The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Havasupai

10/10/2016

Heading out to Havasupai in Arizona was my first ever backpacking experience, and I sure learned a lot from it. Prior to the day of our hike, I was very nervous about my heavy pack. I’m used to only bringing a small day-pack with me in my long hikes, so I knew that it was definitely going to be a challenge to hike 10miles with my 40L pack. I did a lot of careful planning for this trip, and because of that (and the right mindset) I was assured that everything was going to go smooth.

Here, I’d like to share with you a travel guide which will help you make your backpacking trip to Havasupai a successful one! 


PREPARING FOR HAVASUPAI

backpacking havasupaiAdvanced preparation is the most important part of the whole trip, so be sure to give yourself enough time to research about the place and the hike. It’s nice to know what you’ll be expecting when you’re out there. It would also be ideal to start packing one week before your trip so you can gauge how heavy your pack is going to be, as well as eliminate any other items you think would be unnecessary.

Permits/Reservation

Reservations usually open up in February of each year, and once they do you will have to call the Havasupai Tourism Office at (928) 448-2121 to make your reservation. I warn you, it will be very hard to get in touch with them because of the high number of callers they receive each day. Do not give up and just power your way through until you get to speak with someone.

Reservation dates run out so fast during the first week of them getting reservations, so expect a lot of unavailable dates. I suggest preparing 3 or more different preferred trip dates so you would have options, in case the first few dates are already unavailable.

If you ever get unlucky with date reservations, try looking for tour companies or even Facebook Groups for Havasupai and ask if any of them have available reservations for the campsite. My group was actually unable to secure a date the time we called, but was lucky enough to have met Chris Reed of  Sonoran Trails in the Yondering Buds Facebook Group I was a part of, and he had extra slots in his reservation. I took it without hesitation 🙂 Chris’ company offers Jeep Camper Rentals, and by next year will be offering tour trips –Havasupai included! So keep an eye out for that.

Fees

Entrance fee – $35 per person

Camping fee – $17 per person per night

Environmental fee – $5 per person

Mule & Helicopter Info

Reserving a Mule to help carry some of your items and gear to Havasupai is possible, and they are able to carry 4 packs or 2 big coolers (be sure to keep your bags at 30lbs to be safe. I’ve heard some cases where bags were left behind because of being overweight). It costs about $170 for one mule, and you can split this between 4 people if you’d like.

To reserve a mule, you would have to call their tourism office, one week prior to your trip, and inform them of how many mules you’d like to reserve for your party.

Before hiking in, be sure to leave your bags in Hualapai Hilltop’s office (located right in front of the trailhead), and check-in by 7:00am to receive your tag for the bags which you will leave behind for the mules. Once your bags are all set, you can start your hike.

For those who do not want to hike in, you can opt for the helicopter rides. The helis come and pick you up at Hualapai Hilltop by 10am, and take you directly to Havasu Village, which is about 8 miles in. Be sure to line up early for check-in so you wouldn’t have to wait too long in line. The cost of the helicopter ride is $85 per person, one-way.

During our trip my husband and I utilized one slot in the Mule to help carry some of our food and gear. As “backpacking newbies”, we didn’t really own a lot of backpacking items (in other words light and more compact items) so we knew we had to reserve at least one slot in the mule.

Weather & Temperature

Here’s how each season varies in Havasupai:

Spring (March-May): Perfect weather for backpacking as the days will be cool, and the waterfalls will be raging because of snowmelt.

Summer (June-Aug): Expect very hot days, so be sure to start your hike early each day to avoid the mid-day sun. Note that July & August are monsoon seasons here, so check the weather for any chance of thunderstorms.

Fall (Sept-Nov): Great time for backpacking as well, because the weather will start to cool down during these months. Note that by the end of November, it will start to get colder.

Winter (Dec-Feb): Havasupai is closed during this time of the year because of snow.

Check the forecast a few days prior to your visit. A week before our trip, we were expecting warm & sunny weather. About 2 days before the hike, we checked and the expected weather changed to cloudy with a chance of rain. We ended up having to get ponchos for the hike.

