The road to Havasupai is paved all the way though some parts are in need of resurfacing. From Route 66 it climbs steadily, quite winding at first then mostly straight, the surroundings changing from open grassland to pinyon-juniper woodland then, at the highest elevations, to a few miles of true pine forest before the trees fade away and the land opens out once more to reveal far-reaching views of treeless plains, distant cliffs of the Grand Canyon and the North Kaibab Plateau on the horizon. Most times of day the road sees little traffic, especially after the turn-off to the Hualapai settlement of Fraziers Well, with the exception of early morning and late afternoon, when many people drive by en route to or from the canyon. Fifteen miles of the road runs over BLM land, between the Hualapai and Havasupai reservations, and passes plenty of places for free camping - useful for those wanting an early start on the hike to Supai.
For the last few miles the road follows a shallow tributary canyon before ending at Hualapai Hilltop, which consists of a parking lot, helipad, mule corrals and a cluster of buildings on the edge of the sheer cliffs of Hualapai Canyon
, a sizeable tributary ravine. There are no visitor facilities, not even drinking water. From Hualapai Hilltop a well-marked trail
descends steeply to the flat valley floor and continues for 6 miles past several springs to the junction with Havasu Canyon, and then for a further 2 miles downstream to Supai. The hike is moderately strenuous and can take up to six hours; some people prefer the more expensive alternatives of renting a horse ($75 - Indian operatives) or traveling to the village by helicopter ($85 - private company). Other options are to hike both ways but have a mule carry most equipment, or hike down then ride a mule back up.
Supai has been the home of the Havasupai Indians for hundreds of years and for nearly all that time was very isolated and largely unknown to the outside world but now receives up to 500 visitors per day in summer and a yearly total of 25,000.
Although tourism is now the main source of income, the Supai still follow a traditional way of life, albeit with modern accessories like satellite dishes and air-conditioning. There are of course no cars here, the only motorized vehicles being a few ATVs and tractors, so travel is by horse, mule or on foot. Supai has around 450 people living in 130 houses, spread out over 2 miles of a wide, flat, wooded area of the canyon, and includes two churches, a museum, clinic (not for visitors except in emergencies), cafe, rodeo corral, two general stores, school, post office - the only one in the US where mail is still delivered by mule - and various administrative buildings. The village is surrounded by high cliffs of Supai sandstone, a deep red rock found all over the Grand Canyon and named after this location. Two prominent rock spires on the west side, known as Wigleeva, are believed by the Havasupai to be guardian spirits which watch over the tribal homeland, and will ensure continued prosperity as long as they stand.
Fees and Regulations
Accommodation at Supai is in either a high price, 24 room lodge ($145 for a room, for up to 4 persons) in the village or at the campground two miles beyond, adjacent to the creek and occupying a half mile stretch of the canyon. Fees were increased in 2007 to a rather steep $35 per person to enter the reservation and $17 per person per night for camping. The campsite is of the primitive type, with picnic tables, pit toilets and spring water for drinking; all stays must be reserved in advance. No campfires, pets, firearms or alcohol are permitted anywhere on the reservation, and only Hualapai/lower Havasu canyons are open to hiking - all other areas require special permission.
More details - description of the trail to Supai, Havasu Canyon and the waterfalls