Havasu Falls Backpacking Trip

[tab:Overview]

Havasu Falls Backpacking TripActivity: Backpacking

Location: Havasupai Indian Reservation, AZ

Time on Trail: 11 hours (moving time)

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance: 24.65 miles (plus side trips)

Elevation: +/- 2650 ft

 

Trailhead

From the I-40 between Kingman and Flagstaff, take the Seligman exit and head north towards Peach Springs. Be sure to fuel up in Seligman. Proceed 37 to the Indian Road 18 and turn right, continuing 64 miles to the trailhead parking lot.

Highlights

Absolutely, the best hiking experience I have ever had! Waterfalls, steep canyons, caves, mules, did I say waterfalls!

The Havasupai Indian Reservation is not part of the Grand Canyon National Park, but you cannot tell that from the scenery. From your very first step at the trailhead parking lot until your return at the end of your trip, you will be swiveling your head side to side to take it all in.

The water is a turquoise blue/green and the perfect way to refresh the tired legs and back after the 12 mile trek down to the campground. If you are as lucky as we were, you’ll get a break from the summer heat. The temps were about 20 degrees below normal the weekend we made this trip.

Trail Description

Havasu Falls Backpacking Trip The parking lot at the trailhead is stunning to say the least. It is perched more than 1000 feet above the valley floor and provides one of the best vistas of the trip.

The trail starts with a steep descent down the face of the box canyon to the valley floor by way of a series of switchbacks. If you have bum knees like I do from years of basketball, you will feel this descent! Be on the lookout for the approaching mules. They have the right-of-way, and won’t stop to wait for you to move to the side.

Once you reach the valley floor, the trail bends to the north and follows the wash for 8 miles into the Indian town of Supai. Along the way, the canyon walls draw closer and the surroundings become more grand. You get a sense for the true size of the canyon walls when then tower hundreds of feet straight up as you make your way down the canyon.

There is more shade in this narrow section of trail. The sun doesn’t have the angle to penetrate the canyon and it helps to keep temperatures down. In this slot section ( which starts at about mile 7), you really need to watch for the mule packs. As they approach, move to the canyon wall side and not the cliff side. The wrong move could be disastrous as these animals move through.

At the end of the slot section, it opens and the Havasu Creek comes in from the right side. As you cross the open expanse, following the trail as it curves to the left, you will hear the water for the first time. It comes into view as you enter the heavier vegetation. The town of Supai is close. You will follow the irrigation channel into Supai.

Don’t expect Supai to look like a town. There isn’t much, but the views are really cool. The sandstone spires off to your left, above the small ranch properties will tell you that you have arrived. The trail at this point is actually the roads that connect the ranches. Make your way to the heli-pad and the town square. There is a restaurant on the left and the general store is on the right.

Stop by the general store to buy a post card to send home. It has to be mailed at the post office which is closed on the weekends. If you plan to leave before Monday, find a trusting local and pay them to mail it for you. That’s what we had to do. The Supai Post Office is the only one is the country that still moves the mail by mule. It’s the only way to get in or out of Supai with the exception of hiking it or going by helicopter.

New Falls

Havasu Falls Backpacking Trip: New FallsFollow the trail through town as it leads past a few more ranch properties and begins the descent along the creek to the new falls (yet to be named). The new falls are just above the old Navajo Falls that were destroyed two years ago by the flood. The pool below the falls is deep enough for the crazies in each group to make the jump from the falls.

The water is pretty deep here, but there is a clear danger zone if you jump too close to the falls or too far to one side or the other. There is also a large flat area on the creek side to hang out and take in the scene.

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls Backpacking TripContinue down the trail. About a 1/4 mile from the new falls is Havasu Falls. Don’t worry, you can’t miss it! You will hear the roar of the water as you approach and the falls will come into sight on your right side. The trail will lead you along the left side above the falls and descends to a shelf above the pristine pool. Make a right and follow the short trail down to the pool or continue on the main trail another 1/8 mile to the campground.

The Campground

The campground is long and relatively narrow and fills the flat area between the two canyon walls guarded by the Havasu Creek which splits as you enter the campground. There are tons of great spots, some for a single tent and other areas for a small group of tents. It’s first come, first serve so try to get there early.

Havasu Falls Backpacking Trip The Fern Spring is on the left as you make our way through the campground. The water is cold and refreshing and can be consumed without filtering. I filtered it the first day but took it straight from the pump the rest of the trip.

The campground also has port-o-potties at both ends but they are closed some times. I’m not sure what the schedule is, not sure if anyone does! It was closed on Friday but open the rest of the weekend.

Mooney Falls

Havasu Falls Backpacking TripAs you reach far end of the campground, the trees thin out and the lower canyon comes into view. It’s just a short walk to the first view of Mooney Falls which are 196 feet tall and nearly twice as high as Niagara Falls. The falls are massive and you can hear the water as it plummets over the falls, crashing into the pool below.

