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Thread: Havasupai - A Magical Mystical Hike

  1. #1

    Havasupai - A Magical Mystical Hike

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Size:  82.6 KBFor many centuries Native Americans had preserved the land in Americas, considering them to be sacred. One such place that is still pristine is Havasupai Indian Reservation which is tucked in a corner of Grand Canyon National Park. Once majority of the reservation was part of the National Park, with the Havasupai people restricted to a small valley in Havasu canyon. Most of the tribe now lives in Supai village, a place so remote that postal mail is still delivered by ponies. And this village is a gateway to a series of beautiful waterfalls along Havasu creek.

    Havasu creek is a desert oasis with its blue-green waters originating from Havasu springs. The creek cascades down to meet Colorado River over numerous waterfalls, one even higher than Niagara Falls. My brother and I decided to venture into this remote corner to see all the waterfalls of Havasu creek during our hike. But first we had to get our permits because the natives allow only a limited number of tourists in order to reduce the impact on their lands.

    Having procured two permits we made our travel plans for our hike in September. Since one-day hike is not permitted we also booked a room at the village lodge for that night. We flew into Las Vegas on Saturday and drove directly to the Reservation, making a pit-stop at Kingman to get food and water for the hike. After a 5-hour drive we reached Hualapai hilltop which is the trailhead for the hike to Supai village and beyond. The sun was setting as we parked our car and after having a quick bite we settled in for the night. We slept restlessly in the car as mosquitos had made their way inside. We had left the windows open to catch some breeze, as it was hot outside, which was probably not such a good idea.

    After an uncomfortable night in the car we started our hike at 5 AM. We were probably the first ones on the trail. It is not advisable to hike down in the dark but we had our headlamps on. As we navigated our way over some steep switchbacks, more than 1000 feet down, we dreaded the thought of climbing these switchbacks on the way back up. We almost stumbled over a Native American who had decided to sleep on the trail probably because he got tired and couldn’t make his way up to the top. Putting all negative thoughts aside we marched forward.

    As the first rays of the sun appeared in the morning sky we started encountering hikers from the opposite direction emerging from the valley. They had started early from the village to beat the heat when climbing up the switchbacks. The trail to the village is about 8 miles long and we learnt that we had not even covered half the distance. So we picked up our pace, without stopping at every turn to admire the canyon.

    At around 8:00 AM we came across the first sounds of water and saw Havasu creek flowing by. The water was tinted blue and crystal clear. The waters of Havasu creek owe their unique color to high concentrations of lime. This lime gets deposited by the creek as Travertine which creates cascades and pools along the way. We crossed a bridge over the creek and soon entered the village.

    Supai village sits along Havasu creek with red sandstone formations, called Wigleeva, overlooking the small valley. These rock pillars are considered sacred and are believed to be the protectors of the tribe. We saw a teepee in one backyard but all the natives live in proper houses with a fenced yard. Many of these houses had horses grazing in the yards. In fact horses probably outnumber the villagers as they are an important means of transportation for goods and people. Unfortunately a strange smell pervaded throughout the atmosphere due to horse manure left strewn all around the village. We stopped by the lodge in the village to register. Lightening the load of our backpacks by leaving some non-essentials behind at the lodge, we carried on towards the waterfalls.

    We passed by Upper Navajo, Little Navajo and Lower Navajo Falls as we walked by the creek. Once, there was one big Navajo Falls here, but a dam burst in 2008 altered the course of the creek and created these new waterfalls bypassing the old one. After hiking for a couple of miles from the village we came to the top of Havasu Falls which is by far the most beautiful waterfall in the area. It is hard to imagine that this waterfall set next to Carbonate Canyon was even more beautiful before the flash floods from the dam burst reshaped the falls.

    We took some pictures from the top but decided to postpone a dip in the inviting blue pool at the bottom of the falls. There were still many miles to cover to get to the last major falls and we wanted to get there before noon, so we could be back in the lodge before sunset. The trail continued for about a mile through a campsite where many people were staying in their tents to experience nature closely. We wanted to keep a lighter backpack so we could cover more distance and had opted for the lodge instead. Refilling our water bottles at Fern spring by the campsite we soon found ourselves at the top of the largest waterfall.

    Mooney Falls, named after a prospector who fell to his death while climbing up the falls, tumbles straight down some 200 feet over the canyon wall. It seemed unlikely that there would be a path down to the bottom but then we came across an arrow pointing to a hole in a rock face. The trail led us into a set of tunnels descending to the bottom of the falls. However, the tunnels stopped short and there were a couple of ladders and chains in the open which had to be managed at the end. This was by far the most harrowing part of the trail with the mist from the falls making the chains slippery to hold. Fortunately we had the foresight of bringing gloves which made grasping the chains easier.

    Once we got to the bottom of Mooney Falls we looked up in awe at the force of water crashing down. We continued along the creek as the trail went through some dense foliage. Taking a peak at Hidden Falls 100 feet downstream, we soon entered a valley of vines. Grapevines have taken hold in this part of the valley, smothering all other plant life. This part of the hike sapped our energy since we were out in the blazing sun with high humidity. After fording the creek three times, the last over a couple of small footbridges, we came across a huge palm tree. This was our cue to enter the creek again but we didn’t know that and ended up climbing a series of steep ladders along the canyon wall.

