The falls are less than two miles from the indigenous village of Supai. The Havasupai region is outside of the boundaries of the national park, within the jurisdiction of the Havasupai Tribe. While visitors are welcomed to the area, it is not an easy journey, and it has become much more time-consuming and expensive.
To get to the falls, guests depart from Hualapai Hilltop on the rim, hiking eight miles into the canyon before reaching Supai and the Havasupai Lodge. From there, it is another two miles to the campground where most visitors sleep. Hikers retrace their steps on the return, climbing 2,400 feet to the canyon rim.
Because its popularity (20,000 visitors annually) had created a party-like atmosphere in one of the most pristine wilderness locations in the country, the tribe instituted new policies last year. No guided outfitters are allowed. Camping is mandatory (no day visits), with a minimum four-day, three-night stay in the canyon required. Weeknights cost $100 per evening per person and weekends run $125 per person per night, at the time of publication. This does not include any gear rentals or food. For visitors wishing to stay at the Havasupai Lodge, the rates will balloon to $440 per night this year. Reservations will open in February.
Location: Havasupai Falls is about a 3-hour drive northwest of Flagstaff, Ariz.
At Aravaipa, similar scenery with fewer people and complications
For a more easily accessible and affordable escape, if one that’s not quite as blue, head southeast to Aravaipa in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. Situated equidistant from Phoenix, Tucson and the New Mexico border, Aravaipa is three hours from everywhere but feels like the middle of nowhere.
The Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness area covers more than 19,000 acres of territory through which the Aravaipa Creek flows year-round. As with Havasupai Falls, towering red cliffs provide a picturesque backdrop to the flowing waters. There is no travertine (the limestone that gives Havasupai its aqua coloring) in Aravaipa Creek, but the riparian habitat is peppered with sycamore, ash, cottonwood and willow trees. For visitors in the fall, the canyon walls stand in stark contrast to the brilliant yellow leaves of the fading foliage.
The Bureau of Land Management oversees Aravaipa. Visitors can come and go as they please, and day hiking is allowed. Permits are required ($5 per person per day, plus a $6 reservation fee), and visitors may not stay more than three days or two nights. There are no designated campgrounds; campers can pitch their tents in any visibly used location (following Leave No Trace guidelines). For those seeking solitude, it is easy to find: Only 50 people are permitted per day. Hikers who would like a curated experience can enjoy a four-day, three-night trip with REI (guides, meals, tents and transportation from Scottsdale included; $1,400) that begins at the east entrance and concludes at the western trailhead.
Location: The Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness is about 3 hours southeast of Phoenix.
Rochfort is a writer based in Colorado. Find her on Twitter (@HeatherRochfort) and Instagram (@heatherrochfort).