Getting down to the falls can be a bit treacherous. The descent starts with a short section through a cave, then out the other side to the cliff side. There are chains that allow for an easier down climb and most of the way is a series of steps. It can be slippery when wet. The last 10 feet of the descent is down a ladder which had a broken step when we were there. But once you’re down the reward is breathtaking. Mooney Falls towers above the pool and sprays mist in all directions for hundreds of feet. You can walk out towards the falls quite a way and the water stays about knee deep.

Heading downstream from Mooney Falls includes a series of small cascade falls and some deeper pools. Be sure to look back upstream, there are some great pictures to take!

Havasu Falls Backpacking Trip About 300 yards down from the Mooney Falls pool is a very cool cave on the left filled with ferns and water pouring down over the top. This is a great place to stop for a few pics and to cool off.

Continue the trek downstream, looking for the trail as it exits the creek on the right. Take the trail and follow it to the section of creek with the old rope swing which still hangs from one of the trees along the creek. It’s no longer safe to swing here as the flood has deposited too much fill in the pool to make jumping safe. Cross the creek and follow the trail through the heavier ground cover. A few hundred yards past this point and you will enter the area described as the “jungle”. The ground is covered in heavy grapevine-like plants that make travel anywhere but the travel very difficult.

Havasu Falls Backpacking Trip: Jungle

We turned around at this point. One of the members of our group said that the trail is covered like this for a good stretch as you continue to make your way down to Beaver Falls. If you are following our GPX track, you will turn around here and make your way back up to camp.

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[tab:Notes]

This is a must do trip for anyone that likes the outdoors, likes to hike or backpack, or just wants to see some of the most breathtaking views you’ll find anywhere.

The hike down wasn’t really that bad, though I was sick when we started which made for a long day. The hike out wasn’t as bad as I thought either. The last section is brutal. It’s a straight forward march up the side of the mountain! Mules are the danger on this trip. You have to look behind you often and listen for the sounds of their approach. One of the guys in our group saw a hiker get leveled by a mule from behind. As the mule passed, the cooler strapped to his side clipped the hiker at the head level and knocked him out! He was listening to his iPod and didn’t hear the mule coming. You also have to be sure to move to the uphill side of the trail as they come through. Moving to the cliff side could be a recipe for disaster.

One last note: the Supai Post Office is the only one in the US that still moves the mail by mule. Stop at the general store and mail yourself one. I paid someone that was staying until Tuesday to mail my postcard for me on Monday. I got it in Las Vegas on Wednesday! It has a really cool meter stamp on it which makes for a great keepsake.

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I'm the founder of Vestor Logic, the digital strategy and web design firm that created Trail Sherpa, ParksFolio, and Modern Steader. I'm a day hiker, top chef in camp, doting husband, and father to two headlamp wearing boys. My work in digital media brings those experiences to life.

  • wildbackpacker

    Havasu Fall is one of the most spectacular hikes I've ever done. Even though it's in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, Havasupai is really “Garden of Eden” with its lush jungle vegetation and blue-green waters. However, it does require visitors to backpack in a long 10 miles. But even if you aren't a big hiker, don't worry! You can take hitch a ride from horses or even a helicopter (but it will cost you). This is such a spectacular hike I wrote a trail guide about it on my website, http://www.wildbackpacker.com/destination/havas…, but photo's don't do it justice. Just reading about the place brings back great memories. And I'm glad to hear that it is doing well even after the 2008 flash flood! Thanks for the post Trail Sherpa!

  • Great report on your site! Thanks for the comment. This was my first trip to Havasu Falls, but a few of the guys in my group have been going every year for nearly a decade. According to them, the major changes included the destruction of Navajo Falls, the formation of the new falls just above that, the rope swing near the jungle is no longer safe because of the now shallow pool, and many of the trees have been destroyed. In all, I think it's healthy for that ecosystem and I believe it's one of the best hikes I've ever done.

  • SocalHiker

    Looks like an amazing trip, and one I'm adding to my “must hike” list.

    What time of year did you hike this? What would be the ideal time to go?

  • I did it last weekend. The weather was 20 degrees below normal so we were very fortunate. I think Spring or Fall would be best. It gets really hot in summer. Pretty easy to get to as well. We stayed in a hotel in Seligman on Thursday night and hot the trail really early on Friday.

  • I did this trip many years ago in March and had a great time. We stayed in the lodge. We chatted with a young lady at the counter and she said she was going to school in Long Beach. Small world. We opted to hire some “horses” (my feet nearly touched the ground) for the way out, since it about to snow.

    Sitting atop the horse and seeing the snow gently coat the sides of the canyon on the way up and out is another one of remarkable experiences that I remember from the trip.

    Memorable quote: “Is the water really that blue?”

    The falls were split when I was there.

    http://bit.ly/caHajp

  • Thanks for sharing your story Derek. It seems that they canyon gets some really crazy weather. One of my friends did the trek 3 weeks before we did and had snow on the way out along with 40 MPH winds. We had mid 70s and sunny. Couldn't have been better. And your observation about the water is spot on. I was also amazed at the clarity. Unbelievable! Thanks again for stopping by TrailSherpa to share your experience.

