Happiest at Havasu

From the moment I knew of Havasu, I was obsessed… I spent months researching the permit process, the best places to stay before hiking in, the drive in to the reservation, timing for hiking in, helicopters and mules, permits, the lodge, wild dogs, Supai, how to keep our food safe from the squirrels, what to bring, navigating Mooney Falls, and all 5 magnificent waterfalls.  We couldn’t believe we were able to get permits to hike the Grand Canyon and Havasu Falls in the same summer (Havasu travel dates 7/2-7/4/18)!  After visiting this magical place, nothing has changed.  If anything, I may be more obsessed and can’t wait to return someday!

After spending a night (or partial night) at the lovely Grand Canyon Caverns, we starting our drive in to the trailhead at 3 am in early July.  Our hike started shortly before 5am with our headlamps leading the way down the steepest part of the trail.

 

The sun started to rise shortly after, and while we were worried about the heat, the canyon walls did a wonderful job of keeping most of our trek in shade.  We were all sooo excited about this opportunity!

  

We were surprised at the number of mules making their way in and out, as we opted to carry in all of our own equipment.  Many of the native dogs travelled along with the mule trains.  While many groups passed us on their way out of the canyon, we did not cross paths with many headed into the canyon.  All of them confirmed they were not happy to leave this magical place.  While we were only able to get reservations for one night initially, persistence paid off, our permits were extended by Billy several months prior, and we were so grateful we would be spending two nights in paradise.  It was the perfect follow up to our rim to rim Grand Canyon hike.

After the initial descent, the hike was fairly easy, with a flat trail all the way.

  

 

 

The 8 mile hike into Supai flew by, and before we knew it, the lush green area near the creek appeared, and we were there!  We stopped in to see the small local grocery stores and checked in to the tourist office.  All of us were given wristbands for our stay, including our twin six year old daughters, who were not required to pay since 6 and under are free.

  

The kids did amazing on the hike… Ethan carried the majority of our equipment, with the other boys carrying a good amount of weight.  As expected, they handled it better than most of us adults.  We had done several long hikes leading up to Havasu, including hiking rim to rim in the Grand Canyon the week prior.  While we live in IL, one of the flattest states in the country, we make fitness a priority, and our kids take pride in their strength and endurance while hiking.  We turned quite a few heads as we hiked in and out.

As far as equipment, we opted to bring in two tents and two hammocks for the seven of us, and it worked out well.  The girls and I slept in one tent, while Braden and Gavin slept in the other.  Chuck and Ethan set up camp over the creek in our two hammocks.  We opted to bring two sleeping pads and a few sleeping bags/down blankets, which probably could have been left behind.

We picked up postcards from the lodge, excited that we were visiting and sending them from the only town in the US where mail is still delivered by mule.

The next two miles to the campground were rewarding with views of the first falls.  Even after seeing all the vibrant photos of the falls, we were amazed with the turquoise water at Navajo and Fifty Foot Falls.  Everyone had to have photos with this amazing backdrop!  It was about 9am when the temperatures started to heat up, and we were thankful we had less than a mile to go.

Aside from the magnificence of the waterfalls, we could have spent hours along every mysterious bend in the creek.

However, we were anxious to get to Havasu campground and set up camp.

Despite all the amazing photos we had seen of this place, pictures cannot do it justice.  The kids were just as awe-struck as we were.  It is always so rewarding when they love our adventures as much as we do.  The girls were begging for a Havasu themed birthday party, and the boys planned school projects around this wonderful adventure.

  

We were concerned we might not get buckets for our food (which are provided to help prevent squirrels from stealing food), so we had purchased the expensive rat sacks as a backup.  Since it was monsoon season, the number of permits allowed is decreased in July, and we had no problems getting buckets, so we later returned our unused rat sacks.

Fern spring provided fresh drinking water in the campground near Havasu, so we filled up our collapsible jugs before finding a campsite, and only had to refill at the spring the night before our hike out.  While it is so tempting to set up camp as close to Havasu Falls and race back to this  amazing playland, we ended up camping almost all the way down to Mooney Falls, which is nearly a mile further (the campground stretches from Havasu Falls all the way to Mooney, with many of the better sites available being closer to Mooney).

We spent some time checking out what sites were available before settling on a creekside site with two picnic tables and plenty of room for our two tents and Jess & Dave’s, as well as some great hammock spots.

The handmade bridges over the creek were plentiful, and while fun to cross, also quite frightening at times with their crookedness and large gaps between boards!

We immediately unpacked our backpacks and sorted food and toiletries into our buckets (large 5 gallon paint type buckets).  We placed one bucket atop the other with large rocks and top, and still the squirrels chewed through part of the plastic bucket!  Fortunately, they didn’t make it all the way through, and our food stayed safe and sound!

There was so much to do here, the kids could have spent weeks exploring just near our campsite.  The trees provided lots of shade, and while it was warm, the water provided consistent and refreshing relief from the heat.

Like many of the places we had been in the southwest this summer, the girls loved playing with the local lizards.

 

After a quick lunch at the campsite, we finally made our way back over to Havasu Falls.

 

  

It didn’t take long to find our spot.  All of us loved jumping into the bright pools of water.

  

There were plenty of tubes and rafts left behind to play on, and I think we took pictures of every angle and pool nearby (forgive us for sharing so many).  Fortunately and unfortunately, people leave their inflatable rafts by the falls, so there is no need to hike in with them (unless you want to hike them out).  The only downside of this wonderful place is the lack of pack-in-pack-out mentality.  We found the rangers taking out people’s garbage by the wheel barrel 🙁

  

After hours of playtime, we decided to venture up to the frybread hut.  In the heat of the day, it felt like we were walking through the hottest desert to get there, but we were rewarded with amazing frybread.  The kids LOVED this, and we promised to come back for more the next day.

