wanderlust

Three Days Among the Waterfalls of Havasupai

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Havasu Falls turqoise water

Taking a dip in one of the many aqua colored pools under Havasu Falls

I’ve always been drawn to the element of water. A small stream or quiet pond will draw my eyes and make me pause for a second to admire its beauty. The weeping rock at Zion National Park really had me mesmerized. So can you imagine three days surrounded by the most turquoise water and multiple gorgeous waterfalls? The Havasupai Reservation was a dream. Below is a full itinerary of our trip (three days) so you can learn what to expect. Or, click here for tips on planning your own trip!

Day 0: On the road and Hualapai Lodge
My boyfriend and I flew into Las Vegas after work so it was late when we landed. We spared no time jumping in our car, grabbing a coffee at Grouchy John’s and hitting the road. After a 2.5 hour drive, we checked into Hualapai Lodge for a last night in a soft bed. I originally planned to stay at the trail head, but I am SO glad we didn’t sleep in the car. Staying at the lodge allowed us to get a good night’s sleep and spread out to pack our camping gear. I would highly recommend this – worth the $99.

Day 1: Havasu Village, Falls and Campground
After researching Havasupai for months before the trip, I knew I wanted to make the most of our time there. So we were up before the sun to make the 1.5 hour drive to the hilltop and start on the trail early. I typed “Havasupai Trailhead” into Google Maps and got there with no trouble. Watch out for animals in the road! We ended up getting there a little later than I wanted, about 7 a.m.

The trek down is 10 miles, mostly downhill and flat. Eager to jump in the bright blue waters, we booked it down the trail in about 4 hours only taking two breaks. One was at the tourist office where you check in, show your reservation print out and get your wrist band. From the office, it’s another two miles to the campground. The first sight of Havasu Falls will be from above and is such a magical moment seeing it for the first time. So close… keep going toward the campground!

Looking onto Havasu Falls

Taking one last look at Havasu Falls before the hike back up to the parking lot.

The campsites are first come, first serve. Keep exploring past the fern spring for campsites. We were so happy with our site across the creek! After setting up our tent, we made lunch and headed over to Havasu Falls. It was around noon and the falls were in the shade, but some of the pools still had great sun. We spent a few hours enjoying the chilly water and views.

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After a long day, we made a quick dinner, settled into our tent, fell fast asleep and were up at 3 a.m. to practice with some night photography. I brought a tripod just to practice these shots. They turned out OK and it was worth the extra weight .

Day 2: Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls
If you make the trip, I urge you to take the time and effort to hike to Mooney and Beaver Falls! We were up at 6 a.m. to start our eight mile (each way) trip to Beaver Falls.

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To Mooney Falls, continue to the end of the campground and keep following the trail. You’ll see the waterfall from above and it’s quite the sight! Now follow the trail down to the waterfall. You’ll see a sign that says “Descend at Your Own Risk.” This is where we lost the trail and wandered around a bit. I finally noticed a white arrow painted on the rock and pointing down into a tunnel. Look for the arrow pictured below… this is where the fun begins! Now you start the exciting descent to Mooney with metal chains and wooden ladders as your aides. If you’re new to hiking or afraid of heights, it can be intimidating, but I promise it was SO fun! Just take your time and remember that the climb up is easier than the climb down. I am so thankful that the reservation has maintained the way down so visitors can experience the falls.

The descent to Mooney Falls

The descent to Mooney Falls

Once down, you’ll admire the beauty of Mooney Falls and feel so accomplished you made it down alive. Get ready to get soaked in mist from the sheer power of this falls! The falls was in the shade allowing us to have fun with the tripod and long exposures here too.

 

We continued to the trail to Beaver Falls. The trail splits several times, but as long as you’re on the clearly marked trail, it will take you to the right place. Then you’ll come to your first creek crossing. I changed from my hiking boots to my water shoes and rolled up my pants. Keep your water shoes on after the first creek crossing, because there’s another shortly after that. After the second one, you can put your hiking shoes back on because you’ll hike for a while before the next creek crossing. Or, you can just wear your water shoes the entire time. I saw many hikers doing this, but I didn’t want to risk getting blisters.

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This hike was so fun! You’ll run into a palm tree at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. How cool is that? This is when you know you’re getting close. There’s a few ladders up and then you’ll have a view of Beaver Falls! Continue down to have access to the water and enjoy the hard earned dip in the cool water. We arrived around noon and had plenty of sun for swimming and a snack. This was the best falls to swim in!

