“The place was amazing. I’ve never seen something like that and until you go there you don’t believe it exists.” The words are from Liad, an Israeli born, Las Vegas based photographer, whose keen eye and steady hand captured these images of the Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Reservation. Thankfully, we have her record of this beautiful landscape because getting there yourself isn’t for the easily dissuaded or the faint of heart.
Not just to the trail head inside the reservation’s lands, that’s an easy 3½ hour drive from Vegas. It’s the rest of the trip which can be a bit of a hassle, but as Liad gushes, “I didn’t have enough. I wish I could go back one day.”
In order to actually visit the site, though, the first thing you need is a reservation, which is easier said than done. Spots open up at 8am Arizona time on February 1st for an annual season, which starts a month later, on March 1st. And you need to be quick on the draw because those few slots can sell out completely within a few hours.
Once you have paid for your reservation (currently a 3 night minimum at between $100-125 per person per night), then the planning really starts. “I think it cost us like going for a 5 star hotel in the end with all the gear we bought, the tent and the sleeping bags,” Liad remembers of the trip she took with her family back in 2018. “It’s a 10 mile hike. You carry everything on your back.” In addition to the sleeping gear, Liad and company also bought new shoes and wool socks, specially designed to not cause blisters. They also made plans to pack dry food and plenty of water. “How are we going to take water for 4 or 5 days, it’s a lot of water to take,” she remembers. But then, through a Facebook group and the website of the site itself, she discovered there was a spring of drinkable water near the campsites. It was a big relief, so aside from the initial water they carried with them in wearable canteens, their rations focused on freeze dried food. They could get water and heat it there.
Of course, heating water on a small burner for food was one thing, trying to heat enough for a shower was out of the question. “There are no showers, so if you want to take a shower it’s just in the river. There are some bathrooms. No restaurants of course.” For Liad, whose prior camping experience was limited to pitching a tent near a car, this was something entirely new. “Whatever you take, you take. And whatever you don’t have you can’t buy,” she says.
Liad, her husband David, their kids Drew and Hailey and Drew’s girlfriend Tali had to seriously consider every detail about the trip. “You can’t take plastic utensils so everything was washable. We had to use them again. You really put the thought of what you put in your backpack because you have to carry it. It’s not like ‘oh I’ll take another shirt.’ Yeah you’re going to have to carry another shirt. We weighed our bags and everything was calculated.”
They also had powdered Gatorade because even in April, when they made their trek, it would get hot in the afternoons. “We started really early in the morning, but when you get there it’s the afternoon. It’s 10 miles of going up and down, it’s a lot of switchbacks and up the hill and down the hill, it’s rocks and it’s mountains and it’s rough.”
But in the end, as you can see, all of it was worthwhile. Liad loved the fact she could share this with her family but, she says, “As a photographer, I could stay there forever and explore more, especially at nighttime…we did this [she references our cover photo] (but) there are more waterfalls, and the Milky Way and more things to do!”
We can only hope when she does return, we’ll get the benefit of her artistry and vision to share in these pages once again.
Please see Publisher's Note