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How Long Does it Take to Walk Down the Grand Canyon?

How Long Does it Take to Walk Down the Grand Canyon?

How long Does it Take to Walk Down the Grand Canyon

Like many of the questions about Grand Canyon, this one has several different and nuanced answers.  Will you travel by foot, mule, or helicopter?  How much gear might you be carrying?  Are you a fit hiker, or is this your first time?  Are you approaching from North Rim or South Rim?  The Goat is here to break down all of these options!

Hiking

Let’s begin with the most popular, and easily the most rewarding style of travel in Grand Canyon; a good old-fashioned, one foot in front of the other journey into the depths of time and space.

Some Advice before you Begin

First and foremost, the National Park Service (and The Goat) advises that nobody, under any circumstances, should attempt the hike from rim-to-river and back in one day.  Attempting to hike rim-to-river and back in a day has resulted in many deaths over the years, along with countless cases of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and severe dehydration among other delightful afflictions.  Before we get into the fun, fabulous parts of hiking in Grand Canyon, we must first be clear about this practice.

Inverted Mountains Are Sneaky

Grand Canyon Hikers must remember one mantra; going down is optional, coming up is mandatory.  The NPS must execute hundreds of rescues each year on hikers that run into trouble.  Grand Canyon is a hostile, dry, and unforgiving place that yields no mercy.  Summertime temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees, there is little water on any trails, and even less shade.

Hiking in Grand Canyon is often referred to as “hiking a mountain in reverse”.  That is, your descent comes first, while your ascent is how you must finish.  This can fool hikers easily, as walking down is an easy, breezy, view-saturated adventure that can quickly get out of hand.  Many hikers that find trouble simply started walking down the trail, suddenly realizing that they are five miles down having barely broken a sweat.

Water

Perhaps the most potentially dangerous thing about undertaking any hike in Grand Canyon is the particular lack of water.  Many hikes the world over cross numerous streams, have shade, and/or easy access to clean, potable water.  This is not the case in Grand Canyon, as water sources are extremely limited.  Two South Rim hikes (Tanner, South Kaibab) have no accessible water source of any kind until the Colorado River.

Other South Rim trails (Hermit, Bright Angel) have access to water along the trail, but not for at least 3.5 miles.  Always carry plenty of water when hiking in Grand Canyon.  The Goat recommends a minimum of 3L/person, no matter the distance of the hike.

Spatial Perception

Much like the sneakiness of the inverted mountain, things in Grand Canyon tend to appear much closer than they actually are.  At times it feels as though you could literally reach out and touch the Colorado River, or even just a portion of trail beneath you.  Go to Desert Watchtower on the East Rim.  From the Tanner Trail, you are presented with an astonishing view of the mighty Colorado, a unique rim view in Grand Canyon.  Though the river is over 9 miles away by trail, an optical illusion is presented that makes the river feel close.

This is a difficult lesson for many hikers in Grand Canyon.  Our destination is just right over there!  It looks so close!  Believe us, it is not.  Between the necessarily winding trail, the relentless sun, the lack of water, and the absence of shade, something that optically appears close becomes seemingly further away in reality.  Remember that the scale presented to your senses in Grand Canyon is typically unlike anything you’ve ever experience.  Those of us that have spent years in this wondrous landscape are still blown away by its size and space.  In Grand Canyon, perception is often NOT reality.

Let’s Start Hiking!

At last, we can actually talk about hiking!  Hiking in Grand Canyon is a magical, perhaps even spiritual experience.  The colors, sights, sounds, smells, and ever-changing conditions create an intensely dramatic and memorable experience on even short hikes.  As you hike though 2 billion years of Earth’s history, the Canyon reveals itself step-by-step, both physically and philosophically.  In terms of trails and the time it takes to reach the bottom, here are your options:

South Rim

The South Rim presents most of the park’s developed trails, has the “shortest” routes to the river at the bottom, and is by a wide margin the more popular of the two rims.  There are 4 developed trails from the South Rim, and 1 trail that is undeveloped and unmaintained.

Bright Angel

The Bright Angel Trail is the most popular trail in Grand Canyon.  It traces the path of the Bright Angel Fault, through Indian Gardens, across the Tonto bench, and down to the river in 9.6 miles.  This highly trafficked corridor trail teems with other hikers and rangers aplenty, great for beginners introducing themselves to Grand Canyon hiking.  Hikers can reach the river and Bright Angel Campground in between 4-5 hours.

South Kaibab

The South Kaibab Trail is the steeper counterpart of the Bright Angel Trail, and plunges to the river in an abrupt 6.4 miles.  Holding the distinction as the only trail in the park developed completely by the NPS, it is a more direct route to the river for those looking for speed.  Connecting South Kaibab to Bright Angel via the Tonto Trail is a classic backpacking trip that many first-timers find welcoming.  Hiking to the river along the South Kaibab Trail typically takes between 3-4 hours.

Hermit Trail

The Hermit Trail follows a route forged by Canyon pioneer Louis Boucher, also known as “the Hermit of Grand Canyon”.  Mr. Boucher led a reclusive life at the bottom of the Canyon for roughly 20 years, guiding tourists, mining, and homesteading.  His pioneer route was improved by the Santa Fe Railroad company in the early 1900s, and today presents an excellent alternative to the more crowded corridor trails.  The Hermit Trail descends 8.9 miles to the river, and will take the average hiker between 4-5 hours to reach the bottom.

