How to get to Havasu Falls Part 1
How to get to Havasu Falls Part 1: The Milky Way Chronicles
Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Indian Reservation is indeed inside the Grand Canyon and feeds into the Colorado River, but is not a part of Grand Canyon National Park. This desert oasis is a hidden gem that is not so hidden these days because of social media, and is a must-see for all of you adventurers out there!
Everyone always asks, "how did you get reservations?". Well both Sarah (my adventure bestie) and I started calling on my birthday, February 1st, and called continuously until we got through. Feb 1st is the day they open up for reservations for the year. We both got reservations for April and August for large groups. This particular blog is about our 1st trip to Havasu this year to shoot photos of the Milky Way over the falls. Keep in mind when you're calling, you're calling in to their offices in Supai where there are about 2 people (maybe more) manning 4 different phone numbers and taking reservations for the entire season. They don't have call waiting on those numbers either. I personally probably called at LEAST 500 times to finally get through.
You're also competing with the tour companies that charge for all inclusive trips to Havasu Falls. The Natives love these clients because they guarantee a large amount of income from the mules that are used as well as money spent in the village going through on the way in and out.
Getting through is definitely the luck of the draw. The phone numbers are as follows: 9284482121 9284482141 9284482174 9284482180
Their website says if you just show up, they will charge you double the amount but will allow you to stay. I think this is something they USED to do. I wouldn't do it if I were you because I watched people get turned away while I was there. Do NOT go without a reservation unless you are prepared to get turned away after hiking 8 miles in. Other option is to keep calling and be prepared to take off at a moment's notice of a last minute cancellation.
First thing I did was create a private group on Facebook. In doing so I noticed TONS of public events on Facebook with people with extra spots on their reservations. Joining these groups is definitely a good way to score a spot if you are unable to get through on the phone numbers. Another option is to google Havasu tours. If you have the money, an all inclusive makes this very tough back pack trip a breeze.
On my Facebook Group, I invited individuals that I knew would be able to handle the type of trip we were going on.. What is it you ask?? A 20 mile hike RT to the campground with 50+ lbs of gear, plus multiple miles of hiking to Beaver Falls, town, up and down the campground, and back to Navajo Falls.. On this first trip this year I did a total of about 35 miles. I also made sure to post lots of information about things like my packing list, weather, cell phone service, available facilities, and more. I may have overdone it with the info, but everyone seemed appreciative. I made everyone pay for their permits and campground fees in advance to guarantee their spots on the trip. I did this because I didn't over invite people on the trip and I wanted to make sure we used all 20 spots. We didn't unfortunately because 4 people bailed out pretty much day of. The extra money was split between all of the drivers for gas.
We were originally planning on car camping at the top, but everyone seemed ok with leaving Vegas at 1am, driving in and getting on trail by 5 or 6 am.. Why do that?? We definitely didn't want to hike with all our gear in the heat of the day.. Now that it's June and temps are in the triple digits, it's IMPERATIVE that you plan for hiking in early.
Now, in spite of having done this trip before, I definitely overpacked. I thought because I was the leader of the group, I should probably bring extra things to help people out. The extra weight definitely contributed to my blisters I got on the way in. My friend Kevin came out all the way from New York and he also got major blisters on the way in that affected him the entire trip. My advice?? Keep MoleSkin or Second skin on hand and the MINUTE you feel a hot spot in your shoes, stop and put some on. You will thank me for that advice. I use superglue to hold it on if I'm going to be hiking in water.
Our group made it to the town of Supai some time around 10 am. We stopped at the 1st "restaurant" we came to on the left to grab breakfast burritos before heading to the Tourism Office to check in. You NEED to have your ID for the reservation, as well as your reservation number. I made sure I had cash although they do accept credit cards there too. You also need to have all vehicles info, make model and license plate. They are now very diligent in policing everyone who comes through Havasu- they check campsites for tags every single day and they check you off a list when they run into you on trails as well.. Each person has a colored bracelet for that week with the name of the person who the reservation was under. Everyone in our group had my name on them for weeks because many of them didn't want to take off their bracelets..
The final 2 miles in to Havasu Falls and the Campground were rough. Like I said I had overpacked, and I was just sorely out of shape. And, I was more in shape than many of the people I saw along the trail suffering on the way in. The hike is truly no joke, and you should not take it lightly. I will admit that when you turn the corner and first see the falls, all of that seems to disappear. Until you have to continue into the campground and find a place for your group to camp. I suggest doing that and then coming back to the falls to relax after; you want to make sure to get a good camp site.
Now the campground isn't set up like most you go to. There are just picnic tables all over the place and areas you can take over. Sarah and part of our crew had managed to go ahead and scout the campground before the 2nd half of our group I was leading had arrived. Ironically, they picked the EXACT same place I camped last year when I was there. It was an awesome area with plenty of trees to hang hammocks on. I think I will do the hammock thing next year when I am there and save myself 5lbs from my tent! We all set up tents and hammocks and quickly changed to head over to Havasu Falls to relax the rest of the day. It was after 1pm by this time and we had missed the sun on the falls. Oh well, we still enjoyed our time there that afternoon..
