We went to Havasupai with our kids. (Are we crazy?)
Have you heard of Havasupai? It is pretty well known among Arizonians and people who are outdoorsy. If you're neither of those, allow me to give you a quick run-down of what Havasupai is.
Havasupai is a canyon inside an Indian Reservation in the south-western part of the Grand Canyon. It's known for it's turquoise blue river and waterfalls. There are basically two ways to get in and out: hike in or helicopter in. It's an 8 mile hike to the village of Supai (the only village) and 1-2 miles past that to the campground and waterfalls. In order to go you have to get a permit from the Havasupai Indian Tribe and snag a campsite. This is notoriously hard. Basically you just call and call until they pick up. I did NOT do this, shout out to my friend Hollie who made this whole trip happen. To get our permits, Hollie said she just called and called until they answered. It took a week or two. They do fill up fast, so you want to call as soon as they open up for reservations (usually around February 1). The main attractions are hiking to the waterfalls and swimming in them, general adventuring, and being in awe of Mother Nature.
Havasupai is a canyon inside an Indian Reservation in the south-western part of the Grand Canyon. It's known for it's turquoise blue river and waterfalls. There are basically two ways to get in and out: hike in or helicopter in. It's an 8 mile hike to the village of Supai (the only village) and 1-2 miles past that to the campground and waterfalls. In order to go you have to get a permit from the Havasupai Indian Tribe and snag a campsite. This is notoriously hard. Basically you just call and call until they pick up. Our friend did this so I don't have any tips for getting in besides calling a lot, but she did mention they now have a website? (Don't quote me). The main attractions are hiking to the waterfalls and swimming in them, general adventuring, and being in awe of Mother Nature.
You do have to be in decent shape for this hike. If you don't think you could do a 10 mile hike, don't try to do this until you can. It would be seriously so. not. fun. I think this is the part where I'm supposed to recommend you ask your doctor if you are unsure if your health permits...
I had a friend do this hike and she barely drank any water on the way down because she didn't want to have to go pee out in the open where people could see her. She almost died of dehydration (vomiting, etc), had to spend the whole weekend in the tent and didn't go to any waterfalls, and the kicker is....she could have found a spot to pee where no one saw her on the hike down anyway (I did). Or had a friend stand guard. Moral of the story is: drink a lot of water!!! (I think she took the helicopter out).
Back to our weekend.
Our plan was to hike with our two kids on our backs, letting our oldest (age 2 1/2) walk as much as he was able. We were going in a group of 7 adults (3 couples one bachelor). The couple who got our reservation and organized this whole trip also brought their son (almost 1). Having extra adults was a big help with the kids (if you have kids and you're reading this you're like...duh). Here are a few things we learned in case you decide to do this.
- We rented a mule to carry all our camping stuff, and it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to do this if we also were carrying our camping gear down. Not to mention not any fun.
- I also think if you have more than two kids who are not old enough to hike a full 10 miles, this would be impossible. Unless you have some really good kid-less friends you go with who are willing to carry your kids miles on their back.
- It also might be impossible if your kids were too big to carry but too little to hike 10 miles. Sorry. The good news is just wait a few years and you won't have to carry them at all!
- You are gonna need a good backpack. I recommend an Osprey. We borrowed one and rented one. Get the sun shade! Also, take five minutes to make sure it fits you properly (I didn't do this until we had two miles left on the hike back. It would have been SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE if it had been on right the whole time.
- Wear tennis shoes or hiking shoes for the hike. You'll also want water shoes for the water. I am telling you this because I didn't want to bring two pairs of shoes so I wore my chacos for the hike and got crazy blisters. Don't do that.
- Take breaks. Your kids might be a bit stir crazy from the long drive already. I think it's about four hours from Phoenix. Start early and you won't need to rush the hike. (You do need to check in by a certain time. 5 pm, I believe?)
- Bring lots and lots of water. Put a couple extra gallons in the car for when you get back.
- Depending on what time of year you go, it might be super hot. We went in March, which was great because the weather couldn't have been better. The water is around 70 degrees all year, so the water will always be warm enough. Although it was only about 72 degrees out of the water, so we didn't do much sunbathing.
- Either way, the sun gets really strong from about 11-4 pm here in the desert, so start as early as possible.
- SNACKS!!!! Dried apple rings were the fave this time (and in life in general right now). Beef jerky, Clif mint protein bars, pistachios/dried cherries and apricots, and candy were the winners this trip. I didn't bring anything very salty and wish I would have.