Tanner Trail

The Tanner Trail is perhaps the most exciting and more challenging of developed routes from the South Rim.  The trail presents sweeping views across eastern Grand Canyon, with views of Marble Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs to the north.  The Grand Canyon Supergroup, a suite of tilted, faulted, 1 billion year-old sedimentary rocks that symbolize the Great Unconformity are revealed in splendor here, a perspective unique to this part of the canyon.  The Tanner trail is 9.3 miles long, and hikers may reach the river in 4-5 hours.

South Bass

The South Bass trail, set roughly 25 miles west of the South Rim Visitor’s Center, is easily the most rugged trail from the South Rim.  Reached by a 4WD trail, the drive here takes roughly 2.5 hours.  The trail itself was carved by William Wallace Bass, and early pioneer and promoter of tourism in Grand Canyon.  South Rim solitude is found in droves here, wildlife abundant, and views outstanding.  The trail is 12.2 miles long, and will take the average hiker 5-7 hours to reach the river.

North Rim

The less popular, more contemplative North Rim presents Grand Canyon hikers with opportunities for more challenges, more solitude, and a decidedly different perspective of Grand Canyon.  Set at over 8,500 feet above sea level, North Rim is a forested wonderland of rolling meadows, wildflower, and perhaps even a glimpse of one of the iconic symbols of the west, the American Bison.  Access requires longer drive times, and trails here retain a fairly rugged character.  Like the South Rim, do not even dream of attempting a rim-to-river-to-rim hike in one day.  North Rim trails are long, can be challenging, and are generally reserved for more-experienced Grand Canyon hikers.

Much of the Colorado River system that has carved Grand Canyon emanates from the north.  Consequently, in contrast to South Rim, North Rim is “set back” from the river, following long, meandering routes coursed by ancient tributaries.  South Rim’s dramatic and abrupt cliff faces and 4000-foot plunges are a product of the lack of water flowing into the river from the south, while North Rim landscapes are dominated by softer relief.

North Kaibab

Counterpart to the South Kaibab Trail, North Kaibab is North Rim’s most accessible and least rugged trail.  It is the only North Rim trail maintained by the NPS.  The trail is follows a 28 miles route to the river, and most hikers will find that it takes 2-3 days to reach the river.  Keep in mind that this is the least-challenging trail on North Rim.

Nankoweap Route

Notice the use of the word “route”, as opposed to the use of the word “trail” in the name.  This is for a reason, as Nankoweap is really not a trail in the traditional sense.  It is lightly trafficked, unmaintained, and follows an ambitiously-descending ridge along the East Kaibab Monocline.  Hikers descend 14.8 miles along the trail, and average hikers may reach the river in 1-2 days. Get ready.  Get set. Go!

North Bass

The North Bass Trail is, of course, the North Rim counterpart to South Rim’s Bass Trail.  William Wallace Bass, pioneer of Grand Canyon, carved this route as part of his efforts to promote tourism in Grand Canyon.  The trail follows faults, rock falls, and sublime canyon scenery 14.5 miles to the river.  Hikers may reach the river in 1-2 days.  This is perhaps the quintessential trail in Grand Canyon, as it contains just about everything hiking here has to offer.  Try an exciting Rim-to-Rim backpacking tour on the Bass Trail, complete with a pack rafting adventure!

Seeing Grand Canyon on Muleback

The National Park Service maintains a mule farm on both North and South Rims.  Visitors to Grand Canyon may elect to have their gear carried to their campsite by pack mule, a decidedly easier alternative to carrying your own gear.  Please consider your choice carefully when selecting a mule outfitter.

Several private companies have been fined and banned from Grand Canyon for animal abuse and cruelty.  Check the Park Service’s website for more information about mule rides in Grand Canyon.  Contact us to learn more about mule-assisted backpacking tours.

Imbibing in a mule-assisted trip to the river certainly takes a load off, however it does not save time.  Hikers must still make their way on foot, or on the back of a mule whose goal is not speed.  Mule trips down to the river typically take between 4-5 hours.

See Grand Canyon by Helicopter

One of the fairly new enterprises in Grand Canyon is the proliferation of helicopter tours.  They are popular particularly in western Grand Canyon, where helicopters buzz through the air almost constantly.  The Goat’s opinion is this — get your butt off your couch and onto your feet.  Need more information?  Please look elsewhere :). Helicopters create several problems in Grand Canyon.  Helicopters create pollution, both noise and exhaust. They destroy any perceived wilderness experience.  They damage wildlife patterns, and best of all (sarcasm) they crash!  In the past 7 years, there have been 3 helicopter crashes that resulted in fatalities.  The most recent of these was near Peach Springs in 2017, when 5 passengers and the pilot died.  One woman was rescued, and is scarred for life both physically and mentally.  Take my advice — don’t contribute to the proliferation of industrial tourism in Grand Canyon.

Fitness

Surely you’ve heard this numerous times, but please be in reasonable physical condition.  Undertaking any hiking in Grand Canyon is a decidedly physical challenge, and it will increase your enjoyment as well as decrease your chances of trouble if you are in shape.  For more information, see our blog post regarding training for hiking in Grand Canyon.

Guided Grand Canyon Hiking Tours

Perhaps the very best way to see and experience Grand Canyon is by hiring a professional guide service.  Hiking with people who know the Grand Canyon intimately vastly improves your experience and understanding of this unreal place, and not having to deal with logistics, food, gear, and all that madness only enhances the trip.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides everything need; geologist/guides with actual geology degrees and professional certifications, backcountry meals inspired by professional chefs, top-of-the-line gear, and outstanding customer service.

The Goat’s Final Word

There you have it, folks.  You asked how long does it take walk down the Grand Canyon, and we have outlined virtually every possible eventuality!  Whether by foot (awesome), by mule (still awesome), helicopter (not cool), from North or South Rim, by land or bey sea, you now have some idea of how long it takes.  Happy Hiking!

