Wednesday, 30 November 2011

How to Explore Havasupai Falls

Havasupai is one of those places that you are really tempted to keep to yourself and silently wish that no one else finds out about it. But in the spirit of travel blogging, and since its popularity is already growing like crazy, I'll share it as well.
The first thing to know about Havasupai, well the first thing that the stunning pictures can't tell you, is that you need a reservation to stay, for both camping and lodging, and you need to reserve as soon as possible, especially for large groups.Spaces fill up quickly and only a limited amount of people are allowed to enter.
If you look at the photos throughout this post you should quickly understand the appeal of Havasupai. It is a chance to discover the Grand Canyon past the traditional rim edges. Explore this beautiful oasis and it's breathtaking waterfalls that lie deep within the canyon. The blue river and green vines against the red canyon walls make for a spectacular setting. And once you are down in the canyon, the water serves as a perfect escape from the heat.

Summer at the Grand Canyon is HOT! 10 miles is not a bad hike, but the canyon walls trap the heat and make it very uncomfortable in the daytime. Start early! We parked in the middle of the night and hiked down at 1 am. You hike down the canyon wall, which is not fun heading back up, and the rest of the journey is relatively smooth through the canyon. Even extremely sick and semi-delirious with fever I made it most of the way.
8 miles down in the cabin live the Havasupai tribe. This village, of around 450 people, offers a restaurant and general store but little else for tourists. It has modern comforts of electricity and running water, but no cars and roads, preserving the uniqueness of the location. The village is 2 miles away from the camp site, so be sure to check in and pay at the camping office as your enter, the uphill hike back to the town is usually the last thing you want to do once at the waterfalls.

Be sure to explore the rest of the canyon once you have set up camp. A walk to the Colorado River is good for the more adventurous. Try and be back before nightfall, because the stairs from Mooney Falls are slippery and treacherous even in the daylight. But no worries, we traveled with 3 generations from a 10 month-old to 70 years old and it was all safe and fun.
Part of my group went as far as the Colorado, but I stopped at Beaver falls, around 3 miles past Mooney. These falls have some nice shallow pools, great for swimming. Around 50 yards past these is some great cliff jumping. At 60ft my legs were shaking, but it was definitely worth it. The hiked down is something of a natural water-park, beautiful as the turquoise river flows against the red stone creating small slides and water falls. The best way to explore this area  is to walk right in the river, the water stays around 70 degrees year round. Part of the hike on land leads you through shoulder-high vines, a random sea of green. Keep and eye out for a rope swing (not sure if it still is up).

The geography of Havasupai can change drastically with floods, in particular the flood of August 2008 that created two new falls. Don't be surprised if things look different from the pictures, they will be equally or even more amazing.
The cost of camping in Havasupai can add up, so backpacking in all your equipment is the best for those on a budget. Feeling luxurious? There are mules to help carry bags, good for large groups to pitch in together. The site has picnic tables, composting toilets and spring water (must be treated before drinking). Don't forget a camp stove as camp fires are not allowed. You can also enter on horseback or helicopter. It is the only camp ground that I've ever been to where they helicopter out the toilets. All in all, visiting Havasupai is an amazing and breath-taking experience, and while you may not be traveling into isolation, the spectacular waterfalls and river are well worth the hike and crowds.

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