Sitting in a crowded pizza restaurant on a Thursday evening in Spokane, Washington, a tradition we had going for about six months, we decided a camping and hiking trip sounded fun. Brian, my husband, and our friend Pat Cornwall put our collective minds together and came up with the idea of going to Havasupai Falls in the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
We quickly realized that this trip was not guaranteed as they have a competitive permit system to go, but we were prepared to try. On February 1, 2018, at 7am, the day the permit lines open, the three of us, in our respective locales, began trying the phones and the website hoping to get our permits. Suddenly, Brian texted that he had succeeded; we were going to the Falls. My initial thrill soon turned to panic. We had just signed up for a 10-mile hiking trip into the Grand Canyon, which in turn means a 10-mile hiking trip out of the Grand Canyon!
It was time to prepare. We quickly began finding blogs and a Facebook group filled with people from all over the world who have gone or are preparing to go on this amazing trip (Facebook.com/groups/Havasupai/about). This group proved invaluable for me, as there were lists upon lists of what to pack and several stories of just how incredible the Havasupai Falls are. I was beginning to get more and more excited with each Facebook post.
Our permit was for March 28, so on March 27 we flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, with nothing more than our backpacks. We each wanted to keep our packs around 20 pounds as we would be carrying them quite a ways.
Once in Las Vegas we rented a car and began the trek to Arizona to stay our first night at the Grand Canyon Caverns campground, which is not too far past Peach Springs, Arizona, the nearest town. We set up camp and then toured the Caverns, which unexpectedly, turned out to be a great part of the trip. The Caverns are located 200 to 300 feet below ground, and once you take the elevator the 21 floors down, you are met with amazing geological formations and a fantastic history. The Caverns were used by the U.S. Government as a fallout shelter during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, holding supplies for 2,000 people, which still remain today.
After a freezing night, we awoke the morning of the 28th ready to make the hour trip to the trailhead to begin our descent into the Grand Canyon. We parked at the trailhead, put on our backpacks and set our trekking poles to the correct heights and began our hike. As someone who has generally been active, competitive and loves a good challenge, I was a bit nervous, but there was no turning back now! We made it to the trailhead after about 10 minutes of walking down a road. The view of the Grand Canyon from the trailhead was incredible. It’s hard to imagine just how massive the Canyon really is. We began heading into the Canyon passing a few people along the way and several horses. There is an option to have a horse pack your belongings in, which seemed like a popular choice for many. You learned quickly to get off the trail in a hurry if you saw the horses—they were on a mission, to say the least.
As we ventured further into the Canyon we stopped and took photos, had snacks and took our time. The colors within the Canyon are indescribable; the blue of the sky is only something you see on the clearest summer day, and once you put the green trees and the red of the canyon walls against such a perfect backdrop, you get something only an artist could dream up.
We saw various trees, vegetation and amazing rock formations along the way, but other than the horses and a few birds, there weren’t any animals seen.
After a fairly uneventful 10-mile hike in, we made it to the Havasupai Indian Reservation, home of the Supai people. We were not sure what to expect at the Reservation, but I think I can say that we were all a little caught off guard. Imagine living in the middle of the Grand Canyon, with a small school, a store that sold few items, a post office (the last “mule mail” in the country, I recommend sending yourself a postcard), and a restaurant, if you can really call it that. It had some great Indian fry bread, hamburgers, hotdogs and a few other items like what you might find in a large convenience store. The people don’t have much and, frankly, it was a bit depressing.
We all ate our respective lunches and then realized we had 2 more miles to go to reach the campground. Our legs, at least mine, were feeling the hike by this point and I hoped these 2 miles would go by quickly; however, as it turns out, the last 2 miles are some of the best. We came across several pools of water that were turquoise in color and absolutely breathtaking.
We continued our trek past the pools of water and finally came across the Havasupai Falls themselves! They were enormous and, due to the amount of limestone in the walls of the Canyon, were a bright greenish color. We then continued on for about a 1/2 mile and found our camp spot. We set up our tents and ate some of the dehydrated food we had brought. We then set out to explore.
There was a natural spring not too far from our campsite where we could refill water bottles, and then we went back to the Havasupai Falls to watch people swim and dip our feet in the water ourselves. It is said to be about 70 degrees year round, but it felt chillier than that to me!
That night we slept in our tents hearing only the noise from the nearby creek, the most quiet and peaceful sleeping conditions I have experienced. The next morning we were up bright and early to continue on with our exploration, as there are several other falls to see in the nearby area all as beautiful as the last. Walking around the camp and seeing the water was a gorgeous and relaxing way to spend our day before the final day and the hike back out the Canyon.
After an amazing trip we were ready to head out of the Canyon. The hike out was by far the most strenuous portion. There is 2,800 feet of elevation over 12 miles with the last mile and half being 1,000 feet of elevation—it sounded nearly impossible. We packed up camp, with our packs being slightly lighter than on the way in since we had eaten most of the food, and began the long hike out of the Canyon. Luckily for us the weather stayed in the mid-70s during the hike (it tends to get much hotter in the summer months, so plan accordingly).
Once we made it back out of the Canyon, with a feeling of accomplishment, we headed to the car and to find some non-dehydrated food. This was a trip that I will not forget and one that I would recommend to all who can do it. The Canyon is a beautiful place!