Everyone headed back to camp except me, Kevin, Shane and Claudia. We took a trip 2 miles back to town to arrange mules to carry our stuff out the last day. We were concerned that if we didn't, we were going to have some serious issues because of the weight of our packs and the blisters we were already dealing with. For approximately $90, a mule will take up to 4 packs weighing a total of 130lbs to the top of the canyon. We had to get to the tourism office before they closed at 5pm to schedule it. We stopped at the restaurant to have a cheeseburger on our way back to the campground and then made another stop at Upper Navajo Falls.
We got to Upper Navajo just as the sun was setting which made for some very beautiful photos. We didn't really pay attention to the time and hadn't brought headlamps with us so walked much of the way back to camp in the dark. Everyone was there having dinner so we joined in the social hour. We had plans to be up by 2am to shoot the milky way so it wasn't long till everyone crashed out.
My alarm went off loudly and I quickly wandered around camp waking up the others who were interested in joining us. Not everyone made it up, but we still had a good size group of 8 to head down to the most famous of the falls, Havasu. My original plan was to shoot the falls with the Milky Way until day break, and then get a second image of the falls with a little bit of the dawn light for the foreground of my image. I didn't have to do that because Daniel Britton had brought a ton of Lux Pro Flashlights with him; enough to light up the falls. Before we left we made sure to get an awesome group photo with the falls and the milky way above us. We chose to head back to camp to get a couple more hours sleep instead of staying up for sunrise.
The reason we planned to be up so early is because the climb down to Mooney Falls is a major traffic jam always. It's only wide enough for one person, so if people are climbing up, you have to wait for all of them to go before climbing down. Add to that the treachery of the climb down stairs, ladders, and chains completely drenched by the mist of the waterfall. In spite of all efforts to get there early, our group didn't make it there until about 10am. Part of the group headed down the falls and got stuck in the traffic jam there. I took a small group of us to take photos and check out the top of the falls instead of waiting. As the traffic jam cleared up, we made the climb down to the bottom of the falls.
There are two ways to hike down to Beaver Falls; one by mostly land, the other by mostly water. Each person in our group kind of made their own decision on which way to go that day. About half chose land through miles and miles of grapevine fields overlooking the waters of Havasu Creek. The other half chose the more refreshing route through the water. Kevin and I were slow going by land, thinking for sure that we were way behind everyone. But before long we had caught up with Shane, David and Claudia; we walked directly behind them for at least 2-3 minutes before they even realized that we were there. We continued on and took the top route into Beaver Falls.
The hike and experience at Beaver Falls is definitely the highlight of the trip; I tell everyone who goes to Havasu to make sure not to miss it. We arrived to about half of our group already there enjoying the water, surprised that not everyone was there. We joined them and it wasn't long till the rest of the group showed up. We spent a couple hours there climbing, picnicking, jumping off the falls, and exploring before turning around to make the journey back. Ian joined me in a bit of dancer's pose action; something I do almost every place I travel to. A bit downstream, we investigated the 65 ft cliff seen in the Devin Supertramp video; I recognized it as the place in the video featuring people jumping far into the waters below. No one from our group attempted this jump although some seemed interested in it for sure.
We meandered our way back with no sense of urgency at this point. Again, Kevin and I stuck to the land trail as did most of the group this time. Bryan and Ian were closely hiking with us; Dan and Ray were in search of a pair of missing boots they had lost along the way. The native Supai Ranger caught up to us not far from Mooney Falls and we spent some time asking questions as to the history around the area. It was quite intriguing.
It was our final evening in Havasu and the original plan was to again shoot the Milky Way. But the clouds had rolled in and the group of us having our packs carried out by mules had to have them up to the top of the campground at 7am sharp. So we all hung out around the three picnic tables at our campsite; cooking, eating, joking and telling stories until one by one each retreated to their beds.
I was the only one who got up early to shoot the sunrise, although there wasn't much of a sunrise that morning. It was cloudy and overcast but I still made the hike up to Havasu to shoot it. Then I rushed back to camp to pack and get my gear to the mule pick up point. The native I spoke to their suggested that there would be a rainstorm by 10am. Our small group decided it was time to depart, with another small part of the group set to depart an hr later. Courtney had already headed out with all of her gear, Dan, Ray and Byron were staying a few more days and the other 5 were planning on heading out in the evening. Although it wasn't flash flood season, I wasn't interested in getting caught in a deluge trying to hike out.
We stopped in the village to get some food and rain parkas along the way and it started falling just as we were leaving Supai. The group who started behind us caught up to the blister crew right before the foothills. Most of the rest of the trail was without rain although as we hit the foothills and the switchbacks, we saw the storm rolling in. We had about 300 feet to go and we started running; no sooner had we reached the Hualapai Hill Top did the sky open and start HAILING of all things. We ran to get our bags from the where they had been dropped by the mules and escaped to the car. In spite of the long hike and hurting feet, we were laughing because of our race against the storm.
It took me forever to get this blog written- it's now been 2 months since we were there. Thank you to all of my friends who made this a memorable trip; sorry if I forgot certain details of it!! lol If you are reading this and have any questions about our journey, feel free to join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/havasufallspics
NOTE: Not all of the photos here are taken by me- the ones without watermarks are either from mine or Kevin's cellphone