Hiking the Havasupai Trail in November

· Length to Havasu Falls: 10 miles 

· Round Trip: 20-30 miles

· Time Taken: 4 days, 3 nights 

· Elevation Change: about 2,400 ft. 

· Starting/Ending Location: Hualapai Hilltop/Havasupai Trailhead (located at the end of Indian Road 18)

· Type of Trail: Out-and-Back

· Difficulty Level: Difficult 

· Permits Required: YES



Deep down in the gorges of the magnificent Grand Canyon, there is a magical place where turquoise blue waters flow, and red rock ambiances will leave you astonished. This dream-like wilderness is located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The Havasupai Native Tribe, also known as people of the blue-green water (Havasu means “blue-green water” and pai means “people”), live in the isolated village of Supai and allow thousands of backpackers to witness several of the Grand Canyon’s remarkable waterfalls through exclusive permits.

TERRAIN OVERVIEW

This 10-mile out and back trail is overall a smooth trek. The elevation is the most challenging aspect of this hike, specifically on the hike out (the last two miles). This trail is rated difficult and hikers should train and have the appropriate gear before they pursue (more information on this below). BUT as strenuous this journey is, the VIEWS will keep you distracted and motivated to keep on trekking!


OBTAINING A PERMIT

Hiking permits for the Havasupai trail open on February 1 MST time at 8 am. Permits fill up quickly (usually within the first couple hours), so be flexible and persistent when you are applying for your hiking dates. An account on the Havasupai reservation website is required to obtain a permit, so to make your applying a bit smoother, ensure you have an active account before February 1.

NOTE: There are no day trips on the Havasupai Trail.

If you don’t end up with a permit, you can always check https://www.havasupaireservations.com for cancelations throughout the year. Check regularly for available permits during the ideal month you would like to visit. I snagged two additional permits from this website.

The Havasupai Tribe requires a minimum of three nights to stay at the Havasupai Campground. The fee is $100 per person per night Monday-Thursday, and $125 per night Friday-Sunday and on holidays. Rates are generally adjusted yearly. The tribe requires full payment at the time your reservation is made, and no refunds are allowed. Period. So have a plan before you apply.

The best time of the year to receive permits (in my opinion) is either March and April to beat the summer heat, or October or November to beat the crowds. July and August have potential flash floods, so keep that aspect in mind when attempting to achieve a permit. 

HAVASUPAI WEATHER IN NOVEMBER

We went in mid-November and were extremely anxious about the potential cold we were about to endure. To our surprise, the trip ended up being an incredible time to adventure through the Grand Canyon. The fall colors were stunning against the turquoise waters. Our days were spent in a long sleeve and shorts. Nights were a bit chilly, but nothing Merino Wool leggings, a robust sleeping bag, and a cup of hot chocolate can’t fix. The only downfall for taking the trip in November is I wasn’t able to get the water– it was frigid. But the freezing water temps didn't stop a few hikers from jumping in.


BACKPACKING V. PACK MULE

Once you have your permit, the first detail to consider is if you would like to backpack with all your supplies, or if you would like to pay for a Pack Mule to haul it down. If you decide the mule route, you need to reserve a mule BEFORE your hike– which can be done on the Havasupai website.


Fees per Pack Mule are $400 round-trip between trailhead and campground entrance. One Pack Mule can carry up to 4 bags with a maximum of 32 pounds per bag. The maximum bag size is 36 inches long, 19 inches wide, and 19 inches tall. All baggage must be soft-sided, such as a duffel bag. Coolers are NOT permitted. If you use the Pack Mule, you should drop off your bags no later than 10 am at the trailhead (on the day of the hike in) and 7 am at the campground (on the day of the hike out).

NOTE: These fees change annually, be sure check the website before you rely on these above prices.

Backpacking with your supplies is doable with quality gear and the right amount of weight on your back (more information on this below). A lenient rule of thumb when backpacking: a loaded backpack shouldn’t exceed 20% of your body weight. For example, if the hiker weighs 150 lbs. their backpack should weigh a maximum of 30 lbs. When packing, be a minimalist!