Headed back to the campsite, we couldn’t resist stopping for more pictures of the falls.

We found an amazing Amazon deal on Mountain House meals before the trip, and had a total blast passing around several entrees for each meal.

Our plan for the next day was to get down Mooney Falls and hike over to Beaver Falls, but we knew that if any one of us couldn’t get down, that plan would be out.  We took an evening scout trip to check things out, and Gavin was even more excited about the next day.

 

 

We let everybody sleep in til 6ish the next morning before heading off.

After descending through this cave, the ladders down Mooney are almost terrifying, as you make your way down wet rocks and metal chains, which are being consistently sprayed by the powerful 200 foot Mooney Falls.

 

The boys made it down with no problems, and Chuck and I had the girls sheltered in front of each of us.  It was terrifying, yet everyone was so brave!

 

  

You definitely don’t want to do this descent often, although the ascent back up the ladders was much easier.

  

The mist is so powerful, it is difficult to stand near the waterfall for long.

We were anxious to get to Beaver Falls early before the sun heated up the canyon too much, so we headed off down the creek.  The trail crosses back and forth along the creek, with magical spots all the way.  These deer certainly picked a great spot to call home.

There are a few ladders along the way, but nothing like Mooney Falls.  As you get closer to Beaver Falls, it is definitely recommended to follow the ladders on the right side of the creek instead of the chains part way up the canyon wall.

Each of the falls has their own identity, and Beaver Falls was no exception… another unbelievable spot in paradise.

There were only 3 other people here when we arrived, so we were thankful they were able to snap a few pictures before they left.

The boys enjoyed playing on the rope swing in the cave under the waterfall and hiking along the canyon walls.

It was sad to leave this amazing waterfall, but we didn’t want to get caught in the heat hiking back.  We had wished we could have gone to the confluence, but the long hike in the hot summer sun wasn’t a good plan for this trip.  We ran into a few hikers on the way back, as well as a ranger checking wristbands and groups.

This was the lone palm tree on the way back, very close to Beaver Falls.

  

 

All of us were amazed with the lush green colors inside the canyon, and agreed it was one of the most beautiful places we had been.  We were so thankful that the Havasupai allow tourists into their reservation.

 

As we returned to Mooney Falls, we found a spot we couldn’t resist calling our own for awhile, and stopped to take a swim.  The girls loved having their brothers piggyback them across the higher creek crossings.

Back at Mooney Falls, we ate lunch and LOVED playing on the rope swing over the smaller falls.

    

Thankfully, the way back up was much easier than the way down.

 

 

 

Back at the campsite, we decided to head back to Havasu Falls for the rest of the afternoon with Dave and Jess, who had taken the day off hiking to relax.

  

  

And of course, the afternoon had to include more frybread!  While we were there, we learned that the owners had to take the propane tanks out by horseback to the trailhead and drive them to the closest town 50 miles away to refill it… more reason to buy frybread from the locals!

  

We were so thankful to spend two nights at Havasu, but so sad to be leaving!  We took a few more pictures at the falls before heading back to the campsite for dinner.  We would not be able to see the falls on the way out since it would still be dark, so this would be our last chance to see them.

 

 

The boys opted to travel back to the campsite via river floating, and we stopped along the way to see them.

Outhouses are scattered throughout the campground, and while there was toilet paper in them when we arrived, we were so glad we brought some in for our second two days there.  The garbage left behind by campers was such a sad site, and we wondered if there might be an opportunity to help out as a service project in the future.

The kids wrote out postcards to send home to friends and family

and once again, we enjoyed passing our Mountain House meals around the table for dinner.

We woke very early before the sun came up, and came across a ringtail cat in the campsite, Ellie’s new favorite animal.

  

On the way out, we were surprised to see the number of packs lined up at the beginning of the campground, to be carried out by mule.  Only old-fashioned backpacking for the Hoffpack, as we carried all our own gear in and out.  The Helicopter is also on option to get out of town back to the trailhead,  but only on certain days of the week.  While affordable for a helicopter ride, x7 is not an affordable option for this crew, and the hike in and out was more than doable… much easier than the Grand Canyon hike.

 

The switchbacks at the end were tough, but we were pleasantly surprised that the canyon walls kept the canyon shady for almost the entire hike out, which we finished by 9am.

Less than one week after our trip, Havasu Canyon flash flooded, closing to visitors for several months afterward while the Havasupai were forced to redo trails, bridges, etc.  I can’t even imagine the heartache of these floods!We were incredibly thankful for our visit and astonished with the timing of the flood.

Havasu, you have our hearts!  We will be back! (travel dates 7/2-7/4/18)

  

4 thoughts on “Happiest at Havasu”

  1. That was an amazing post thank you. I have concerns which your pictures and comments addressed. Wow. Thank you for taking the time to post your trip. I am going solo in September this year, 2019.

  2. Great post. Thanks for downloading all your thoughts. I am hoping to get my family of 6 (kids are all 13-20) there this year if we find a cancellation or within the next two years. Question, now that all reservations are 3 nights/4 days, do you think you would have gone to the confluence with the extra day?

    1. Dan, great question… we could have done it the day we went to Beaver Falls, but we kind of made a pact with ourselves that even as tempting as it was, we wouldn’t do it on this trip since it was in June. There really was no way to hike that many miles to and from the confluence and avoid the heat, so we will definitely do it another time (not during those summer months with the heat or flash floods)!

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