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How Hot Does It Get In The Grand Canyon?

How Hot Does it Get in the Grand Canyon?

With the summer months officially upon us, it has come time to discuss one of the most-asked questions this time of year: how hot does it actually get in Grand Canyon?  The answer is one word, three letters: H-O-T. The Inner Gorge regularly sees temperatures hovering over 110 degrees, and the Phantom Ranch Ranger Station, a popular destination any time of the year, has recorded temperatures as high as 116 degrees.  Grand Canyon is one hot spot in the summertime, my friends.

Why is it so hot?

Several reasons contribute to temperatures in the depths of Grand Canyon.  They may seem fairly obvious, but our bet is that some may be surprising.  Many of our guests are not accustomed to traveling in the American Southwest, and are sometimes surprised at the heat.  The temperatures may be doubly surprising given that elevations at either rim are well over 7000 feet above sea level.  Let’s examine the culprits.

Climate

First of all, and most simply, it’s a desert.  Grand Canyon sits on the Colorado Plateau, a saucer-shaped uplift in the Earth’s crust.  The Plateau is sandwiched between two mighty mountain ranges, the Rockies and Sierras, both of which impound much of the moisture in the region.  The Colorado Desert, as it is known to ecologists, lies adjacent to the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mojave Desert of California.

Though not as arid as its cousins to the south, the Colorado Desert is a desert nonetheless.  Average annual precipitation across the Plateau is just 10″ in the lowest, hottest spots, The region is studded with laccoltith (granitic dome) mountains that receive snow, but the lowlands are hot and dry places, indeed.

The Rocks

Given its desert nature, much of the Colorado Plateau is a wilderness of naked rock.  Vegetation in the lower elevations is sparse, lending very little shade.  The bare rocks “breathe” heat, inhaling the solar radiation, then exhaling back out into the atmosphere.  The darker and more dense the rock, the more inhaling and exhaling take place.

The rocks of Grand Canyon’s Inner Gorge, known as the Vishnu Metamorphic Complex, are prime candidates for this breathing action.  Their color (very dark, essentially black in most places) and density (metamorphic rocks are extremely dense) make them enormously susceptible to heat absorption.  Given their location in the depths of Grand Canyon, it is no wonder why the inner canyon can feel like a blast furnace in the hottest months.

Even the lighter-colored, less dense sedimentary rocks found in Grand Canyon such as sandstone, shale, and limestone, are very inefficient cooling centers.  No matter where they are in the canyon, the rocks cannot escape the sun, and hikers in Grand Canyon cannot escape the rocks (yay!).

In essence, Grand Canyon behaves like a giant, incredibly scenic parking lot.  The same action that occurs in the vast expanses of concrete jungles known as cities, also occurs here in Grand Canyon and across the naked rock wilderness of the Colorado Plateau.

Elevation Changes

Grand Canyon is a massive, inverted mountain.  The summit of this mountain, the Colorado River, lies at roughly 2000 feet elevation.  The base, respectively North and South Rims, are at impressive elevations of 7500 and 8500 feet.  As you may imagine, this creates significant differences in temperature.  The rule of thumb climbing mountains in in the upward direction is 5 degrees for every thousand feet.  This same rule of thumb applies to inverted mountains.

A nice summer day on the North Rim might be 80 degrees.  This same day temperatures on the South Rim may be a warm, but still relatively comfortable 85+ degrees  Six thousand feet below at Phantom Ranch it will be a balmy 110 degrees.  Temperatures in the sun may exceed 130 degrees.

The forested rims, particularly the lush North Rim, are in climate zones more similar to places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Rocky Mountain National Park.  In contrast, the Inner Gorge lies in a climate zone similar to that of Saguaro and Joshua Tree National Parks which are located in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, respectively.

Is there any way to beat the heat?

Staying in the cool pine forests near the Grand Canyon’s North and South Rims is the best bet to beat the heat in the summer.  South Rim regularly sees temperatures in the 90s, but shade is easy to find.  Cool breezes often blow through the stands of ponderosa pine, making a picnic overlooking the canyon very pleasant.

The North Rim is cooler, typically seeing high temperatures in the low-to-mid 80’s.  Stands of aspen forest tremble in the breeze, and at 8500 feet nights get quite cool.  A trip to North Rim is a great way to spend a summer day.  Summertime stars at either rim are a sight to behold.

But I still want to hike….

Hiking in Grand Canyon in the summertime, as you may gather, can be a interesting proposition.  The Goat’s advice is to get out early.  Starting a hike before dawn is a summer rite-of-passage in Grand Canyon.  Avoid hiking during the hottest times of the day (10AM-4PM).  If you are out on the trail during those times, it is a good idea to seek shade where available.  Drink plenty of water (3-4L/person), and eat salty snacks that help your body to retain moisture.  Nuts, Jerky, and cheese make a fantastic meal on the trail, but avoid food high in sugar.

Is it a good idea (or even fun) to go backpacking in the summer?

If you are planning a backpacking trip below the rim during the summer, know what you are in for and prepare for it.  Following the general hiking guidelines outlined earlier is a great start.  Plan your trip so that you will be near water, if possible.  Many hikes from the North Rim have water along the trail, and the Colorado River makes a wonderful and very welcome swimming hole.

Packing correctly is quite helpful as well.  A wide-brimmed hat is key, along with sunglasses and clothing material that wicks moisture.  Synthetic garments work well, and avoid wearing anything that absorbs moisture such as denim or cotton.

What is the best time of year to hike in Grand Canyon?

