Hiking the Havusupai Trail with kids
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Paradise along the Havasupai Trail
What if I told you there's a place where you can swim in warm, crystal blue waters without hopping on a plane or flying over the ocean? What if I told you could hike to this place in the Grand Canyon as registered guests of the Havasupai Indian Reservation?
Havasupai means people of the blue-green waters. The dazzling, impressive waterfalls within the isolated Havasupai Indian Reservation captivate scores of visitors every year. Water temperatures remain a steady 70 degrees year-round.
The spring and fall seem to be the best time to go, when the weather is most favorable and the canyon isn't filled with summer heat. For example, at the end of March, day temperatures are in the mid 70s while night temperatures are in the 30s. Learn more about Havasu Falls Weather here.
The Supai village, located within Havasu Canyon, a large creek bed on the south side of the Colorado River, is not accessible by road. Helicopter or hiking in are your only choices.
The Havasupai Tribe administers the land, which sits outside the boundary lines and authority of Grand Canyon National Park. When entering the Havasupai Reservation, treat their home as if it were your own.
A Rad Family Collective Story
We love listening to other family's travel stories about far-out places and breath-taking adventures. Recently, I caught up with my friend Leigh Ann about her family's recent spring break hiking trip along the Havasupai Trail.
I'm beyond giddy to share this family's travel story. We're planning our own family trip to hike Havasupai over our next spring break, so I'm grateful for the sneak peak and fantastic tips Leigh Ann offers!
Leigh Ann was thrilled to share her family's Havasupai hiking story with all of us as part of our Rad Family Collective series. This series highlights other families' tried and true escapades, with hopes of inspiring you to plan your own.
Strap on your hiking boots and join the Morgans as they check one more adventurous trip off their family's bucket list.
Plan to make reservations far in advance
Begin serious travel plans at least a year out, so as to avoid postponing your trip because you discover there is no room in the one inn. I repeat, there is only one inn. And a campground two miles down the road.
Havasupai Lodge opens their books June 1st for the following year's reservations. The Havasupai Lodge and campground fill up well in advance. Take your cue from the Morgans and call first thing the morning of June 1.
Calling (928) 448-2111 is the best way to reserve rooms at the lodge. If no one answers, KEEP TRYING. Start calling at 9am and set aside an entire morning to get through. If you want to camp, call (928) 448-2121 to make phone reservations.
Reservations are only taken by phone at the time of this writing. Rates for 2017 are $145/night per room.
The Morgans chose to explore the Havasupai waterfalls over a period of 4 days and 3 nights. Three nights lodging with kids provided two full days to hike through the canyon and enjoy several waterfalls. It's nice to have clean cozy beds to fall into and hot showers after a day of swimming and hiking. While many choose to backpack and camp, sleeping at the lodge may be more ideal with kids.
First things first. If you don't have Havasupai Lodge or campground reservations, then you don't have a permit to hike down into the canyon either. Lodging reservation and hiking permission go hand-in-hand here.
Good to know about Havasupai Lodge
Please know that management allows no more than four people per room. Do not plan to lay out sleeping pads on the floor. The Morgans traveled with a second family, so they booked three rooms for three nights for eleven people. Book rooms for your entire party under one name.
Your lodging or camping reservation serves as your permit to hike here. Sweet! They give you a tag for your backpack stating exactly how long you are staying. Your tags are checked daily to make sure you’re legit and to know who is on the reservation, mostly for safety reasons. Learn more about campground reservations here.
Just remember, you're not paying for luxury, you're paying for convenience. Each simple room is outfitted with two beds, one bathroom, a dresser, and a desk. The tap water from the sink is safe and clean to drink.
Where to sleep the night before the big hike down
Months ahead, call ahead and make reservations to crash at the clean, sweet Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs, Arizona along Route 66 the night before you begin your hike. This lodge is about a one hour drive to Hualapai Hilltop, where your hike will begin the next morning.
Good to know: The Hualapai Lodge has a nice little restaurant inside of it. The Morgans enjoyed dinner there, as well as a fantastic continental breakfast.
Also, try to request a room on the front side of the hotel because the train runs behind the hotel every hour. Sleep on the front side, and you won't hear a peep.
Day 1 - The hike down begins from Hualapai Hilltop
Park your vehicles at Hualapai Hilltop. Within the Grand Canyon and elevated a bit over 5,000 feet, this hilltop is located in the scenic Havasupai Indian Reservation area. This is where you will begin your 8.3 mile descent to the village of Supai. Once you get to Supai you will check into Havasupai Lodge.
Note: Going down can be harder than hiking up. Take your time, and stay hydrated. Eat a banana before you go to help prevent calf muscle cramps.
Stop to let mules pass by, standing along the canyon wall as they do. The Morgan kids led the way and mom and dad never worried about their safety while hiking down and up. (The waterfalls are where mom and dad need to watch and lead their kids more carefully.)
Tips for hiking
Buy quality hiking boots way ahead of time and give yourself time to break them in. Consider buying hiking boots that are half to one whole size bigger to allow for swelling in your feet. Get fitted by a knowledgeable, experienced hiker at an outdoor adventure store like REI or Moosejaw.
Carry A LOT of water. Three to four liters per person is an ideal amount to carry. The Morgans bought their kids size 15 Liter day packs with water reservoirs that carried 2 liters of water each. Then, they packed 2 more disposable water bottles each.
