Friday, July 15, 2016

Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!

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Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River confluence is a must-see on your adventure to Havasupai! Only half of the people visiting will hike to Beaver Falls, which is on the way, yet almost nobody will make the entire trek down to the confluence. A confluence is where two rivers meet - in this case the turquoise Havasu Creek meets the brown Colorado River, creating an interesting mix of colors and water temperatures. 

This is an all day hike - not because its hard (it's fairly easy), but because you'll stop and take tons of photos and want to swim! My favorite part of this hike was the confluence because there is a perfectly clear pool in a small slot canyon perfect for hanging out for a few hours. Although this hike is only 5.5 miles from the Havasu Campground, it took us about 10 hours round trip. We literally stopped every mile or so to take a dip, and hung out at the confluence for a good 2 hours swimming and eating lunch. 

We never saw a single hiker on this trail until we got to the confluence, where rafting companies stop to let their clients out. They park their rafts at the confluence, and let everyone out to hike up Havasu Creek for 1/2 mile or so, so that they too can enjoy the clear, turquoise water. What was surprising to me, is that the guides didn't let their group swim in the slot canyon...there's no danger in the canyon. The only part you should stay away from is the narrowest part in the slot canyon, where the current will become very strong and can pull you through to the Colorado. You don't want to swim in the Colorado River because the current is very strong and past, and people can die very quickly without a life vest due to the cold water temperature and rocks under the water.

Since we didn't start hiking until 6am or so, we decided to hike all the way to the confluence first, then work our way back up to Beaver Falls. We figured that with the daily high temperature at 100F, that we should get to our destination first to beat the heat. Of course, it's not that big of a deal since you can swim anywhere in the river along the way. Just our preference. If you have time to hike from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River - do it! Totally worth the hike.
From Mooney Falls, hike down the canyon until you reach the trail split for Beaver Falls (there's a brown sign with an arrow pointing left for the falls). To get to the confluence, go straight past the brown arrow. Follow the canyon & cairns until you reach the end.

Distance: 5.5 miles one way from Havasu Campground
Elevation gain: 1,000 ft
Time: All day
Dog friendly? No, dogs aren't allowed
Kid friendly? Yes
Fees/Permits: Yes, see my post on How to Get a Havasupai Permit
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Start hiking from camp, until you reach this sign. If you look over the cliff you'll be able to see Mooney Falls. To get to Mooney Falls was only a 10 minute hike from our campsite.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Looking over the cliff to the rest of Havasu Creek.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
#Selfie!
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Climbing down through the cave.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Getting a peak at Mooney Falls.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Climbing out from the tunnel.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
The climb down is super steep! You can use the chains to hold on to.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Looking back up to the ladders from the base of Mooney Falls. If you have a fear of heights, you probably won't want to hike even this far.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Standing at the base of Mooney Falls! Photo by @iBoyer.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Group shot at Mooney Falls.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Beautiful view of Mooney Falls by @iBoyer
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Another group selfie using my Rif6 Mini Tripod.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Jumping at Mooney Falls! Photo by @iBoyer.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Standing in the mist of Mooney Falls was so fun and crazy! The mist was so heavy I couldn't open my eyes. Photo by @iBoyer.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Continue following the side trails past Mooney Falls, and you'll see this cool waterfall. It's really fun to stand under!
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Lisa & Byron make their way past the small waterfall, and check out their surroundings.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Along the "trail" you'll walk in and out of water. It's important that you have really good, sturdy water shoes. I use the Merrell Capra Rapid - they work great to keep rocks out of my shoes. Even though I am a huge Chaco fan, you'll get too many rocks and sand underneath your feet. Even Keens will get rocks in them.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Cutting through the fields of tiny grapes.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Crossing over a sketchy bridge. It looks really flimsy, but it's got 2X4s underneath for support.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Crossing over another bridge. Anytime there is a bridge I suggest using it, instead of walking in the water, because where ever there is a bridge, its most likely crossing over a strong current area in the creek.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Along the trail you will have to climb several ladders. To do this hike, you should be generally fit and able to climb up to 15 feet on a ladder. This is one of the smallest ladders.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Looking down to Beaver Falls from the trail. Nobody there at 7am!
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
You'll want to keep an eye out for this important brown arrow. Going left and down takes you to Beaver Falls, but to get to the confluence, go straight past it. We decided to hit the confluence first, then come back to Beaver Falls on the hike back to camp.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
You'll come across this brown sign, looking back. There is where you are officially in the Grand Canyon.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Continue following the cairns and well traveled trail.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Work your way down the side of the cliff, so that you reach the creek again.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
This is where the dry trail meet the river - there is a log on it's side, a cairn, and two orange tags hanging in the tree. Remember this spot, for when you hike back up.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
For the rest of the canyon, the trail alternates hiking on both sides of Havasu Creek, often crossing the river several times. If you get too hot while hiking, find a nice deep swimming hole to cool off.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Back on the dry part of the trail.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
When you get close to the end, you'll hike through this small cave. A relief from the heat!
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
We could finally see the canyon wall across the way - we knew we were very close now. 
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Ahh...the end of the trail. Oh darn, guess it's time to swim a little! The confluence is literally about 100 yards through this section. It was about waist deep.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
This is the narrowest part of the slot canyon, and you don't want to swim past this. The current was strong here, and could easily pull you out to the Colorado River. This was as far as I went, to where I felt comfortable stopping.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Swimming in the most amazing water! Photo by @iBoyer.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
I decided to climb up to the ridge where the rafters were hiking in. You get a good view of the slot canyon.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River! Colorado Confluence
The confluence!
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River! Colorado Confluence
A look back into the slot canyon, where the rest of our group was swimming.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Panorama of the Colorado River.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River! Beaver Falls
Once we got back to the trail split for Beaver Falls, we followed the ladders down to the creek.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!
Stopping at Beaver Falls to swim and hang out.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River! Kroex Double Hammock
Hanging out in my new Kroex Double Hammock at Beaver Falls. Photo by @iBoyer.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River! trail map
Trail map from Mooney Falls to the confluence.
Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River trail map
Another angle of the trail map to the confluence. 
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Hiking from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River!