If you can swing it, Grand Canyon hiking is best enjoyed during the cooler months.  October to April are the best times, with November to March being particularly spectacular.  Although it may be chilly on the rim, hiking in the canyon during these months presents daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s, absolutely perfect for hiking.

Be advised that North Rim is open from May 15 – October 15.  In the off-season there are no services available, and access is quite limited.  In order to access North Rim during the winter, hikers must approach the rim on foot, in snowshoes, or on cross country skies.

Despite summer being warmer, there is no such thing as a bad time to visit Grand Canyon.  Simply hiking along the rim to take in the astounding views is a great summertime activity, but hiking below the rim can be highly enjoyable too.  Following our hiking guidelines will ensure that your backpacking trip or day hike is a safe and fun experience that yields stories and memories to last a lifetime.

Going Guided

Exploring Grand Canyon with a guide service is hands-down the best way to enjoy the canyon.  This is true any time of the year, but is especially true when the temperature starts to rise.  Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism’s guides are certified in CPR and backcountry medicine in addition to being degreed geologists.  This depth of medical knowledge is the key to keeping our guests safe on the trail, particularly when the conditions are not ideal.  Hit us up for more information, or to join an epic backpacking or basecamp hiking tour.

Hiring an outfitter has several benefits.  Namely, we worry about all the other stuff while you enjoy your adventure!  Food, navigation, top-of-the-line gear, and deep knowledge of the landscape is the coup de gras.

The Goat’s Final Word

Grand Canyon presents the intrepid adventurer extraordinary experiences with unique challenges.  Even without the heat, hiking in Grand Canyon can be demanding and requires preparation paired with realistic goals.  Summer heat is certainly among the challenges one will find here, but it can be managed fairly easily by hiking smart.

In fact, the heat offers hikers the opportunity to really slow down and enjoy the vistas unraveling before their eyes.  Hiking by moonlight is an extraordinary experience that not only beats the heat, but presents an altogether different perspective on this wondrous place.  Trust me, wandering through a moonlight-bathed gorge while a Great Horned Owl hoots from the cliffs above is a sublime experience.

Slow down, find some shade, drink some water, and chill.  Post up under a sprawling cottonwood tree.  Have a well-deserved splash in the river or under a waterfall.  Take cues from Grand Canyon wildlife.  Do you see them going hard in the heat?  No?  Then you shouldn’t either.  Above all, don’t force anything.  If you feel hot, slow down.  Don’t be afraid to take care of yourself, your body will thank you.

Contact us for information about Grand Canyon hiking, or step into a geologic time machine on one of our epic Grand Canyon hiking tours

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How Long Is The Havasupai Falls Hike?

How Long Is The Havasupai Falls Hike?

How Long is the Havasupai Falls Hike?

Hiking down to the shimmering waters of Havasu Falls is on the bucket list of most outdoor enthusiasts.  Who wouldn’t want to take the plunge into some of the most iconic waters of the American Southwest?  Inviting as they seem, however, getting to Havasu Falls is not particularly easy, cheap, or for the faint of heart.  The trail is quite long, steep in places, and mostly in the sun.  This is not to mention the sometimes dizzying exposures along two ridges.

Here are the best ways to get to Havasu Falls, as dictated by The Goat:

By Foot

Hiking, as usual, is The Goat’s recommended method of travel.  It allows one to truly experience nature and the wilderness was meant to be; unobstructed by whirring motors, and metal boxes on wheels.  Though there are other means of travel to reach Havasu Falls (two of which are covered later in this post), hiking is by far the most rewarding.  In addition to the physical rewards, the scenery is outstanding, and a multi-day backpacking trip allows hikers to explore the area deeply, which is not to be missed.

Several small tributaries to Havasu creek have carved intricate canyons of their own.  Though the waterfalls and turquoise waters are the main attraction, the creeks, chives, falls, slots, and defiles off the beaten path are well worth the time to explore.  Here, we outline the particulars of the main hike from its main (read: only) trailhead.  Please do not attempt to reach the falls by any other routes or trails.

The Numbers

Length: 10 miles one-way
Difficulty: Strenuous, especially coming out of the canyon in the summer
Optimal Seasons:

If you can get a permit, GO! (Read more about Havasupai Permits here). This is one of the most coveted permits in the world, and getting one is no easy task.  The best season to go is the date your permit says.

Permits:

As of 2019, the Havasupai Tribe has changed and streamlined its permit process.  You MUST reserve permits online, there is no longer a number to call.

Cost:

Once again, the tribe has changed things up a bit.  New in 2019, the only kind of trip available to reserve as 4 days/3 nights.  You can no longer customize your trip length.  The rates are $100/night during the week (mon-thurs) and $125/night on the weekends (fri-sun).  This means, on average, a 4 day/3 night trip the Havasu Falls will cost you somewhere between $300-$375 per person on the permit.

The Hike

Hiking down to the village of Supai and Havasu Falls is absolutely the way to do it.  The 10-mile hike from Hualapai Hilltop to the campgrounds is reasonably difficult, so plan on hiking 4-5 hours down, and 7-8 hours back up.  The weather can be very warm, and there is NO water along the trail.  Bring at least 3 liters of personal drinking water, and remember there is no water until you reach the village of Supai, 8 miles down the canyon.

The trail starts quickly, with 1 mile of switchbacks descending 2000 feet into the canyon.  Be aware of mules and horses on the trail as you make your way, they can be unpredictable.  Always yield to animals.  One of the most unfortunate things along the trail is the observation of animal caracasses; the pack animal situation here has become untenable (more on this later).  You may reserve pack animals in the village of Supai, or at the campground.  Stay on the side of the trail to avoid spooking the animals, and respect their handlers instructions..

