A dream come true!
With the advent of Instagram, so many more amazing places have come to the forefront of my travel world. Havasupai Falls is one of the most photogenic and magical looking places to flash across my screen recently and I knew I had to visit.
Unfortunately, it is SUPER hard to get a reservation to visit Havasupai. Prior to this year, the only way to get a reservation was by telephone. They opened an online reservation system this year, however, after just a short while, it was put on hold due to overwhelming requests. In February, I called the four different numbers I could find listed for the reservation office, the camping office, and so on probably twenty to thirty times and it rang endlessly or cut out until finally someone answered and I was told no reservations available for April and no waiting list.
The conundrum: go now with a tour company at a higher cost (individually, it would have cost us less than $200) or wait until next year and call like crazy when the reservation line opened up in January. We decided to take the chance we had and go for a tour group. We selected BG Wild, a company started last year by a fellow by the name of Mike Bennett who had been taking groups of friends down to the canyon for many years and decided to make a business out of it.
We couldn’t have been happier with our decision. The group was professional to deal with, the price was fair, the food was plentiful and delicious, and our guide was super fun and helpful (although I did tell him to turn the sass down by 50% at one point :P). Not having to pack in our food or fight to get a reservation was worth the extra money for sure. We also had an awesome massage therapist, Casey, who came along with the group, offering 15mins free and then booking longer massages at cost, and she also taught us morning yoga right in front of the falls (heaven!). Side note: you have to bring your own mat, but honestly, the sand and dirt in front of the falls is soft enough that as long as you only want to do standing poses, you don’t need a mat.
You can fly into either Las Vegas or Phoenix, both are around a 3.5hr drive from the Hualapai Hilltop hike departure point. From there, it’s a 10 mile hike downhill into the oasis of Havasupai. You can also take a helicopter ($85 one way including one bag on your lap, tourists only start going on a first come first serve basis after the locals have been flown in/out as needed), or you pay $75 to have your bag flown in while you hike. Personally, we enjoyed the challenge and reward of knowing we hiked ourselves and our stuff in on our own.
The lighter the better! Here is what I took for 4 days:
-1x MEC quick dry shorts
-1x Inner Fire black leggings for evening/sleeping and I hiked back in them on the last day
-2x Acuarela Swimwear bikinis (amazing one-of-a-kind, handmade bikinis!)
-2x sport tanks with built in bras (Lululemon and Popflex)
-2x long-sleeve base layers for wearing over top in evenings/at night (MEC and Lululemon)
-1x lightweight Lululemon jacket for evening
-3x quick dry undies from Naja
-1x flipflops and 1x sneakers (hiking boots really not necessary unless you need the ankle support)
-1x Enlightened Equipment down sleeping quilt
-1x sleeping mat with built in pillow (was not happy with this!)
-1x 2-person tent
-1x quick dry towel
-comb, mini-toothpaste sachets, toothbrush/floss, sunscreen, mini-deodorant, face and body lotion, mascara (yep, splurge), headlamp, waterbottle, camera, and mini-cam. I was able to use my camera case on day-hikes to carry lipchap, sunscreen, etc.
My friend Linda packed down a hammock and slept in that for a couple of the nights and said it was pretty good. Definitely a way to save weight. She also packed down the dehydrated soap sheets to use for hair washing, which was awesome. I was super pleased with my choices in packing apart from the sleeping mat which was both heavier than it could have been and not very comfortable.
Once you’re down there camping, you can swim daily to keep clean, and everything is a little dusty and dirty, but you’re camping, and so is everyone else, so it doesn’t matter. Being light on weight when you are hiking the 10 miles UPHILL to get out, even if that meant being a little smelly, was worth it.
If you can spend at least 2 full days down at the falls, that is ideal. Weekdays are obviously less crowded than weekends. Leaving Hilltop by 8 or 9am would be best, as you avoid the heat of the day (the hike took us about 3.5 or 4 hours from hilltop to tent site with a stop to check in and a stop for a fry bread with cinnamon sugar…yum), and you also get to spend more time at the falls that day after you set up camp.
Our second day down there, we hiked down to Mooney Falls (at the end of the campground) and Beaver Falls, 6 miles roundtrip, including quite a scramble down the side of the canyon to get to the base of Mooney Falls (well worth it). If you continue down the trail from Beaver Falls, you will reach the Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon. I think it’s a further 5 miles from Beaver Falls though! The hike down to Beaver Falls feels like you are in Jurassic Park. There is lush, verdant forest and bush with a river running through the middle, and red rock canyon cliffs on either side. It is SO pretty!
The second day down there, we checked out an abandoned mine filled with quartz that’s just behind Havasu, and then most of the group hiked up to Hidden Falls and 50-Foot Falls, then attended a sweat lodge and smudge ceremony, put on by one of the amazing Supai village residents. My legs were SO sore from hiking in flip flops the day before, so I opted to mostly rest by Havasu, enjoy the view, and have another delicious fry bread.
That night, I believe our campsite was the only one that had an amazing song and dance performance put on by a few of the residents of Supai. It was really wonderful.
The next morning, those leaving on the helicopter woke up somewhere around 4 or 5am to hike up to the Supai village to get in line for the helicopter. The rest of us departed two by two between the hours of about 6 and 8AM. The hike out was HARD; our packs felt heavier, we were sad to be leaving, and the ‘slight’ downhill we had on the way in felt like a much steeper incline on the way out. Plus, you end with the 1 mile switchbacks straight back up the Canyon wall. But it felt so amazing to know we did it! And boy did we carb load when we got back to Vegas! 😉
Thanks again to BG Wild, Daniel our guide, Josh, who did set-up, and the amazing group of hikers we got to know!