22 comments:

  1. Wow this spot looks absolutely amazing! Love the idea of a lazy day of hiking stopping to swim along the way! What a great trip!

    Katie @ Katie Wanders
    www.KatieWanders.com

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  2. I do believe this part of the trip would be the best. Another blog friend also made this trip. I was wondering where the cave, chains, and ladders were! Oh, on the second part! I just love the looks Of Beaver Falls. This sure looks like an incredible day...wow! Thanks for sharing it all with amazing photos:)

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  3. I do believe this part of the trip would be the best. Another blog friend also made this trip. I was wondering where the cave, chains, and ladders were! Oh, on the second part! I just love the looks Of Beaver Falls. This sure looks like an incredible day...wow! Thanks for sharing it all with amazing photos:)

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  4. Years ago my brother and nephew did this hike. Maybe there were no bridges then, because my brother said they had to wade Havasu Creek many times, up to their waist! They saw another group who mysteriously was not wet, so they watched them cross...they stripped to the waist every time! When my brother hiked back up Mooney falls it was raining! I've gone down there 4 times myself and sure wouldn't want to do that in the rain!

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  5. We just did this in September and think 5.5 miles is a little misleading and slightly underestimating this distance after now having done it myself. 7.5 miles is a lot more realistic to plan for from Mooney to the confluence.

    Since distance is tough to measure, let’s go off time. Our group of nine average hikers (age 40-somethings) took 2 hours to get from Mooney to Beaver with a bit of stopping for pictures and reveling in pure amazement. Continuing on past Beaver to hit the confluence as our ultimate destination (as suggested in this post), that final stretch from Beaver to the confluence was another 2 hours not stopping for many pics at all – so 4 hours total going in. We moved a little quicker on our return in order to swim at Beaver. So less than 2 hours (1h 50m) from the confluence to Beaver and just under 1.5 hours from Beaver to Mooney for a total of 3h 15m back.

    You might also be interested in knowing the depth on the other side of that narrow at the confluence was super shallow! When we reached this spot, rafts were tied up in the cove so we called through inquiring about depth. We were surprised to see the guide step over the side and stand with water just above her ankle! I'm sure those levels fluctuate during the year, but we were happy to make it through without concern in order to have lunch on the bank of the Colorado!

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    1. Thanks for your feedback-just sent you an email. -Alicia

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  6. Hi your photo with the log and the orange tags shows a man on the rocks.. Is that the way to climb down from the dry trail to the river in that spot? or was someone just climbing? If I plan to go to the confluence , this particular climb down will for sure deter me..Thank you for all the information and the beautiful photos..