When we made it back to camp, we enjoyed fry bread at the hut near the ranger’s station – this was just our appetizer before a meal at camp! Bring cash on your trip, because this was SO good after a 16+ mile day.

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Day 3: The trek up and a night in Las Vegas
I didn’t want to leave, but we made breakfast and packed up camp early.  Then we carried all our crap on our backs UP the canyon for 10 miles. Honestly, it was harder than I thought it would be. It’s flat for most of the way, until you get to the switchbacks that we had just bolted down 48 hours earlier. The switchbacks were in the sun by the time we got there which made for a tiring trek. We took several breaks. This was 70 degrees in the beginning of April. How do people do this in the summer? We made it up in about 5 hours and were exhausted and dirty. Again, worth it.

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We found our car, switched to flip flops and started the drive back to Vegas. We stopped for Taco Bell on the way and of course, Grouchy John’s coffee again. We stayed at the Westgate Hotel off the strip (it was just meh..). Bonus tip… after taking a much needed shower, we walked to Lotus of Siam (thanks to Anthony Bourdain) for AMAZING Thai food.

Then we were up at 4 a.m. to make a 6 a.m. flight home. The trip flew by but I LOVED every single second. I would love to go back to the Havasupai Reservation one day!

Plan your own trip to Havasupai – check out 13 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Havasu Falls! 

Click here for my complete packing list!

New to backpacking? Check out my training guide!

 

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Hiking The W in Torres Del Paine (Patagonia/Chile)

Over New Year’s, I trekked through Patagonia over seven days with my boyfriend and his family, and it was a dream-I-never-knew-I-had-come-true. I didn’t know much about Patagonia (honestly, I thought it was just the clothing brand) before I went on this trip, so every new sight was a breathtaking surprise. If you want that experience, stop reading. 🙂 Or, if you’re curious, here’s my take on the trek.

The W circuit is a trek through Torres del Paine National Park on the Chilean side of Patagonia. It actually traces a “W” on the map and is a popular trek for backpackers around the world. Now I know why.

CLICK HERE FOR MY FULL TORRES DEL PAINE PACKING LIST!

Day 1 (~13.3 miles): Puerto Natales > Refugio Chileno  > Mirador Torres del Paine

The very beginning of our seven day trek through Torres Del Paine Patagonia

We departed Puerto Natales, Chile and made it to the park after about a 5 hour van ride. From the parking lot, we put on our backpacks and kicked off our trek. We had gorgeous weather (look at that crazy cloud below!) hiking up (yes, up) to Refugio Chileno where we dropped off our stuff and continued on to the Mirador Torres del Paine with our day packs. As we were approaching the viewpoint, the weather changed and we got some snow and rain. Once we got to the towers all we could see was a big white cloud. Womp womp. It was chilly, so we turned around and headed back to the refugio for a hot meal and some much needed sleep in our tents!

The towers are THE iconic photograph I’ve seen of Patagonia, so I was disappointed at the time I couldn’t see them in person. Come to find out, we had such gorgeous views in the coming days, that looking back, it didn’t matter. It’s all part of the experience.

Day 2 – New Year’s Eve! – (~14.2 miles): Refugio Chileno > Japones Camp > Refugio Torre Central

This was another rainy and cold hike through the Silence Valley up to Japones Camp (a shelter covered in tarps) where we ate lunch. Though the weather wasn’t perfect, this was a fun hike through forest, along a stream and scrambling over boulders. We also spotted a male and female South Andean deer.

At the next Refugio we had a special holiday dinner and dessert buffet (it was delicious!) and lots of pisco sour to ring in the New Year. As our group waited to count down to 2018, the clouds started to blow away and we got a gorgeous glimpse of the towers from afar at dusk. This is my favorite picture of the entire trip and it was captured on my Google Pixel 2 XL smart phone!

Daises and Torres del Paine at dusk in Patagonia, Chile

Day 3 (~9.6 miles): Refugio Torre Central > Refugio Los Cuernos

After maybe one (or three) too many pisco sours, we were fortunate our shortest day fell on the first of 2018. The main goal was to get from one refugio to the next: Refugio Los Cuernos, at the base of one of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen.

This hike still had plenty of eye candy. This day was when the bright blue Lago Nordenskjöld and Los Cuernos mountains first came into view – two of my favorite sites of the entire trip. We enjoyed a nice long lunch gazing at the lake!