  • Peter

    We did it the absolute best way!!!!
    In 1975, my wife, Helge, and I signed up with the Back-Country Office of Grand Canyon, after filling out the necessary paper-work and assuring that we would have the necessary equipment, also assuring that we would notify them immediately upon our return out of the canyon.
    Then we drove our front-wheel-drive Renault off the North-Rim Rd, due west about 20 miles through dense forest on lumber roads (actually two furrows) to a little clearing called Indian Hollow Campground. There we pitched our tent in a dense forest and slept in 38 degree temperature (even though it was the end of July). At day break, we put the tent in our car and put on our backpacks containing each 2 gallons of water, a ground cloth, two sleeping bags, 6-day’s-worth of dehydrated foods, 2 sets of light weight dinner ware, a little collapsible cook stove, waterproof matches, small first aid kit, two pocket knives, two good flash lights with extra batteries, 50-foot repel rope (for emergencies), a reflectile mirror (to signal emergencies), etc. All of these items were required by the Back Country Office.
    We headed due south through the trees on a barely visible trail about 200 yards and suddenly there it was — the Grand Canyon below us. Not another soul around.
    We descended on steep switchbacks marked only by cairns. On the flat plateau below we headed generally east, zig-zagging around the outreaches of side canyons. Not a sound anywhere except the sound of lizards in the sand scurrying out of our way.
    Suddenly in the complete silence as we were hiking, we saw two fresh shoe-prints in the sand and soon encountered a young couple who were panicking. They had come down a very dangerous route, were afraid to go back up that route and wondered how we had come down. We decided to trust them as a solution as to how we would eventually get back to our car. We told them how we had come down, exchanged names and addresses and gave them our car keys. They promised to drive our car out to the North Rim Rd to the hotel where their car was parked.
    We continued eastward on the plateau until the vague trail and cairns suddenly stopped at the top of the Red Wall with one of the most splendid views in Grand Canyon — one of the only spots where one can see the entire Outer Gorge, including the North and the South Rims, as well as the Inner Gorge and the Colorado River, all while sitting on the edge of the Red Wall, taking it all in, with one’s feet dangling 100′s of feet over the valley below.
    We then descended steeply down switch-backs, actually climbing down rocks like steps, often backwards holding on with our hands (but not dangerous and not requiring ropes or any technical gear), marked by cairns, all the way down to what is called Surprise Valley.
    Next we hiked 2-1/2 miles due east on the flat Surprise Valley — the hottest place we have ever encountered under the hot sun. We soaked kerchiefs with water and placed them over our heads.
    Suddenly we heard a loud roar and around the next bend — there it was — Thunder Falls. It poured out of a hole at the base of the Red Wall, fell about 50 or 60 feet and then continued to fall rapidly as the shortest creek in the world, Thunder Creek, down to the Tapeats. It was surrounded by lush green foliage and plants, ferns and moss. Within reach of the vapor the most beautiful abstract paintings created by lichens of all colors. The water was cold but refreshing.
    We descended down to the Tapeats, crossed the Tapeats on a big log, and then descended down along the eastern side of the Tapeats until the canyon narrowed. Then we forded across to the western side and made our way southward toward the Colorado on a narrow ledge as the Tapeats descended ever deeper below us to the left.
    After what seemed an eternity, the ledge suddenly ended. We now descended almost straight down, from one rock to the next following cairns until suddenly we were on a beautiful sandy beach where the Tapeats entered the Colorado.
    We had hiked 22 miles!!! The last two miles had been in darkness with flashlights.
    We went for a quick dip in the freezing water to wash the salt out of our hair and necks. Then we cooked our dinner under the stars and retired in our sleeping bags. Suddenly Helge said “stop that!” I said “What?” She again said “Stop that!!!. Then we realized that little cute kangaroo mice were climbing in our hair and on the straps of our backpacks, attracted by the salt. We fell asleep accompanied by these cute little critters.
    The next morning we took a quick dip in the freezing water and had a delicious breakfast. By 10 am we were standing on the edge of the Colorado River awaiting the arrival of the three American River Touring Association oar-powered rafts which we had signed up to join here. You see, they were only allowed to have 6 passengers plus the oarsman for the trip on each raft. But — that requirement is for Lava Falls. We had agreed to come aboard at the Tapeats and get off again at Havasu Creek, i.e. we would not be going as far as Lava Falls. Under those circumstances, they are allowed to take along passengers — we would be those two extra passengers for that portion of the trip.
    Well they didn’t arrive. Finally at 11:15 another group of rafts came by — we asked them where the American River Touring Association rafts were. They laughed. Apparently American River Touring was breaking in a new oarsman on one of the rafts and he was caught in an eddy, going around and around and around.
    At noon they finally arrived and we climbed a board one of the rafts.
    We were on the rafts for the rest of that day, that night, the next day, that night and finally another half day until we reached Havasu Creek. It was wonderful. One person on one of the rafts played a flute and two others had banjos. On quiet portions of the ride, they would play and the sounds echoed beautifully in the canyon walls. I enjoyed sitting “shotgun” up on the pontoon tip. I would go way up in the air on a wave and way down in the trough. I was allowed to jump into the water with a life vest down the rapids and falls except for Upset Falls. The rushing water would carry me down over the waves to the bottom — I would wait in an eddy for the raft to catch up with me, where I would climb back on board. We drank the brown river water treated with chemicals. The food was delicious, prepared in a Dutch Oven. During one lunch break, they had to repair one of the pontoons. During each lunch break, we took a side trip, once up a narrow slip-rock slot canyon, another time to a neat little waterfall. Evenings we slept on sandy beaches, played volley ball and read stories by a campfire.
    It was a little sad to depart their company when we reached Havasu Creek. We hiked that evening to about Beaver Falls. The trail was in excellent condition. We prepared our dinner on the little stove and as we were about to fall asleep in our sleeping bags, a great horned owl landed on a branch about 20 feet above us before it was dark.
    The next morning we continued stream-upwards after swimming for a while at Beaver Falls which still had deep pools. The rest of the way up to Mooney Falls, was like a Garden of Paradise. Travertine dams with deep pools traversed the creek all the way. Lush foliage grew out of the dams. And, you can’t imagine what it was like to suddenly see Mooney Falls coming up for the first time from below.
    We played at Mooney falls —I repeatedly made my way along the ledge behind the falls, climbed up on a rock behind the falls and then dove under the falls, feeling the water pushing me down as I was propelled forward and upward — what fun.
    Then we climbed up the ladders, cables and through the two tunnels, up to the top and set ourselves up in the little campsite right at the top of Mooney Falls among the pines there next to the picnic table.
    The next day we hiked up through the campground to Havasu Falls and spent the day playing there. At that time there was a huge tree on the western edge of the pool leaning out over the deep pool below Havasu Falls with a huge Amazon rope that one could swing out on. I also went behind Havasu Falls (like I had behind Mooney Falls) and dove under the falls there too.
    We then hiked out to Hualapai Hilltop at night using our flashlights. We had joined some others who knew the trail since we had not come down from there and were totally unfamiliar with the trail. It was fun and we encountered some wild burros or mules that night on the trail.
    At the top, two of the guys whom we had accompanied had an open (original type) surplus military jeep and were planning to drive due east from above Hualapai Hilltop through ranchland to reach the South Rim They took us along — we bounced up and down over the rough terrain in the back and I always jumped out to open and close the cattle gates.
    At the South Rim we hitch-hiked with a Persian tourist (yes, in those days they were still “Persian”), who complained “why” the “Stupid Americans” had not built an auto bridge across from the South Rim to the North Rim, causing him now to have to drive 250 miles out of his way. Along the way, he stopped to take photos of scenery — but we had to take the pictures for him so that he could be in the center of each picture.
    Guess what!!!?? When we finally got to the North Rim, our car was waiting for us at the hotel as promised with a thank you note from the young couple. And we called the Back Country Office to let them know that we were back safely.
    Unfortunately, the raft companies are no longer allowed to pick up people along the way or drop them off along the way — that is no longer allowed. Also, you are no longer allowed to ride shotgun on the rafts and one is no longer allowed to jump overboard with life vest and float down the falls.
    Also, the beautiful travertine dams and deep pools behind the dams are no longer there and the pools are not deep enough for the various Amazon ropes.
    We have returned to Havasu 12 times since 1975 with our children and our grand children, but always from Hualapai Hilltop. For those not familiar with the canyon prior to the floods — there were beautiful travertine dams and pools below Havasu Falls, all the way through the campground (the stream had one streambed along the eastern wall). There was a beautiful large travertine pool near the south end of the campground. One could climb up on a picnic table and swing out on an Amazon rope and then let go and even flip into the pool. There was another Amazon rope hanging from a tree branch at the foot of Mooney Falls pool from which one could swing out and let go, dropping into the pool below.
    There used to be beautiful travertine pools at the foot of Havasu Falls where one could play, climb and go down under the overhang behind each of the little water falls. And right below that was an eight foot high travertine plateau where especially the kids could jump off into the deep pool below. Sad — much has changed.

