, and someone in your party isn’t watching your packs, these amazing (and fat) little buggers will probably compromise your security system.

PRIMARY ACCESS

TRAILS & ROUTES
Hualapai Trail, Topocoba Trail, and Colorado River.

ELEVATION
Approximately 5,200 feet at Hualapai Hilltop to 3,200 feet at Supai to 1,800 feet at Colorado River.

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.

MILEAGE
8 miles to Supai, 11 miles to Havasu Campground, 14 miles to Beaver Falls, 18 miles to Colorado River.

WATER
Havasu Springs, Supai, campgrounds, and Colorado River. (Don’t plan on using river water, as access is extremely dangerous.)

CACHE POINTS
Secluded areas of Hualapai Canyon

SEASONS
All year.  Summer is hot hiking, but the swimming’s great.

MAPS
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 ]

 

Brochure 1
Brochure 2
Flyer
Lodge info
Sierra Club info (not written by the Tribe)
Travel info (written my R. Cymbala, who was kind enough to send all this to me)

 

[NEWS] [photo tour of the hike] [description of the hike]

 

matt@haughey.com 1995-1998 Matthew Haughey
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