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Havasupai Adventure

The Indian village of Supai is one of the most isolated places in the American Southwest. To get there, we had to leave the interstate highway and follow old Route 66 for more than 50 miles to the town of Peach Springs on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. This sleepy little village contains one gas station, a post office, a food market and the surprisingly modern Hualapai River Lodge and Restaurant.

Hiking to Supai Village © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Hualapai Hilltop marks the end of the road. Hiking is required to further explore the sandstone canyons, waterfalls and Indian village of Supai.

The road ends at Hualapai Hilltop

From Peach Springs, we drove seventy-five miles north on a desolate Indian road to Hualapai Hilltop. The road terminated on an isolated ledge hanging 1500 feet above a vast canyon. There were a few dilapidated sheds, a corral with a dozen mules and a small white trailer at the edge of a large parking lot. From here, a narrow trail snaked its way down the cliff face and crossed the floor of the canyon where it entered a smaller ravine. On the hike down, we met the mule train bringing the daily mail up out of the Canyon.

The trail followed a dry creek bed within the ravine for six miles. We walked upon soft sand and loose gravel surrounded by towering walls of pink and red sandstone until we reached the crystal clear waters of the Supai River. At a wooden footbridge crossing the stream, we shed our packs and rested our weary feet in the cool water. A lovely Indian maiden rode up the trail on a beautiful Chestnut mare and laughingly called out, "you are nearly there". We listened to the clatter of her hoof beats echoing off of the canyon walls long after she disappeared up the trail.

Havasu Falls © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The trail from the Indian village of Supai to the campground passes Havasu Falls.

The Twin Sisters guard Supai

We soon spotted the "twin sisters", two tall slender pillars of delicately balanced sandstone boulders silently guarding the village of Supai. Each small house in the tiny village was surrounded by a corral with one or more grazing ponies. The streets were merely narrow sandy lanes between the corral fences. Village children raced their ponies down the lanes as their parents watched. We paused at the general store to buy cold drinks and to once more rest our tired feet.

We walked two more miles down the canyon, passing the extraordinarily beautiful Havasu Falls, on our way to the campground. We pitched our tent along the side of the bubbling Supai River where each limestone pool is an incredibly iridescent turquoise blue. Pink sandstone walls rose 500 feet on each side. Two village dogs slept at the door of our tent and guarded us through the night.

Exquisitely beautiful waterfalls

The next morning, we followed the Supai River down the canyon and soon reached the top of Mooney Falls. At this point, the trail down the escarpment was extremely steep. We passed through tunnels in the rock and descended on footholds in the cliff face while clutching slippery wet chains. From the bottom, the view was spectacular. A white plume of water plunged 150 feet into a brilliant blue pool. The surrounding cliffs were molded into strangely shaped limestone sculptures and festooned with bright green mosses and ferns.

River Crossing © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Navigating the trail through the Supai River canyon often requires fording across the river.

As we continued down the canyon, this scenic trail grew more difficult and strenuous. In its narrower parts, we were forced to climb the canyon walls and navigate along narrow treacherous ledges. We forded across the chilly waters of the Supai many times. Stunted mesquite trees, cactuses, vines and flowers grew in profusion on the canyon floor. The pink walls towered 1000 feet and more around us. We walked in solitude for three hours, but turned back before reaching the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

The land that time forgot

We returned to the village of Supai late in the afternoon. A cluster of Indian men and children were gathered in the Central Square watching the helicopter bring in supplies and new tourists. There are no cars, trucks or buses in this canyon. Everything comes in by mule or helicopter. This magical valley feels like a place that time forgot, and this peaceful village seems like a refuge from the cares of modern civilization. Unfortunately, the helicopters and the tourists are constantly exposing it to the excesses of the outside world. I fear that this peaceful valley will not remain unspoiled for much longer.

Supai Village © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The Indian village of Supai is shadowed by towering sandstone cliffs.

We went to the village's only eatery, the Supai Snack Bar, and voraciously consumed hearty meals of burgers, chili and fry-bread tacos. That night we slept in the Supai Lodge. Our spacious room was equipped with electricity and indoor plumbing. It had no television, radio, telephone or hot water. We arose before dawn and deposited our heavy packs at the lobby entry for the mule's to transport out. We had decided to travel light with only our water bottles and a little food. One of the village dogs accompanied us.

The mule trains overtook us

It was so peaceful hiking up that beautiful gorge with only the sound of our boots to disturb this geological splendor. The morning sun began to heat the tops of the cliffs as we hiked through the chill dark shadows at the canyon's bottom. We saw no other person for over three hours until we finally met two German boys heading down to the village. Soon afterward, we heard the clatter of hooves as the first mule train carrying the day's mail out of the village overtook us.

After eight miles of easy hiking, the 1500 ft. climb up the canyon wall was a formidable task. We stepped aside and hugged the rock wall each time a group of mule's climbed past us. The Indian drovers on handsome steeds nodded their heads or touched the brim of their hat in greeting as they rode silently by. We made it to the top just before noon.

Hualapai Hilltop © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Horses and mules tethered to a hitching rail at Hualapai Hilltop.

Back to civilization

Hualapai hilltop was a scene of great activity. About 100 mules were tethered to the long hitching rail. A tractor-trailer was unloading numerous bags of horse feed. A small mountain of canned goods, produce and other supplies was stacked in the middle of the parking lot. The drovers were busy loading boxes, crates and sacks on to their mules.

We retrieved our backpacks in front of the little trailer, climbed into our car and headed back toward civilization. We will always fondly remember our short visit to the beautiful isolated valley that time forgot. I hope the peaceful little village of Supai remains unsoiled by the outside world for a little while longer.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: An Indian drover leads a team of horses up from the valley floor and the village of Supai to Hualapai Hilltop.