My friend Olivia, my husband, and I hiked down to the mystical Havasupai Indian Reservation just last March (2016). It was an absolutely incredible experience. Because of its isolated location and the ten miles you have to hike to get down there, we left truly feeling as though it was “a once in a lifetime” kind of adventure–but I am hopeful that it won’t only be once.
I recently took some time to reflect on the adventure and consider some things that I did NOT know when we went down there, so here are 5 random facts you would do well to know!
1. There’s a sketchy road leading to the trailhead.
Once you leave the main interstate and then the main highway and turn onto the last stretch of the journey (which is an approximately 60-mile road with no lights, just reflectors, and a speed limit of 55 mph), the drive is a bit sketch. We didn’t worry about getting to it before dark because we were staying the night at the top of the trailhead anyway so that we could begin the journey early the next morning. You should get there before dark though and give yourself at least an hour to drive the road. We had to drive even slower than 55 mph because of all the animals–rabbits, jackrabbits, elk (or…something with antlers), and COWS. At several points, I had to completely stop because there were cows just lounging in the road, and they were extremely difficult to see from a distance. It was quite an experience–nerve-wracking at the time, but fairly humorous in hindsight.
I will say though that it was kind of mind blowing to not be able to see anything at all on the road and in the parking lot and then to wake up and find yourself for the first time staring down into the Canyon.
2. There are sketchy bridges everywhere on the Havasupai Indian Reservation.
There aren’t any bridges on the 10-mile trek to the campground, of course, but there are a ton of them once you get there. Many of them are simply made up of a 2×4 thrown across the a narrow stream or the entire creek. We had to cross one to go to one of the bathrooms. We even had to cross one to get to our campsite (the creek flowed on both sides of our site!–we had to walk a good ways down to get to this perfect spot near both bathrooms, so don’t give up!). On the journey to the elusive Beaver Falls, there is sketchy bridge after bridge after bridge. Don’t get me wrong–it was quite fun walking across most of them, and they aren’t that terribly hard to cross. However, there were a few (on the “way” to Beaver Falls) where I thought, “How on earth am I suppose to cross this?” In many areas the water was shallow under the bridge, but still it was baffling. (We never did find Beaver Falls and neither did two groups we passed–I’m not really sure what happened with us, but research it carefully before you go because I’m very sorry that it eluded us!).
3. The descent down to Mooney Falls is tricky.
The first waterfall you’ll encounter when you reach the campground is Havasu Falls, but when you walk through the entire campground to the other side, you’ll find the incredible Mooney Falls. You have to climb down to it though, and let’s not pretend for one second that it isn’t scary. In none of the research I saw did I see anything specific about the descent, so I was not prepared for it. The first bit of it is okay. The two cave tunnels are fine, too, and actually pretty cool. It’s when you get to the chains and you can’t decide whether to face forward or backward as you hold on to them that it gets tricky (and like I said, somewhat terrifying in my opinion). Let’s just say I have a video, but I’m not up for broadcasting the vocabulary I chose to use on that day. It’s also worth mentioning the fact that the rocks and the ladders (whenever you finally get to those) are slippery from the sprays of the waterfall. So don’t head that way with your flip-flops on; we did wear our Chacos which worked pretty well though.
I don’t say all of that to keep you from doing it though because otherwise you would truly be missing out. Just be prepared! It’s entirely manageable, and although I was somewhat freaked out by it, I wouldn’t change the fact that I did it and, yes, I’d do it again.
4. There is an awesome small cave behind a small waterfall in front of Mooney Falls.
So once you are able to drag yourself away from Mooney Falls, if you’ll turn around and start heading toward where the stream breaks off toward the right, there is a small waterfall if you continue walking (oh about ten feet or so tall perhaps).
Once you jump, this is what the view looks like having walked farther out (please excuse the terrible photo quality–it was clipped from a video). Take note of Mooney Falls right there in the background. Directly underneath it in the picture is where the cave is–simply swim behind the little fall!
And here you are! It’s small, but you can certainly fit 3-5 people in here–perhaps more!
You can actually climb back up the side of the falls to an area to the right of them and chill out. It’s actually where we kept some of our stuff while we were jumping. There’s a glimpse of Mooney through the brush on the right, and there’s the small jump on the left.
5. There’s a potentially dangerous spot in the swimming area in front of Havasu Falls.
Okay, I’m sure that there’s a whole range of factors that have to come perfectly into play for what I’m about to tell you about to actually happen, but hey, it’s worth noting. First though, admire this photo of Havasu Falls taken not long after sunrise. 🙂 Then, take note of the small black arrow. This is the place to which I’m referring.
This next photo was taken with my go pro the evening before.
So after a day of having climbed down and up the treacherous route to Mooney and having trekked along numerous sketchy bridges, we decided to take the easy route back to Havasu to relax for the evening. At one point, we took some time to jump from where those people are standing and swam over out of the way to where the lone woman is standing in the fairly shallow water. That’s where we were standing when it happened. It was windy, and the current was strong–nothing which I thought of at the time. I was in the middle of talking when the current swept through and took me–right over the edge down the next waterfall! Not before I grabbed my husband’s hand though…It was instinct. I went down on my butt, and he went down head first. Luckily, neither of us hit our head, but we were scraped up terribly–especially him. At the bottom, neither of us were able to touch, and the current was very strong pulling us toward another fall not too far away that went straight downstream. Fortunately, Daniel is good in dire situations and was able to pull us using a rock in the water to the left bank. The left bank is fairly steep with hardly any place to climb up, but our friend who accompanied us–Olivia–was able to pull us up. In hindsight, it’s a pretty humorous anecdote to tell–people continually bring the story up in conversation, and it’s quite laughable (“that time we almost died in the Grand Canyon”)–but it’s certainly worth noting how dangerous this chance occurrence was.
Overall point: If you’re looking for an adventure, the Havasupai Indian Reservation is certainly the place. It is truly a magnificent place of natural and wondrous beauty to see and to experience away from all of the limitations of civilization. You won’t regret this adventure–even if you fall down a waterfall (well…I suppose it would depend on which one…)!
Feel free to pin to the image below to your Pinterest board!