LODGING V. CAMPING

Next consider is if you are equipped to camp for three nights in the Havasupai Campground, or if you would like to pay to stay at the lodge located in the Supai Village. Lodge fees are $440 per room per night, with rooms accommodating up to 4 people. When you reserve your room, there is a $100 deposit per room per night, and a $110 entrance/environmental fee per person. You can book your lodge reservation on the Havasupai website.

NOTE: These fees change annually, be sure check the website before you rely on these above prices.



I highly recommend camping to get the full effect of your Havasupai trip. The mile-long campground is first-come-first-serve. The campground can fit around 350 people. 


BEFORE YOU HIKE IN

Figure out what fits you or your group’s itinerary on getting to the trailhead. If you are flying in from another state or country, the two closest airports to the trailhead are Las Vegas (four hours) or Phoenix (five hours). Some hikers sleep at the trailhead (yes, in their cars) to ensure they beat the heat on their hike in. Other hikers stay in a nearby town the night before during the cooler months since it’s not such a rush to start earlier. We stayed in a cheap motel in Seligman, AZ the night before the hike in. There are plenty of motels to choose from but recommend calling ahead to make a reservation.

Peach Springs, AZ is the last town you will pass through before the hour drive to the trailhead–be sure to have enough fuel to make it there and back!!!

ITINERARY:

Day 1: Hiking to the Havasupai Campground – 10 miles total 

· You should plan to start your trek before 7 am in the hotter months, and no later than 10 am in the cooler months. Once you arrive at the trailhead and find parking, gear up, and check-in with the front desk, which is the only building at the trailhead. 

· ‼️IMPORTANT: It is roughly eight miles from the trailhead to the Supai Village. The Tourist Check-In Office located in the village is open from 6 am to 6 pm from May through October and 9 am to 5 pm the rest of the year. You will have to show your ID, credit card, and printed receipt of your permit.

· From the village, the hike to the campground is two miles. On the way to the campground, you can veer off to check out Navajo Falls and Fifty Foots Falls. 

· Havasu Falls (aka Havasupai Falls sits about 100 ft. tall) appears on your right as you approach the campground (immaculate sight!). Continue to follow the trail down to the campground and pick your campsite for the night.  

Day 2: Hiking to Beaver Falls – 6 miles total

· Hike to the end of the campground (opposite end of which you entered). You will see Mooney Falls on your right. Mooney Falls is the tallest of the Havasupai Reservation waterfalls and sits about 200 ft. tall. 

· Make sure you are equipped with sturdy water shoes and a day pack filled with water and necessary snacks. 

· To descend to the bottom of Mooney Falls and onto the path to Beaver Falls, you will climb through a cave and down ladder. Full transparency, this is a startling descent, but by moving with caution in every step, you will succeed through this part.  

· It’s about three miles to Beaver Falls. Keep your eyes peeled for some Big Horn Sheep along the way (highlight of my trip)! 

· Be sure to make your way back to your campsite before sunset to avoid climbing the ladder from Mooney Falls back to the campground in the dark. There are no lights around the ladder descend/ascend or in the campground.


Day 3: Explore Havasu Falls and Relax

· Treat yourself to some R & R (trust me, you'll be exhausted). You could head back to the entrance of the campground to explore Havasu Falls. It’s a great place to swim and relax for a few hours.

· If all that relaxing works up an appetite and you aren’t craving your ready-to-eat meals, try the Fry Bread the Havasupai Tribe makes. There are several stations you can buy a plate at, so be sure to BRING CASH, which is the only acceptable payment method.

· If relaxing isn’t on your agenda, you can also head back to the Supai village (two-mile hike) to check out the general store or cafeteria. Or some hikers trek to the Colorado River, which is further past Beaver Falls.

Day 4: Hike back to the Trailhead – 10 miles 

· Start your hike out EARLY to avoid the crowds and especially the heat. Even in November the hike out was HOT! Take the trail the same way you took it down. Expect for the hike out to take around six hours, since it's mostly uphill the entire way out. 

· When you finally make it to the trailhead, you are going to be absolutely drained from the hiking, heat, and probably lack of adequate food. Set yourself up for the drive back with a coffee, water, and snacks in your car.

HIGHLIGHTS

Bighorn Sheep: On the way to Beaver Falls, some bighorn sheep­ came into our path!


Supai Night Sky: The Havasupai night sky is one of the most peaceful moments you'll ever experience. The sound of only the waterfalls and beams from the stars/moon is a serene atmosphere. I have no pictures of the night sky because the photos didn’t do it justice. It's a sight you'll have to experience in-person. 😉

Supai Fry Bread: As mentioned before, be sure to bring cash! The tribe has several Fry Bread stations you can buy this delicious snack at. Top your Fry Bread with Nutella, cinnamon, peanut butter, or something sweet to treat yourself! Options on the menu range from $10-$20.


WHAT TO PACK



Packing System 

· Backpack: Osprey Renn 50 Pack – Women’s

· Comes with a rain cover

· Day Pack: Osprey Packs Kituma 3 Hydration Pack 

· Use on the day trip to Beaver Falls 

· Handkerchief

· This is a great item to put around your nose and mouth, due to the dust you will breathe in on the trails from other hikers and the mules carrying supplies

· Sunglasses: goodr (no-slip, no bounce, polarized)

Shelter

· Tent: Naturehike Lightweight Backpacking Tent

· Hammock: Wise Owl Outfitters Hammock

Sleeping System

· Sleeping Bag: Hyke & Byke Shavano 32 Degree Ultra Lightweight Sleeping Bag

· Sleeping Pad: Night Caty Inflatable Ultra Lightweight Sleeping Pad

Cooking System 

· Jet Boil: Jetboil Zip Camping Stove

· Uses isobutane or propane tank 

· Pots/Pans: G4Free Camping Cookware

· Mess Kit: 4-piece Camping Mess Kit with Bowl, Plate, and Utensil

· Mug: GSI Outdoor Backpacker Mug

Clothing and Footwear (Below is a packing list is for cooler weather trips to Havasupai– specifically November)

· Shirts: Two long sleeve t-shirts, one Merino Wool long sleeve

· Sweater: Patagonia Better Sweater Quarter-Zip Fleece- Women’s

· Jacket: North Face Hoodie – Women’s

· Base Layer: Reebok Thermowarm Top

· Shorts: One pair of lightweight shorts

· Pants: One pair of Fast and Free Lululemon leggings, 1 pair of Merino Wool Leggings for sleeping 

· Cap: Baseball hat to protect your skin from the sun 

· Beanie: A beanie will come in handy during the cool temperature at night during the colder months

· Socks: Two pairs of Darn Tough Socks (Best. Socks. Ever.), one pair of Merino Wool Socks for sleeping, one pair of athletic socks (for water shoes).

· Hiking Boots: Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Hiking Boot

· ‼️Ensure your boots are broken in before your hike to avoid blisters 

· Water Shoes: Salomon Amphib Bold Water Shoes – Women’s

Food 

· Ready to Eat Meals: AlpineAire Foods Ready Meal Kit

· Pack three meals per day to be safe. Strawberry granola was my favorite for breakfast and the Forever Young Mac ‘n Cheese was delish.

· Snacks Options: Granola bars, trail mix, nuts, beef jerky, pop tarts, dried fruit, smoothie packs, almonds, apples, bananas, etc.,

· My favorite backpacking snack is a tortilla with peanut butter and dried fruit. Fills you up and super delicious!


‼️Water – Note: There is a water spigot near the front of the campground. 

· Camelback: 2.5 liters for refilling

· Water Bottle

· Bring a plastic bendable bottle to keep your pack lightweight

· Water Filter: SawyerOne-Gallon Gravity Water Filtration System

· Nuun Tablets: Nuun Sport

· If you need something other than water, these Nuun tablets contain high electrolytes to keep you energized.