Animals and Wildlife

There can be other wildlife (as if pack animals are wildlife) on the trail the you will want to stay aware of.  Rattlesnakes, scorpions, and poisonous spiders are part of the desert ecosystem here.  Do not put your hands in a place where you can’t see them.  Do not, under any circumstances approach or in any way disturb rattlesnakes in particular. The most commonly-treated snakebite injury is on the hand.  Would you like to guess how a rattlesnake bites a person on the hand?

Hikers may also catch a glimpse of bighorn sheep, California condors, Red-tailed Hawks, and copious numbers of lizards and rodents such as chipmunks and ground squirrels.  Do not approach or attempt to feed wildlife.  The rodents may carry the Hantavirus, which is a particularly horrific, Ebola-like virus that can result in death.  Also, keeping wildlife wild is what makes wilderness what it is and was meant to be!

Continuing Down the Canyon…..

The hike meanders on the trail for 7 miles before reaching the village of Supai.  The first 3 miles of this trek offers very little shelter from the sun.  At length, hikers reach the terminus of Hualapai Canyon at the junction of Havasu Canyon, where the famous turquoise waters of Havasu Creek first appear.  From this junction, you have just 1.5 miles to reach the village of Supai.

The Village of Supai

The village of Supai, where the Havasuapai Tribe has made their home for the better part of the last 800 years, is a small and quaint place.  Services are very limited.  There is no cell phone reception (but you probably knew this from the moment your phone lost reception below the canyon rim), and even the mail comes by mule train to this day.

There are some options for supplies, however.  In addition to the campground office,  there is a convenience store stocked with items like chips, jerky, gatorade/water, and other snacks provisions (bacon!).  This a great place to recharge for the last 2 miles of the trek to the campgrounds.  There is also a diner, grocery store, and more in the town, so take a moment to explore.

The Last Leg to the Falls

Departing from Supai, hikers descend for an additional 1.5 miles down Havasu Canyon. Come around a bend, and wait for a figurative punch in the face.  The outstanding scene around the corner, the famous Havasu Falls, comes into view.  Cascading nearly 150 feet over cliffs of travertine, Havasu Falls plunges into the blue-green waters with a thunderous might.   This view alone will make every step of the journey worth it.

If you can, pry yourself away from the mesmerizing view and continue to the campground, a short half-mile beyond the falls.  The campground has running water and trash receptacles, please use them both responsibly (more on this later).  Bringing additional water bladders and water bottles can cut down on the time spent at the faucet.  There is but one faucet, and lines will form at any time of year.  Be smart, plan ahead, save time.

While at the Campground

Havasu Falls and the surrounding area is a very popular place.  Do not come here expecting solitude, or anything that could be considered a “wilderness experience”.  While it is intensely beautiful, it is that beauty that makes it very crowded.  On any given night, during all times of the year, expect to share the campground with somewhere between 300-400 other people.  Also expect a nearly constant din of helicopters landing and taking off, as this has become a very popular method of reaching the falls.

Trash

There are several things you can do while at Havasu Campground to minimize your personal impact.  Rule one:  Pack it in, pack it out.  If you bring it, take it the hell out (please).  Do not flick cigarette butts, toss napkins or do your dishes in the creek.  Do not act a fool.  Over the years, especially as the popularity of this place has grown, guests here have acted fools; don’t be them.

There are trash receptacles at the campground itself, along with more in Supai.  Don’t be one of the rubes who comes to this beautiful place only to treat it as their personal dumping grounds.  Please contribute positively towards a future where everyone that comes here can enjoy its pristine beauty and granduer without having to stare a pools full of popped intertubes, discarded bras, cigarette butts, and beer cans.

Trail Distances:

Hualapai Hilltop to Campgrounds – 10 Miles

Hualapai Hilltop to Supai – 8 Miles

Supai to Campground – 2 Miles

Campground to Mooney Falls – 0.5 Miles

Mooney Falls To Colorado River – 8 Miles

By Mule

Mules and other pack animals such as horses have long been used to transport gear, supplies, and people up and down the canyon walls of Havasu.  In recent years, this practice has been adopted by several private outfitters that run trips to Havasu Falls.  Due to crowding, jostling, and overall irresponsibility and disregard, this pack animal situation has become untenable.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that there have been numerous cases of serious animal abuses, from dehydration and starvation, to squalid trail and living conditions, to outright physical abuse and death.

The Goat strongly advises against using any company that offers pack animal-supported tours.  The long list of serious offenders (which we won’t mention here out of professional respect), reflects a culture of lack of accountability.  There are ZERO companies that offer pack animal-supported tours that have a 100% clean sheet of responsibility.  You may contact us directly for more information on this malpractice.

By Helicopter

There has been a massive increase in the popularity of getting to Havasu Falls by skipping the hike, instead opting to ride a helicopter.  The Goat cannot stress how much he detests this practice, and bids adieu to anyone wishing to do it.  You may do what you please, but we cannot and will not instruct, offer information to, or otherwise involve ourselves in an industry that actively degrades and disrespects the sanctity of wilderness.  Also, get off your lazy butt and walk down if you want to see something beautiful.

Going Guided

****As of 2019, the Havasupai Tribe has placed a moratorium on all commercial guiding into Havasu Canyon.  Due to overwhelming popularity, overcrowding, and lack of regulation, the tribe thought it best to place a hold on all guided tours until a proper management plan can be outlined.  Contact us for information regarding self-guided tours, and other means of support for trips to Havasu Falls.

