Hiking the Grand Canyon is a journey, an enjoyment, a thrill, a challenge, a mystery, and always an accomplishment.
Last October my sister Myriah and I decided the perfect fall weather was irresistible – it was hiking weather. We chose to spend the weekend at Havasupai Falls, Arizona. Havasupai Falls is on the southwestern side of the Grand Canyon and has four waterfalls descending from sheer red rock cliffs.
Getting to the falls requires several things – a reserved camping permit from the Havasupai Tribe (if you’re camping), an 80 miles drive from Flagstaff via I-40 and Historic Route 66, followed by another 65 mile stretch down Indian Road 18 – located between Seligman and Peach Springs, Arizona.
Indian Road 18 dead ends at Hualapai Hilltop. Nothing extravagant, a rather abrupt finality at the end of the road marks the entrance to the Canyon. Vehicles were pulled off anywhere and everywhere along the side of the road and a lone van advertised ICE COLD GATORADE AND WATER. Picket lines held mules and horses waited patiently to be on their way down the powdery trail.
My sister and I decided to hike 11 miles to the campground, spend the night, and hike back the following morning.
It was a quick decision as most people spend two or more days at the falls once they arrive. This was evident by the number of vehicles parked along the road. The handful of other hikers waiting to leave were busy adjusting their packs and snapping pictures.
Much like the South Rim trailheads at the South Rim’s Grand Canyon National Park entrance, there are several options for hiking into the canyon. Many people pack in their supplies, or hire mules to pack their gear or they have the option of paying for a mule or helicopter ride.
Hiring mules to carry heavy packs seemed to be the most popular option.
“Not me, I’m tough enough to handle this,” I thought while watching the freedom other hikers had without packs. Sure, they would be free to explore and enjoy the canyon without the weight of their packs burdening them.
“No big deal, it’s not that far,” I laughed – and it wasn’t far, just long.
My sister and I had decided to carry our camping gear and supplies – we fancy ourselves avid hikers who like to rough it.
We started our descent with enthusiasm and marveled at the hikers coming up the trail, all dusty and tired but still wearing their smiles.
The first part of the hike would take us to Supai Village from the parking area at Hualapai Hilltop, covering eight miles. The first mile – going down switchbacks to reach the gravel and sandy bottom, was the toughest part of the trail.
Storm clouds scattered the sun and a light breeze cooled our faces.
“Wow, it’s pretty,” I said. Myriah nodded in agreement and we continued on. Yes, a perfect day for hiking…..after reaching the bottom we had another six and a half mile hike to the village.
The canyon widens once you reach the creek bottom, curving mysteriously and each passing mile is marked by towering red and black rock walls slowly closing and growing taller and taller.
A small rust colored sign at a curve in the Canyon directed us down the path. Another half mile and we had reached the village – a welcome site for many weary travellers.
Trecking through the village to get to the falls on the other side, entails several emotions. Sadness, disgust, wonderment, disbelief and noir.
“This is a sad place,” I told my sister as we walked by the shabby houses. Many had trash left to rot in the lawns and pitiful, bony ponies tied by lead ropes in the ground.
This was my second hike to the falls and I had experienced the village before, but it still caught me off guard. It is like walking into a third world country – but when it’s locateded in your backyard it catches you off guard.
We passed other hikers who walked along speaking in low voices until they passed out of the village. After finding the entrance fee building, we paid our camping fees and continued on.
Navajo Falls is small in comparison to its bigger and more famous cousins – Supai Falls and Mooney Falls, but no less beautiful. Beaver Falls, the last of the four falls, is an additional three-mile hike from the campground and we decided that journey would have to wait until our next trip.
There is nothing quite as breathtaking as when you walk eight miles in a dry, dusty canyon bed and finally behold the clandestine turquoise waters and pounding roar of waterfalls, especially ones as majestic and lovely as those that make up Havasupai Falls. Absolutely breathtaking.
It is worth every step of your hike for a glimpse of tumbling waters cascading in rushes over drop off cliffs.
When we reached Mooney Falls we realized it was a one way route to descend to the bottom. This part of the hike was completly unexpected but so cool! I highly recommend making the descent.
I couldn’t believe how spectacular the falls are. Worth the time and effort it takes to get there.
As we settled into our tent that evening, we fell asleep snuggled between Supai and Mooney Falls listening as they lulled us to sleep with sweet lullabies.
Follow this link to read more about Supai Village and the efforts made to reach out to them: Santa’s helpers look a lot like U.S. Marine http://grandcanyonnews.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=11091&SectionID=74&SubSectionID=114&S=1