    After 3 miles of hiking from Mooney falls, we found ourselves high over the canyon overlooking Beaver Falls. Big cascades of blue water form Beaver Falls and we wished we could somehow get closer to them since this was our last destination. Some savvy hikers had made it to the other side, and were picnicking at one of many picnic tables that we had seen along the trail in the most unlikely of places. Luckily for us there was an Indian boy in a shack perched overlooking the falls who guided us down a narrow path. We somehow managed to cross the creek above the falls to get to the other side. It was past noon as we spent some time relaxing by the falls eating lunch.

    By 1 PM we decided to turn back. This time we took the trail that went along the creek before crossing by the palm tree. We reached the bottom of Mooney Falls and were contemplating taking a dip in the shallow pool by the falls when some thunderclouds rolled in the area. We made a quick escape up the chains and ladders into the tunnels. By the time we got out of the tunnels the rain had dissipated.

    It was past 3 PM so we had plenty of time to get into the pool at the base of Havasu Falls. Probably due to the rain, we had the whole pool to ourselves. The water was cold but felt refreshing once we got in. After spending some time in the water we headed back to the lodge. Walking past Navajo falls we decided that we had to come back the next morning and explore them.

    We checked into our room at the lodge and headed into the village for a well-deserved meal. The village café served dinner until 7 PM and we got there in time before they took the last order. I ordered Supai burger which is an Indian frybread with two beef patties. Much of the traditional Native American diet has been replaced by junk food and it is a pity to see overweight natives, many of whom are diabetic, shuffling along in the village. Even young kids have a high rate of obesity. For them the traditional way of working and living off the land is no longer an option when they grow up.

    As we spent the night at the lodge there was more rain in the area and we were glad not to be sleeping in a tent out in the open. By the first morning light we left for the falls again. After spending some time under Upper Navajo and Little Navajo Falls we returned to the village to catch a short helicopter ride out of the valley! We figured this way we would rest our aching legs and make them last longer, to hike another day.
    Last edited by IcameIsaw; 09-22-2015 at 06:58 PM. Reason: Added photos

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    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Thanks for the TR Kedar! It was fun to read.

    The only thing missing though is the pictures!!

    Your trip reminded me of my trip back in 2010 except not staying in the Lodge, including the mosquitos up on top, the heli-ride, etc.

    Definitely a MAGICAL place. I love that area. Beautiful! And you did it smart by taking the helicopter ride out, in my opinion. Those 10miles of hiking back up can be demanding, even at 4 or 5am.
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  5. #3
    Nice write up, I was there last summer for my 4th time. You stayed at the lodge, huh? I've always wondered how that would be.

    And I agree, a place as beautiful as Supai deserves some pictures! Let's see 'em!

  6. #4
    Nice photos,do you happen to have any of the lodge?

  7. #5
    Name:  IMG_1051.jpg
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Size:  70.9 KBThis is the only one I took of the lodge. The lodge wasn't too impressive but served its purpose (of not having to carry a tent and sleeping bags). At $145 a night the room was nothing to write about. But it was clean, and with two queen-size beds which were more than comfortable for two adults. For a longer stay it can become costly. And most of the action is near the campsite :-)

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  9. #6
    Super cool! I was on a river trip the same week - we were supposed to stop at Havasu on Monday (the 14th?) and the heavy rains and risk of flash flooding meant we couldn't get in, and the water was all brown anyways. So....now I will be compelled to return so I can see those magical falls!

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  11. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Firedancer View Post
    Super cool! I was on a river trip the same week - we were supposed to stop at Havasu on Monday (the 14th?) and the heavy rains and risk of flash flooding meant we couldn't get in, and the water was all brown anyways. So....now I will be compelled to return so I can see those magical falls!
    So you were going to hike up from the confluence? I think the distance from the confluence all the way up to the main waterfalls like Mooney and Havasu is somewhere like 8 miles one way. Down lower, I hear it's a rough trail, a lot of bush whacking until you reach Beaver Falls, then there's a decent trail. So I would guess this would take the majority of the day. It still would be very cool to see if you haven't yet, and if you are prepared to take the whole day and leave your boats there, it would be worth it.

  12. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Sombeech View Post
    So you were going to hike up from the confluence? I think the distance from the confluence all the way up to the main waterfalls like Mooney and Havasu is somewhere like 8 miles one way. Down lower, I hear it's a rough trail, a lot of bush whacking until you reach Beaver Falls, then there's a decent trail. So I would guess this would take the majority of the day. It still would be very cool to see if you haven't yet, and if you are prepared to take the whole day and leave your boats there, it would be worth it.
    Ah, no, I don't think they hike all the way up to the actual falls, just a little alongside the creek. I'll never know now, will have to see them by the power of my own two feet!

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  14. #9
    I loved your TR. Thanks for the pictures!
    "My heart shall cry out for Moab..." Isaiah 15:5

  15. #10
    I've been down to the confluence from the CG and it is around 12 miles RT if I remember correctly. The trail isn't so much a bushwhack but lots of stream crossings and some boulder hopping. I personally don't think its worth the effort and you can have better scenary exploring many of the short slots that feed into the main drainage between camp and beaver.

    As for rafters trying to hike up I doubt its really worth the effort. I think at best you might get to view beaver falls but 3 of the 4 times I've been there, a ranger is usually hanging around Beaver to stop anyone from hiking up to the real goods. Seems like a lot of effort to likely get turned around or run out of time and have to hump it back to the Colorado.

  16. #11
    Great pictures! And love your trail report. Thanks for sharing!

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