havasupai: exploring beautiful waterfalls

Hi everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful day! I am very excited to be able to share another portion of our recent Arizona adventure! The first post I released was about Antelope Canyon which set the tone for what Arizona has to offer. There is just so much to see and it is such a stinking beautiful state. With that being said, I hope you enjoy the beauty of Havasupai. We most certainly did!


After camping in Page for a night, we packed up our things and drove to Peach Springs, AZ. This is the nearest town to the trailhead so I did a bit of research to decide where we would stay. I landed on Grand Canyon Caverns and Inn because they offered camping and had free showers. There was a hotel in the area but in the spirit of sleeping under the stars and saving money, I didn't want to stay there! The campground was interesting to say the least. We were greeted by a giant dinosaur outside the check-in office.

 See! I was not kidding!

See! I was not kidding!

I was already starting to question my decision about staying here and once I saw the dinosaur I REALLY didn't think I picked a good place to stay. However, we essentially had the entire campground to ourselves and the showers were nice and hot! A nice shower was really all we were interested in and this place definitely was great in that aspect! So we spent the evening having dinner, enjoying hot water since we wouldn't shower for a couple days, and preparing our packs to make the morning go as smooth as possible.

The following morning was an early one. Since the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop was about an hour and a half away, we decided to get up at 3 AM to be able to hit the road by 4. We packed up our things and left on schedule, heading out on a spur road that was surrounded by farmland. It was a little scary driving in the dark there because cows would appear eating right beside the road! Though it was pretty cool to see the landscape once the sun started to come up. Once we made it to the trailhead, we saw that there were so many cars parked along side the road. Mitch dropped my Dad and I off with all the gear at the tiny roundabout at the end of the road and went to park the car. Sooooo many people were already there and it was not even 6 in the morning! While we waited for Mitch, we took a look around. Thankfully, there were two composting toilets that still had toilet paper (yay!), a check in station where people were waiting around for their guides, and some dogs and mules wandered around.

 The trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop! So beautiful!

The trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop! So beautiful!

Mitch found us at the trailhead and we began our descent. We started at a blistering pace to try to beat some of the other hikers down to the bottom so we would be surrounded by less people. Some mules even decided to join us!

supai mules coming down the trail.jpg

We maneuvered our way around the mules and continued down the first mile of switchbacks, hiking through lots of dust from the high volume of people that have come down the trail. The second mile was a more gradual descent to the dry riverbed where the majority of the hiking takes place.

 We made it to the riverbed!

We made it to the riverbed!

The following six miles were flat and easy, just following along the canyon floor. The red rocks were beautiful and the hike was pretty peaceful regardless of how fast we were moving! As we got closer to the village, signs started to pop up to direct hikers.

Before we walked to the center of town, we stopped at a store and kitchen that is right at the mouth of the canyon (about eight miles into the hike). We had decided that we would try fry bread since so many people said it was awesome! We ordered fry bread topped with nutella and bananas and while we waited, hung out with some local puppers.

The fry bread was a perfect snack after making it to the bottom of the canyon! It was like a dense elephant ear. After we finished eating, we hiked to town to check-in and get our wristbands. (A little note: hiking to Havasupai is not a day hike and you will be charged out the wazoo if you hike down to the bottom of the canyon and ask for a permit. We saw this happen and they told the people to pay or hike out immediately. Therefore, apply for a permit right when the application period opens and maybe if you are lucky you will be able to snag one!)

The campground is actually two miles past the town, so that was honestly the hardest part of the hike for us. We were tired and it was starting to get very hot out. As we hiked, we followed the beautiful blue river as it ran through town and watched Supai dogs race past us up and down the trail. They were pretty cool dogs and looked like small border collies. Right before the campground, there is a large hill to trudge down but it is quickly rewarding. We were so stoked to see Havasu Falls!