  • Peter

    We did it the absolute best way!!!!
    In 1975, my wife, Helge, and I signed up with the Back-Country Office of Grand Canyon, after filling out the necessary paper-work and assuring that we would have the necessary equipment, also assuring that we would notify them immediately upon our return out of the canyon.
    Then we drove our front-wheel-drive Renault off the North-Rim Rd, due west about 20 miles through dense forest on lumber roads (actually two furrows) to a little clearing called Indian Hollow Campground. There we pitched our tent in a dense forest and slept in 38 degree temperature (even though it was the end of July). At day break, we put the tent in our car and put on our backpacks containing each 2 gallons of water, a ground cloth, two sleeping bags, 6-day’s-worth of dehydrated foods, 2 sets of light weight dinner ware, a little collapsible cook stove, waterproof matches, small first aid kit, two pocket knives, two good flash lights with extra batteries, 50-foot repel rope (for emergencies), a reflectile mirror (to signal emergencies), etc. All of these items were required by the Back Country Office.
    We headed due south through the trees on a barely visible trail about 200 yards and suddenly there it was — the Grand Canyon below us. Not another soul around.
    We descended on steep switchbacks marked only by cairns. On the flat plateau below we headed generally east, zig-zagging around the outreaches of side canyons. Not a sound anywhere except the sound of lizards in the sand scurrying out of our way.
    Suddenly in the complete silence as we were hiking, we saw two fresh shoe-prints in the sand and soon encountered a young couple who were panicking. They had come down a very dangerous route, were afraid to go back up that route and wondered how we had come down. We decided to trust them as a solution as to how we would eventually get back to our car. We told them how we had come down, exchanged names and addresses and gave them our car keys. They promised to drive our car out to the North Rim Rd to the hotel where their car was parked.
    We continued eastward on the plateau until the vague trail and cairns suddenly stopped at the top of the Red Wall with one of the most splendid views in Grand Canyon — one of the only spots where one can see the entire Outer Gorge, including the North and the South Rims, as well as the Inner Gorge and the Colorado River, all while sitting on the edge of the Red Wall, taking it all in, with one’s feet dangling 100′s of feet over the valley below.
    We then descended steeply down switch-backs, actually climbing down rocks like steps, often backwards holding on with our hands (but not dangerous and not requiring ropes or any technical gear), marked by cairns, all the way down to what is called Surprise Valley.
    Next we hiked 2-1/2 miles due east on the flat Surprise Valley — the hottest place we have ever encountered under the hot sun. We soaked kerchiefs with water and placed them over our heads.
    Suddenly we heard a loud roar and around the next bend — there it was — Thunder Falls. It poured out of a hole at the base of the Red Wall, fell about 50 or 60 feet and then continued to fall rapidly as the shortest creek in the world, Thunder Creek, down to the Tapeats. It was surrounded by lush green foliage and plants, ferns and moss. Within reach of the vapor the most beautiful abstract paintings created by lichens of all colors. The water was cold but refreshing.
    We descended down to the Tapeats, crossed the Tapeats on a big log, and then descended down along the eastern side of the Tapeats until the canyon narrowed. Then we forded across to the western side and made our way southward toward the Colorado on a narrow ledge as the Tapeats descended ever deeper below us to the left.
    After what seemed an eternity, the ledge suddenly ended. We now descended almost straight down, from one rock to the next following cairns until suddenly we were on a beautiful sandy beach where the Tapeats entered the Colorado.
    We had hiked 22 miles!!! The last two miles had been in darkness with flashlights.
    We went for a quick dip in the freezing water to wash the salt out of our hair and necks. Then we cooked our dinner under the stars and retired in our sleeping bags. Suddenly Helge said “stop that!” I said “What?” She again said “Stop that!!!. Then we realized that little cute kangaroo mice were climbing in our hair and on the straps of our backpacks, attracted by the salt. We fell asleep accompanied by these cute little critters.
    The next morning we took a quick dip in the freezing water and had a delicious breakfast. By 10 am we were standing on the edge of the Colorado River awaiting the arrival of the three American River Touring Association oar-powered rafts which we had signed up to join here. You see, they were only allowed to have 6 passengers plus the oarsman for the trip on each raft. But — that requirement is for Lava Falls. We had agreed to come aboard at the Tapeats and get off again at Havasu Creek, i.e. we would not be going as far as Lava Falls. Under those circumstances, they are allowed to take along passengers — we would be those two extra passengers for that portion of the trip.
    Well they didn’t arrive. Finally at 11:15 another group of rafts came by — we asked them where the American River Touring Association rafts were. They laughed. Apparently American River Touring was breaking in a new oarsman on one of the rafts and he was caught in an eddy, going around and around and around.
