Wow touring the Cavern [Near Peach Springs, Arizona on Old RT 66] was a great side trip. I am sorry we never did it sooner!
If you are intending to camp, or even considering camping, at the Grand Canyon Caverns Campgrounds, or simply passing by on old RT 66. Be sure to allow time for the Cavern Tour!
Did you know you can have your meal down in the Cavern? The combo meal & tour is very reasonably priced. When we looked at the menu and the tour, as individual prices. Having the experience in the cave, was a no brain’er!
Follow the link over to the full article. In the article there are links to other points of interest. Also our experience camping in the campground. Grand Canyon Caverns Article.
Subscribe to our Email List if you haven’t already. Receive our latest Blog Posts and newsletters. They are packed with Interesting & Informative content. Don’t miss out on Upcoming Events.
Technically no. But to date, and to our knowledge, there are no official rules prohibiting it.
There are no camping facilities. No water source. No electric. No artificial lights. For the most part no room to place things like tents, cots, chairs, or sleeping bags, unless you don’t care about pissing people off.
It can be noisy.
Hotter than blazes during the summer months. Many complain it is noisy throughout the night. Cold nights during the cooler months.
There is only a pit toilet near the trailhead.
The parking area fills and people start parking along both sides of the narrow road.
Some self centered people think it is OK to park, then set up chairs or sleeping bags in the parking space next to them. They are actually posting it on social media as the way to start the trip. Come on people…that is not OK to be fair to others. This is the kind of behavior that ends up creating conflicts, rules, and restrictions.
There are often not enough parking places to go around just for vehicles. Starting in 2018 it appears they are upping the headcount allowed to visit on a given day. So parking will become even a bigger hassle.
The reservations in recent years have been completely sold out. The parking lot overflows as it is. If you are inconsiderate enough to take extra parking spots to set up sleeping space or gear, and say “to H&LL” with others. Be prepared to deal with belligerent people trying to find a parking space. This is a good way to put yourself in a bad situation with escalating conflicts.
Some people are silent complainers. You might win a face to face confrontation. But this is the kind of stuff that gets your vehicle messed up once you hike away from it.
That doesn’t even count the chance of getting run over/backed over accidentally in the dark if camping on the pavement. We are all here to enjoy this area. Be courteous and think of others. Don’t cause a situation. None of us are here for a negative experience. Plan better and please do not subscribe to, or promote this type of thinking.
Sleeping in a Van and Truck is certainly more doable. Depending on the season of course. Even then this area is my last choice for sleeping accommodations. I have slept in my van once in the parking area. There are way better options for a more enjoyable adventure.
In some cases you might be able to park along and off the side of the road and stretch out between your vehicle and the guard rail….or your vehicle and the canyon wall on the other side. Or the other side of the guard rail. But there are hazards we will mention below, in that scenario too.
Once you get there, and see the situation, most have the same recommendation we have. Check Google Earth to appreciate the recommendation not to sleep here, given just the terrain.
On the rising canyon side, there is a concern about falling rocks. Bad enough a rock may land on your vehicle. Worse if you are out in the open and one lands on you.
On the dropping canyon side…falling kids, if you have them along.
On the dropping canyon side there is often not even enough room to park a vehicle off the pavement.
Below is a photo off Google earth to indicate what I am referring to.
Sleeping in this area is a tough way to start out this trip, if you are tired.
During, Spring, Fall, Winter, at least the heat won’t be much of a factor. More likely the cold will creep in on you. Ideally, if this is your option for an early start, you have a van or can sleep in the back of a PU Truck.
There are Hotelsand Camping about an hour, to an hour and a half, before the intersection of RT#66 and IR#18. Check Peach Springs Arizona, Seligman Arizona, and Grand Canyon Caverns Campgrounds that also has lodging.
Many people opt for these…and they fill up too. So reserve early. Then get up and on the road right as it begins to get light. (Before actual sunrise) Make this last hour or so of the drive and arrive just before or around full light.
The switchbacks will remain in shadow and be the coolest of the day for about 2 hours. You should have no problem making it down the switchbacks before the sun gets high enough to shine on you.
Don’t travel that last 60 mile stretch of road in the dark. It is “open range”. Lots of dark cattle, elk, deer, etc. The road is desolate and no lights. Failing to heed this warning might very well result in a very damaged vehicle or something worse. Don’t be in that big of a hurry,
Though I have never personally had issues with vehicle break-ins, from time to time there are reports this occurs. Be it a local or some tourist, I have never heard. But this is like any other parking lot situation. Do not leave valuables in your car. Things you do leave behind stash out of sight, preferably locked in the trunk.
A sure sign of a rookie backpacker/tent camper is leaving food or smelly things like soap products, toothpaste , etc in their tent. Critters of all sort will destroy your gear trying to get to it. The Havasu Falls area campground is well known for this problem.
If you made this error in bear country you most likely would have a lasting memory.
This includes packs and sleeping bags. Anything left on the ground or simply hung on a tree. Anything with a “Smell” no matter how well sealed or even unopened. It all needs to be removed from your gear when unattended or when your are sleeping. Then other prevent measures taken.
Though this is not bear country there are numerous critters that have had generations worth of training in this area due to visitors not practicing food storage protection.
A Ratsack or other food protection method is necessary when backpacking the Havasu Falls area. There are a variety of critters lurking, waiting to snack on what you transport in.We have made the trip to Havasu Falls numerous years. We have hit all seasons. From blistering summer heat, to bone chilling times of the year with snow. We have found all seasons have critters looking for easy food pickings. Namely your backpacked food.
