Havasupai Falls – Supai, Arizona - Atlas Obscura

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Havasupai Falls

Supai, Arizona

This secluded aqua waterfall in the Grand Canyon is the perfect swimming hole, and the Havasupai tribe's fiercely protected natural wonder. 


The Grand Canyon draws in over five million tourists each year and is hailed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. But hidden deep within a side canyon, on the reservation of the local Havasupai tribe, completely surrounded by Grand Canyon National Park and so not really in a National Park, lies something lesser-known to tourists yet unparalleled in beauty: Havasupai Falls.

The Havasupai people, which literally translates to “people of the blue-green water,” are native to a region of northern Arizona that’s home to Havasupai Falls, a group of aquamarine waterfalls tucked within the Havasu Canyon. The most famous is Havasu Falls, a stunning cascade that almost looks like it flows with liquid turquoise. Yet despite the inescapable crowds of the Grand Canyon, these beautiful falls are relatively secluded, a long-guarded secret of the Havasupai tribe and a small handful of outsiders.

This secrecy is largely a result of the tribe’s understandable reluctance to fully open the gates of their homeland to tourists. Of the tribal nations affiliated with the Grand Canyon area, the Havasupai are the only ones who continue to live deep within the canyon. The Havasupai consider themselves the keepers and guardians of the Grand Canyon.

They’ve set up a system of camping permits that only lets a small portion of applicants into the village of Supai, where the falls are located. Even if you’re lucky enough to get the permit, you have to be able to shell out for the helicopter ride, horse ride, or mule ride to assist you in getting there. Otherwise, you’ll have to hike 10 miles there and 10 miles back. It’s a hot, dry, strenuous although beautiful hike, passing red rocks, cacti, and ancient pictograms along the way.

Once there, the views from the 100-foot Havasu Falls are priceless. It’s also a daredevil’s dream; visitors have the opportunity to attempt high cliff jumps and swim to a rocky shelter behind the falls, both of which are extremely risky. And as if one aquamarine waterfall wasn’t enough, there are four more in the area. Near Havasu Falls lie Mooney, Navajo, Supai, and Beaver Falls, each beautiful and awe-inspiring in its own way.

The reason for the picturesque turquoise color is the high levels of calcium carbonate in the spring-fed waters of Havasu Creek, the source of the five waterfalls. These high levels also create 70-degree travertine pools at the base of some of the falls, making them the perfect swimming holes.

Know Before You Go

You can either hike or take a mule, horse, or helicopter ride down into the canyon. (The helicopter launch pad is next to the last working Pony Express stop in America.) To visit the falls you must first obtain a permit and reservation to stay at the Havasupai Campground overnight, as day trips to the falls are not permitted. Reservations can be made at the official Havasupai Tribe website.

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