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    1. Yes the trail will take this route back down to the river. There's not a way you could keep hiking up high - just keep an eye out for the cairns and orange tags and it will lead you the right way. -Alicia

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    2. There was no orange tag there when we went to the confluence last fall... and the pics may look intimidating Radha, but it's really not that bad. I'd say if you can go down the ladders at Mooney, you can definitely follow these easier steps down to continue on to the confluence.

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  7. Hey there! So happy to stumble across your post! We are head down in a few weeks for 4 days/ 3 Nights. There will be 8 of us including 2 12 year olds and a 10 year old. IS this something we can do in a day and still make the ascent up the chains before dark? What time should we leave in the am? Thanks
    ALso, if need be, I can leave youngest at camp with another group member, but would hate for him to miss this experience if he can hang. He is active so Im hoping he would be ok with frequent stops?
    Thanks so much. Kim

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    1. Hi! Awesome, you are going to love it! Yes, I think you could get this done before dark but I would start no later than like 7-8am to give yourself all day to enjoy it and explore the canyon, plus time for swimming. Worse case scenario, you turn around early. -Alicia

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  8. Awesome post Alicia! So helpful especially considering there is not a lot of info online regarding the confluence and the experience. I’ll actually be in Havasu very soon at the end of the month (April 2018) and lately I’ve considered trekking all the way to the confluence. My wife and I are definitely in shape but we’ve never been to the falls at all and we’re only there for 2 nights leaving day 3. With this amount of limited time would u still recommend it? I’m Also concerned that if we were to choose to do it that it would take up most of our time to enjoy all the other falls. What are your thoughts?

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    1. Yes definitely do this hike on your 2nd day! You'll pass Mooney & Beaver Falls, so you'll get the most out of your day. This was the highlight for me on this trip - the slot canyon at the end with the clear water was amazing. I just had friends go about 2 weeks ago and they said the same. Highly recommend it! -Alicia

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  9. Hi Alicia!

    So excited to found the confluence trail thanks to you. If you could remember any other detail about the trail it would be really helpful. I will be going to Havasu this weekend. I'd really like to hike the confluence, but I've read mix reviews on the difficulties of the hike. You made it sound so easy and another article said the trail was difficult. Is the trail easy to find or would it be easy to get lost? How will we know when we will need to cross the creek? Any additional information would be greatly appreciated.

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    1. I guess the difficulty depends on your experience. I hike 3-4 times/week and backpack quite often in the summer months. So for me, yes it was easy. For someone who only backpacks once a year and hikes twice a year or whatever, then it will be more difficult. It would be hard to get lost...you just follow the river! As for knowing when to cross the creek: you could do this trail entirely in the water. But the trail does meander along the banks, so it doesn't really matter. It's nice to walk along the banks because you'll hike faster, but there are some cairns and like I said you just follow the river so you can't get lost. I'd recommend downloading a map onto your phone or GPS. I use Gaia GPS to track everything and download maps. Really helpful, and will make you feel less scared about getting lost. Hopefully this helps! Have fun, it's beautiful! -Alicia

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    2. Thanks for the quick reply! You mentioned hiking entirely in the water...that sounds amazing, I hope the water level is low enough for us to do that when we go this weekend. The water looks really low when you went. What month did you go?

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    3. We went mid-July! You'll get wet for sure!

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    4. Thank you!! You're awesome. I'm not worried about getting wet. I just hope the water level isn't so high that we can't hike in it or even cross it.

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    5. You can also gauge difficulty by looking at elevation change. From the bottom of Mooney Falls (@ ~2500') to the Colorado River (@ ~1900), you're only taking ~600' difference. For some, that may be something. For others, that's "relatively flat" over this 7.5ish mile distance each way.

      If it helps, here's a link to tracks from our trip last Sept: https://caltopo.com/m/J69S

      My GPS struggled to record a smooth path in the deeper sections of the canyon, but let me know if you want/need an explanation of color coding and way point marks as we tried to confirm actual distance (since we found so may discrepancies as we wanted to set expectations for our first trip too).

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    6. Wow thats cool! Thank you. The water to the confluence is probably lower during the summer. I'll just have to see myself this weekend. Thanks all.

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  10. I'll be curious to know how cold the water is this time of year...

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