The Goat’s Final Word

Havasu Falls and the four azure waterfalls that accompany, are some of the most beautiful, unique, and stunning scenes the world has to offer.  The journey to reach it is challenging, but extraordinarily rewarding.  Please follow and respect the permit regulations and requirements, and once there please have reverence and respect for this truly special landscape.  The tribe has significantly altered the permit process, and placed restrictions on commercial guiding companies in order to combat the overrunning of their homeland.

Going to Havasu Falls and exploring the fantasy-like landscape is an absolute bucket list destination; a destination that any hiker who wishes to explore Earth’s most special landscapes would want to check off.  However, getting there takes advance planning, commitment, and respect.

For more information on the Permit Process, visit the Havasupai Tribal Website

Like our blog?  Check out our guided tours through geologic time to Grand Canyon, Utah Canyon Country, and Arizona Red Rock Country!

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How Do I Get a Permit for Havasu Falls?

How Do I Get a Permit for Havasu Falls?

How to get to Havasu Falls:

Reservations, Permits, and Tips

Perhaps the most famous waterfalls in the American Southwest lie within the Havasupai Native American Reservation at the bottom of Grand Canyon in Arizona. The turquoise waters surrounded by towering canyons is well worth the 10-mile hike, as well as the potential harbinger of procuring the coveted camping permits. The Havasupai Tribe manages the land and there are multiple checkpoints once hikers arrive at Supai Village. Many think it’s part of the Grand Canyon, but it’s actually a side canyon called Havasu Canyon and is outside of the National Park.

HOW TO GET A HAVASUPAI RESERVATIONS / PERMITS

This is the hard part. The tribe start taking reservations at the beginning of February.  You must make your reservations online at HavasupaiReservations.com. Sounds simple enough, but permits can sell out for the year in just a few minutes! Pro Tip: You must get a 4 day/3 night reservation for this trip.  You can reserve for a bigger group and adjust your numbers before hiking in. There is no penalty for this as long as you let them know beforehand, but don’t wait until the last minute because you might not be able to get them on the phone.

Campground Phone #: (928) 448-2180, (928) 448-2121, (928) 448-2141, (928) 448-2237
Lodge Phone #: (928) 448-2111

You may call or ask us for more information about this process.

FEES

The cost for Havasu Falls permits are as follows: $100/person/night (weekdays), and $125/person/night on the weekends

OTHER COSTS IF YOU’RE NOT BACKPACKING / CAMPING

Havasupai Lodge: $145 for up to four people (plus 10% tax)
Helicopter Transport: $85 each way (first come, first serve)
Horses: $75-150 (plus 10% tax)

THE HIKE TO SUPAI VILLAGE + CAMPGROUNDS (10 Miles Total)

The trail into Supai begins at Hualapai Hilltop, where there is plenty of parking for regular vehicles (and very limited for RVs if it’s busy).
From Hualapai Hilltop, there is a quick 2 mile descent into the canyon. You will go down switchbacks, and hiking poles will come in handy.
The next 6 miles to Supai Village is relatively flat or very slow descent (which means getting out is mostly uphill).
After arriving in Supai, it is another 2 miles to the campground where you continue to descend into the canyon.

HAVASUPAI CAMPGROUNDS

The campgrounds serve up to 250 people. Reservations can only be made by phone at 928.448.2121, but the sites are first come first serve. It took us over an hour to find a site big enough for our 13 person group. There is also drinking water available and primitive toilets. Pro-tip: Bring your own toilet paper, because sometimes they run out. A hammock and water shoes for Havasupai are also essentials!

THE FIVE WATERFALLS OF HAVASU CREEK

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Little Navajo Falls / New Navajo Falls / Upper Navajo Falls: the first set of falls you will see on the way to the campground from Supai. This one is a little confusing. Due to recent floods in 2008, the 70 ft Navajo Falls was destroyed and multiple falls have been created. Some people refer to them as Upper and Lower Navajo Falls, but the only one notated by a sign there refers to them as Little Navajo Falls. Either way, they are beautiful and worth exploring.
Lower Navajo Falls / Rock Falls:

Lower Navajo Falls – First of the Waterfalls You will encounter in Havasu Canyon

Havasu Falls: 0.5 miles away from the campgrounds. It drops over 100 feet into a beautiful pool. You will pass these falls when you’re hiking in from Supai Village to the campgrounds.
Havasu Falls – It is the most famous waterfall located in the Havasupai Indian Reservation. It’s 1.5 miles from Supai Village and is 90 -100 ft tall

havasu falls havasu canyon grand canyon

Mooney Falls: This is the largest of the Havasupai waterfalls, it’s only 0.5 miles after you pass the campgrounds but you have to descend through two tunnels, chains, and ladders. The lines can get long and it took us over an hour to get down. (Watch out for centipedes! :P)
Mooney Falls – The tallest waterfall in Havasu Canyon at 210 ft tall

mooney falls havasu canyon grand canyon

Beaver Falls: Beaver Falls is the furthest away and requires trekking through water, narrow trails, and over sketchy wooden bridges. It’s 3.5 miles each way (7 miles round trip) and a good place to cliff jump too.
Beaver Falls – The Last of the Waterfalls in Havasu Canyon. It is a 3.5 mile hike from the Havasupai Campgrounds

beaver falls havasu canyon grand canyon

OTHER TIPS

Havasupai is subject to flash floods, so check the weather forecast and always know where to find high ground (there will be signs).
Be sure to bring your permit info and paid receipts. There are multiple checkpoints during the hike and at the campsite.
When turning onto the road to Hualapai Hilltop, drive slowly and carefully, there is a lot of wildlife and cattle on the windy road.
It can get extremely hot in the summer! To avoid the sun, leave early (like 3am early).  You can hike during the night, so bring a headlamp!
There is a small restaurant in Supai and a food stand at the front of the campground.
You just need to pack enough water to get to the campground, there is a fresh water you can refill with there.
Frequent flooding causes waterfalls to disappear and reappear. What you see now may not exist in the future.