While the squirrels are the most prevalent and most destructive. There are also ring tailed cats (similar to a raccoon), mice, rats, roaming horses, and the local dogs. While all times of the year have their hazards, the warmer months see the highest activity.
You want to protect your tent, packs, and sleeping bags from damage. While in your campsite, keep all food and smelly items such as toothpaste, soap, cosmetics, lip balms, etc out of your tent, sleeping bags, and packs that are left unattended. Forget for even 5 minutes and it may be too late.
They will chew through tents (the rodents), drag your pack away (ring tails and dogs), and trample your tent (horses). The horses can also stand on their hind legs to rip packs down that are hung on tree’s.
The first line of defense is to get your food and toiletries away from your expensive gear. Many use tupperware containers and things like that.
Our most successful method of prevention so far, is to purchase a Ratsack, to stash our stuff. Then use a length of 100lb test mono-filament fishing line over a high tree branch. Hoist up the sack high enough. Keep in mind horses will stand on their hind legs to reach up and try to snatch goodies.
All of our items are first put in ziplock freezer bags. Even our “Pack it out Trash” is ziplock bagged and kept in your Ratsack too.
We ordered our “Ratsack”off Amazon. Only the large size was available at the time. When it arrived it looked overly large. It probably is too large for a single person. In hindsight I am glad that was the one we purchased. For two people it is very ample. We hadn’t thought through the trash issue until we were actually on the first trip with it. Then we were glad for the larger ratsack. We had plenty of room for both food and trash, times 2 people, for a 3 night backpacking trip.
Other successful suggestions: At times there are 5 gal plastic buckets with lids available from the ranger building at the entrance to the campgrounds. These are effective. People that have used them suggest sliding them under the picnic table seat anytime you are not into your food.
The only problem is you can’t depend on buckets/pails being available. Especially when there during busy times. If you want to guarantee you have some type of protection, bring it with you.
Bear proof containers are another option if you have one and don’t mind the additional weight. I would opt for the Ratsack in lieu of the Bear proof container. I have both to pick from. Its all about weight!
Keeping with Leave No Trace. Whatever you bring to hang your food. Containers, string, rope, or what have you. Be sure to take it down and pack it out when you hike out. Don’t leave any of it behind for the “next person”.
For those of you venturing to Havasu Falls. Grand Canyon Cavern Campgrounds offers an excellent alternative to sleeping in your car at the Hilltop Trail Head parking lot.
I have done the Havasu Falls trip on numerous occasions. More than once some years. Once I trail camped up off the trail below the switchbacks (I don’t believe it is allowed any longer?)
On another occasion I attempted sleeping in my vehicle. That was a negative experience and I vowed not again.
Since then, until a 2017 trip, I have always left Las Vegas and made the drive timed to arrive at the Trail Head right when I want to start hiking. At times that meant leaving Vegas at 2am.
Traveling in the dark means missing much of the scenery along the way, or fun stops such as Hackberry, Arizona. Perhaps missing Seligman, Arizona if you are coming in from the east. Both are interesting and great photo op stops.
The last 60 miles off old route 66, once you start heading north on Indian Rd 18, is a desolate and hazardous stretch of highway at night. It is not the road to be driving in the dark due to wildlife and open range cattle crossing or standing in the road.
Our Havasu trip planned for mid May 2017 found us debating the early morning departure from Las Vegas. After recommending the Grand Canyon Cavern Campgrounds on the website so many years we decided to give it a try.
The entrance is a few miles east of the RT 66 & IR 18 intersection. The view from the road side appears as an old run down gas station, and a small cafe. Some old vehicles staged around the parking lot up by the buildings. We stopped in the cafe and the friendly staff pointed us to the road/drive, that snaked around the back of the cafe, and up over a small hill. We almost got nailed by the cops tucked in behind a tree (Vintage black & white cop car staged along the road) LOL!
The campground is about a mile on this paved road that winds through low growing evergreen trees. You eventually come to the restaurant first. This is some distance off the main road RT 66 and not visible from the main road.
Don’t expect RV resort accommodations. Though they do have power pedestals on many sites. The campground is typical high desert and appears not well kept. Sites are dirt. Some have picnic tables, some do not. No sites have any type of shade structure.
The Evergreen tree’s peppered about average about 15ft tall. This is high desert. So I suspect these are Cedars or Pinon Pine. They offer relatively little shade except in the late afternoon. They do provide a little privacy from some neighboring sites.
There are rough graded roads and ample sites tucked into out of the way places if you want to enjoy some privacy. We saw no site numbers. Once you pay you simply have squatters rights to any open place you want to make your camp. Bathrooms/Showers…..not the best. But they are centrally located at the front of the camping area, and not too far from the restaurant building.
We made reservations at the last minute, the night before. Mid May there were plenty of sites. The grounds are large enough I would think you would not have trouble at any time? You might not get a level site, or one with power, but I think they would be able to accommodate you?
The prices of $32 a night for 2 with a tent. I don’t remember if that included power or not. We did find a picnic table that had a power pedestal next to it. In hindsight a small electric heater and an extension cord would have been nice. It got real cold that night.
We had a picnic table and lots of 15ft Pinyon Pine or Ceders that offered wind breaks and some privacy. The campground location makes it near ideal for starting the trip the next day.
We didn’t have time to check out the Cavern tours. The Caverns are the actual reason this place exists! That might be another story for another day.
We arrived around 6pm and took advantage of the restaurant that looks like it is open until 8pm. We can both recommend the Pulled Pork/BBQ sandwich. We washed those down with several ice cold brews and had a very relaxing visit. It sure beat driving over in the middle of the night tempting fate driving in the dark. It certainly beats sleeping in the vehicle at the trail head. It beats waking up after attempting to sleep at the trail head, being tired and cranky, at the start of the hike down.
