· 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.
The trail to the attractions can be a bit rocky and steep at times but is overall a smooth trek. The elevation is the most challenging aspect of this hike. The hike out will be the most challenging part of the journey due to the elevation increase and the exhaustion you may feel from the past few days. With that, this trail is rated difficult and hikers should train and have the appropriate gear before they pursue.
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 make sure you have an 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.comfor cancelations throughout the year. Check the website regularly for available permits during the ideal month you would like to visit.
The Havasupai Tribe requires a minimum of 3 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.
The best time of the year to receive permits 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 get a permit.
HAVASUPAI WEATHER IN NOVEMBER
We went in mid-November and were super nervous about the potential cold we were about to endure. To our surprise, the trip ended up being a great time for the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The fall colors were stunning against the turquoise waters. Days were spent in a long sleeve and shorts. Nights were a bit chilly, but nothing Merino Wool, a robust sleeping bag and hot chocolate can’t fix. The only downfall for taking the trip in November is I wasn’t able to get the water– so frigid. But it didn’t stop some on our trip:
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 will 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). These fees change annually.
Backpacking with your supplies is doable with quality gear and the right amount of weight on your back. 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
The next detail to 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. These fees change annually. You can book your lodge reservation on the Havasupai website.
I highly recommend camping to get the full effect of your Havasupai trip. The mile-long campground is first-come-first-serve. If you have a permit, you are guaranteed to find a campsite. 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 (4 hours) or Phoenix (5 hours). Some hikers sleep at the trailhead to ensure they beat the heat on their hike in. Other hikers stay in a motel the night before during the cooler months since it’s not such a rush to start earlier. We stayed in a motel in Seligman, Arizona the night before the hike in. There are plenty of motels to choose from but recommend calling ahead to make a reservation just in case.
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.
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.
· It is roughly 8 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 them your ID, credit card, and receipt of your permit.
· From the village, the hike to the campground is 2 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 and sits about 100 ft. high) will appear on your right (immaculate sight! I cried when I saw it). 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 feet 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 have to climb through a cave and down la adder. Full transparency, it is a startling descent, but by moving with caution in every step, you will get through this part just fine.
· It’s about 3 miles to Beaver Falls. Keep your eyes peeled for some Big Horn Sheep along the way!
· Be sure to make your way back to your campsite before sunset so you 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
· Here’s a great day for some R & R. 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 the relaxing create 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.
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 6 hours, since it is mostly uphill the entire way out.
· When you get to the trailhead, you are going to be absolutely drained from the trek and the heat. Set yourself up for the drive back with a coffee, water, and snacks in your car.
Bighorn Sheep: On the way to Beaver Falls, we came in contact with some bighorn sheep– I’m talking like six feet from them!
The Night Sky: Havasupai Campground at night is one of the most peaceful moments you will ever experience. The sound of only the waterfalls and beams from the stars and moon is a serene atmosphere. I have no pictures of the night sky because the photos didn’t even do it justice. It is a sight you will 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
· 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
· 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)
· Hammock: Wise Owl Outfitters Hammock
· Sleeping Bag: Hyke & Byke Shavano 32 Degree Ultra Lightweight Sleeping Bag
· Sleeping Pad: Night Caty Inflatable Ultra Lightweight Sleeping Pad
· Jet Boil: Jetboil Zip Camping Stove
· Will need isobutane or propane tank
· Pots/Pans: G4Free Camping Cookware
· 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
· Jacket: North Face Hoodie – Women’s
· Base Layer: Reebok Thermowarm Top
· Shorts: One pair of lightweight shorts
· 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 cooler months
· 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
· 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
· 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. You will have to carry all your trash on your hike out. Be sure to bring enough trash bags for your 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 are 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, using weights to strengthen thighs and back, and increasing my cardio by running or hiking outdoors.
Q & A
Are permits refundable? No. The only way you can receive a refund on your permits is 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. You can 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 camping/hiking!
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 most likely the way to go for your shelter. 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, tranquil 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.
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 to taste delicious Fry Bread cooked by the Havasupai Tribe. This trip was worth every penny. For more information, visit the http://theofficialhavasupaitribe.com
Happy Hiking! 🥾