Seeing the beautiful waterfall revived us a bit and we were able to wander through the campground and pick a site. It is first come first serve and there are no designated spots, just picnic tables placed about. There are also composting toilets which is so nice!

We picked our site and crashed. It was on a raised area surrounded by the river on either side with bridges. The spot was pretty neat! My Dad and I both took naps while Mitch set up the tents and the sleeping pads for the night. Since my Dad and I did not feel very good, it was a reminder to drink plenty of water! After napping, drinking, and eating, we both perked up. Around 2PM, we split up since Mitch and I wanted to see the other waterfalls. So we changed our clothes and shoes and left camp. We hiked to the end of the campground to find Mooney Falls which was just incredible!

mooney falls 4.jpg

To get down to the bottom of the falls, you have to climb through a rock tunnel (going down backwards makes this way easier!), hold onto chains bolted into the side of the rock face, and use ladders. Mind you, everything is wet and slippery from the mist. A funny aside about the rock tunnel: we happened to find it because a guy popped out and scared me. It was unintentional, but he just came out of no where!

Once Mitch and I made it down to the bottom, we looked at each other and said almost in unison, "well that was sketchy!". Hiking down in sandals was probably not the best choice but it was perfect for wading through the river!

Mooney Falls was stunning and powerful. It was my most favorite waterfall! We took some neat pictures and just admired the falls before heading on to Beaver Falls. It was about two miles away and we didn't think it would take that long! There are many paths following the river and all of them essentially lead to Beaver.

The hike there was a lot of fun! We crossed the river many times and waded in to areas that were probably two to three feet deep. The water was sadly not as warm as I envisioned it to be! After hiking for a while, we came across a palm tree keyhole and knew we were pretty close!

hiking in havasu canyon.jpg

Right after the keyhole, there was a ladder going up the side of the canyon. We decided to not take it and cross the river again since we saw some people coming from that direction. We hit a deep part in the river and Mitch had to pick me up and set me on a boulder so I could get out and continue on the path. After we both got out, the falls were so close! The trail popped us out at the top of the falls where someone had left climbing rope to help people traverse the rock face. We first had to scale across a narrow portion of rock before getting to the ropes that allowed a climb down. Once we made it to the base of the rock face, we had the falls all to ourselves and it was so worth it!

Mitch and I hung out and sat on the rocks for a while trying to soak everything in. It was really peaceful. Being there in that moment was a wild thought. We had drove 60 miles on a spur road this morning, hiked into the canyon, and then continued to make it to Beaver Falls in one day. The thought of everything that we had accomplished was pretty amazing to me. And the fact that we were hiking so far off the beaten path with beautiful waterfalls made me so happy and appreciative to be able to do things like this. My soul was happy.

It was starting to get late so we decided we should head back since it took us longer than expected to make it to Beaver and we did not want my Dad to worry! We had fun crossing the river again. The trail opened up to a small meadow and the canyon at dusk was so beautiful! 

havasu canyon.jpg

It took us about an hour to make it back to camp which ended up being about a 15 mile day. We were pretty tired! It was nice to be able to chill a bit at the end of the night. We made dinner and chatted about what we saw and showed my Dad some pictures. He had went to Havasu Falls and sat in his camping chair in the water which made me happy! I also took time to assess my feet since I had beat them up coming down the trail. With all of the sand falling into my trail runners, it created a lot of friction between my toes and I had multiple blisters. Wearing my Chacos to hike to Beaver didn't help either and I now had blisters on the sides of my feet! I can deal with blisters (thankfully) since they were pretty common when I was running a lot. When we were hiking in, I saw a lot of people hiking out wearing sandals and their shoes strapped to the back of their packs and now I understood why. I decided to do the same thing on the hike out to try to save my toes a bit (you will get to see a picture of my super sexy hiking socks and sandals at the end).