We tried to set up minimal gear to head out right at first light. It was a very cold night for sure. I believe more so because of the higher altitude. We survived the cold, and packed gear about 4am to take off. Several others must have had the same idea because two other groups took off right before us.
The drive up IR 18, the last 60 miles to the trail head, was a pleasant one. The sun just below the horizon. Enough light to avoid slamming into black cattle standing on the road, or wandering Elk. Both of which could quickly turn a fun trip into a disaster.
At the trail head, in the morning light, we made a breakfast. A batch of bacon, eggs, and coffee on the camp stove stove out the back of our vehicle. With some hearty protein in our systems we started hiking near sunrise.
So our recommendation is to allot the time to make this your stop. Enjoy the restaurant the night before. Even come early enough to check out the Caverns. Then give yourself 1 hour of driving time, plus packing up your camp, to be at the trail head right at sunrise. You will easily be down the switchbacks all in the shade. All at a much more relaxed frame of mind.
Those leaving after a trip, and after hiking back out, this is also an excellent place to camp over. Avoid a long drive after hiking out. If this is your first trip you will not believe how cramped up your legs will get if you hike out, and make a long drive. Been there, done that too! Getting smarter and enjoying the whole experience way more.
Summer time may be different, due to heat. Camping could become unpleasant? Be sure to check this all out in advance.
This collective of Footwear recommendations is by numerous experienced backpackers that have provided input. Backpacking not only this area, but backpacking in general, anywhere.
We will discuss Footwear, Socks, Toenails, and Water Shoes. Especially for this trip, this terrain, and for safety reasons that many choose to ignore.
Many ignore functionality for the sake of looking ‘cool’ or “rad’, or whatever your generational lingo might be.
If you have something that needs added please email us with your thoughts.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOTWEAR
The type of boot or footwear you hit this trail with, will probably be your most important decision concerning gear.
Many people attempting this trip may have never done long distant hiking, let alone Backpacking under a load. Also not in such terrain.
Hiking and backpacking are two different worlds. We aren’t providing info for those that wimp out and have their gear transported. Or for those that have their gear transported due to some special need due to medical or physical issues.
This info is for those that will truly be strapping all their gear on their back and hoofing it down the trail. Then back up the switchbacks.
Many have hauled their own gear while backpacking in. Then decide, there is no way they are carrying it back out. Remember those uphill switchbacks will be facing you the day you leave.
The terrain and climate on this trip can be a challenge to many even without a pack. Add to these facts, the majority of people doing this trip tend to carry a pack that is way over weight. Many people are also not in peak physical condition.
There are many brands of footwear out there. It all boils down to personal choice, fit, and what you can afford. This is one item that really falls in the category of “You get what you pay for”. Don’t go cheap (Cheap in terms of poor quality) just because you think you will only use them for this one trip.
Don’t be swayed by recommendations that just don’t make sense for the terrain, pack weight, distance, weather (cold/wet) etc.
There is a reason Military personnel worldwide wear boots. The type that protects the ankles, provides sole protection, and arch support….. to repeat some of the reasoning. Not tennis shoes, or trail runners, etc.
Wearing proper, properly fitted,and properly broke in footwear will prevent a multitude of foot and ankle pain, and injuries.
Properly fitted also means making allowances for feet swelling or spreading, when hiking long distances, or under backpacks loads.
Breaking your footwear in is a must!
You won’t need many of the foot blister products that people recommend to make up for not heeding this simple step.
The majority of new people will unfortunately not listen to this advice, then end up learning some hard and painful lessons. But experience is a wonderful teacher.
Substantial soles are recommended to protect the bottom of your foot. The stretch of the trail between the trail head and the village is rough and rocky terrain. After the village it is mostly sand. In the hot summer sun that sand can be quite hot. But a thousand steps on poor soles is like beating your feet over many hours. Walking on stones especially under load, with inadequate soles can cause long term pain that can last well beyond your trip.
Over the ankle footwear is better when used while backpacking under load or used to walk in rough terrain. It provides added support to prevent sprains. It is also highly recommended when cold and rainy.
The terrain on this trip can often cause you to misstep and twist or sprain an ankle.
Wearing low cut shoes can raise the chance of injury. Going down with a pack strapped on can cause broken arms, fingers, wrists, and the list goes on.
When backpacking under a load your foot tends to spread out and swell to some degree. Many of us have found boot styles that compensate for this. I personally recommend Keen’s brand after trying many brands over the years. They provide ample toe room .
When being fitted you want to take the socks you will hike with. Have the boots professionally fitted. Don’t just grab a pair of cheap boots off a discount rack, in your size, and head out the door for home…or worst out on the trail. They also need broke in!
Higher boots are recommended during the cold weather months. Especially when there is a chance of rain. Waterproof even better.
This brings up the point of using waterproof over the ankle boots when it is wet and cold. We are talking temperatures in the teens through the upper thirty degree Fahrenheit temps. You can experience such temps in this area depending on time of year. You may even want to consider “Gaiters” and rain pants over those, to prevent rain or splashed water from running into the tops of your footwear.
You won’t stand a chance with low cut footwear in the wet and cold. If you can tolerate wet feet at 30°F or lower, then go for it.
Closed toe footwear is highly recommended.Seasoned backpackers consider it a “must”. There will always be those that will brag they backpacked this in sandals, flip-flops, or tennis shoes. That they find them comfortable and the way to go. If you are new to this, don’t gravitate to this mentality. Rest assured, there are many testimonials of people having extreme pain and long lasting injuries. Inadequate types of footwear can be hazardous backpacking or even hiking.