REMINDER: Arrive early and get a campsite as soon as you can! It’s all first come first serve and can fill up quickly.  For more information or to create your Custom Havasu Falls experience, get in touch with Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism!

Going Guided

****As of 2019, the Havasupai Tribe has placed a moratorium on all commercial guiding into Havasu Canyon.  Due to overwhelming popularity, overcrowding, and lack of regulation, the tribe thought it best to place a hold on all guided tours until a proper management plan can be outlined.  Contact us for information regarding self-guided tours, and other means of support for trips to Havasu Falls.

Read our blog!

For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.

Follow us on Facebookand Instagram

Explore Further, Be Wild, See Through Time — Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism

What are the Best Backpacking Trips in Grand Canyon?

What are the Best Backpacking Trips in Grand Canyon?

What are the Best Backpacking Trips in Grand Canyon?

Grand Canyon National Park can be a nearly overwhelming place.  What do I do?  Where should I go?  Even for seasoned backpackers, the choices can be endless and exhausting.  The Goat has compiled a list especially for you, outlining backpacking trips in Grand Canyon for all skill and experience levels.  Enjoy!

Grand Canyon Hermit Trail

5.  The Hermit Loop

Time: 3 days, 2 nights

Distance: 18 miles

Difficulty: Undergraduate+

The Hermit Loop is a truly classic Grand Canyon backpacking trip that can be easily accomplished over a long weekend.  It is a great hike for those who are looking to take their first backpacking foray into the big ditch, and truly hits all the highlights.  Sweeping vistas, interesting side trips, and excellent canyon history await on a trail forged originally by the “hermit of the Grand Canyon”, Mr. Louis Boucher.  The route was later improved by the Santa Fe Railroad Line in an attempt to bring mining, then tourism, into the area.

Thunder River in the Grand Canyon

4.  Tuckup Canyon via the Stairway to Heaven

Time: 7 days, 6 nights

Distance: 45 miles

Get your defibrillator, this one is not for the faint of heart.  Located in one of the most remote parts of Grand Canyon, this long, challenging loop is meant for experienced cannoneers only.  This route takes ambitious hikers down Tuckup Canyon, past Shaman’s Gallery (recognized as one of the most spectacular rock art etchings in the American Southwest), through a traverse along the mighty Colorado River, and then up Stairway Canyon.  Along the way, there are exciting climbing, route-finding, and scrambling challenges, and .  Strap in!

Thunder River waterfall in the Grand Canyon

3.  Thunder River to Deer Creek

Time: 4 days, 3 nights

Distance: 28 miles

The Thunder River to Deer Creek Loop is perhaps the North Rim’s most fabulous backpacking trip.  Multiple water sources, outstanding scenery, and a truly thunderous river.  Geologically speaking, Thunder River is one of the most unique features in Grand Canyon.  It begins as an underground river (aquifer) up on the Kaibab Plateau.  It flows along various fault lines and crustal weaknesses until it breaks loose at the contact of the permeable Esplanade Group (mostly shales) and the impermeable Redwall Limestone, quite literally thundering onto the rocks below.

South Bass Trail, Grand Canyon

2.  Rim-to-Rim via Phantom Ranch

Time: 4 days, 3 nights

Distance: 19 miles

This is the true Grand Canyon classic backpacking trip.  Starting at the North Rim, your descent begins on the North Kaibab Trail as it winds it way down to the Colorado River.  Along the way hikers are treated to unspoiled views, soaring eagles, and a well-developed trail.  Thru-hikers may  camp at Bright Angel Campground, or stay in the lodge at the famed Phantom Ranch.  From here hikers may choose to ascend either the South Kaibab Trail (shorter, steeper) or the Bright Angel Trail (more miles) and stay the second night on the Esplanade.  After cresting on the South Rim, be sure to gaze upon your North Rim starting point.  This is one of the most popular trips in Grand Canyon, so be sure to make your reservations early! For those who want an alternate, consider the Rim-to-River and Back hike.

Backpacking Stove and Shoes

1.  The Escalante Route

Time: 5 days, 4 nights

Distance: 35 miles

Carved by early Puebloan explorers of Grand Canyon, this long traverse of Grand Canyon from the Tanner Trail to Horseshoe Mesa and Grandview is perhaps one of the finest backpacking trips on the planet.  There is a little bit of everything Grand Canyon here, as hikers will encounter outrageous views of the Great Unconformity, sandy beaches, a class 3 scramble over the famous Papago Wall, and a spectacular slot canyon carved from billion-year-old Shinumo Quartzite.  This route confronts with hikers with the unimaginable scale of Grand Canyon, as it will seem as though you are climbing mountains in a canyon.  Grand!

Going Guided

Hiking and exploring Grand Canyon, or any of the National Parks, is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides.  Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore.  In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

Read our blog!

For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.

Follow us on Facebookand Instagram

Explore Further, Be Wild, See Through Time — Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism

Top 5 Camping Trips in the Southwest

Top 5 Camping Trips in the Southwest

Top 5 Basecamping Trips in the Southwest

Basecamping can provide a truly wonderful experience that explores the best of both worlds in the outdoors: excellent hiking adventures by day, and comfortable accommodations by night.  Hiking in the southwestern United States provides the adventurer with endless opportunities to see outrageous and iconic scenery, experience world-famous geology, and enjoy the whimsical color tapestry that pulls at the senses.  The Goat has decided to let you in on his personal favorite hiking and camping adventures in the American Southwest, so load the car, strap in, and grab the camera ’cause we’re going outside!

