The ten mile trek to Havasu Falls begins at Hualupai Hilltop, a long parking lot at the end of seemingly endless Indian Route 18. To get there from Seligman, we traveled across part of the Hualupai Reservation, the neighboring territory of the Havasupai Reservation that is home to Havasu Falls. While en route, our guides informed us that "Havasupai" means "people of the blue-green water," as if to give us a preview of what was to come. The Havasupai reservation was established in 1880, then expanded in 1975 and now includes nearly 200,000 acres of land in and around the canyon.
|Making our way down the canyon while horses are on their way up.|
Our mid-morning start meant making most of the journey during the hottest part of the day. Luckily, Columbia outfitted us all with Omni-Freeze ZERO apparel and our guides required us to carry a minimum of four liters of water each. Needless to say, it was a beautiful, but hot and exhausting hike in. Coming from the humid east coast, the desert air, dust and scorching sun took a lot out of me, but boy was it worth it.
After nearly eight miles of walking, we stopped next to a beautiful creek for lunch and caught our first glimpse of the blue-green water. The creek is lined with travertine, a form of limestone, and the presence of minerals in the water makes it undrinkable. The eighth mile brought us to the village of Supai, nestled between towering red rock canyon walls and the Wigleeva formation, a sacred pair of sandstone tribal protectors. The buzz of a helicopter overhead was a stark reminder that the flying machine, a horse and my own two feet were the only ways in or out of Supai. Despite the number of people we saw and the 450 or so villagers in the area, it was an incredibly isolating and invigorating feeling.
|A Havasupai home being watched over by the Wigleeva formation just outside "downtown" Supai.|
From Supai, it was another two miles to our campground. On the way, we'd pass what I thought was the most spectacular of the waterfalls - New Navajo/New 50' Falls. Shortly after that, we arrived at the top of Havasu Falls. I've never been happier to see a body of water in my life. Most of us practically ran down the last hill, threw off our packs and jumped in. After four hours of walking in the Arizona desert, it felt like heaven. Then, it was on to our home base for the next two days - the campground.
|Our little tent city and dining area in camp.|
Between the tents and Columbia's Reactor 35 sleeping bag, I was on the verge of being too hot to sleep both nights. Most visitors come during the summer months, but for a return trip, I'd choose the fall or spring. Though we went as a guided group sponsored by Columbia, for hikers venturing in on their own, a stay can get quite pricey. Current rates, according to the tribe's tourism website, amount to $57 per person, including an entrance fee and campground fee. Call and reserve space in advance; if you don't, the rates double. Camping is primitive, but the campground has some of the nicest pit toilets I've ever seen and a freshwater spring as a water source. If you prefer more "civilized" accommodations, there's always the Havasu Lodge, but it's a trek to the waterfalls from there.
|Among the cottonwoods, hiking out.|
Jon and Will are likely quoting
"The Princess Bride" or singing showtunes.
Nearly a week later, I'm sitting here still digesting what it felt like to spend three days in one of the most beautiful places in the country with two dozen strangers I'm hoping will be lifelong friends. Even after two washings, I can't seem to get all of the red dust and dirt out of any of my clothes, but to be honest, that's perfectly fine with me.
Huge thank you to Columbia for sponsoring the trip, to the #OmniTen for being who you are, and for all of our new #OmniFriends for making the trip such a blast! Have you been to Havasu Falls? What was your experience like? Leave a comment!