There’s a lot of info out there about Havasupai that would be redundant if I repeated it again here. Instead, I prefer to share the itinerary of our first trip to this amazing Grand Canyon oasis and let you reference that for your planning needs.
DAY 1 – TRAVEL DAY
I wasn’t a big fan of doing that 9-hour drive from Salt Lake to Hualapai Hilltop in one day…only to sleep in the car at the trailhead. No one in our group was in any kind of hurry so we decided to take a more relaxed approach in getting there. I also wanted to see a few things along the way since I had never driven beyond St. George by car.
It worked out great for us by leaving Salt Lake just after 7am. Five or so hours later, that put us in Vegas for lunch with some time to wander around the strip. We then worked our way down into Henderson to pick up a few forgotten items at REI before another short detour at Hoover Dam. Two hours later, we were in Kingman checking into a Best Western and ready for dinner.
DRIVE TIME: 7ish hours
DAY 2 – HIKE TO CAMPGROUND
Up and early after a good night of sleep, we grabbed whatever breakfast the hotel offered and finished driving the last 2 hours to Hualapai Hilltop. We were on the trail by 10am and making our way down the first 10 miles to the campground.
By 1pm, we reached the Sinyella Store at 7.5 miles and took a pit stop to drop our packs and grab a cold drink. A half-mile later is the main office to check-in and the village just down the road where we had lunch. Many had told me beforehand to have an authentic (and slightly expensive) Supai Taco, which did hit the spot after 8 miles in about 4 hours.
We finally reached the campground gate at 3:30, two more miles beyond the village (so 10 total from hilltop to camp entrance). The area for camping between this main gate and Mooney Falls is a mile long with three raised composting toilets along that stretch. Fresh water is also found in camp at Fern Spring.
The rest of the day was spent setting up, prepping dinner, fetching water and wandering around Havasu Falls and the top of Mooney.
DAY 2 drive time: 2 hours
DAY 2 distance hiked: 11 miles
DAY 2 hike time: 4.5 hours
DAY 3 – HIKE TO CONFLUENCE
The next day was a big one to explore the canyon we’ve heard so much about for so long – we couldn’t believe we were finally here, especially by the fluke way I got a permit. Today’s plan was to hike to where Havasu Creek flows into the mighty Colorado. Pictures I saw and descriptions I read of these turquoise waters merging with a river of chocolate made me want to do that over anything else on this trip….and it was totally worth it!
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado was less than 8 miles each way through the most spectacular landscape I have ever seen. After the adventurous climb down chutes and ladders to the base of Mooney, we crossed the creek several times in water no deeper than our thighs and through vegetation as thick as jungle in places.
Many people say the trail is hard to follow and mention getting lost along this path… I didn’t see how that could be possible not having experienced either problem. The only real “marker” we needed to pay attention to was where to climb back up out of the creek just before Beaver Falls as we returned from the confluence (see map for reference).
As for hike times, we left camp at 8:20 in the morning, reached Beaver Falls by 10:20 and the Colorado confluence at 12:20. On the return, we left the confluence at 1:10, dropped down into Beaver Falls around 3 and back to Mooney just after 5. A more detailed description of this route and it’s estimated distance can be found here.
The only disappointment for the day was to find stuff stolen from our tents and bags back at camp – more on that later.
DAY 3 distance hiked: ~16 miles
DAY 4 – HIKE TO HILLTOP
Our last day was a bit anticlimactic with all the fun behind us and much work ahead. Between the inevitable hike up/out and a long drive home, we wish we had one more day to hang out, relax and enjoy the pools at each of the four waterfalls. Nonetheless, it was late September and there was no need to race out before the sun scorched this canyon. In fact, the weather and temperature was perfect! We left camp at 9am and reached the village by 10:30. We decide to have lunch there again and fuel up for the challenging hike up. An hour later, we were back on the trail and tackling those last 8 miles.
I was the only one who kept a backpack – everyone else bought a spot on the mule train to carry theirs out for them. My decision was based on all the hard work I had done in preparation for this uphill challenge. None of us had any expectation of using the mule train before starting this adventure, so that was the plan I wanted to stick with. I also wanted to know I could do it. The group I normally go with back at home are pretty strong hikers and I needed this to set a new benchmark for myself. So 4 hours and 12 minutes later, I touched the Hualapai Hilltop with a 46 lb. pack only 20 minutes behind the rest of the group (total hike time: 5.5 hours).
The rest of the afternoon was spent driving the 2 hours back to Kingman in time for dinner and another comfortable night at that same Best Western.
DAY 4 distance hiked: 11 miles
DAY 4 hike time: 4h 12m
DAY 4 drive time: 2 hours
DAY 5 – TRAVEL DAY
Like day 2, we were up and out early again after another great night of sleep! I was hoping to take an alternate route through the Valley of Fire but everyone else just wanted to buzz straight home. Most of the group was tired, sore and didn’t want to take another step more than what was minimally required. I’ll credit my feet feeling great because of my HOKAs… man, I love those shoes!!
Anyway, 7 hours and 3 states later, we were back in da hood.
THE DOWNSIDES OF HAVASUPAI
I was awakened early one morning by the sounds of something ruffling in the tree above my head. It was still dark and I could only see a faint outline. I could tell he was bigger than a squirrel but not quite a raccoon. We think it was a Ringtail, but can’t really confirm.
Either way, you must strategically hang your bags from trees to keep ground critters from helping themselves to your grub…but this guy had walked a long thin tightrope and unzipped my pack for a small Ziploc bag of garbage food wrappers. I tried shooing him away without leaving my tent, but that didn’t faze him one bit. I had to get out and physically approach him before he dropped the goods and ran. 10 minutes later, he was back and I was up for the day.
Heed the warnings of securing your property, not just in your car at the trailhead but also down at camp! When we returned from the day down at the confluence, we found our belongings in disarray. Backpack straps were sliced to get into the bag quicker and it was clear that our stuff was rummaged through by the 2-legged kind. Lucky for me, I didn’t put my wallet in the obvious place in my pack and others in our group had taken it with them. Nothing of value was taken from our campsite, but the neighbors were missing $300 from their tent. NOT COOL! Now reading about theft at Havasupai after the fact, it might be worth bringing a small trail cam next time to help keep an eye on things while you’re out and about.