Saturday, October 1, 2016

Havasupai- aka The Hidden Paradise in the Grand Canyon

After moving to Flagstaff, all of the "most do" activities for nearby attractions always led me to Havasu/Havasupai Falls.  Several Grand Canyon postcards and advertisements use the unique turquoise water-- however, it is almost impossible to see the naturally, breathtaking waters in the flesh.  Okay, perhaps I am being a little dramatic, but it is actually really hard to get a camping permit in the beautiful little piece of paradise.  After missing out on an opportunity via Meetup and another through the hiking group at NAU, I pretty much accepted the fact that I may not see the falls in person while living in Flagstaff.  However, while working at the City of Flagstaff, my supervisor told me that her and her friends got a last minute camping reservation for the following weekend.  She told me to try and call because cancellations are pretty frequent. After hearing that little bit of hope, I decided to give them a call.  I first called the Camping Office on a Monday at 9am.  I believe I used the 2121 number.  The lady who picked up the phone told me that they were completely booked for the season, which lasts through November.  I knew this was my fate, and decided to call them in another hour.  So after about 45 minutes had passed, I took a water break (I was collecting data at the time), and I decided to give them another call.  This time, I called the 2141 number.  The phone gave me a busy tone, so I hung up.  I remember I edited some data and decided to call once more.  So, I called the same number, and it rang for almost a minute.  I was about to hang up, but a voice was on the other line.  I asked about 2 different weekends in October, but this new lady told me the same news.  I then asked if there were any openings in September, and then she said yes!  She said that they had an opening for 2 nights for 2 people in September.  Of course, I didn't exactly know what days they were, but I accepted the opening.  I gave her my name and wrote down my confirmation number.  I was head over heels excited for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

** So this is how the reservation process goes down.  Feb 1st is when the season opens for camping.  I heard that since so many people are calling on this day, that it is nearly impossible to get someone to answer the phone.  You could be lucky and get someone to answer, but your dates might not be available.  When I called the office, it was the last week in July, and it was for a reservation in early Sept.

Anyways, fast forward to a week before the trip.  I start school for the semester and realized that I couldn't miss school that Wednesday, which happened to be the first day of our trip.  I called the camping reservation and asked if it was possible to change my trip by 1 day.  I got denied, which made me really upset.  This isn't a trip that you want to do in 2 days.  I waited a few days and called back, on a Saturday afternoon.  The phone rang for a minute, and I almost hung up.  However, a chipper lady answered the phone.  I asked her what time the tourist office closes in the village, because you have to check in there before you go into the campsite.  She told me 6pm, which would not have been enough time for me to teach lab that Wednesday morning, and drive 3 hours to the trail head.  I told her that I wouldn't be able to make it on time, and if it was possible to change my reservation by 1 day for my party of 2.  She told me to hang on, and got back with an answer.  She said that since it was just 2 people, that one extra night shouldn't be a problem in the campsite.  I thanked her so much and confirmed my reservation number.

I was very, very lucky with this whole reservation process.  I booked a 3 night stay at a kennel for Kodak.  Though, it was more than just a kennel-- they have doggie day camp and have 24 hour care!  Anyways, Brandon and I made a meal list, ran to REI for last minute supplies, and packed our bags.  We were very excited about this trip.

Day 1

We left Flagstaff at 4:30ish on Thursday morning.  Brandon slept in the car while I drove to the trailhead, which was almost 3 hours away.  We arrived at the trail head around 7am.  We tidied up our packs, got all situated, and headed down the trail at 7:20am.  The trail was all down hill, which meant it was going to be all uphill on the way back.  However, I tried to not focus on the future, but rather on the now.  We passed several groups that were hiking up, and got passed by a few pack mules.  We even saw the helicopter.  The weather was great and we were in the shaded during the majority of the hike to the village.

Havasu Falls
The hike from the trailhead to the village was 8 miles.  Yes, 8 miles.  When you get to the village, you have to check into the tourist office.  Here, you pay for your trip, get wristbands that must stay on you for the entire trip, a tag for your tent, and a few rough maps of the area.  We got to the tourist office around 11:20, which meant it took us 4 hours to hike 8 miles downhill.  We took breaks for food, water, and picture opportunities.  There were several groups checking in at the same time as us, so we didn't get out of the office until almost noon.

Once you check in, you have to pay for your reservation.  It is $35 per person to enter.  Then, $5 per person for an environment fee, and then $17 per person per night for camping. It is rather expensive for camping, but this is how the Village makes their money.  When you pay, everyone in your party gets a wristband that must stay on during the duration of your trip.  After checking in and getting your wristbands, it is another 2 miles to the campsite from the village.  The village is home to almost 300 Supai people.  There is a helicopter pad, a school, post office, trading post, lodge, and cafeteria.  We didn't spend much time at the village, since we had everything that we needed.  The 2 mile hike to the campsite was really hot-- the sun was out and if was of course the hottest part of the day.  It took us almost an hour to reach the campsite.  I was very exhausted from the heat. While going to the campsite, you pass Upper and Lower Navajo Falls and Havasu Falls.  We knew that we were going to head right to Havasu Falls once we set up camp.

We reached the campsite and saw one available spot.  Not knowing what the campsite status was, I sat with our stuff at the first site while Brandon continued down the camping area to hunt for available sites.  He said there were several nicer spots, so we walked a little further.  We found a nice spot that was off the trail with some shade and picnic table.  We set up our tent, ate a snack, and put on our bathing suits.  By this time, it was around 2pm.  We decided to head back to Havasu Fall which was just about a quarter mile from our campsite.