We have made multiple trips into this area and every time, witness people with inadequate footwear dealing with incapacitating foot and ankle injuries. Blisters seem to be the biggest problem.
Some that become incapacitated can ruin the trip for an entire group. A group of friends that may have spent months if not years waiting and planning for this trip. This is no longer an inexpensive trip either. Fee’s have been jumping each year.
Many ignore the recommendation of bottom soles rated for backpacking. Or ankle support to avoid twisting an ankle.
Some people will blow off experienced people recommending shoes/boots rugged enough, and made specifically for backpacking.
Proper footwear may also prevent knee and back injuries, or the unfortunate accident of going down with the weight of your pack on you. As said earlier, such a fall can result in finger, wrist, arm fractures, and damaged knees.
We even have a story from an acquaintance that went down. Hard enough to result in a broken nose.
Full protection footwear with socks is recommended. Both for protection from sharp objects, and to prevent sand and small stones rubbing your skin.
Open toes shoes are famous for getting a person stuck in the toe by thorns, cactus needles, twigs, or some other pointed object. Remember this is desert terrain.
It’s an invitation to peel off a toenail. Or worse, catch a toe and break it.
With punctures you would have to be concerned with tetanus or other types of infection. Or run something sharp up under your toenail. The coyotes will come running to your howling!
This is the same reason seasoned deck hands on boats wear closed toe footwear. They have the learned knowledge concerning similar hazards such as catching a toe on a deck cleat or other hardware.
Open footwear has a tendency to load up with sand or sharp small pebbles. All of which act like sandpaper on your tender feet.
There are endless rookies out there that have been lucky. People that pay no heed, and haven’t had an accident happen yet. They suggest or even brag they backpacked in sandals or other inadequate footwear.
This is the same mentality as not wearing a seat belt in a car because of never having a crash yet. People wouldn’t have accidents if they could see what the next few minutes of life had approaching.
You are pretty much on your own in this remote area. Leaving pain and suffering out of the equation, it is real inconvenient and expensive to seek any type of emergency medical attention.
Should you be injured, you will more than likely have to do considerable hiking with serious pain.
Tribal ATV transport fee’s (if they can get to you) has risen to $500, starting with the 2018 season. What 2019 brings may be higher?
Helicopter medi-vac….I can’t even image what that would cost someone. We have heard $20K to $40K….and that is on your dime.
Don’t be that rookie that ends up suffering to save a few dollars, believing what some say of hiking with the lesser.
Or not heeding those with the life long experience that have contributed to this collective of recommendations.
If you aren’t concerned about yourself, at least be concerned about wrecking the trip for others that may be traveling with you.
I am sure you will pass some ill prepared people that are doing this hike in everything from tennis shoes to flip-flops. I have seen them limping to get on the helicopter too.
Backpack smart, enjoy the trip, and don’t ruin it for someone else that is traveling with you. It is too hard to get permits into this area. You want a trip you can brag about. Not one you complain about.
Break the boots in long before you ever do long distance hikes or backpacking. Try them out soon after purchase. Wear them around the house, to go shopping, etc. If they don’t feel right take them back while you still can.
Eventually work up to walking several miles in your boots. Then start hauling around some weight in a backpack to prep for your actual hike. Somewhere in your planning and prepping stage you need to be doing several conditioning hikes in the 12 mile range.
Don’t do this trip cold turkey with no conditioning. Again some macho types will have you believing going cold turkey is possible with no pain. When you wake up the next morning after your hike in you will know what some of us are talking about. Hiking/Backpacking down, and uphill works muscles you don’t normally work when traveling on flat terrain.
Include some inclines or stair steps in your conditioning. Remember you have over a mile of downhill incline going in (the switchbacks), and the same incline going up, on your trip out. Going downhill in this case is almost as difficult as going up. Carry your 800mg of Ibuprofen!
The secondary benefit of breaking in your footwear, and conditioning with weight, distance, and incline, is the fact you will be toughing up the skin on your feet. This especially benefits people not accustomed to long distance backpacking. We aren’t talking about building up any super layer of callus. But those that put in miles constantly, have definitely built up hardened skin that provides a huge protection factor. These people fair much better than those with soft feet.
Submitted by: Slim Woodruff 2/24/2017. A “Leave No Trace” Trainer
Havasupai has been called a paradise, and deservedly so. Havasupai is a favorite destination for the first time hiker. However some of these new time campers, and admittedly many of the old ones, do not seem to understand the idea of “Leave no Trace”.
Leave no Trace is a system of ethics regarding the use and protection of public lands. It is a system of ethics, because often one may follow rules only when there is a possibility of getting caught. Ethics are what one does when no one is watching. There are a list of principles of “Leave No Trace”.
Plan ahead and prepare.
Make sure of the regulations before starting down. Don’t go without a permit. Day hikes are not allowed. Alcohol and illegal drugs are prohibited, and use of same is disrespectful. Yes, there are those who indulge and they usually get away with it. However when visiting a friend’s home, one respects the wishes of said friend. The Havasupai do not allow alcohol. The same goes for cliff diving, drones, and professional photography.
Travel and Camp on Durable surfaces
Stay on the trail. Admittedly, most of the trail is in a wash, but in those last, long, sunny switchbacks, do not take shortcuts between said switchbacks.
If visiting certain waterfalls, be aware that the newly-cut creek bed is unstable in places. Respect those signs which tell you to stay back from the edge. Climbing cliffs and rocks is prohibited. Hiking anywhere but the one established trail is prohibited. This is the home of the Havasupai people, and they don’t want trespassing.
Dispose of waste properly.
