Hiking Arizona’s Havasupai Trail round trip isn’t easy, but the payoff is worth the pain

Framed by pitch-black canyon walls rising monumentally on either side of the rushing, rain-swollen Havasu Creek, the night sky bursts with snow-white stars and Milky Way swirls.

It is the last night of a grueling three-day Havasupai Trail round trip to the waterfalls in northern Arizona’s Havasu Canyon, an offshoot of the Grand Canyon. The hike offers bliss by way of blisters, far from the crowds.

Even though the mesa-top Hualapai trailhead is less than 30 miles as the eagle flies from tourist-thronged Grand Canyon Village inside the national park, it is 191 miles away by car, most on deserted roads. Tribal members heading home and hikers, not day-trippers spilling out of buses, embark on this trail.

The vistas into the red and white infinity of rock formations, punctuated by unexpectedly green desert brush, are breathtaking. The first couple of miles of switchbacks, dropping 2,000 feet to a wash at the canyon floor, take away what little breath you might have left.

Mercifully flat, the next 7 miles snake through gauntlets of orange-to-salmon smooth ledges, along a cottonwood-lined stream, through tiny Supai village and its corrals of pack mules and horses – for the hikers who prefer not to stagger under a 30-plus-pound backpack.

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