Havasu Falls is an amazing paradise in the western Grand Canyon, and there is truly no place like it on earth. Turquoise waterfalls spill into travertine pools, creating this stunning oasis in the desert. The Havasupai Indians are known for being the only continuous inhabitants of the Grand Canyon, and they have lived here for over 800 years. The word Havasupai means “people of the blue-green water,” and it is this breathtaking color that attracts visitors from around the world. I embarked on this journey in late September with a group of fellow adventurers on a fully-guided tour.
To be rewarded with these awe-inspiring waterfalls requires a journey into the earth and seemingly back in time.It’s a ten mile hike to reach the campground, and there are several options for getting down and back out. If you are reasonably fit, hiking in and out should not be a problem. Spring and fall are the ideal times to go, but a hike in the heat of the summer is definitely doable. Besides, this is the time of year when the cool waters of the falls will be the most rewarding. When timed correctly, you can hike mostly in the shade and take frequent breaks. Going down in the winter means enchanting frozen waterfalls, and that you have the place all to yourself. Mules are available for personal transport, but can end up hurting more than helping if you are not a seasoned rider. Helicopter rides are available for the no-fuss traveler, and some opt to hike in and copter out. I must admit I was a little nervous about the hike out - and it was challenging towards the end - but not nearly as hard as I had anticipated.
My group decided to do a guided trip to eliminate all the hassles of planning, packing and paying for everything separately. There are certain things to be aware of when dealing with the tribe, and we chose to leave it to the experts so we could be free to relax and have fun. Our guides were knowledgeable, fun to be with and very hospitable. We enjoyed awesome, gourmet meals and the comfort of knowing that someone else was in charge.
We met up at the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead in Seligman at 7:30 a.m.It was pretty cool and very windy, as we were starting at 5200 ft. in elevation.Our guides helped us go through all our belongings and pack only what we really needed. Mules would carry down all of our food and gear, so we only had to carry our Camelbacks (which they supplied).The first couple of miles were steep switch backs, but they let us set the pace and it was no problem. We hiked through beautiful red sandstone, passing packs of mules and other hikers who were on their way up. You warm up quickly hiking and getting down into the canyon, so be sure to dress in layers.They brought snacks for us and we stopped every so often to relax and refuel.
Before we knew it we were hiking alongside Havasu Creek, which is where we got our first glimpse of this amazingly clear, slightly green water.This was only a taste of what was to come. We stopped at a picturesque bridge, kicked back and soaked our feet in the refreshing water while Kelly and Rob prepared lunch. They were incredibly accommodating to the different dietary needs of everyone in our group, and all the food was excellent. The vegetarians had black bean and corn wraps, and everyone else had chicken ranch wraps.
Not long after lunch we reached Havasupai Village, which felt like a journey back in time. It was such a surreal scene, after hiking in the wilderness you are walking a dirt path through the only continuously occupied native village in the Grand Canyon. Houses and horse corrals flank the path as native people go about their daily lives. There is a cafeteria and lodge here and this is also where the helicopters land.
After Supai village we hiked another mile and a half and cut back down a trail to Navajo Falls. This was a spectacular scene, amplified by the fact that we had been hiking for miles in the hot desert sand.At Navajo Falls there are about four or five separate waterfalls converging into a large area of turquoise pools at the bottom. We went across the creek and hung out at the base of the falls. Some of us swam while the rest of us waded in the pools, stunned by the spectacular beauty.
Back on the trail for only a short time, we looked over and there is the most beautiful, raging turquoise waterfall I have ever seen!This is Havasu Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in the word. An impressive 100 foot drop cascades into pools of blues and greens, createing an effect that is both awe-inspiring and tranquil. We hung out at the bottom of the falls relaxing, taking photos and swimming before heading to the campground.
Havasu Creek runs through the campground, and it is soothing to hear the water trickling by outside your tent at night. Our guides set up everything and prepared dinner while we hiked around. For dinner we had grilled salmon, mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. For dessert we had mini pudding pies and fresh strawberries. This was not like any camp food I’ve ever had! Our guides cleaned up everything and washed all the dishes while we headed off to our tents for some well earned shut eye.
The next morning we were greeted with freshly brewed coffee from the french press and blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes. I was beside myself at this point; I was eating better in the woods that I ever ate at home! After breakfast we hiked to Mooney Falls, where only a small percentage of visitors actually make it down the steep descent to the bottom.This proved to be quite the adventure, gripping chains and calculating every step of the way.Our guides made sure we were safe and they were so encouraging! I can definitely say that we would not have ventured down had we been on our own, and it was so empowering to come face to face with our fears. Besides, there were more falls to see, and this was the only way down.
The two mile hike down to Beaver Falls was filled with stunning canyon views and many beautiful, smaller falls along the way. We stopped at one swimming hole for some rope swing fun. Havasu Creek guided our way along steep and sandy climbs and through fields of wild grape vines. We stopped just before the falls for a cliffside lunch of turkey or portobello mushroom sandwiches. While chowing down we spotted a family of Big Horn Sheep! There were two babies and the daddy, and they all hung out in a close proximity that even our guides had never witnessed. We got some great shots during those incredible two hours, and we all knew that we were sharing a very special experience.
Beaver Falls consists of a set of pools on top of the waterfall, and it is only a few miles from here down to the Colorado River. A few of us jumped off the falls into the cold blue water. There is nothing like the exhilarating rush you get from jumping off a waterfall!We climbed back up a rocky wall and headed back to camp. For dinner we had two different kinds of pasta - yummy carbs for all the hiking, swimming and adventuring of the day. Tomorrow morning we would be hiking out and would need to be up early. We were pleasantly exhausted and quickly passed out under the stars to the lull of the creek.
Our guides were up well before the sun preparing breakfast and packing up. Two in our group were taking a helicopter out, so we had to be in the village by 7:30. We dropped off all of our gear for the mules and headed out.After parting ways with the copter couple, we started the hike back up the canyon. This was a fun time and much easier than I anticipated, as most of the trek was flat and shady. Towards the end I did get whooped by the steep switchbacks, but we paced ourselves and took plenty of breaks. I highly recommend the challenge for anyone who is capable. It was so gratifying to hike out of the Grand Canyon! Refreshing cold drinks were waiting for us in the van, and we were happy to be at the end of our amazing journey.
Havasu Falls is as close to Eden as you can get – especially in the desert southwest, and I wholeheartedly recommend going on a guided trip. An outdoor adventure can be scary and intimidating, and even for those who are comfortable in the woods, nothing beats having someone else do all the work!