    At noon they finally arrived and we climbed a board one of the rafts.
    We were on the rafts for the rest of that day, that night, the next day, that night and finally another half day until we reached Havasu Creek. It was wonderful. One person on one of the rafts played a flute and two others had banjos. On quiet portions of the ride, they would play and the sounds echoed beautifully in the canyon walls. I enjoyed sitting “shotgun” up on the pontoon tip. I would go way up in the air on a wave and way down in the trough. I was allowed to jump into the water with a life vest down the rapids and falls except for Upset Falls. The rushing water would carry me down over the waves to the bottom — I would wait in an eddy for the raft to catch up with me, where I would climb back on board. We drank the brown river water treated with chemicals. The food was delicious, prepared in a Dutch Oven. During one lunch break, they had to repair one of the pontoons. During each lunch break, we took a side trip, once up a narrow slip-rock slot canyon, another time to a neat little waterfall. Evenings we slept on sandy beaches, played volley ball and read stories by a campfire.
    It was a little sad to depart their company when we reached Havasu Creek. We hiked that evening to about Beaver Falls. The trail was in excellent condition. We prepared our dinner on the little stove and as we were about to fall asleep in our sleeping bags, a great horned owl landed on a branch about 20 feet above us before it was dark.
    The next morning we continued stream-upwards after swimming for a while at Beaver Falls which still had deep pools. The rest of the way up to Mooney Falls, was like a Garden of Paradise. Travertine dams with deep pools traversed the creek all the way. Lush foliage grew out of the dams. And, you can’t imagine what it was like to suddenly see Mooney Falls coming up for the first time from below.
    We played at Mooney falls —I repeatedly made my way along the ledge behind the falls, climbed up on a rock behind the falls and then dove under the falls, feeling the water pushing me down as I was propelled forward and upward — what fun.
    Then we climbed up the ladders, cables and through the two tunnels, up to the top and set ourselves up in the little campsite right at the top of Mooney Falls among the pines there next to the picnic table.
    The next day we hiked up through the campground to Havasu Falls and spent the day playing there. At that time there was a huge tree on the western edge of the pool leaning out over the deep pool below Havasu Falls with a huge Amazon rope that one could swing out on. I also went behind Havasu Falls (like I had behind Mooney Falls) and dove under the falls there too.
    We then hiked out to Hualapai Hilltop at night using our flashlights. We had joined some others who knew the trail since we had not come down from there and were totally unfamiliar with the trail. It was fun and we encountered some wild burros or mules that night on the trail.
    At the top, two of the guys whom we had accompanied had an open (original type) surplus military jeep and were planning to drive due east from above Hualapai Hilltop through ranchland to reach the South Rim They took us along — we bounced up and down over the rough terrain in the back and I always jumped out to open and close the cattle gates.
    At the South Rim we hitch-hiked with a Persian tourist (yes, in those days they were still “Persian”), who complained “why” the “Stupid Americans” had not built an auto bridge across from the South Rim to the North Rim, causing him now to have to drive 250 miles out of his way. Along the way, he stopped to take photos of scenery — but we had to take the pictures for him so that he could be in the center of each picture.
    Guess what!!!?? When we finally got to the North Rim, our car was waiting for us at the hotel as promised with a thank you note from the young couple. And we called the Back Country Office to let them know that we were back safely.
    Unfortunately, the raft companies are no longer allowed to pick up people along the way or drop them off along the way — that is no longer allowed. Also, you are no longer allowed to ride shotgun on the rafts and one is no longer allowed to jump overboard with life vest and float down the falls.
    Also, the beautiful travertine dams and deep pools behind the dams are no longer there and the pools are not deep enough for the various Amazon ropes.
    We have returned to Havasu 12 times since 1975 with our children and our grand children, but always from Hualapai Hilltop. For those not familiar with the canyon prior to the floods — there were beautiful travertine dams and pools below Havasu Falls, all the way through the campground (the stream had one streambed along the eastern wall). There was a beautiful large travertine pool near the south end of the campground. One could climb up on a picnic table and swing out on an Amazon rope and then let go and even flip into the pool. There was another Amazon rope hanging from a tree branch at the foot of Mooney Falls pool from which one could swing out and let go, dropping into the pool below.
    There used to be beautiful travertine pools at the foot of Havasu Falls where one could play, climb and go down under the overhang behind each of the little water falls. And right below that was an eight foot high travertine plateau where especially the kids could jump off into the deep pool below. Sad — much has changed.