Simply put, this means carry it out. If you can carry it in full, you can carry it out empty. Do not toss your trash by the trail. Do not leave it in the campground. There are those who decry the use of pack horses to carry gear. How do you think trash which is left there gets out? On these same pack horses. Trash containers in the outhouses are for feminine hygiene products, not your camping trash.
If some of your equipment breaks or tears, carry it out. If clothing or shoes get too dirty to ever use again, carry them out. The only exception is leftover stove fuel. It is permissible to ask the rangers if they can use this. But ask first.
Soap does not go in the water, period. Not biodegradable, not hemp soap, not natural, hand-crafted by Buddhist monks soap. Biodegradable soap is designed to be dumped on the ground, not in the water. Would you like to drink water with soap in it? Soap affects not only fish and other aquatic wildlife, but the microbiological systems in the water.
Leftover food must be carried out. Animals will eat it, yes, but that trains them to become dependent on humans and thus become pests. Buried food will be dug up.
Use the outhouses provided.
Yes, sometimes it is a long walk, particularly after dark. Yes, sometimes there is a line. But if people do not use the outhouse, the campground will start to smell like a cat box.
Hanging food from trees is a good idea.
But take down the ropes when finished. I collect several yards of cord and rope every time I am down there. This could be a hazard to birds or to climbing animals.
Leave what you find.
No collecting rocks, flowers, or any artifacts. You may, however, pick up as much trash as you wish.
Minimize campfire impact.
This one is simple: no campfires are allowed. Yes, you may see fires, but they are illegal, rude, and inconsiderate. You will notice leftover fire rings and blackened ground from these illegal fires. These marks will last for decades.
Do not feed the animals or leave leftover food. See above. If you bring a dog, keep it on a leash. Regarding Supai dogs, it is temping to feed them, but do you feed junk food to your own dogs?
Be Considerate of other visitors.
Not everyone wants to hear your boom box or your external speakers. Some hikers take to their bed sooner than you so as to get an early start on the trail hiking out. The campground is very crowded and close quarters. Keep the noise down.
Stay within the confines of your camp.
The campground is almost always full. If you have a smaller group, do not spread out over several tables. If someone camps right next to you, it is usually because there is no other place available. Play nicely and share.
Pack Compares. No two packs are the same in comfort or in weight. Often times comfort is sacrificed to reduce weight.
In my experience, reducing weight is far more important, the longer your trek. Especially kicking through sandy trails, doing switchbacks at high altitude, trudging in the heat, stepping up endless rock stairways, or generally clicking away 10 miles or more a day.
I have backpacked many years, many miles, and with a wide selection of gear. In a pack I evaluate and rate based on several factors.
(1) Weight is my main factor. The dry weight must be in the 2lb range.
(2) Comfort is next
(3) The pack must have accommodations for a bladder. i.e. a compartment or pouch, and a slit in the pack to extend the bite valve and tubing through. Tube attachments on the straps are a plus.
(4) Pack must contain many external pockets. Preferably zippered compartments to prevent loss. Also enough external compartments that I can access most of my items without digging through the pack. If my tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag, can fit in the main compartment, and I can spread my other items to the external pockets, that is ideal. The type that incorporates a break-a-way day pack is beneficial.
(5) Must have a padded hip belt for distributing most of the load on the hips.
(6) Prefer padded shoulder straps and a quick-release breast strap.
(7) New on the market are swivel pack to waist belt. Reports of one on a 2017 came back very favorable on a 40+ lb pack weight.
As a comparison of the packs I morphed from and to. My original carbon fiber external frame pack, was extremely comfortable short term. (Which is very deceptive when trying on in a sporting goods store). I even had extra quick connect straps attached all over, to strap down my tent, bag, and pad. I used this system for a good decade.
But long term, and long miles, the extra weight of the dry pack takes its toll when factored into total pack weight. Simply changing choice of packs, and no other gear, shaved 6.5lbs off my total carry weight. I then went to a ultralight bag and tent. It was easy to drop 15 lbs. Expensive though.
Taking this approach to everything you stuff in your backpack. You will soon be rewarded with a pack of less that 25lbs verses 40 or 50 lbs. Believe me….after 10 or 12 miles of backpacking you will definitely notice the difference.
Gold Point ghost town camping is always a big event for some of us. Twice a year for a short run now, we have a local group out of Las Vegas that camps at one of Nevada’s Ghost Towns.
Our spring 2016 event will take place May 12 through the 15th. The core group camps with anything from RV’s, Teardrops, to Tents. Some even sleep in their cars or vans. RV spots are limited to 11 and normally all get reserved. There are also a limited amount of rustic cabins for rent. There is endless dry camping where you can camp out of your car and set up a tent.
We also have an October 2016 trip scheduled for October 13-16, 2016.
If you want the experience, and car camping is your thing. This would be a unique opportunity to attach this location to your Havasu Falls trip. Especially if you are coming in through Las Vegas. Or south out of Reno.
Gold Point, Nevada is about a 3 hour drive of Las Vegas. It is remote but offers a rewarding experience. The Saloon is opened for our group. There is also some prepared meals available for fee’s.
This is rustic camping for the most part. Pit toilets, but there is a shower. No tables. No tree’s. Don’t expect comforts and you won’t be disappointed. A shade/rain fly is recommended but not necessary.
There are no services or store. The nearest small town is about 40 miles away. Be sure to bring everything you need. Water is available on site but you need your own container.
The area is full of photogenic buildings, old iron, mining equipment, and machinery. A handful of people live in the town and are restoring buildings while maintaining the old dilapidated look.