When we arrived to the refugio, it was time for a beer (we loved the local Austral Calafate beer!) some hot food and plenty of rest as the two biggest days lay ahead of us!

Day 4 (~14.1 miles): Valle Bader

This hike was absolutely my favorite day of the trip and a reminder of the sweet rewards of exploring such beautiful and natural places. Did I mention we had perfect weather, too? We were staying at the same refugio this night so we packed our day packs and headed towards Valle Badar. Of course, we stopped for these picture perfect views of Los Cuernos and Lago Nordenskjöld again!

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You need a special permit to get into Valle Bader (Forgotten Valley) so our group didn’t see another single hiker there. We scrambled over boulders and mossy streams into what looked like another planet. While drinking water straight from the stream and enjoying our lunch, a condor swooped down to check us out.

Day 5 (~19.5 miles): Refugio Los Cuernos > Valle Frances > Refugio Paine Grande

First, I want you to know that it’s true that you’ll get four seasons in a day in Patagonia. Here was the very beginning of our hike – cold and rainy at the shore of Lago Nordenskjöld, then we were in T-shirts shortly after on the way to the French Valley.

At almost 20 miles, this was definitely a long and tiring day. We packed up our gear and headed to Camp Italiano where we were able to leave our big bags and switch to day packs. Then, it was a long but worthwhile hike into the French Valley. We had gorgeous views of mountains, glaciers and even saw a few avalanches in action. Definitely a few firsts for me!

Then, we picked up our bags and still had a long way to go to our next refugio, Paine Grande. It was towards the end of the day so we had the most beautiful light upon Paine Grande and Los Cuernos mountains. And on the other side, the mountain range looked purple. Though I was exhausted, it was a magical experience! Now, it’s dinner time!

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Day 6 (~10.6 miles): Refugio Paine Grande > Refugio Grey > Glaciar Grey Viewpoint

Nearing the end of our adventure, this was the most laid back day. Or maybe I was just worn out from the past two days! We ventured on from Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Grey where we spotted our first views of Glaciar Grey.

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When we made to the refugio, we got settled and checked out a few view points nearby.

Day 7 (~14.4 miles): Bridges and Glaciar Grey 

We spent the morning taking a trail with two long bridges, one that was one kilometer long, and fabulous views of the glacier. And if it couldn’t be more perfect, there was a rainbow, too! This was a quick hike and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re at Refugio Grey!

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And if that wasn’t enough, we went on a hike on Glaciar Grey, too! We booked through a company called Big Foot Patagonia. We met at the office, signed some waivers and picked up our gear. Then it was a short boat ride to our destination where we started hiking over some interesting rock formations. Once we got to the ice, we put on our crampons, got a demo and then explored the glacier!

I wasn’t originally excited about this, but once we finished, I was SO happy I decided to go on the ice hike. It was an up close and personal experience with the glacier. Our guide showed us some awesome caverns and holes within the ice. Looking down was definitely enough to get your heart racing.

Day seven was our last day of adventure. The next day we hung around and waited for the boat to take us back to town.

This was a life changing experience that I am so glad I had. I would not change a single minute of it! Have you been to Torres del Paine before? Or are you thinking about it? Let me know in the comments!

More blog posts on Torres del Paine, Patagonia:

Before and After: Rainbow & Glacier Portrait

Hiking in Patagonia was a dream! This picture was taken towards the end of our trek on a short hike to a viewpoint of Glaciar Grey. On this trail, there are two long bridges that really made it a treat. Here I am on the 1 kilometer bridge with a fabulous view of the Lago Grey and Glaciar Grey – and we were SO lucky to have a rainbow appear!

CLICK HERE FOR MY FULL PATAGONIA EXPERIENCE! 

Before
The background is over exposed, eliminating the detail and color of both the glacier and rainbow.

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After
Using Adobe Lightroom, I dropped the exposure just a tad which made a huge difference (the benefits of shooting in RAW!). I also decreased the contrast and highlights to bring out the natural bright blue of the glacier. I used the brush tool to select the rainbow, where I upped the saturation and played around with clarity, dehaze and the colors to make it more prominent. I also increased the luminance of orange ever so slightly to give my skin and hair a nice glow.

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Camera: Fuji Film XT-2 with a wide angle lens
Format: RAW
Editing software: Adobe Lightroom

I learned that rainbow shots are tricky! Do you have any favorite rainbow photos? Share in the comments below!

Interested in a shot like this? Check out the 12 things you need to know for planning a Patagonia trip.