The Other Grand Canyon: Arizona's Havasu Canyon and the Seldom-Seen South Rim

Let's face it: the Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring and impossible to comprehend unless you see it for yourself, hence the millions of camera-wielding visitors who flock there each year. With this in mind, it is possible to dodge the crowds clogging the edges of its 277-mile-long expanse. You just need to know where to go.
Havasu Canyon, at the western end of the Grand Canyon where Havasu Creek meets the Colorado River, is Arizona at its most untouched. The Havasupai Indians—"the people of the green water"—have called the canyon home since the 14th century, going to great lengths to preserve the region's natural integrity. No roads lead into the canyon; visitors must enter by foot, mule, or horse, traversing one of two eight-mile trails from Hualapai Hilltop to the village of Supai. Trails weave from Supai further into the canyon, linking a series of dramatic waterfalls in the descent towards the Colorado. The 75-foot Navajo Falls come first, followed by the 100-foot Havasu Falls, where you can wash away the day's heat in the calcium-rich waters, before arriving at the canyon's most impressive site: 196-foot Mooney Falls. The trail ends at Havasu Campsite, a bare-bones facility surrounded by sheer cliffs and roofed in by the Arizona sky. The less intrepid may want to loop back to the new lodge at Supai; if so, plan ahead. Reservations are commonly made months in advance—a small price to pay for a slice of luxury amidst so much rugged beauty.
If Havasu is too far off the beaten path, head to the Grand Canyon's South Rim, just 58 miles from Williams, Arizona. There will be crowds when you arrive, especially in the peak season, but after you start down the more challenging trails in this region, the people will thin out. Hermit Trail, a 4,000-foot descent that stops at Santa Maria and Hermit Springs, is a demanding, complicated trail that showcases some of the best the canyon has to offer. Boucher Trail, another rigorous hike, starts from a flat, scenic plain and then quickly evolves into a steep, boulder-ridden scramble to the Colorado. Grandview and Tonto Trails are two more equally challenging trails, which afford spectacular views and exposure to the ruins of an 1880s mining camp. The most important thing to remember when hiking the South Rim—or anywhere in Arizona, for that matter: Bring plenty of water. There are few places to reload after you hit the trail, and, once down below the South Rim, fewer people to bum water off, too.

Published: 31 Jul 2002 | Last Updated: 20 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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