The town sits at an altitude just above 5000 ft so during spring and fall expect chilly nights and pleasant days. Some years its rained and we spent the day in the saloon sitting around the wood stove with a roaring fire.
One of the Las Vegas Dutch Oven cooking groups does a Saturday Potluck. Cost of admission to the potluck meal is; bring a dish or food of some sort.
There are endless gravel roads going off into the mountains in all directions. One snakes over a hill to another Ghost Town called State Line…though 4 wheel drive may be required for that one.
Or head over to the Hard Luck Mine Castle. If you can get the owner to give you a tour (donations required) you will be amazed at what someone built in some very unforgiving terrain.
The Ghost Town of Rhyolite, Nevada is about a hour and a half drive one way from Gold Point (On paved roads). It is another photographers dream. Totally awesome at sunrise or sunset!
At Gold Point, you are pretty much on your own as far as food. Though some meals can be arranged in advance. Sheriff Stone or Walt (some of the proprietors) will do breakfast, lunch, and dinner if arranged for in advance.
Come joins us around the campfire!
Sponsored by: “The Las Vegas Dutch Oven Enthusiasts”
Email us if you want more info.
Mooney Falls Trail Article and Still image by: Rick Beach.
Video by: Nataliia Sheianova.
Mooney Falls is about 200 ft high. The trail from the top to the bottom is not for some with a fear of heights.
The last half of the climb down is normally bathed in mist off the falls. For some this part is very scary. You are grasping chains to secure yourself. Rock footing is wet and slick. You are on a near vertical cliff face. Descending first. But the only way back out, is to take the same route back up.
There is often 2 way traffic. Some people have no courtesy to wait. This is even more intimidating to those that are timid and not real sure they should be attempting this climb. Maintain 3 point contact at all times! For many it is the highlight of the trip.
Once down at the base of Mooney Falls it opens you to a vast area of more water falls. Beaver Falls several more hours of hiking downstream is a “must do” also.
Mooney Falls Trail Video: Courtesy of Nataliia Sheianova
The trip had been planned since December 2011, when Rick “Southwest Rick” and Brian “Gator” were sitting around drinking a Coffee on a cold day in the desert of Las Vegas. Talking and reflecting about their last backpacking/camping) trip they had taken together the previous May. They had gone on a week long backpacking trip then to Havasu Canyon, AZ with 2 others guys.
“Let’s go again in the summer. This time so that we can swim under the huge waterfalls at the bottom of the Canyon”, said Rick. Gator agreed to return since he had a great time 6 months prior and couldn’t wait to get back.
Brian suggested something different this time. He asked, “Can we split the ‘Crew’ into (2) groups this time? Each group was hoping to start and finish, at the same time and place?” Both groups sharing the experience at the bottom of the Canyon together?”
Some of Brian’s group would camp too, but stay in the Lodge their last night. Rick’s group would be camping in the campground. All agreed but suggested one change…..schedule the trip during a Full Moon week to enjoy the night time moon reflections, and light on the trail. It was announced to friends and the Facebook Group Facebook Backpacking Havasu was created. The trip was “On” and would start in 23 weeks; the first week of June.
The group quickly grew to 10 friends and family members that all had an interest either in backpacking, camping, adventure, photography, nature, or the Great Outdoors. There were also other friends and family members that could not go, but were interested enough to join and follow the weekly discussions and planning.
The main group was subdivided into two smaller groups. The seven (7) members that wanted to backpack the first (and toughest) 9.5 miles down into the village were to be nicknamed “The Bighorns”.
The three (3) members that wished to bypass that stretch of the trail and avoid hiking to the village were to be called “The Blackhawks” (Since they would be travel in by helicopter).
An AirWest Helicopter flies into Havasu Canyon onto the Indian Reservation 5 days a week to transport the Locals, Officials, Tribal Members, and Backpacking Tourists down on a seven (7) minute flight between the Village from the Trail Head parking lot. This “Bypass” avoids the 9.5 miles of hiking to the village. (GPS actual walking miles)
Early June temperatures here are in the 90’s. July and August temps often exceed 100 degrees. The Sunday afternoon the Bighorn crew set off to backpack down the canyon wall switchbacks, the temperature had exceeded 100 degrees.
All water has to be carried in personal water bladders or canteens on this trail for 9.5 miles until resupply can be purchased at the Indian Village.
The Supai Village Store and Café are supplied daily by pack horse teams that carry nearly everything into the settlement to sustain 500 inhabitants year round.
The General Store here looks like your local 7-11 with ice cream, soda, snacks, frozen burritos, canned goods, meat, and fresh bread. These pack horse “trains” work hard 12 hours a day and pass backpackers on the trail with great speed and determination.
On Sunday June 3, 2012, Gator and his cousin Rhonda, from Georgia, departed Las Vegas around 9 am. They drove over the Hoover Dam southeast towards Kingman, AZ while enjoying the trip in Phil Hall’s pickup truck. He allowed them to use his vehicle since he and his son Carter would be riding back to Las Vegas with them on Thursday. The two travelers stopped at a Tourist Attraction known as Hackberry’s General Store for photos and drinks around 11 am.
Eventually (Sunday Evening) the three Blackhawks settled into their hotel room in Peach Springs. Backpack gear was reduced in hopes of minimizing weight. They also talked and shared thoughts of menus, camera gear, and foods. They finally fell asleep around 9:30 pm.
The Bighorn group had already hiked down the switchbacks and had set up an overnight bivouac camp up above the trail in the rocks.