During dinner, the game plan for the following day was decided. The permit that we managed to get was for only one night so all of the exploring was jam packed into that time. To be out of the sun as much as possible, we decided to get up at 3 again to make as much progress before the sun could reach the bottom of the canyon. We ended up heading out around 5 after having breakfast and packing up our stuff. As the sun started to rise, we saw that it was starting off as a cloudy and breezy day which was perfect! I even managed to get a beautiful picture of Havasu Falls as the sun was coming up.

 So so beautiful.

So so beautiful.

The hike out of the campground was a bit tough because it was hilly, but once we made it to the village it was smooth sailing. We took a brief break to take a couple pictures of Little Navajo Falls and continued on our way.

little navajo falls.jpg

Hiking in the riverbed was piece of cake. There is barely any elevation change and not a lot of people were out which was awesome! Since we had less of a time crunch, it was nice to be able to look around and take a closer look at things. We were able to focus on being in the present instead of worrying about making it to a destination at a certain time.

The canyon walls were so cool and really towered over us! I also liked all of the overhangs and crevices. We all walked single file along a narrow path that had been formed by everyone before us. As we hiked farther and farther away from the village, there were less trees and bushes along the trail.

We hiked about eight miles until we took a break. This brought us to the final two mile climb out where we hike back up the rolling hill and then the switchbacks. We stopped and snacked to fuel up a bit to make sure we would be ready for the challenge! After our snack, we hoisted our packs back on and started on the final climb. We put our heads down and pretty much hiked until we were fatigued. Due to the time of day, a lot of mules were passing us on the way up and we had to move over to the inside of the trail. The breaks were appreciated! Hiking uphill with weight is tough! Right before we made it to the top, there was a mule that was whinnying and it sounded as if he was complaining about the steep climb out with all his weight. It helped all of us feel less bad about how beat we all felt hiking up the switchbacks!

Once we all made it to the top, we cheered! We had two very active and long days and we accomplished everything that we had hoped for! It was awesome! Mitch left his pack with my Dad and I to walk back to the car. We waited and just admired the view.

 Can you spot the switchbacks on the opposing canyon wall?

Can you spot the switchbacks on the opposing canyon wall?

Mitch showed up with the car and we all piled in, thankful to be ditching our packs for a while. Our next destination was Flagstaff so I would be able to get a different pair of shoes to help mitigate my blister problem. Here is a picture of my super cool high socks and sandals as promised.

 Fashion at it's finest.

Fashion at it's finest.

Well I hope you enjoyed reading about our Havasupai adventure! It was such a beautiful place. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment! Also, I have included some travel tips that could be helpful if you are planning a trip and want some advice. Until next time!

Some travel tips:

  1. Since the trail is very sandy, trail runners are not the best shoes to wear. I love my trail runners but the sand just slips through the mesh and causes blisters to form. I would say that waterproof train runners (since the lining will keep the sand out) or hiking boots would be the best footwear.
  2. Start very early! We got to the trail around 5:30AM and it was still super busy. If you want to spend more time in the shade once you hit the canyon floor and want to minimize the amount of other people you see on the trail, an early start iss for you.
  3. Drink lots of water! Once you start hiking and are off to a good pace, it is very easy to forget about drinking water. You also don't feel dehydrated until it is often too late. So carrying enough water on the hike in and taking salt tabs (we like the brand SaltStick) along the way will help keep you in tip top shape!
  4. If you don't have a water filter, there is a spring in the campground where you can fill up your bladder or water bottle.
  5. The campground is two miles past the village so the total mileage to the campground is ten! I would say the the final two miles to the campground after getting your wristbands and tent tag were the worst part of the hike in. Take a break in the village and grab some fry bread before heading down to your site. The trail is very sandy and gets incredibly hot as the day progresses. Be prepared!
  6. Have a ratsack or a bag of the same variety to protect your food when you are away from your campsite. The squirrels are VERY dedicated to stealing your food. I watched one steal a few things from a girl's backpack before I could chase it away. Keep your food in a ratsack and hang it in a tree!