- The majority of the hike is in a wash. Lots of it is on small rocks so the ground is uneven, but there's these paths on the side every so often featuring the softest red dirt your feet will ever walk upon. Bless that red dirt. Every time we saw one of those paths my feet were like....yessssssss. The dirt feels like beach sand. It really is amazing. Okay dirt dirt dirt amazing dirt best dirt ever dirt blah blah blah. Moving on.
- On the way out, we found that hiking for as long as we could without breaking was helpful. We didn't lose momentum and got out fast before the sun came up (the ascent is also the hottest part of the trail because there's no shade and you're going back up to the HEAT). We actually only took one break on the hike out to eat lunch.
- The worst part of the hike is the hike out, the very end. You are ascending about a mile and a half to get out of the canyon. Just be prepared. Our favorite bachelor carried our baby up the last mile or so. I'm sure I could have made it with him, but I'm not positive.
I think there are two reasons people generally don't bring their kids to Havasupai. The first is the 10 mile hike in and out. This hike is long, but besides the final ascent, it's not a hard hike. We took a lot of breaks and enjoyed the scenery. My favorite part of the hike is the part right by the village of Supai. You are almost done which is awesome, and amidst the red rocks vibrant trees and grass start springing up. They are vibrantly green. You can hear the river and it is better than music. A few more steps and you see the river, so turquoise it is almost unreal. Red, green, and turquoise, the contrast of the colors is beautiful. And that, friends, is the scenery until you pack up camp and hike out, passing the green trees and the turquoise water, following the red rocks out.
The other reason is that you just physically can't get to two of the (probably best?) waterfalls once you're actually there. Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls. We did NOT know this before we went, so that's why I'm telling you. Here's why you won't be able to make it, at least with a baby anywhere on your body.
To get to Beaver Falls, which according to the village kids we talked to is the best swimming spot, you have to go to Mooney Falls and hike past it. To get to Mooney Falls you have to hike down a cliff. But not really hike. More like...climb ladders, use stakes in the rocks, and kinda slide on your back. Not too far off from rock climbing, from what I understand. Definitely not something you wanna do while baby carrying. If you go with friends who are willing to watch your kids, you could totally do it. (We still didn't. We went to the other waterfalls instead).
The good news is the other waterfalls are really fun! We hiked to Little Navajo and while that one isn't great for kids to play in, it was fun to swim in and the hike was short and fun. We spent most of the day at Havasu Falls and we had tons of fun. This waterfall has an area of shallow and calm water that is safe for little kids to play in. It is slippery though so you'll want to be right there. There are also two picnic tables in the water which we were big fans of. And there are a few picnic tables out of the water too. It's really a nice place to spend the day.
One of our biggest family priorities is to make fun memories with our kids. We both really hope that when our kids are older and have friends of their own they'll still like to do things with our family. We wanna be tight like that. So we gotta start now. And since the great outdoors is the location of many of our favorite childhood memories, we'd really love to share it with our kids too. Will our children remember this trip? Our 8 month old definitely will not. Our 2-almost-3 year old might. I guess we'll know in a decade or so.
But even if he doesn't, my husband and I will remember this. Something I think about almost every day is how quick time flies. How fast my babies are growing. How short the years are. How I'm somehow older and time is passing and it's showing no sign of slowing. So here's another batch of treasures for my memory: my tiny, young, wonderful family. The longest hike of my life. And beautiful turquoise waterfalls.
***kudos to my husband who brought his goPro and took all these pictures on it. He did a great job. He took tons of videos too so we're trying to put some of those together to share soon. Did I mention I jumped into the deep water even though I was super scared? He got it on video.
I also linked below to some gear we used and some of the things we found really helpful in Havasupai. Our Osprey Poco child carrier, Mountain House dehydrated meals (the chili Mac was my fav. I thought lasagna would be the best, but nope. Chili Mac!), backpacking chairs, chaco's, and our go pro. We have an older version that I linked to but please, buy the best one you can. We have gotten so much use out of ours. These are affiliate links (as well as any product links above) so please note that I earn a small commission off them. And THANK YOU! For reading this whole story and supporting Wander on Home.
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I'm also trying to make a follow-up post to make this more helpful, so if you have any questions or things you'd like me to address, let me know in the comments. Thank you!