“Rise and shine ya’ll!” Rach yelled. I was immediately jerked away from a gentle slumber and into the dimly lit hotel room.
“Ugh,” Logan slowly rolled out of bed.
“We’re going to Havasu falls today!” Rach said all too excitedly.
We quietly brushed our teeth, finished stuffing a few last items into our packs, and scarfed down our oatmeal.
By 5:00 am we were on the road and headed to the Havasupai Reservation trailhead, an hour long drive from our hotel in Peach Springs. Logan dozed off in the backseat as Rach and I kept a look out for cows, elk, and rabbits on the road.
At 6:00 am, we arrived at the trailhead and quickly found a parking spot.
“Whoooooosh!” The wind pushed us as we jumped out of the car and adjusted our packs. I could see Rach shivering under the light of my head lamp. By 6:11 am we were on the trail and had ten rugged miles ahead of us.
The trail started out as a group of steep downhill switchbacks.
“This is going to be terrible on the way back,” Logan said.
We hit the only mile marker on the whole trail, the mile 1 marker, in no time. We took a small break to appreciate the scenery around us that was just starting to be illuminated by the rising sun. We were standing in what appeared to be a creek bed sandwiched between a deep canyon. We continued along the trail.
The next seven miles of the trail were fairly flat and we managed to keep a swift pace. After about three hours, we arrived at the small village of Supai, Arizona. We looked around in awe at the small houses with horses milling about in the front yards. Cottonwood trees lined the dirt streets and their seeds caught the morning sunlight and looked like snowflakes as they lazily floated in the gentle breeze. We made it to the tourism office and checked in with our confirmation code. They gave us an orange tag for our tent and three wrist bands that we wouldn’t take off for three days.
“Two more miles guys,” I said as I put my pack back on and began hiking out of the village. After about a mile, we started to catch glimpses of blue green water peaking through the trees. We passed two fifty-foot falls–Little Navajo Falls, and Old Navajo Falls–and finally, after hours of hiking we turned a downhill bend in the trail and set eyes on Havasu Falls to our right. We stopped and admired the view for a few minutes. The aquamarine water plummeted into a deep blue pool and seemed particularly bright against the contrast of the orange rocks behind. We continued down the hill and found our way through the campsite. This part became a little tricky.
“Do we pick out a campsite close to drinking water that isn’t as scenic or do we hike farther away from the drinking water where the campsites are closer to the creek and more secluded?” we asked ourselves. We ultimately opted to hike farther away from drinking water to enjoy a more appealing campsite.
In our search for a spot to pitch our tents, we found a spacious site across the creek with two picnic tables. We slowly walked toward it and paused when we came to the “bridge” we would need to cross in order to get to the campsite. I use the term bridge here loosely because what was in front of us was a rickety, handmade ladder strewn across the swiftly flowing creek.
“No way. This is insane!” Logan grinned in excitement as he gingerly tried his footing out on the rungs of the bridge. We slowly made our way across one at a time because if we were all on the bridge at once it started to bend and shake vigorously making it easy to lose our balance. We made it across, set up camp, and changed into our swimming suits, so we could get back to the falls as quickly as possible. Our campsite was about .7 miles from Havasu Falls but this hike seemed easy without large packs on our backs.
When we arrived at Havasu Falls we just stood for a few moments and felt mist catch the wind and blow in our faces. It was stunning. We couldn’t believe the lush greenery surrounding the teal waterhole and sunburnt rock. More seeds from the cottonwood trees floated through the air giving the sense of a gentle flurry again. We found a spot to put our bags and made our way into the water. I’m not sure exactly what we were expecting the water to feel like. I guess we assumed it would be freezing cold, but I must say the water felt refreshing but definitely not frigid. We spent the rest of the day basking in the Arizona sun and swimming in the bluest water.
The Canyon at Twilight
At dinner time, we headed back to our campsite and changed into dry clothes. The sky slowly turned gray and the temperature began to drop. Wind whipped dirt into our tent coating our belongings in a red film. We grabbed our half-cooked dinner and headed for the tent in preparation for a storm, but after a few minutes of gusting winds the sky opened up to a beautiful sunset. We opened up the tent and Rach and I cooked dinner as Logan tried as best he could to remove the dirt that had been blown into his sleeping bag. We ate refried bean burritos followed by some hot chocolate and warm whiskeys. As the sun set, the canyon revealed another beautiful site: the stars in the night sky. Because there isn’t much light pollution in the area, we could see an impressive number of stars. We went to bed early with our bellies satisfied and our hearts full of adventure.
The next morning Rach and I got up early and sipped our piping hot coffee as we waited for Logan to wake up. He eventually emerged from the tent.
“How’d you sleep?” I asked as I made him a cup of coffee.
“Oh man, I had on every article of clothing I brought because it was so cold!” Logan groggily said.
“Yeah, next time we should probably get you a better sleeping bag,” Rach chimed in.
We ate our breakfast slowly and made a plan for the day.
“We have to check out Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls today,” Rach said. “Beaver Falls is only another two miles past our campsite so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to get there.”
“OK,” Logan and I both agreed.
We started out on the trail again. Only about five minutes from our campsite was Mooney Falls. The tallest of all the falls at the Havsupai reservation at about 200 feet tall. We followed the trail until we came to a sign that said “DESCEND AT OWN RISK.”
DESCEND AT OWN RISK!
Through the tunnels
Holding onto chains for balance
And, finally down the ladder to the bottom
We had seen a few people hike down to Mooney Falls the previous day and we understood that this sign was extremely honest and accurate. The next portion of the trail went through a few tunnels and scaled a large rock wall with wet foot hold and iron chains as climbing aids and eventually ended with a sketchy handmade wooden ladder. We took our time climbing down as the mist from Mooney Falls beat down on us but eventually made it to the bottom. We decided to head straight to Beaver Falls and admire Mooney Falls later in the day.
The hike to Beaver Falls is only two miles. However, it is a long two miles. We looped up and down the dirt terrain and crossed the creek over countless rickety bridges and logs until finally we made it to a small ranger station where we checked in. Beaver Falls was just a couple hundred feet away. When we first saw it, we were a on a cliff above it. Beaver Falls was by far our favorite set of falls. The blue water cascaded over white travertine rock formations. We made our way to the base of the falls and put our packs down.
We spent the next few hours climbing over various rock formations, jumping off cliffs, and basking in the sun.
At about 1:30 p.m. we started to notice shadows being cast across the water. The steep canyon walls were already stealing sunlight from us. By 2:00 p.m. there wasn’t any direct sunlight left in the canyon making for a chilly hike back to Mooney Falls and eventually our campsite.
The next morning we woke up early, packed up the tent, sleeping pads, and sleeping bags, and slowly began the ten mile hike back to our car.
Looking back on this trip to Havasupai Falls, I am so thankful I was able to share this experience not only with Rachel, but with my brother-in-law Logan as well. I believe this place is truly a treasure. And we are so blessed the Havasupai people allow people to enjoy its uniqueness and beauty.