The Legend of Havasupai

The Legend of Havasupai


I'm not positive this is right, but I think it's close. Like, 40 million years ago, Water and Rock got together and Rock said, "Hey, let's make awesome waterfalls together. Your water can be turquoise and my rocks can be red. And 40 million years from now, people will live around us and share cool photos of us on the internet." Water agreed.

And that's the story of how we came to have one of the most beautiful and unique sets of waterfalls on Earth, nestled right next to Grand Canyon. If you don't recall the tale, that's the legend of Havasupai. OK, not really. But something like that.

Havasupai is an offshoot canyon of the Grand Canyon, which has a spring atop it that turns into Havasu Creek. The creek runs over four falls, the biggest of which, Havasu Falls, drops over 100 feet. Over time, pouring into the canyon, the mineral-rich water has created many pools. The turquoise water has large amounts of calcium carbonate in it which makes fallen objects mineralize quickly. With new formations forming all the time, the flow of the creek is ever-changing. You might visit one year and come back the next year and see something different. Havasupai is actually the name of the Native American tribe that lives on the reservation and the canyon is called Havasu Canyon. Many of the tribe's people live in the canyon village of Supai. Supai, Arizona, which is near the falls, is the most remote town in the lower 48 states. It is only accessible by hiking or horseback riding into the canyon or by helicopter, and the mail arrives by mule.

People usually hike in and camp for a few nights and explore the canyon. The trailhead is located at the Hualapai Hilltop, west of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and 60 miles north of Route 66. The trek down to the village is about eight miles.

The falls and campgrounds are two miles further.  You can take a helicopter, depending on the day, but that first dive into the water feels better if it was well earned. The pools are both beautiful and ideal for swimming. The water stays about 70 degrees all year round so it's refreshingly perfect on those hot Arizona days.

The travertine waters make for some impressive sights and the falls bring all the water fun you might imagine. There are plenty of rocks and small cascades you can jump from and try to execute the perfect cannonball. You can also swim into some of the caves behind the falls and hang out in your own real grotto.


The waterfalls are definitely the main attraction but there are also other things to do. You can venture into side canyons and retrace the trails of the tribe, explore old mines, and definitely don't forget to send yourself a postcard so you can say that a mule delivered your mail.

In addition, this beautiful place isn't very crowded. You might call Havasupai under-discovered. It has ranked as one of Outside's top hikes and you have certainly seen a picture or two on the internet but if you asked someone about it, it's likely he or she wouldn't know what you were talking about. As far as hidden gems go, Havasupai ranks pretty high.

If you're looking for an off-the-beaten-path way to experience the Southwest or to extend your Grand Canyon vacation, a few days exploring Havasupai would fit the bill.


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