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Havasu Canyon Trail
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mini location map2014-06-05
28 by photographer avatarddgrunning
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Havasu Canyon TrailNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar Jun 05 2014
ddgrunning
Backpack30.00 Miles 2,995 AEG
Backpack30.00 Miles3 Days         
2,995 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Three day backpacking trip with our three youngest kids. We last hit Havasupai two years ago over spring break in March with our two oldest daughters (http://hikearizona.com/x.php?I=4&ZTN=58&UID=55481). It was interesting to contrast the spring break experience with the summer experience. The plus side of going over spring break was the lack of crowds/relative solitude. The plus of going in the summer is that the ambient temperatures were higher and encouraged us to spend more time in the water, and all the leaves and foliage were out on the trees and the wild grape field. So, here's the trip report:

Trip to TH and Day 1: We left the East Valley (Gilbert) at 11:30 pm on Wednesday and drove straight to the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop. We made good time and arrived at the hilltop at 4 am. There were tons more cars there than when we went two years ago. We were lucky to find a parking spot that was only a 1/4 mile from the trailhead, but there were some cars parked 1/2 mile away or further.

We were on the trail by 4:30, just as morning light was beginning to dawn. It was still rather dark at the trailhead, but light enough that we did not need to use headlamps.The hike down was beautiful and almost entirely in the shade.

Because of our early start, we made it to the campground by around 9:30 and had the whole day to explore. We chose a camp spot that was farther away from the creek, up next to the canyon walls, near the entrance to the campground. Since we went last time, a lot of small trees and foliage have sprouted up and resulted in us having a very nice little secluded area for our camp. Amazingly "private" for how busy it was down there.

Of course, we were tired from hiking and lack of sleep from the night before, so we stuck close by, spending much of the day at Havasu Falls. Amazing how refreshing the mist from the falls is on a hot day. The travertine pool just down from the falls has formed up nicely since our visit two years ago and made for a fun little "cliff" jump (about 4-5 feet) and swimming area. After swimming and playing around for awhile, my wife and I found a picnic bench in the shade and laid down for a little nap, while the kids did some exploring around. The soothing sound of the falls made an ideal background for our nap.

After dinner, we went back up to explore the mine shaft up Carbonate Canyon. It was the same as last time, and the kids had fun checking it out.

Everyone was pretty tuckered out that night, and we turned in fairly early (9:30 ish) to prepare for a trip down to Beaver Falls the next morning. It was so warm that I never even got in my sleeping back the whole time.

Day 2: After a relatively good night's sleep, we got up on Friday morning, had breakfast and packed our lunch and day packs for a trip to Beaver falls. We headed out around 8 a.m. and made our way through the campground and down Mooney Falls, which is an adventure in itself. Our 10-yr-old was a little nervous about the descent but did great. We were glad we left early because the descent of Mooney became a real bottleneck apparently when the masses from the campground came a little later.

The hike down to Beaver was not as much of a solitude adventure as during our last trip when we had the entire canyon below Mooney to ourselves. That said, because we got an early jump on the crowds, the trail to Beaver was relatively uncrowded. The wild grape field was gorgeous with all the leafage! Once we made it to Beaver Falls, we ended up going down a little different route than last time. Instead of descending onto the bottom level of the falls, we descended on the top level. The tribe has made some "improvements" in that area, and set up some ladders and ropes on the far (south) side of the river, so that you can navigate the various tiers of the falls. Whereas we spent most of our time two years ago at the 3rd and 4th tiers of the falls, we spent most of our time on this trip at the 1st (top) tier of the falls. There was a neat little 15 ft. cliff jump on the 1st tier of Beaver Falls, where we had a lot of fun jumping off. It was great because the current naturally pushed you right over to the side of the pool below the falls where you could hop out and climb the ladder back up for another jump. Also, the edge of the pool was shaded by a tree and provided a great spot just to sit in the water and watch people jump. There were a number of people at the falls when we arrived, but nothing like the amount that eventually showed up, including scores of boy scouts. Even with the crowds, though, it was not uncomfortably crowded.

We ate lunch at Beaver, explored the various tiers and then hiked up to the Grand Canyon National Park Boundary, and a little further beyond. I still have my sight set on hiking down to the Colorado River one of these days, but not on this trip. It was hot exploring around and so we decided to head back to Beaver Falls for a second helping of swimming and cliff jumping. After getting our fill, we decided to start the trek back, but instead of following the trail, we decided just to try hiking straight up the creek. We made our way back up to the "lone palm tree" fairly easily, and decided that, from now on, we would skip all of the climbing up the canyon wall and descending back down to Beaver Falls next time, as the river navigation was a lot easier ...

We continued our off-trail, creek hiking adventure for another mile or two, and were joined by a father and and his 11-year-old son from Florida, whom we had met at Beaver Falls. The creek hike was one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip. As we came to various pools and mini-falls, we had to be creative in figuring the best way around and up the obstacles and areas with strong current, etc. Working together, we made slow and steady progress, which was fine since we had no real time agenda. After a couple of miles, we joined back up with the actual trail and enjoyed wandering back through the grape field. At the creek crossing on the up-river end of the grape field, we again turned up the creek and hiked in the water back to Mooney Falls. Along the way, we stopped and swam in what we dubbed the "jacuzzi," a nice little circular water hole, where you could get up under the falls for a natural, water massage. At one point, I could lean my head back into the falls, which deflected the flow of water off my head and in front of me. I was completely engulfed in water, but the deflection off my head, created an air bubble, where I could breathe comfortably "underwater." Kind of cool. The son of our impromptu Florida hiking companion wanted to give it a try, but instead of getting the water to deflect off his forehead, he sent it down his back, where it promptly de-pants-ed him :oops: Good thing the water is pretty opaque :D

We eventually made it back to Mooney falls, where there was already a "line" starting to form to get back up the falls. I'm sure it was a nightmare to try to get up a couple hours later. With a little patience, we made it back up and arrived back at our campsite around 5 pm--for a full, and fun-filled 9-hour, 10-mile adventure. That evening, we headed back up to Havasu Falls and just talked and enjoyed the beautiful evening around the mostly deserted falls, while the evening set in and the light slowly dissipated into darkness, with the constant rumble of the falls in the background.

