Hike Date: March 20-21, 2015 and April 9-11, 2015
Miles: Approx: 30 miles in 2 days for Round 1 and who knows how many for Round 2
Havasupai translates as the people of the Blue-Green Water, a name very fitting due to the amazing color of the Havasu Creek. The water of the creek has large amounts of travertine which results in the color of the creek, and results in many of the waterfalls that exist along the creek as the travertine basically acts as mortar sticking rocks and logs and everything else together.
This post is going to be a bit long as it covers 5 days of backpacking spread across two trips… also you may be overcome by an intense want to go backpacking after reading this. You’ve been warned.
I was incredibly lucky in that I was able to travel to this amazing place twice in a 4 week period, the first trip was great for getting a feel of where everything was, while the second trip allowed me to explore all the way down Havasu Canyon to the Grand Canyon (interesting tidbit: I’d never actually been to the Grand Canyon before, this was probably one of the best ways to be introduced to it).
I’ll go through and describe both trips, as while they were to the same place at the same time of year, they were very different trips.
Havasu Round 1
The first trip was a simple 1 night, 2 day quick in-and-out style backpacking trip. We drove out from Los Angeles on Thursday night, and were on the trail to Supai Village around 5 AM on Friday morning. After hiking 10 miles or so we arrived in Supai Village and stopped to check in, relax for a few minutes, eat something and proceed the final two miles to the campground (which we arrived at just after noon).
Due to time constraints we basically decided to just setup camp quickly and then head up the trail to Havasu Falls (which is basically on the Supai side of the campground). We all jumped into the pool underneath the main falls, and then played in some of the small pools near the waterfall (after the main falls, there are a couple of small falls all of which have a pool under). The weather was just about perfect for swimming, which really made this trip just about perfect.
Havasu Falls was just the first of the waterfalls we visited that afternoon. Next up was the combination of the two Navajo Falls and 50-Foot Falls (my personal favorite). These waterfalls all provided awesome pictures, and some very fun swimming.
After swimming here for a bit, and the sun starting to sink down, it was time to head back to camp before we got chilly.
Once at camp, a few of us decided to head to the other end of the campground to visit Mooney Falls, which I still think is the most impressive of the waterfalls, even though it is technically slightly smaller than Havasu Falls. Mooney Falls is by and far the most powerful waterfall I had seen there. Plus the hike down involved chains and ladders, so what wasn’t to enjoy?
Needless to say, when everything looks like that a single night wasn’t long enough to really get my fill of everything that Havasupai had to offer.
Havasu Round 2
While on another hike, someone offered me the chance to go back to Havasupai, I was a bit reluctant at first as I had already scheduled a hike on the Saturday we were supposed to drive back from Arizona, but I ended up giving in eventually (obviously my arm had to be bent a whole lot to convince me to go).
This trip is an extra day longer, and what a difference one extra day makes! We drove out on a Wednesday night, in order to drive back on Saturday afternoon. This followed pretty much exactly how the previous drive went: leave Los Angeles at night, arrive around 4:30 AM. This allowed us to make it down to Supai Village around 8:30 AM, and check in. After checking in we headed straight down to camp and spent some time looking for a really nice campground (we were there early enough where people leaving that day had already left but no one else was competing with us for a spot). We found this awesome little spot basically on an island where the creek forked around us. It is easily in the top 10 camping sites I have stayed at.
Getting camp setup was a pretty quick affair, and then all that was left was to eat something and start playing in the waterfalls. The big issue on this trip was the weather: when we left the car at 4:30 it was a whopping +20°F, and while we were a few thousand feet lower a few hours later it still wasn’t especially warm on our first day (NWS set the high for 74°F). We attempted to swim at Havasu Falls (most of us got into the water at least), but it was just a little chilly to really enjoy.
After playing around at Havasu Falls for a while, we made the trek down to Mooney Falls, and enjoyed the view until it was time to head back to camp for dinner and an early turn in (everyone was in their tents by 6:30). This ended up being good, as we needed to be up early the next morning to hike down to Beaver Falls and then to the Grand Canyon.
The hike from camp to Beaver Falls is pretty easy, with a couple of exceptions: the hike down to Mooney Falls is a bit technical, and there are a couple of spots where ropes can be used (or you can do additional water crossings). We made it to Beaver Falls between 9:45 and 10:00 AM, which gave us plenty of time to swim and explore the falls for a bit before starting to head out on our exploratory hike to the Grand Canyon.
The first challenge of any hike, especially an exploratory one, is finding the trail. Sometimes that takes a few minutes to do, this was one of those times. After we did find the trail, we found it was a very “fun” trail. About a quarter-mile after Beaver Falls we ended up scaling our way down the cliff with sheer exposure, which prompted deposited us in the river. After getting our feet wet we found the actual trail on land and started following it downstream. There were a number of water crossings, which were fun but a little challenging as the current was pretty strong in quite a few places.
If you see the choppy water on the other end of the narrow canyon, you are actually seeing the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. There is technically an “official” trail above the creek here, but getting to the canyon via the creek was awesome. The current got very strong in the final narrow section, but the water is only 3-4 feet deep (for perspective, I’m 6’5″, while most of the people I was hiking with were under 5’8″).
The above picture isn’t an optical illusion: the blue water of Havasu Creek doesn’t mix immediately with the brown water of the Colorado River, instead there is a kind of line in the water where the two waters meet. There is also a 15°F change in temperature between the two waters, as I very much noticed when wandering just a little too far out into the river.
The Grand Canyon was an awesome side trip to make, if I get to go to Havasupai again for a 3-4 day trip, I most certainly plan on returning. Now that I know the trail it should go considerably faster as well.
After spending some time at the Grand Canyon soaking in the views, it was time to head back up all of the way to camp. This was a rather long hike, as we needed to first hike to Beaver Falls, and then hike the final two miles from there up to our campground. We made it back safe and sound just as the sun was starting to set, and we were all plenty ready for a nice warm dinner.
After this adventure, we relaxed for a while, and hit our sleeping pads. The next morning we needed to get up, break camp, and then head up to Navajo and 50-Foot Falls to spend a few hours before hiking out. The goal was to get to the cars near sunset so that we weren’t on the final switchbacks during the hottest part of the day. Unfortunately, we left camp about 90 minutes early, and didn’t spend quite a enough time relaxing so we ended up on the final switchbacks around 3:30 PM, right in the middle of the heat of the day.
For those not familiar with the trail, the final 1.5 miles of trail is a very steep set of switchbacks (I believe it gains 1500 feet in the 1.5 miles). This would be annoying normally, but becomes downright difficult when you are carrying backpacking gear and there is absolutely no shade at all to be found (oh, and to top it all off you have been hiking for around 9 miles by this point).
Overall, Havasupai is a place anyone who can handle the effort of hiking to should try and visit at least once in their lifetime. It is a beautiful place easily living up to its reputation of being the “Garden of Eden in the Desert.”