5.  Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve, California

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Though just the name evokes a barren wasteland of intense heat and suffering, long-time westerners know that Death Valley is one of the most fabulous places on the face of the Earth.  It is a land of extremes, but one of those extremes is intense beauty.  Being in Death Valley confronts the hiker with the dichotomy of life itself, in one breath being the lowest, hottest place in North America, in the other breath being a place with 11,000 foot mountains that receive feet of snow every winter.

In one breath being a howling desert, in the other being a place with flowing natural springs and over 1,000 different species of animal, including several like the Devil’s Hole Pupfish, that are indigenous to Death Valley and only Death Valley.  To the east of Death Valley lies the Mojave National Preserve, a little-known slice of desert heaven that holds its own distinctions.

Think the largest, densest stand of Joshua Tree, icon of the Mojave, lies in Joshua Tree National Park?  Think again.  That belongs to Mojave National Preserve.  Think the tallest sand dune in the United States lies in Great Sand Dunes National Park?  Think again.  Kelso Dune, which rises nearly 900 feet above the desert floor reigns supreme, right in the heart of the Mojave National Preserve.  Death Valley and the Mojave National Preserve is a southwestern adventure that is not to be underestimated in its grandeur, taken for granted in its diversity, or passed up by the outdoor adventurer.

4.  North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

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The visitation to Grand Canyon is well-documented.  Last year alone (2015) Grand Canyon National Park received over 6 million visitors for the first time in its history, breaking the string of a decade at over 5 million.  To say it is well-loved is a bit of an understatement, and for good reason; It’s the Grand Canyon.  However, over 90% of people that visit Grand Canyon visit the easily accessible South Rim, and only 5% of total people that visit actually go below the rim, given that the average visit time to this fabulous natural wonder is about 2.5 hours.

This leaves us with the isolated, lonely North Rim.  Grand Canyon’s North Rim, which soars to over 8,500 feet on the Coconino Plateau, sees about 1/10 of the visitors that flock to the South Rim; good news for you.  From the North Rim, hikers and campers are treated to all the dramatic vistas, epic geology, and fantasy of the Grand Canyon, but with a sense of solitude that can be hard to bargain for at the South Rim.  North Rim contains some of the park’s most thrilling hiking adventures, outrageous fall colors, and even brings a sense of the pioneer spirit to any of its adventures.

3.  Superstition Mountains, Arizona Sonoran Desert

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Some say it’s the views.  Some say it’s the ancient spirits.  Some say it’s the lost gold mine.  The Goat says he’s just lucky.  The Superstition Mountains, located just 45 minutes east of the heart of Phoenix, Arizona, provide some of the best hiking and backpacking opportunities near a large metropolitan area in the United States, and perhaps the world.  Hiking and exploring this fantastic wilderness from a basecamp, however, may just be the best way to see it.

Legend has it that within the Superstition Mountains lies an incredibly rich gold mine, the likes of which Arizona has never seen.  The Dutchman, Mr. Jakob Waltz (who was actually German) gave clues on his deathbed as to its whereabouts, but it has yet to be located.  Camping near the wilderness and tackling its hundreds of miles of excellent trails gives the outdoor adventurer a wonderful opportunity to search high and low, through deep canyons to 5,000 foot peaks.  Meanwhile, sweeping views, excellent and explosive geology, and in the heart of the wilderness, solitude await as you dive deep into the legends and lore of the fabulous Superstition Wilderness.

2.  Sedona, Arizona Red Rock Country

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Sedona is world famous for its grand red rock monoliths, spiritual healing power, and upscale tourist traps.  However, we geologists think of Sedona as the “Pangean Riviera”, as the beautiful rocks here tell a wonderful story of a paradise by the sea.

Though it’s lost its ocean views over the eons, Sedona is still one of the most gorgeous places in the American Southwest, and a base camping trip here will give the intrepid hiker and explorer all they can handle, from rugged red rock cliffs and world-class rock climbing, to intimate canyons, to soaring spires and outrageous sunsets whose colors can only be matched any the rocks themselves!

1.  Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah Canyon Country

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This tour de force of South Central Utah’s two epic parks will forever change your vision of what Utah’s Canyon Country is truly all about.  Think you’ve seen it all?  We think you’ve seen almost nothing until you behold the majesty contained within Capitol Reef and the Grand Staircase.  Capitol Reef, home to the largest geologic structure in the southwest, harbors towering sunset red cliffs, arches, canyons, and utter solitude, with some of the best star-gazing in the lower 48.  Grand Staircase is home to some of the most rugged, thrilling, and scenic canyons and slots on the Colorado Plateau and the entire world.

Placing your basecamp near the town of Boulder, Utah will lend you, the intrepid hiking adventurer, an opportunity to ping-pong between these two giants.  The close proximity, beauty, and above all the unspoiled wilderness experience you are highly likely to obtain in these two outstanding places was the deciding factor in our countdown.  The Goat approves!

So there you have it ladies and gentleman, the Top 5 Camping and Hiking Trips in the American Southwest.  You can tackle them yourself, or to enhance your experience, you may choose to tackle them with our fabulous geologist/guides that will school you on every whit and whimsy in these beautiful rocks.  See you on the trail!

Going Guided

Hiking and exploring Grand Canyon, or any of the National Parks, is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides.  Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore.  In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

Read our blog!

For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.

Follow us on Facebookand Instagram

Explore Further, Be Wild, See Through Time — Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism