The Hilltop and Horses
We spent a day driving up from Phoenix to Peach Springs, the nearest community, and spent the night. Many of the residents have either been to Havasu or are aware that most visitors are going there, so ask them questions if you have any. Early the next morning, we drove an hour to Hualapai Hilltop, the beginning of the descent into Havasu Canyon. The parking lot at the top is very small, so most people park along the road leading up – prepare to park far away, and don’t leave anything valuable in your car since you’ll be leaving it at least overnight.
From the hilltop there are two options to reach the falls: by foot or by horseback. Most choose to hike the 10 miles, and arrange to have their camping gear packed on mules so they can pick it up once they reach the campgrounds. We wanted to try riding horses, so we had made previous reservations. Unfortunately, our reservations were lost even though we confirmed just earlier in the week, and we ended up waiting a couple hours for horses to be brought up for us. To our added surprise, we discovered (while already seated on the horses) we wouldn’t be accompanied by a guide. We received a 30-second lesson on how to ride a horse, a very reassuring “don’t worry, the horses know where they’re going”, a kick and we were off!
The ride down was long – you could honestly probably walk faster, most people did – and a cycle of fright, exhilaration, fatigue, and more fright (my horse decided to take a sudden detour through a small creek for drink, needless to say I panicked). Several times we tried to make our horses go a little faster, but they would run for about 30 seconds before deciding to walk again. Three hours later we finally arrived at the village where the horses are kept (they really do know where home is), and walked the remaining two miles to the campgrounds.