Monday morning June 4, 2012 started out for the “Blackhawks” with cold air conditioning, hot showers, and front desk checkout. Another visit was made to the motel’s restaurant for a free breakfast that awaited them. Continental foods, fruits, and coffee were consumed in mass quantities for energy. Phil’s pickup truck was loaded; canteens filled, as well as water bladders for the backpacks. The 3 departed Peach Springs around 9 am for the one hour drive to the “Starting” point/Parking Lot on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. There they would board the helicopter.
Monday morning June 4, 2012 started out at first light for the “Bighorns”. With cereal, hot coffee, and some trail mix. Tents were broke down, sleeping bags rolled up, gear packed, and the backpacks strapped on. They hit the “long” half of the trail, to the village, shortly after sunup. They had the memory of the awesome full moon of last night, still fresh on their minds. On a totally clear night the Moon had lit up the entire canyon. There was no man made light for miles around. It lent a spiritual element to those on this part of the trip.
The AirWest helicopter could be heard coming up the Havasu Canyon around 10 am….right on time! It hovered over the boarding pad, near the Trail Head parking area. A worker crouched down and ran under the whirling blades. A drag line and hook where attached and the chopper quickly departed downhill WITHOUT passengers! It was strictly a cargo run. It appeared at that moment that the “Blackhawks” would NOT be boarding on time for the 7 minute flight to the Supai Indian Village. It was soon evident “time” was not a priority in this part of the world.
The Bighorn crew by this time had hiked all the way to the village and was sitting in the café patio (In sight of the village landing pad). The Bighorn team was waiting for the Blackhawks to get dropped off at the village. They witnessed the helicopter make several passes but instead of landing at the pad, veering off a short distance away. It was delivering bundles of roofing material to several of the homes.
Some of the homes had their shingled roofs stripped clean to the wood. The helicopter lowered the material right to the workers on the rooftops. Then like a dragonfly or bird, it buzzed up the canyon and over its rim…gone from sight and sound.
Alas, the chopper returned. The “Blackhawks” hopes HOWEVER were again short lived, when they noticed a young local man wearing an orange jumpsuit exiting a waiting van. He was handcuffed and his ankles were shackled. The “prisoner” was being prepared to be transported by 2 Reservation Correctional Officers. He was, surprisingly enough, not in a bad mood, but rather, laughing, cursing in his native language, and smiling behind mirrored sunglasses as if he were going to the Grammys.
The “Blackhawks” watched in awe as his chopper took off. Were they going to get on board that day? They had an appointment to “meet up” with the “Bighorns” around noon.
The “Bighorns” meanwhile were enjoying another iced beverage! Sitting in the shade relaxing while keeping an eye on the landing pad a short distance from the cafe.
The “Blackhawk” group FINALLY boarded the chopper at 11 am after each paying $85.00 for their quick flight. They took photos as fast as they could out the chopper’s windows and attempted to shout over the loud noise made by the rotor blades. When they landed 7 minutes later, they quickly ducked their heads and gathered their 3 backpacks, camera bag, and clothing bag and headed for the gate at the fence.
As they walked towards the fence, they were passed by 3 MORE prisoners in orange jumpsuits heading uphill. As the 3 “Blackhawks” exited the gate, they were enthusiastically met by Rick!. He explained to them that the 5 “Bighorns” had been waiting for them in the Supai Indian Village for 3 hours. They had broken camp early to beat the heat of the day. Mark and Chris (2 Bighorns visiting from Phoenix) had already departed for the Havasu Campground several hours earlier to secure camp sites.
The 3 Blackhawks walked over to the Camper Reservation Office to check in and pay their entrance fees. Upon payment, the 3 were each given an orange tag to place on each of their backpacks.
After buying large bottles of cold water, ice cream, and Gatorade at the Village General Store, the Blackhawks took their small clothing bag 1 block to the Supai Lodge and dropped it off in the lobby. After telling the front desk clerk that they would be returning in 2 days (on Wednesday), they departed on the trail for the 2.5 mile hike to the campground.
Along the dirt path, they took photos of each other as well as the creek and waterfalls that flow beside the trail. The highlight of the hike from the village to the campground is the 100 foot Havasu Falls beside the trail. It is created by the small creek as it cascades down into a large swimming pool. Photo opportunities abounded here.
Rhonda, being an avid photographer, was in heaven as she was clicking away as fast as she could. Four other members of the large group of 8 were also avid photographers. Gator, knowing this, didn’t feel the need to bring along a camera. Besides, the previous year, he had taken many photos.
At the bottom of the trail at the base of the Havasu Waterfall, was the entrance to the Havasu Campground. As the group approached the gates, they saw a local woman behind a folding table. On the table could be seen a gas stove, foil, gas canisters, and a cooler was on the ground beside her. She was cooking and selling fry bread.
The group bought hot, fresh “fry bread” and cold Gatorade from her and quickly departed to enter the Entrance gate where another local woman was checking orange tags on backpacks. Each backpacker had to squeeze through iron posts to gain admission into the campground. Posts arranged to let people through, but keep horses out.
The Blackhawks quickly found a shady campsite and quickly laid out their gear on the picnic tables provided. They ate the fry bread and gathered their water bottles and bladders for a 5 minute walk to the fresh water spring back towards the campground entrance. Upon returning to the campsite, they hung their 3 hammocks and relaxed until time for sleep around 8:30 pm.
The next morning (Tuesday) was spent boiling water for Starbucks instant coffee and eating granola bars and cereal. The 3 discussed the prior night’s sleeping arrangements and concluded that the campsite selected was a poor choice due to its closeness to the main trail.
All night long backpackers walked by as they shined their flashlights and awed and commented on the “coolness” of the 3 hammocks. Needless to say, the 3 Blackhawks slept poorly. The 5 Bighorns had selected another location, off the trail, but in close proximity to a large group of scouts that starting moving in. They also had the same complaint about the scout group.