Dad Steve also carried extra water bottles in his 44 Liter backpack just in case. Note: there are NO places to fill up your water bottles while hiking the 8+ miles down (or up)! Divvy up trail snacks and make each person responsible for rationing their snacks through the week.
For the Morgans, packing clothing, water, beach towel, water shoes, and snacks was a tight fit with the 15 Liter day packs. Shoes and towel had to be strapped on the outside.
When we go, we may opt for the slightly larger Osprey Daylite Plus (20 L) that also includes an interior sleeve for water reservoirs. The Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir holds 3 liters of water (buy separately).
Chacos or similar water sandals with rugged soles are ideal for hiking along waterfalls. Water spigots are located at the Lodge for cleaning off the daily sand and grime build up.
REMEMBER sunscreen, chap stick, small first aid kit, mole skin, hats, bandanas, and flashlights. Pack a frisbee for fun (it doubles as a plate).
Day 1 continued - New Navajo Falls & Havasu Falls
Leaving the Hualapai Hilltop parking lot by 9 am, the Morgan family hiked the 8.3 miles down, arriving at the Havasupai Lodge by 2:10 pm.
Once you get close to the Supai village, you'll notice the blue-green waters (caused by minerals) of the Havasu Creek. Naturally, you can probably drink from it if you have the proper filtration system.
The Morgans quickly checked in to their rooms, and headed back out again, anxious to play in Havasu Falls.
This athletic family hiked another 2 miles one way to Havasu Falls. From the lodge, the Havasupai Trail is the long main trail carrying you by foot to and from the waterfalls. You'll discover the Havasupai campground right by Havasu Falls.
You'll find New Navajo Falls, pictured above, also breath-taking. Lucky for you, you'll pass it every day on your way to Havasu Falls.
Photographs of the falls are beautiful, but seeing these waterfalls in person is simply astonishing, nearly indescribable. Cannot wait.
Leigh Ann described Havasu Falls as "Caribbean-y." Or like finding a slice of Hawaii in the middle of the Grand Canyon. You'll have to see it to believe it!
Completely zonked, the Morgans hiked back to the lodge and fell into bed before 8pm.
Day 2 - Mooney Falls & Beaver Falls
Hike along the Havasupai Trail to reach Mooney Falls. Amazing cliffs here that deserve your attention and respect. Watch your step! Please prepare everyone to take their time and pay attention.
The only way to access the bottom of Mooney Falls is entering a cave and carefully climbing down the cliff via slick, wooden ladders. Slowly descend the ladders alongside the waterfall. Nerve-racking and potentially dangerous, yet also worth every careful step.
Strap on your Chacos, or similar sandals made with rugged hiking soles, for sure-footedness while exploring the waterfalls.
The same day, the Morgans reached Beaver Falls by 12:30 pm. Take a break for lunch and enjoy the shorter, wider waterfall.
Beaver Falls is an unique experience with varying terrains. Feeling like a jungle in one part, walking through caves in another, and playing in the mineral blue waters will you make wonder if you've been transported to an entirely different world.
Keep in mind this day's entire round trip from Havasupai Lodge and back is nearly 14 miles round trip. The Morgans' dogs were barking. They took a break to play in Havasu Falls on the way back.
Treat yourself to homemade fry bread and soda sold by the locals at a hut in the campground. (Bring cash.) Great treat, especially after a day of hiking and playing in the Falls!
Day 3 - Chilling in Havasupai
The Morgans spent their final day relaxing, playing in Havasu Falls one last time, writing postcards, and organizing themselves for the hike back out.
Thanks for the sweet postcard Morgans - loved receiving it and it's still sitting on our mantle!
Day 4 - Hiking back up to Hualapai Hilltop
The Morgans and crew chose to get an early start for their ascent to Hualapai Hilltop. Hitting the trail at 5:30 am, they were surprised it only took 4 hours to hike the 8.3 miles back out. They reached their vehicles a bit after 9:30 and surprisingly, everyone felt good!
Quick Food Tips
Leigh Ann prepared freeze dried meals ahead of time. She found recipes here. They actually made their own meals to pack along with them and used a backpacking stove when it came time for cooking it. Cool!
So, basically your eating options are packing your own food along to cook and eat outdoors, or dining at the Havasu Cafe.
For breakfast, the Morgans survived on instant oatmeal, granola bars, and pop tarts.
The bonus of packing your own food for the trip is you decide your eating schedule. In other words, you're not at the mercy of the varying hours at the Havasu Cafe. When you have your own food along, you are not rushing back from your day's hike to eat dinner at the cafe before it closes.
About the Havasu Café: The food is really good! The Morgans treated themselves at the cafefor one meal, and their family of six ate for $38 for family of 6. Variety of menu items and really good food served by great people in a very clean restaurant.
This and that
Stay with your children all of the time. Do not let them go out explore on their own. Just 'cuz. Be smart and be safe.
Havasupai is a dry reservation. In other words, don't pack any alcohol.
Thank you Morgan family for sharing your family's travel story with us!
You inspire us and you rock!
Thank you for your example of taking recess, embracing adventure, and discovering who God made you to be along the way. You are RAD!
All photographs in this post belong to Leigh Ann Morgan. Please do not use these photographs without written permission.
If you want to learn how to see more of the Grand Canyon, check out this post.
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Have you hiked the Havasupai Trail? What advice would you give? Please comment and share below!