Havasu Falls was amazing.  We jumped in the water, which was cold, but felt really good after a 10 mile hike.  The area was a little crowded.  There were people eating on the picnic tables, some people were asleep on the beach, while others were playing the blue water.  After enjoying the nice water, the sun moved below the canyon, so it was getting cold.  We went back to the the campsite and grabbed some dinner and water.  We went back to Havasu Falls, and no one was there.  We cooked out dinner and enjoyed the lovely views.  We headed back to the campground right before dark.  I was exhausted and went right to sleep.  Brandon stayed awake for a little bit to take pictures of the stars.

Day 2

Mooney Falls
We decided to let our bodies sleep in after our long hike yesterday.  I remember waking up to hearing people people on the trail.  It was a slow moving morning since we were a little sore.  We had breakfast and decided to do Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls.  We packed our day packs and continued down the campsite and saw all of the other sites we missed.  About a half mile away is Mooney Falls.  This waterfall is taller than Havasu Falls with a very strong undertow.  We took pictures from above and looked at the climb down--- and it look terrifying.  But, I was going to do it.  Brandon hooked his GoPro to his head and he recorded the climb down.  The climb down to Mooney was a narrow hike, through these mini-like caves.  Then, you had to descend using ladders and chains.  It was definitely terrifying, and I didn't have that much fun, but the view were worth it.  At the last ladder, there was a Rez dog just chilling.  She was in my way, but after gathering up my guts, I attempted to go around her, and we were both safe.  The Falls were beautiful, but we wanted to head over to Beaver Falls since it was a 2 mile hike away.  The trails was not marked at all, and at times, it could of been difficult to lose the trail.  After a few water crossing and sketchy ladders, we made it to Beaver Falls.

Beaver Falls was not crowded at all.  Beaver Falls is a cascaded waterfall with several pools.  Before descending down to Beaver, there was a Native to checked our Wristbands.  It was crazy to see that they still had some checking wristbands all the way out at Beaver.  Anyways, we enjoyed the cold water for about an hour and had lunch.  It took us almost 2 hours to get from Mooney to Beaver.  It was around 2pm when we headed back to Mooney.  Heading back was a little tough since we lost the trail twice, but we ended up where we needed to be.  We took photos of Mooney Falls, but decided to grab our dinner back at the campsite and eat it at Havasu.  The climb back up from Mooney was just as scary.  Since the wind changed direction, the mist from the falls made the chains really slippery.  But, I made it back up in one piece. 

Near Beaver Falls
We arrived back at the campsite.  I changed out of my bathing suit and into some dry clothes. We grabbed dinner and went back to Havasu Falls.  We stayed until about dark again and went back to camp.  Since we were heading out in the morning, we packed our bags the best that we could that night, so we could head out early.

Day 3

My phone alarm went off at 5:30.  We got up, took down camp, packed our bags, and hiked on out at 6:30am.  We stopped at Havasu Falls once again to quickly eat breakfast.  We enjoyed the last views of the Falls, and hiked back to the Village.  We arrived at the village around 8am.  The helicopter doesn't run on Saturdays, but we should of used a pack mule...anyways, the hike out was a tough one.  The never ending uphill was a killer.  We took our time, had plenty of water breaks, and took rest stops in the shade.  They last hour and a half, and mile and a half, was the worst.  It was a 1,000 feet change in elevation.  With a 30 pound pack on my back and during the hottest part of the day, I seriously thought I was going to die--okay, I was being super dramatic, but it was a tough hike, and it was super hot.  Brandon does a great job putting up with me, but I was thrilled to see a small little stand at the top of the Hilltop.  Here, we bought 2 cans of Dr. Pepper, 1 cold water bottle, and 2 slices of watermelon for $10.  It was so great.  Overall- the trip was awesome, and I would do it again.  Here are some tips.
The Only Way Up and Down to Mooney Falls


  • Leave early.  During the later summer/early fall hours, you can leave the Hilltop around 7am and get to the Village at 11am.  Perfect for beating the sun.
  • Filter your water.  Even though it's from a spring, we still filtered our water.  We heard several people have bad times in the restrooms
  • There are 3 compost restroom areas in the campground. 
  • You check in at the lady at the top of the Hilltop to confirm your confirmation before heading down
  • Don't stop at the first open campsite you see.  The campground goes back quite a ways with some very nice spots by the water.
  • There is a Cash-Only Frybread stand between Havasu Falls and the campground.  They were open around dinner time both nights we were there. 
  • Don't wear your packs when hiking back to the Hilltop.  I will definitely pay for a Pack Mule next time.  
  • You can pay with Cash or Card at the tourist check in
  • My hydroflask was awesome.  It kept ice cold water in it for 3 days. 
  • Take all of the pictures! 
  • Go down to Mooney Falls. It's super scary, but totally worth it!
  • Always wear your wristband
  • There is a Trading Post and Cafeteria in the Village

Funny story-- as we were hiking to the campground after checking into the tourist, we past these 3 southern people.  They were giggling up a hill and we said "hi."  The lady told me "We're going back to the village for a Coke."  I don't know why, but I thought that was so funny.

Also, my FitBit lasted the entire 3 days.  From Hilltop and back to Hilltop, my FitBit recorded almost 35 miles for the 3 days!  Talk about a workout.  I also lost 4 pounds when I weighed myself when I got back to the apartment. 

1 comment:

  1. Grand Canyon is amazing place. It is real beauty of nature. Thanks for sharing this.