Other Gear and Accessories

· Headlamp: LED Headlamp

· Trekking Poles: Cascade Mountain Aluminum Lightweight Poles

· Sunscreen: Goddess Garden Sport SPF 50

· Lip Balm: Burt’s Bees SPF15 Lip Balm

· Powerbank: USB Portable Charger

· First Aid Kit: Small First Air Kit with 66 pieces

· Mole Skin: Dr. School’s Moleskin Plus Padding Roll

· Rat Sack: Rodent Proof Cache Bag

· Towel: Rainleaf Microfiber Towel

· Dish Soap/Scrubbie: Biodegradable soap 

· Hand Sanitizer

· Trash Bags

· Toilet Paper

· Cash

· Camera/Phone/GoPro (To document your journey! You will thank yourself later when you can relive your trip.)

· ID, Receipt of Permit and Credit Card (for verification)

NOTE: WHAT YOU PACK IN, YOU PACK OUT. All hikers have to carry all their trash on their hike out. Be sure to bring enough trash bags for the group! 

BEWARE OF THE CRITTERS!!

While enjoying your time down in Supai, there is one thing you need to be extremely cautious of during your stay: The Critters. The squirrels, raccoons, and other hungry rodents are ruthless when it comes to getting their dinner. They will chew through a tent, sleeping bag, and even a backpack to get to a piece of food they have caught the scent of.

Be sure to bring ‼️A RAT SACK to keep your food safe and critter-proof. Oh! And make sure to hang your rat sack in a tree so the critters can’t run off with your food supply. We left our rat sack on one of the picnic tables for a night, and a critter drug it into the water so our food was soggy and wet­­– yeah big lesson. 😅

PREPARE! TRAIN! BE READY!

This is a strenuous hike and requires training to ensure you're in proper shape to handle not only the weight on your back but the elevation change as well. I trained by using the stair stepper three times a week, lifting weights to strengthen shoulders, thighs and back, and increasing my cardio by running or hiking outdoors. 

Q & A

Are permits refundable? No. You can only receive a refund on your permits by adding your reservation to the cancelation list on https://www.havasupaireservations.com. Another hiker would have to accept your permit dates for you to receive the reimbursement. 

Do you have to pay for parking at the trailhead? No parking fees at the trailhead. 

Are campfires allowed? No campfires allowed. We stayed warm with hot chocolate.

Are there bathrooms at the campground? There are four small buildings throughout the campground with about two-bathroom stalls in each. There was usually a wait to use the bathroom. Bring toilet paper just in case.

Are sinks at the campground? There are no sinks at the campground, so be sure to bring biodegradable soap and hand sanitizer. Washing your dishes in the stream is also NOT permitted. Rinse your dishes with water, and soap away from the stream, to avoid the remains trickling into the water. Let your dishes air dry or wipe with a towel. 

Are there showers at the campground? There are no showers at the campground. And keep in mind showering in the stream with soap is NOT permitted. Jump in the water to cool off or enjoy being sweaty and dirty–that’s the joy of being a happy camper!

Are alcohol and drugs allowed? Not allowed. And your car will be searched just before you arrive at the trailhead.

Are hammocks allowed? Yes. If it’s the hotter season, this is the recommended sleeping arrangement as well. There are plenty of trees to hang your hammock on. 

Where is the water spigot in the campground? Do I need to filter my water from the spout? The water spigot is located towards the front of the campground. It is well-marked with signs. You do not need to filter the spigot water, as it comes from a natural spring. The only water that needs to be filtered is the water taken from the streams.

Is the hike dog-friendly? Unfortunately, no. Leave the fur babies at home for this one. 

What is the atmosphere of the Havasupai campground? The atmosphere of the campground is friendly, relaxing, and low stress. Everyone is either cooking, relaxing, or chatting amongst their group. 


ADD IT TO YOUR BUCKET LIST!

There is nothing like waking up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon next to magical waterfalls. I think about this heaven-on-earth place every day and already cannot wait to return.

So to wrap it up, if you are looking for a once in a lifetime adventure that will take you through one of the seven wonders of the world, the Havasupai Trail should be your next journey. The trail will take you to experience the Grand Canyon’s most spectacular waterfalls, the isolated village of Supai, AZ, and the delicious Fry Bread fried by the Havasupai Tribe. This trip was worth every penny. For more information, visit the http://theofficialhavasupaitribe.com.

Happy Hiking! 🥾

Cheers friend,

Courtney

©2020 by Courtney Schrauben

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