Hiking to Havasu Falls: A Journey in Photos

My eyes strain into a valley of red and yellow rock as I toss my backpack over my shoulders, nod my head at a man leading a pack of mules and then take my first steps on my hike to Havasu Falls.  My knees buckle and feet shuffle as I try to control the speed in which I descend down the switchbacks into one of the world’s greatest, and most famous, canyons.  The sun feels sharper than usual as it pierces through my thin hair and warms my shoulders. The path begins to flatten and the canyon narrows tighter as the trail finds a canyon within a canyon. Red rock walls surround me as the sun is overwhelmed by a wall of shade. Cold air follows suit as my now reddening skin rises with a trail of resulting bumps. There is something powerful about this canyon, I can sense it.

Havasu Canyon

Havasu Canyon-2

Havasu Canyon-3

After a couple hours of hiking alone through desolate terrain and under the cover of a canyon featured by an insurmountable wall I begin to see signs of life: a creek flowing under a dancing sun light, a green strip of trees, and a dog barking in the distance. My feet carry me into a car-free village seemingly lost in time and far too quiet to feel comfortable. I kick dust as I pass a group of cows playing in a dry bit of sand and a pack of curious horses wondering if I have feed. Before long, Supai starts to come alive in activity. A child learning how to ride his bike without training wheels flies by being pushed by his older sister, an organized game of basketball is played at the community center, and a couple old cowboys sleep with their hats over their eyes on a nearby bench in the shade.

Supai, Arizona

Supai, Arizona-2

Supai, Arizona-3

Supai, Arizona-4

My wandering shoes take me through the village and into a valley consumed by vegetation, contrast and excitement. The sound of falling water takes hold of my imagination as I being to push my sore feet a little faster than usual. I scamper using my hands as a pivot as I turn through the clay rocks unconcerned about getting dirty or falling or worse. My view is soon filled with a mirage or waters so blue they look radioactive. The water dances in a series of waterfalls that seem to get bigger and more powerful as the walk continues. It’s hard not to feel tiny among natural such power.

“This is one of America’s hidden treasures” I think to myself as I race to capture photos as if the place is about to disappear, “how do more people not know about this place?”

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls-2

Havasu Falls-3

Havasu Falls-4

Havasu Falls-5

I set up camp for the night before heading back out to watch the stars rise up from behind the falls. Still in shock as to why I had never heard of this place until just weeks ago, I walk through an empty campground and realize that I’m not the only one to have been kept out of the loop about this place of beauty. The Havasu Canyon and Havasu Falls should not only be more visited, they are one of the must see destinations of this part of America.

The dark begins to take over the canyon as my flashlight provides the only light other than the stars above which sparkle as bright as anywhere I have ever seen. The stars, like the canyon itself, makes me realize how small I am. It makes me feel insignificant, weak and vulnerable. However, unlike most, these moments are the ones I live for. These are the moments that humble me and make me realize how powerful the world we live in is. I am alone in a land of wonder, and my spirit feels lifted, liberated and energized. As the old Native American tales describe, I have just had my spirit journey, and I didn’t even realize I was having it.

Havasu Falls Stars


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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27 Comments

  1. Looks like a great trip. I actually planned on stopping at Havasu this Summer but was unable to get there. Great Pics! The red toned burro in the Canyon was my favorite. Cheers

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    • @Kevin – Havasu Falls is worth basing a whole new on! Amazing place!

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  2. We were shocked more people don’t know about this place as well. We almost wanted to keep it a secret. ;) I actually think part of the reason it’s not overrun with people is because you either have to hike 10 miles to get there or pay a lot for a helicopter ride. Not to mention, the price of camping isn’t exactly cheap. Scott and I are definitely going back there. Next time, we will avoid thunderstorm and flash flood season though because we weren’t able to get the night shots we wanted. Did you jump in the water? :)

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    • Yeah Christy, it’s tough to get to… that’s the part I loved the most I think. But I also loved more than the falls, the lost town, the mule packs, etc. Havasu is such a great trek!

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    • @Trans – Yeah, I’d actually do the Havasu hike again I think!

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  3. Beautiful photos Brendan. The colour of the water is incredible!

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    • Thanks Dean, I’ve never seen water like that in Havasu… it’s incredible.

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    • @Christy – Yeah, apparently Havasu gets busy in the summer. But the campsite only had one tent other than mine in it. I didn’t have a swim because it was COLLLD when I was there. People do swim though.

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  4. Beautifully written Brendan! Your words really tell a story far beyond what your already stunning photos show!

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    • Thank you Sasha, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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  5. I hiked the Grand Canyon a while back and did not make it to this waterfall area although I am quite familiar with its existence. While I regret skipping it, I don’t feel like I missed out as much as others because I spent four days hiking in the wilderness, which is four more days than most spend inside the Canyon. Most visitors to the Grand Canyon hang out at the South Rim, take pictures, and leave. Havasu is definitely on my radar and will check it out next time. Wonderful photos. You make this area look like Rivendell.

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    • @Ted – You’re right… so many people miss out on the power of the canyon, regardless where they are. There’s nothing more humbling than being down in the thick of it. You’ll have to make it to Havasu Falls one of these days.

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  6. Love the photos, especially the soft effect on the waterfalls.

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    • Yeah Jade, If you haven’t been to Havasu Falls you NEED to go :D

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  7. These are fantastic Brendan. Love the waterfall shots. We’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, but when we do go, we’ll make sure to add Havasu Falls to our itinerary. Cheers.

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    • @Deb – Thanks a lot. For me, Havasu is a better visit than the other grand canyon spots. Although it makes you work to get to it!

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  8. beautiful pictures! love the color of the water, looks like the Bahamas in the mountains

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    • Thanks Michelle, Havasu Canyon is such an incredible place!

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  9. Great post! I lived in Phoenix for 10 years and don’t know why I never made it to the falls. So gorgeous.

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    • Thanks Noelle, the Havasu Canyon was the highlight of my time in the US.

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  10. I did the Havasu hike way back in the mid-70′s, when it was virtually unknown. I hiked in at night and came out on horseback. It was before the big floods, so the calcite terracing at the foot of the falls was much grander, but it still looks beautiful today. Do you still have to get down to the foot of Mooney Falls by iron spikes pounded into the canyon walls and footholds carved into the rock by miners? I often wonder why this hasn’t become more of a “must see” destination because it’s truly spectacular, but I’m almost glad it hasn’t. Love to go back some day.

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    • Barbara, it’s an amazing place. Actually one of the men I talked to down there said that floods change the landscape every couple years. Apparently there are actually 3 new falls now that didn’t exist before. The hike down to Mooney is still the way you describe it, although maybe a little more “cut out”. I think the reason it’s still not “must see” is because of the hike into the canyon. If you could drive a car to Havasu Falls it might be one of the top attractions in the Americas.

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