  • What a great comment Peter. Thank you for such a detailed account of your first trip. We were speculating about the rafting part of the trip too. We thought it would be great to hike down to the Colorado and jump on a raft from there. Looks like you were fortunate enough to do that while it was still allowed. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Peter

    Hi,
    Helge and I hiked down to the Colorado (via Beaver Falls) from Mooney Falls a couple of years ago and were able to compare that stretch with our recollections from our first hike up in 1975. Sadly, the trail has been destroyed and way-laid by boulders and timber as a result of the floods during the last two decades.
    Particularly bad is the stretch from Mooney to Beaver Falls. In many places it is difficult to find the correct places to ford the creek and parts were overgrown and washed away.
    When one approaches Beaver Falls, one first has to go up, over and down again to the right of Beaver Falls. This also involves an Amazon rope at a 25-foot cliff (climbing up ont he way toward the Colorado and repelling down on the return). That is intact and is not difficulty (children can manage it). What concerned me is that when one comes down on the way to the Colorado, where one meets the creek again, one jumps down off a large boulder. On the return from the Colorado, that specific boulder was very difficult to find (one doesn't see the trail going up from it). Be sure to mark that boulder with a cairn for the return trip.
    The trail from Beaver falls to the Colorado is better preserved and marked because people on rafts stopping at the foot of the Havasu take day hikes up to Beaver Falls.
    In summary, if people want to hike down to the Colorado and back from Mooney Falls in one day, be sure to leave very early since part of the way will be very slow-going, take enough water and, if possible, have someone go along who is familiar with the condition of the trail since the last flood in August 2008. Otherwise, you are very likely to lose your way.
    When Helge and I did this a couple of years ago, my back went bad on me enroute and we were unprepared for that. Fortunately, when we got to the Colorado River, by coincidence, American Touring Association rafts happened to be there. They provided us with food, water and heavy-duty sheets. We then spent the night in warm sand next to the Havasu near the Colorado under a full moon and hiked back the next day. Strangely, as we approached the Amazon rope and were preparing to repel down, suddenly an Indian head appeared, climbing up the cliff using the rope. It was the Indian ranger from Supai worried about us. People in the tent next to ours in the campground had reported that we had not returned the night before and the Indian ranger had gone out to look for us.