The 5 Bighorns joined the Blackhawks campsite and daypacks were packed with snacks, water, and camera gear for the 20 minute hike to Mooney Falls below the campground. After several hours and many photos taken at Mooney Falls, the group returned to camp and washed up in the creek about 20 feet away.
Clotheslines were strung, towels hung, and shirts and socks were washed in biodegradable soaps. Several of the crew members took off for another hike to Havasu Falls and for a day of swimming in the 90 degree heat.
It was here that member Phil experienced the group’s ONLY injury. His toes were stepped on underwater causing a bruise and swelling of his large toe. This led to concerns of his ability to hike out of the canyon the next day. First Aid bandages were administered and his foot was kept elevated. This also went into a discussion of the hazards of open toed footwear on such a trip. We all learned a valuable fact for our next adventure.
Dinner was prepared of dehydrated meals using boiled water from Fern Spring. Both groups fell to sleep early to start the final day the next day as soon as possible.
The third day (Wednesday) morning June 6, 2012 started out very chilly. Even though the deserts in the Southwest get very hot during the day, the nights are very cool. Each crew member crawled out of their warm cocoons of fleece sleeping bags reluctantly and prepared the morning ritual of hot coffee. Phil had given Rhonda a dehydrated pouch of scrambled eggs and bacon which she gloriously ate.
Today was to be the day that both groups hiked uphill towards the Village. As the sun rose, Rick (the Bighorns Guide) assisted Phil and Carter Hall up the canyon to the village. Not only were they concerned for his swollen foot, but the heat as well. Chris and Mark agreed to hike up next graciously carrying Rhonda’s and Gator’s backpacks. Rick returned to the campground at 10 am, then hiked back up a 2nd time with Gator. Michael and Rhonda were the last couple to leave the campground around 2 pm.
When Gator and Rick arrived at the village around 11am, Phil and Carter were pleasantly surprised. They thought that they would have to wait ALL day for others to show up so that the group could check in at the village lodge. The 3 unloaded their gear inside room #22 at the end of the lodge building. Even though this lodge is basic and has limited amenities, it seemed like a Hilton to these backpackers. Hot showers, running water, flushing toilets, soft beds, air conditioning, and clean clothes awaited them. Also a nice nap was had by Gator, Phil, and Carter.
Rick headed back down to the campground for the second time.
At approximately 3 pm a loud knock was heard at the door. It was Rhonda and Moe! It was now THEIR turn to shower, change clothes, and freshen up. At 5 pm the 5 departed for the Village Cafe for a steak dinner.
The reason that 5 stayed at the Lodge was to hop on the chopper the next morning (Thursday) in the village. After the steak dinner (wasn’t great, but at least it was adequate), the 5 went to sleep early wearing earplugs that Gator had provided for everyone.
The next morning (Thursday June, 7th) Rick, Mark, and Chris would start their journey the total distance of 12 miles (Center of Campground to Parking Lot Trailhead)
At about 4:30am the group remaining in the campground (Bighorns) had been up since 4am. A quick breakfast and gear packed. This group was setting out on the trail before light. The backpacking group was hoping to reach the Parking lot, 12 miles away, before noon and the heat of the day.
The Bighorns made it to the parking lot, covering the whole uphill 12 mile trek in 4 hrs. The majority of the gear had been arranged for pack horse pick-up back at the campground. Regretfully the gear didn’t arrive for those waiting at the parking lot for nearly an additional 3 hours later, at 11:30am. After grabbing their gear the 3 remaining Bighorns said our goodbyes and headed out with their vehicles. Two of the Bighorns were returning to Phoenix, with the 3rd extending the adventure, traveling by vehicle to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The AirWest helicopter arrived in the village at 9 am. The group of 5 (Blackhawks) were there at 8. Chopper reservations aren’t allowed, so passengers need to stand in line early. The tribal members and officials always get first priority and don’t have to pay the $85.00 per person that the tourists pay.
After about 9 flights up WITHOUT our crew, it was FINALLY our turn. We had to split up however according to our names on the passenger list. At approximately noon, we ALL arrived at the top of the canyon to our awaiting vehicles. The Blackhawks departed for Peach Springs to return Moe to his truck, and the remaining left for Vegas while discussing plans for our next journey.
Our thanks to Brian Johnson for submitting this trip report. Brian is an avid outdoors person, and former professional guide.
Havasu Falls is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in North America. The trip is definitely worth the necessary preparations needed to visit this area.
Come prepared. Reservations are required from the Havasupai tribe. This is in a desert environment. Though there is water once you reach the village, it is 9.5miles from the trail head. Here are some simple cautions:
· Secure reservations prior to making the trip. Check-in is at the village which is 9.5 miles one way downhill. It would be a bad day if you get turned away.
· Be sure to check in at the “Camper Check In” office in the village before proceeding the next 2.5 miles to the campground. You need a wristband or tag to enter the campground.
· Carry plenty of water (More during summer months)
· The is no water available at the parking area
· The parking area is 70 miles from any community other than the village below. Nearly 80 miles to the next gas or small store.
· It is not recommended that you camp at the trailhead parking lot, though some do or sleep in their vehicles. There is no water and no shade. The parking lot is congested with vehicles and horse and hiker traffic
· Summer daytime temps often exceed 100 degrees F
· Spring, Fall, Winter night time temps are cold and can drop into the 20’s.
· Watch weather prior to trip and be prepared for the extremes
· Be sure to carry rain gear (can double as a shell in case of cold)
· Take cash money. There is a store and a café. Be prepared to pay high prices though. Remember it’s packed in on horseback