Hiking Havasupai

Every time I go on an adventure, I come home with a new perspective. My trip to Havasupai was no exception. For those unfamiliar with Havasupai Falls, it is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in the Supai Indian Reservation. The only ways to get there are on foot, horse or helicopter. What makes campground an epic destination is that it sits between two incredible waterfalls of crystal clear blue water. The creek that runs between them goes right through the campground. Reservations (Permits) are limited so they sell out immediately every year.

My cousin and I decided to get permits for 2018. The day they went on sale we were ready and waiting online. My cousin was a able to score permits before they sold out. We were set to hike Havasupai in late September. I was ecstatic.

In the months leading up to my Havasupai hike I trained. The reason helicopters and horses are an option is because it is a strenuous hike. Carrying all of your supplies on your back to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back is no easy feat. To train I spent extra time on local trails with steep inclines. My goal was to be in shape so I could enjoy my adventure. I also spent time curating the list of items I intended to pack down.

Havasupai Packing ListI decided to fly into Las Vegas and rent a car. I drove to the trailhead the day before our hike down to into the canyon. The recommendation is to start hiking before the sun comes up because the heat makes the hike much more strenuous. We decided to leave the trailhead at 4am.  Some people choose to stay in a nearby town the night before. The closest town is over an hour away from the trailhead. For me, that meant sleeping in my rental car at the trailhead the night before.

The only person I knew in our group of 6 was my cousin. Everyone else I met for the first time at 4am at the trailhead. My group was made up of my cousin’s friend and her friend best friend, as well as another couple. Although we started as strangers, we bonded over those next three days.

It’s an 11ish mile hike from the trailhead to the campground with approximately a 3K foot elevation drop. Often people underestimate the toll that much downhill hiking can take on your body. The first hour or two we were hiking in the dark. We followed the light of our headlamps as we trekked down into the dark canyon. As the sun rose over the canyon, a beautiful landscape was revealed. We were enveloped with rich red canyon walls.

With pictures, water/snack breaks and exploring it took us almost 5 hours to reach the Supai village from the top of the canyon. This is where you check in and get your wristband to prove you have permits. Rangers patrol various parts of the trail to ensure all visitors have the proper permit. Once we were checked in, we walked the last mile or two to the campground. At that point it felt like it had been an entire day but it wasn’t even lunch time.

When you walk into the Havasupai campground there are no real designated camping spots. After some looking around we found a little island surrounded by arms of the Havasu Creek. You had to walk across a log to cross the creek to get to the site. My tent was less than 5 feet from the Havasu creek. It was amazing falling asleep to the sound of the rushing water every night.

Once we got our tents set up to claim our spot and ate some lunch we put on our bathing suits and walked down to Havasu Falls. I was mesmerized by the clear blue water. We lounged in the pools created by the sandstone and dove into the falls. The water was chilly but revitalizing after that long hike! We also did some exploring and met a few people that gave us some advice on our planned hike to Beaver Falls the next day.

Everyone was ready for bed early that first day. I believe I was in bed before 7pm. We had agreed to get up early to start our hike to Beaver Falls, which was around 8 miles roundtrip from the campground. We were all still tired that next morning but we had all heard it was a beautiful hike and a great place to spend the day.

The trail to Beaver Falls first takes you past Mooney Falls. Mooney Falls is breathtaking. It is nearly 100 ft tall. The trail down to the bottom of the falls, that continues on to Beaver Falls, is definitely a little scary. You have to scale the canyon wall down to Mooney Falls using chains secured to the sandstone wall and some rickety ladders. As someone that is a little scared of heights, I had to face my fear of slipping and falling. Sometimes there is a line of people waiting to go up or down the path. Some said it took close to an hour at busier times of the day.

Beaver Falls completely surpassed my expectations. The hike from the campground was absolutely incredible. So much vegetation for the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Several people have said it was like being in the movie Jurassic Park. There were several creek crossings, ladders and some rock scrambling which made for an exciting hike.

When we arrived at Beaver Falls we couldn’t believe it. It was like a playground of waterfalls. So many pools of water to lounge in and waterfalls to play in and jump off of. We played in the waterfalls for hours. It was amazing! We decided to leave when it started to get a little crowded. The hike back to Mooney Falls and the campground went quick. Our way back was slightly different because the trails are a little confusing and not marked but all led to the same place.

Later that night we headed back to Havasu Falls to enjoy our last night at camp. I also walked up towards the village for some homemade fry bread with nutella. It was just what I needed after putting in so many miles in two days.

At dinner we planned our hike out. It was going to be a tough hike. We had to go back up those 3K feet we hiked down. The plan was to get up at 4, tear down camp and be on the trail by 5 in order to beat the heat of the day. We hit the trail about 5:30 and kept a good pace.  As we passed through the Supai Village on the way out we saw people lining up for helicopter rides to the top. Our group was pretty quiet on the hike out. It was time to focus.

I felt pretty good up until that last mile and a half. That last section is made up of very steep switchbacks. At that point the sun was beating down on us. My feet hurt and my legs were tight and my 35 pound pack felt like 70 pounds. I stopped in every shady spot I came across to catch my breath and get a break from the heat. It took all I had to get up that last quarter of a mile. Once I reached the top though and looked back I couldn’t believe all that I had accomplished.

I had such an incredible weekend with some truly inspiring people. I loved how encouraging and supportive everyone was to each other. One moment we would be joking around and the next in a deep conversation about love and life.

Roughly 10 years prior I hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. I was about 70 pounds heavier than I was for Havasupai. I barely made it through that hike. I was miserable. It took me days to recover. This time was completely different. It really put how far I have come physically and mentally in perspective. Later that night, at my hotel, I had tears in my eyes just thinking about all I had accomplished. I left that Canyon more proud of myself than I have ever been.

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