  • Vegashiker

    Trailsherpa, This is an amazing tool for many people. The way you write is very motivating, and I hope many more people can read this and see how great it is to get out and hike some of the most amazing trails in the world. I will people traveling to Havasupai fallsin September and will definitely be using your blog as a guide. rnThank you

  • Vegashiker

    Trailsherpa, This is an amazing tool for many people. The way you write is very motivating, and I hope many more people can read this and see how great it is to get out and hike some of the most amazing trails in the world. I will people traveling to Havasupai fallsin September and will definitely be using your blog as a guide.
    Thank you

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. Havasu Falls is one of those epic journeys athat would be hard not to enjoy. Be sure to stop by our Facebook Page when you get back from your trip and share a few pictures. We would love to see them and here about your trip. Just visit http://www.facebook.com/trailsherpa

  • Pingback: TrailSherpa: A few of my favorite photos from the trail | Trail Sherpa()

  • AZHiker

    How long does it take to hike from the hilltop to the Supai village?

    • Spethmd

      Hi,
      From Hyualapai Hilltop to the beginning of Supai is 8 miles — from the Hilltop to the reservation office 8.7 miles. Most of the way down you can walk at at very good pace.— there are only a few spots where you have to scramble a little over boulders. From the reservation office to the beginning of the campground is about 1.5 miles.
      Going back up is another story. From the campground to Supai has some stretches which are strenous and the last 1-1/2 miles before Hualapai are uphill switchbacks. The real problem is going up during the heat of the day. That’s why we usually start out at night with flashlights and hike all but the last two miles. We then sleep there on the ground til daybreak and hike the last 2 miles up before the sun makes it over the canyon walls.
      I hope you are aware of all the damage that occurred down there in June 2009 and again in October 2010. Much of what they repaired is damaged again. It’s not what it used to be.
      Regards,
      Peter Speth

      • Peter’s right. That hike back out is great…until the last ascent! We left at 8am last year and the heat was definitely hitting us when we reached the final push. Getting out before the late morning sun is key. It took us 4 1/2 hours to make it from the campground to the parking area that day so plan accordingly.

        • cbnchs

          A friend and I did this about 12 years ago in peak physical condition. We made the mistake of leaving the campground at noon. If I tried that now I’m sure the outcome would be quite different as we barely made it then. I definitely wouldn’t leave much after day break!

          • That’s a good point. We had temps that were about 15 degrees lower than normal for June and left around 8:30am. It got hot by the end. And with that final uphill over the last two miles it can get dicey in hot temps. Leave early to avoid any issues.

  • Spethmd

    Hi,
    Exactly what type of problem do you have with your knees (if you afre willing to share that)? Namely, depending on what the problem is would determine whether or not trekking poles would help
    Regards,
    Peter

  • Spethmd

    Hi,
    I took my wife, daughter and our 8 and 9 year old grand children down last August and we took a lot of photos. We had a great time despite all the flood damage, except that during our fourth and last night we had driving rain and howling winds. But nobody panicked and we even slept through part of it and our tents stayed dry.
    One of those evenings I was on the way to the new outhouse with my wife and 8 yr old granddaubghter. I was leading and was looking around for the way with my flashlight. Suddenly my grand daughter behind me, who had her flashlight aimed down to the ground, suddenly said “Peter, watch out, a snake!!” I didn’t know where to watch out and kept walking. She said “stop or you’ll step on it.” I looked down and there was a beautifu 4-foot long Arizona Kingsnake. What a neat experience. The snake even let us watch it for a minute or two before it went on through the Jinsome weed flowers.
    One more thing — as you know, all of the beautiful travertine dams, and the swimming holes behind them, are gone between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. However, the travertine dams below Mooney Falls are still there, albeit the pool is not deep enough to go off the tree on the Amazon rope. What is neat for the kids, and for adults with youthful whimseys, are the caves behind the falls going over that travertine dam. My grand children and I had a great time behind those falls in the caves under the travertine.
    My son and I had a very scary experience. In years gone by we used to pull ourselves along the wall to get behind Mooney Falls where we would pull ourselves up onto a perch behind the falls. From there we would dive under the falls and be swept up out in front of the falls. So, my son and I decided to do that again. However, as we started inching our way along the wall and before we were behind the falls, a powerful eddy current that we could not overcome swept us behind the falls. To our dismay, due to the storms, the falls no longer have a space behind, between the falls and the wall. We panicked because we could not find a good place to hold onto to keep our heads above water and as we tried to keep our heads above water, there was so much vapor that one had difficulty breathing. My son gasped over to me “Are we going to drown?” I didn’t know what to answer. He said he would try to swim out under the falls. He was ripping with his hands on the wall to keep his head long enough in the vapor close to the wall to catch some breath and then disappeared under the falls. I then did the same. To my relief I came up out in front of the falls. The water is so shallow there now that I could kneel in the water and it took me about 10 minutes to catch my breath and fully recover. I felt very weak. My son had a similar experience.
    So, the bottom line is — those of you who used to go behind the falls — be warned!!!
    Peter

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Peter. It’s an amazing place but you certainly have to tread lightly. It seems like the fall change every year, just part of the cycle created by the flooding.

