Backpacking, Hiking, Southwest, Top Trips, Travel

Road Trip part five: Havasu Canyon

I’m having a bit of a rough time right now, so in order to think of something else I’ll write about the next (and the best) leg of our road trip: Havasu Canyon.

Sometime around Christmas, I had a show about the Grand Canyon on the Travel Channel on in the background while working on my computer, and I caught a glimpse of a spectacular, turquoise waterfall. Being a hiking geek, I immediately got online to get the details – thus the idea of the road trip was born.

Havasu Falls is located on a reservation outside of Grand Canyon. To get there, you either have to hike 10 miles (slackers send their packs in on mules) or take a helicopter into Supai, a tiny village a mile away from the falls. Young and sprightly as we are (hah!), we backpacked in.

Jules and her new friends

..or are they horses?

The hike itself is beautiful, but nothing compares to the first sight of the turquoise waterfall after ten miles of red rocks and desert. I have never seen anything like it.

Wii gl'iiva; the Watchers Havasu Falls Huzzah!

We were pooped after the hike in (hiking in that heat with a full backpack = gaaaah), so we found a campsite (there’s room for over 300 campers; this is not the place to go if you’re looking for solitude), slept, slept some more, and then got up in the morning to swim and explore.

Our campground



On the other side of the campground you find Mooney Falls, notorious for the sketchy trail you have to descend to get to the bottom.

The trail down to Mooney Falls

It’s not really a trail at all, just an old miner’s route blasted into the wall. Julia and I made it down the first part and through the tunnels (eep) before freaking out and turning back. JK lacks the vertiginous gene, so he made it all the way down. If you keep hiking even further, you’ll see even more waterfalls and eventually reach the Colorado River. I’ve already promised JK that I’ll do it if we ever go back…

Descend at own risk Ladder Going back up

Luckily, you get a great view of Mooney even if you don’t go all the way down:

Mooney Falls

In the evening, we tried to take some exposure shots of Havasu Falls, had dinner (the dehydrated camping food you get here in the US is surprisingly tasty), played cards with a new friend we met, and I got my first spider bite – huzzah! It wasn’t a black widow or a brown recluse, so I could breathe easy – desert life amongst poisonous spiders, snakes and scorpions is quite intense for a gang of Norwegians!


We headed back the next morning. Because we’re total idiots, we started around ten, hiking out during the hottest hours of the day. I have never ever been so tired in my entire life. By the time we reached the hill up to Hualapai Hilltop, where our car was parked, I was spent. Even though we had three liters of water each plus two bottles of Gatorade that we picked up in Supai, we all ran out of water before we hit the switchbacks. I ended up having to sit down for a couple of minutes any time I could find some shade.

Hiking out of the village

Ingunn & Jules

Eventually we dragged our asses up to the parking lot where gallons of lovely water awaited us in the car.

Now tell me how you really feel

The worst part is that I would totally do this again. :D

Havasu Canyon must be one of the most beautiful places on earth, but it was a completely different experience than what I’m used to as a backpacker. First of all, there are so many people. Many send their stuff in by mules or helicopters and many don’t even hike in, so the place is full of people who have never heard the term “leave no trace”. We saw huge groups of people living it up with full-sized barbecues that they had sent in, people washing themselves and their clothes with soap in the creek, and the most disgusting toilets I have ever experienced (including that toilet in Poland (ugh) and all the ones in India).

Backpackers are usually very nice and helpful, but here people were pushing other people’s tents out of the way so they could take their spots (and a group of “women” (they were acting like they were 13) took the table from our camp and refused to give it back). I hope the area gets a tighter permit system soon, but since the tribe needs tourists to survive I doubt it will happen.

Also, the story of the Havasupai tribe is, as with most Native American tribes, really depressing. I recommend reading the book I Am the Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People and this article from Backpacker Magazine.

Anyway, enough whining. Next stop: Route 66, Vegas and Goldstrike Hot Springs!

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  • Reply Ann Hedvig August 15, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Ser helt fantastisk ut Ingunn, eia var jeg der! Men tror ikke jeg hadde gått gjennom de trange tunnelene ned nei :o)

    Håper du får en fin dag!

  • Reply Helle August 15, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Fantastiske bilder!!! Du verden for et landskap. Have a good one! H.

  • Reply Lisas (WildCelticRose) August 15, 2008 at 6:18 am

    AWESOME Pictures!!!

    I often get homesick for the Southwest (I moved here from Moab)

  • Reply Jaimie Mulheron August 15, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Sorry to hear you are having a hard time, have faith everything will work out.

    We are planning this hike for the 30th of this month! Even though I hate camping anywhere for only one night I dont think I could carry much more than one nights supply! (if That!) Maybe I should add the helicopter flight out to the plans. . .

  • Reply Tracy August 17, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Hope things get better soon – I have had the blues myself lately, and can’t seem to shake it. Keep thinking something interesting will come along, and I will be able to turn it off. Take care!!

  • Reply Latrice August 18, 2008 at 11:27 am

    This looks gorgeous!! I love that waterfall. I have to go there now! I’m already planning girl! Thanks for the great pictures and story.

  • Reply Eli Kristin August 19, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Ååååå for noen nyyydelige bilder, ser fantastisk ut!!! Mange flotte turer dere må ha opplevd :)

  • Reply Tessa79 August 19, 2008 at 10:58 am

    award til deg i bloggen min ;-)

  • Reply Ann(i)e August 21, 2008 at 12:59 am

    wow…such amazing gorgeous pictures!!!!!!
    makes me homesick (I am a Seattle girl who has done all the National Parks in the Western half of the US….currently living in England and missing home!!)

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  • Reply Jenn October 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    One of the most awesome hikes I have ever done (waaaay back in 2005). That water and the red rock is crazy beautiful. Maybe we went at a slight off-season as I don’t recall bbqs and the like being flown in!

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