Hiking Havasupai: A Day at the Bottom of the Grand Canyon


Dusty ducks out of a narrow cave into the sunlight and immediately turns back with a joyful smile. “Omg keep filming,” she says with widened eyes. The cave down to Mooney Falls is narrow but has stairs spaced so evenly it feels like we could be descending to the Indiana Jones ride. The look on Dusty’s face however, makes it abundantly clear that no amusement park will ever hold a candle to the waterfalls of Havasupai. I spill out of the cave onto the landing beside her. All at once my senses are assaulted with clamorous turquoise tinted thunder. The purest water I’ve ever seen is falling two hundred feet and exploding in a massive crescendo. We exchange a glance of collective stoke, but then I look down.

Dusty Whispers sees Mooney Falls

What started as amusement suddenly becomes very serious. The rest of the descent is a hundred feet straight down. It requires pseudo-free-climbing on a very wet and muddy cliff face. Chains have been bolted to the wall of rock to assist with the climb but they are soaking wet and polished from use. Further down a series of ladders are attached to the cliff face where the reliable hand and foot holds have crumbled away. Mist from the powerful waterfall is drenching everything. Half our posse is already navigating the climb. A few of the others decide to turn back at the viewpoint landing. Dusty looks at me with concern, “are we doing this?” I reflect back her conveyed concern, “everyone needs to decide that for themselves.”

We both decide to go for it and like the rest of our group we are visibly shaking when we reach the bottom. We exchange high fives and excited proclamations of, “we lived!” Mooney falls now towers over us and the group takes a moment to appreciate its majesty. Just as I’m thinking there is nowhere else in the world like this Stopwatch lives up to his trail name saying, “daylights wasting, let’s get to Beaver Falls.”

Mooney Falls where Mooney, a mining prospector, fell to his death in 1882

The trek to Beaver Falls follows the flow of turquoise water though the canyon with dozens of miniature falls and water crossings along the way. Several of the more scenic spots have picnic tables and we stop for a snack next to a serene yet nameless series of cascading falls that are tucked within the canyon’s trees. I stare deep into the various color tones where the water’s hue changes as it pours and pools around the rocks. A gentle breeze rustles the trees and draws my attention skyward. Green leaves dance against the deep red backdrop of the canyon walls. Above the narrow canyon cloudless blue skies contrast the rusty amber and I am filled with a peacefulness only found in nature. After bargaining with Stopwatch for five more minuets immersed in this serenity I soak up as much zen as I can before we move on.


Our group forges a path to Beaver falls that allows us to keep our boots dry. Other hikers decide to wade waist deep though the creek for a more direct route. While hiking over hills and using log bridges it is hard to keep my eyes off the captivating crystal blue water.

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Arctic Snap tackles a log crossing

Each section of the creek is unique and alluring. Spotting several floatable sections I’m reminded of the inflatable inner tubes we’ve brought with us. Just as I’m thinking I would rather spend time frolicking in the water than trudging to Beaver falls I disembark a small ladder carved into the canyon rock and turn to see the perfect spot. An array of tiny rapids lead to a placid pool. The canyon walls are wide enough to let in the sun’s warming rays and there is even a picnic table on the riverbank. “This looks like an excellent stopping point to me,” I tell my companions. Three of the others agree. Stopwatch and his bride decide they would rather see Beaver Falls. As the two hike on Dusty, Arctic Snap, and I change into our bathing suits with reckless delight. Pandora decides the water is too cold for her taste and sets about inflating the tubes.


Its November and the water is frigid but we don’t let that stop us. Finding a path to the edge of some gradual cascades I can tell the water is deep. Turing my back to the pool I position an inner tube behind me and leap into the water. The push from the falls sends me drifting downstream. Beaming I let the current take me. Upon returning to shore Pandora asks, “how was it?” My swift and earnest response comes back, “this is the best day of my life!” Dusty, Arctic Snap, and I spend a few hours floundering in the icy waters finding tiny falls that can be dropped into safely. Eventually the cold prevails and we are forced to change into dry clothes for warmth.

Arctic Snap soaks up the sun a private paradise

The four of us never make it to Beaver Falls. After swimming and a leisurely lunch we would have to race daylight in order to avoid climbing back up the cliff by Mooney Falls at dusk or in darkness. We decide not to risk it. Not one of us is disappointed. The old adage that the journey is in fact the destination rings true. Choosing to stop and spend the day truly enjoying the unique and magnificent place we spent months preparing to get to was the right call for us. Beaver falls will still be there when we have another chance to go back to Havasupai. As Greg Anderson once wrote, “Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”

The crew from left to right: Back- Arctic Snap, Princess, Stopwatch, Ninja Fingers, Dusty Whispers. Front- Me (Commander Starfish) Pandora LeChesticles , and Fry Bread.

Want to plan your own trip? Start with this trip planning guide
Or read more trail tales: Road Trip To Jedediah Smith Redwoods

Backpacking the Trans Catalina Trail


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