This was my third time completing the Havasupai trail on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, and the beauty and grand scale of it all still amazes me. It had been approximately 13 years since I was last down there, and even after the incredible flood that altered the landscape back in the monsoon season of 2008, I still see this little canyon as a paradise.
Once you get past the dry beds of the trail during the first eight miles of the hike and down into the lower riverbed areas of the village and beyond, you see the landscape change into pockets of green cottonwoods, honey mesquite and foliage.
The Havasupai Creek that creates the falls and shapes the land is a tributary to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, and as I followed it from the village to the campsite for another two miles, I was in awe to see how drastically the land had been changed by the 2008 flood. Huge portions of land had been eroded away, the topsoil now unstable and the trees it holds are dead.
That flood created a whole new series of falls prior to the main attraction of Havasupai Falls called 50 Foot Falls. It changed the Havasupai Falls from its split stream to one. The camp grounds are completely changed with thickets of saplings and islands where there weren’t any before.
However, it’s still the same hike in and the same hike out. The challenge in the hike is the distance. Eight miles from the trailhead to the village and two more miles from the village to the campsite, all while carrying your pack. The hike out is worse, only because of the switchbacks out of the canyon to the trailhead. It’s tough, but it can be done. The hike out, we did 10 miles in four hours, and felt great for having met the challenge and exceeding our expectations.
The biggest challenge for me, and the most fun of the whole trip, was the descent down Mooney Falls. You enter a tunnel in the rock with steps of stone that brings you to the edge of the cliff where you have to scale down on a treacherous system of ladders and chains nailed into the rock wall. Each step is wet and muddy from the mists of the falls and there is nowhere to look but down.
I had to have a serious conversation with myself about completing this, and forced myself to meet this challenge. Once my feet were on good, solid ground, I was elated and proud. Being a person who has a problem with heights, I’m glad I forced myself to do it.
This wasn’t the most challenging and physically demanding backpacking trip I’ve been on, but still worth every minute.