We returned to camp in the dark and planned our "exit" strategy for the following day. We all quickly agreed that we did not want to break camp in the dark and begin hiking out at 4 am in an effort to beat the heat, so we decided to take the opposite approach of spending most of the day in the canyon and hiking out in the later afternoon, after the sun had crossed far enough over the sky to create shade it the canyon.

Day 3: In light of the plan, we were in no rush to get up in the morning and slept in comfortably.

After breakfast, we packed up most of our camp and then headed down to the mouth of Mooney Falls, where we peered over the top at the 220-ft drop to the canyon floor below. That was kind of a fun adventure. When we returned to camp, we found that the critters (squirrels/chipmunks, likely) had attacked our camp--specifically, my brand new backpack--they had chewed the zipper open on one of the hip pockets to get at a granola bar I had in there. I wasn't very happy about my zipper pocket getting ruined, but I guess that's life. Kind of ironic, as we had been pretty careful to that point to take all of our food out and hang it up on a rope line in an effort to avoid just such an issue. Lesson learned--can't let your guard down for a minute with the campground critters, who are clearly experts at getting into people's gear in search of food.

After I got over my grief, we finished packing up camp and hiked the mile or so back upstream to the Little Navajo Falls (I guess that's what they have decided to call it), which we had passed on the way down, but not really spent any time at. We found a shady spot above the falls to hang up our back packs and then hiked down to the falls to play around. We ended up cliff jumping off the falls, which were about 30 ft. high, much higher than anything we tried at Havasu or Beaver Falls. Everyone made the jump, including our 10 year old. The kids and I also swam back in and explored the grotto area behind the falls, which was created by a large overhang that the creek falls over. After everyone had their fill, we went back up to our backpacks and had lunch in the shade. We ate lunch, took a little nap on the rocks, and then explored the "upper" Little Navajo Falls.

After our exploration, we returned to our lunch spot, strapped on our packs, and hiked the additional mile up to Supai Village. At Supai, we changed out of our swimming clothes and into our hiking clothes. We also stopped at the "grocery store" and got an ice cream treat for everyone, along with cold bottle of Sprite and some fresh fruit. Then we headed over to the tourist office and filled every container we had with water for the hike out.

While we were in the village, a fire had gotten started down by the river, and we could see the smoke. Hopefully, they got it out quickly. I think they did, since we didn't see much smoke as we were hiking out.

We finally turned up trail for the final 8 miles back to the hilltop at about 4 pm. As advertised, the afternoon sun had passed over the far side of the canyon walls and created a shady hike up the canyon. We were grateful for this and congratulated ourselves on being so smart all the way out :D

The other nice thing about our "hike-late" strategy was that there were very few hikers on the trail, and we finally got to enjoy a little solitude during the "busy" season. Because of the shade, the hike out was much more enjoyable than the brutal slog it would have been in the full sun! At the 1.5 mile to go mark, the real ascent begins. As we marched up the climb and switchbacks, we watched the shadows climb up the canyon wall in front of us, timing our hike just right so that we could enjoy the light, but not the heat. We topped out just before 7:30 pm, which was perfect!

I was impressed with my kids, who just kept motoring up the hill, full backpacks and all. As we rounded the corner where you can see the top, my 11-year-old son turned to me and said that the hike out was not as bad as he had expected it to be. Right on!

After getting to the top, I went looking for our 10-yr-old's backpack, which we had sent up by mule (she carried a day pack with a water bladder on the trail). , which should have been brought up by the mules. Well, long story short, it had been inadvertently left in Supai village. :doh: ](*,) So, we left a note on the door of the the little "office" telling them to mail it to us. (I called the next day and confirmed they will mail it to us. Here's hoping they do .... :pray: ).

After waiting for a few others in our party to make it out, we got on the road for home about 8:30 pm, and drove straight to the nearest McDonalds, as all of us were tired of trail snacks and ready for some "real" food. Unfortunately, the trailhead is in the middle of nowhere, and the nearest town (Seligman) had essentially shut down for the night by the time we got there, so we ended up having to drive about 2.5 hours before we could get to the McDonalds in Chino Valley.

All along Indian Road 18, we saw a ton of elk, including at least half a dozen prize bulls with huge racks! Taking that road at night is truly a white-knuckle experience. Next time I think I'll pack a spotlight so we could get a better view of the wildlife.

We finally made it home about 1:30-ish in the morning (Sunday) and were absolutely exhausted. After some quick (and well-needed) showers, we hit the hay for a few hours before having to get up for 8 am church.

Fabulous family memories created at one of the most beautiful places in AZ. :y: :y: :y:

FYIs: There is still cell coverage in the village on Verizon, and now even some cell coverage on Verizon at the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead.
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