May 14th the real trek began, the one we had been planning so long for. I could write an entire post about our planning and preparation, and find many others online so for now I’ll just start at the beginning of our day.

We rose early, cold in our cars having gotten maybe two hours of sleep. Havasupai hilltop is a 3-3:30 hour drive from the Grand Canyon South Rim entrance and we didn’t leave until after dinner the night before. We quickly began dressing for the day and more slowly repacking our bags so they had 3 liters of water and everything else we needed.

As we got ourselves together the sun began to come up over the canyon walls, a few dogs trotted over to visit us, and a lone horse passed us by. We made a quick stop at the restrooms at hilltop, a fellow backpacker took a group photo of us with our packs on, and then we began the 10 mile journey to the Havasu Falls campground.

Left to Right standing: Myle, Rachel, Margaret (me!), Alexis (my fiance), Kevin, EJ, Logan.
Kneeling: Josh

Group photo before back packing from Havasupai Hill Top to the Havasu Falls campground

I’ll say this now, no matter how prepared you are and how much you practice, unless you are experienced at back packing your bag will likely be heavier than it should be! All our packs were definitely heavier than they should have been, Josh’s may have even been 70lbs! He decided to carry fresh produce we all found out later (I would recommend dehydrated produce only).

It is 7.5-8 miles until you hit the beginning of the Native American Reservation, Havasupai, itself. Then another 2-2.5 miles to the actual campground and whatever amount it takes you to find your campsite. [My fitbit listed 15.75 miles for the day, 38,200 steps total. 10 miles and 24,400 steps being the journey with our packs on]

The beginning of the trail is downhill, 1.5 miles of switch backs to get to the canyon floor. At this point in the journey everyone is together, spirits high, still a bit cold but beginning to shed layers, and excited to reach our destination.

In one of the photos if you look closely on the canyon ridge on the right you can see a little rectangular shape that is at top of the hilltop parking area.

While still on the switch backs, Josh finds the lower half skeleton jaw from a large animal in the remains of an old foundation and poses with it.

Once off the switch backs, at this point mostly on flat land, we see the breath of the Canyon. Being surrounded by red rocks, short green plants, and cactus is a unique experience when my daily life usually consists of large green trees that tower over me and grey rock.

The occasional desert flower, from weeds, wild flowers, and cactus caught my eye as a bit of color in a vast sea of sandy reds and desert greens.

If you research Havasu Falls online you will find many beautiful photos of the 5 major waterfalls but not as many about the journey. I wanted to share more images of the unique landscape that is a huge part of the experience of backpacking the trail to the final destination.

I can’t quite pinpoint in photos where our group split up a bit, but around this point we finished shedding our layers as it was warm out and applying sunscreen. It was our first stop of many along the way, taken so early out of necessity for sunscreen more than rest. Sometime after this the group split up into those walking more quickly and those more leisurely. EJ and I took the lead, choosing to deal with the distance and weight on our backs with speed walking. Each time we stopped we’d wait for the entire group to catch up and then continue.

Along the way we also ran into many other travelers. Backpackers coming into and leaving the canyon, we even ran into two stragglers from one group who were tailing behind because one of them women was hiking with a broken toe! There were also many horse and mule trains carrying belongings to and from the hilltop. We had decided not to use these trains after reading some less favorable reviews about their care and to give ourselves the full backpacking experience. (If you do go on this trip and wish to use the mules you do need a reservation in advance!)

As you might see in some of these photos, the trail is often made up of walking on sand, beds of little rocks, and sand stone. It makes for difficult footing causing the backpacking trek to be even more challenging.

Despite what you may assume there is actually a decent amount of shade in the canyon but I highly recommend starting this hike early to avoid the heat of midday, especially later in the summer!

Once you start to see signs for the village you feel a bit of relief knowing you are close. A bit after the first sign you also see the unbelievably clear blue water Havasupai is famous for. Havasupai actually translates roughly to “The people of the blue-green waters.”

Continuing on through this strangely forested area after the start canyon you reach the village and see the helicopter running trips from the village to the hilltop (the helicopter is sometimes available for rides out of the canyon). You also reach the first opportunity to purchase food or some supplies from the village store. Frozen Gatorades were the most popular.

Walking through the village to the office to check in, we encountered many horses and dogs. We quickly checked in giving our parties name, all receiving bracelets listing how large our group was and the dates of our reservation. In this area there is another small general store and place to purchase food. From here we had read we had two miles left in our journey but the trail was mostly sand for that time. Expecting this challenge we took a short break before heading out again.

Our hiking groups broke up again into those eager to get a good campsite and those walking at a more leisurely pace. This part of the trail was the most challenging walking in sand that was not compact with the heat of the sun beating down on us.

Catching sight of the crystal clear blue water again, falling in tiers, then turning around to view the first two waterfalls stopped us in our tracks for a moment (These falls are New Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls).

You know you are genuinely minutes from the campground when you get your first awe inspiring view of Havasu Falls from above.

We paused to soak it in and realize we had made it. But then we continued on eager to get the packs off our backs. Upon entering the campground (which is first come first serve) we ran into other campers who told us to keep going better campsites were further in.

We did drop our things at the first site we found, having a camp dog join us. We quickly named him Dusty and he hung out with me and our things while part of the group wandered to find a better campsite.

After setting up the campsite and finding the rest of our group we eventually headed back over to Havasu Falls. Here we took some photos, relaxed, eventually got in the water (cold since it was May). Returning to our campsite once we were hungry and trying our MRE’s and new equipment for the first time.