  • Sounds great. I am planning a trip here the last week of May. 3 Questions – What is the chances that the campsites will be too full for one tent? Will this be too hot to hike the last week of may? We are planning on doing this over 2 days 1 night. Does that sound right? Thanks!

  • Sounds great. I am planning a trip here the last week of May. 3 Questions – What is the chances that the campsites will be too full for one tent? Will this be too hot to hike the last week of may? We are planning on doing this over 2 days 1 night. Does that sound right? Thanks!

    • Kyle, you should be fine for one tent. We did it in June and the weather was great. That should be good for you too in late May. Two days and one night will work, but I would encourage you to consider adding a second night. Going down stream to Mooney Falls and the jungle are a must. You can do it all in the first day, but it’s nice to be able to hang out and enjoy the scene.

    • Peter Speth, MD

      Hi Kyle,
      I would leave real early in the morning from Hualapai Hilltop for two reasons. Even in May it gets very hot once the sun is overhead. By leaving early, you will be in the narrow parts of the canyon with high canyon walls before the sun gets overhead. Secondly, you’ll get down to the campground in plenty of time to find a good spot and set up your site before that day’s new crowd arrives and then there still will be time to relax and spend leisurely time at one of the waterwalls, thereby not losing a day down in Havasu.
      If you don’t mind hiking an extra mile, and hiking 2+ miles roundtrip each time you need spring water, there are still beautiful tent sites right above Mooney Falls. The sites in the campground look very much like construction sites due to the damage from the floods. At the top of Mooney Falls, the tent sites are still pristine. But, don’t make the mistake of going into the creek above Mooney Falls. A man lost his life there last year — there is a strong undertow and all the travertine dams above Mooney, which would have protected you from going over the falls, were washed away during the floods. That’s sad — we used to camp at the site right on top and go swimming right there, protected from going over the falls by the travertine dams.
      I still would recommend going up at night, leaving at about 10 or 11 pm. That way you can still spend that entire day enjoying Havasu before departing. Go up using LED flashlights — its an exhiliarating experience under the clear stars. However, on coming down try to more or less to have remembered how the trail goes through the canyon. If you’re not sure about that, find some others who are leaving at night (many campers do) and who know the way up, because you certainly don’t want to take wrong turns and get lost. Hike out to within about 1-1/2 miles short of Hualapai Hilltop. Then bed down next to the trail (not on the trail lest mules come down during the night or very early morning) in a sandy spot and go up the steep last 1-1/2 miles before sunrise. That way you will be going up the steep part in the cool of the morning and you will be back in Peach Springs for breakfast and can then complete whatever you still want to do that day, having had an early start. That way you also have an extra day down in Havasu.
      If it’s the hiking in and out that you enjoy (and it is a fascinating hike), then you may find that a short stay down in Havasu is sufficient. But if you enjoy the swiming and playing by the waterfalls and the fun of camping in a tent, then I would definitely stay down there for at least two full days and 2 nights (not including the night you hike out). On the other hand, for those of us who remember Havasu fromt he 1970’s, Havasu and Mooney Falls are not what they used to be and all the travertine dams between Havasu Falls & Mooney Falls have been washed away. The only intact travertine dam to play on is the one below the Mooney Falls pool. The Mooney Falls pool is actually almost nonexistent and very shallow unless the Indians have built a new sandbag wall since the last floods in June and October 2010. Similarly, there no longer is a pool below Havasu Falls and the area surrounding what used to be the pool looks like a tsunami hit it. Also, all the travertine dams and pools where we used to play below Havasu Falls are gone. The campground itself has been washed out many times now, washing away the temporary bridges and the tent sites. I was last there in August of 2010 and saw the damage from the June 2010 flood. Then there was another flood in October. I haven’t been back since last August.
      As Trail Sherpe has said very correctly — nature is taking its course and renewing the canyon. But, in the meantime, it’s not the beautiful playground that it was in the 1970’s and that sort of breaks my heart. Some day it may be beautiful again, but I’m 75 now and I’ll have to elave that for my grand kids who went down with us in August. Be well,

      Peter Speth

  • John McLaurin

    Peter,

    My name is John McLaurin. I lived in Heidelberg, Germany from 1962-68 and remember a Peter Speth who attended the University of Heidelberg. My dad was US Army stationed in Heidelberg. I believe we met while you were delivering or picking up something from the Casino located on Campbell Barracks. If it is you and you would like to respond, my email is jjmc93@verizon.net

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  • Rachyll

    You are saying it’s first come first serve for camp sites? I thought when we booked we choose campsites #’s? Is this not the case? Also how do they know you are allowed to camp and how many people you reserved for?