Heat Wave & Flash Flood Warnings

Always be in the look out for heat wave or flash flood warnings. These two are probably the only hazards for hiking in Havasupai, and it is usually common during the summer time. If the heat will be harsh the day of your hike, be sure to pack lots of water and take lots of breaks. Know the different warning signs for heat stroke, and know what to do in case one of you suffers from it during the hike. If there is a threat for flash floods, head for higher ground.

 

PACKING LIST

havasupai-49Gear

Tent

Sleeping Pad

Sleeping Bag

Hammock

Headlamp

Backpack

Day Pack

Portable Stove + Pot + Fuel

Spoon/Fork

Small Fast-drying Towel

Water Reservoir

Empty Water Bottle (for refills)

First Aid Kit

Emergency Poncho

Floaters (optional, but I definitely had no regrets in bringing one 😉 )

backpacking travel pillowCheck out my review for ONWEGO®’s travel pillows! These are by far the most lightweight and compact backpacking pillows i’ve owned, and it barely took up space in our packs. Definitely perfect for this trip!

Clothing

1 Dri-Fit Shirt

2 Tank Tops

2 Shorts

1 Cap

1 Swimsuit

1 Sports Bra

2 Underwear

2 Socks

1 Water Shoes

1 Hiking Shoes

1 Sweater (for colder nights)

1 Sweatpants (for colder nights)

Note that you can always wash your clothes while you’re out there, to reuse them. Just be sure to use biodegradable soap!

Food

Campfires are not allowed in Havasupai, so it was a bit hard to get creative with our meals. Here’s an idea of what we opted to bring which kept us full and satisfied the whole trip:

Just Add Water Oatmeal, cup noodles and other heavy meals like Wise Company’s Freeze Dried Food are great to bring for this trip because they are so easy to make, and taste absolutely delicious! Nothing beats a hot and tasty meal after each activity-filled day.

meals ready to eatReady To Eat – Foods that are not easily perishable are also great to bring. For this we brought bread thins, peanut butter packets, tuna packets, protein bars, and fruit packs.

Liquids – For mornings we brought instant coffee packets, and tea. For hiking we brought a squeezable electrolyte liquid water enhancer. For colder nights, we brought hot chocolate.

Trail Snacks – In Havasupai you will be hiking a lot, so snacks that you can eat while on the trail is a must. I never leave for a hike without some nuts, granola bars, and of course..a couple of bags of Field Trip Jerky (their Maple BBQ Pork Jerky is a must try!)

trail snacks beef jerkyDo not pack too much food. Between our group of 4, we brought a few items of each and shared our meals every time. This way we were able to have enough to last us 4 days.

Gadgets (optional)

If you’re like me, and you love to take photos and videos to document your trip, you probably have a couple of gadgets you need to bring. If you don’t mind the added weight, here is my gear list for this purpose:

Mirrorless Camera

GoPro Camera

Cellphone

Extra Batteries

GoPro Mounts

USB Cords

Solar Charger

Waterproof Sack

Tripod

power traveller solar chargerI cannot express how convenient it was to have a solar charger during this trip. I was out in Havasupai for 4 days, and Power Traveller’s Solarmonkey Adventurer kept all of my gadgets in full charge!

solar charger power travellerPlus, I love how it comes with its own carabiner for me to hang it in my pack while adventuring. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s losing battery juice for my cameras halfway through a trip.

 

HIKING INTO HAVASUPAI CAMP

camping in havasupaiMiles: 10 miles total (8 miles to reach Supai Village, plus 2 miles to reach the campground)

Elevation Change: Gain/loss of about 2,400ft

The Experience

The first few miles of the hike will take you through switchbacks headed down the canyon. The trail is a bit rocky, so be wary of twisting an ankle; it is also somewhat steep, so be careful with your knees. After that you will be hiking on a relatively flat trail, in between Havasu Canyon’s walls.

The views all around are amazing! The canyon walls look like buildings along Wall Street, plus you’ll get to come across wild horses!

supai wild horses canyon view supaiIt is very important to take ample breaks in between, for snacks. Fueling your body and maintaining your energy is very crucial to finishing the hike. Hydrate every chance you get, and don’t ever rush yourself. Keeping a good pace and resting when needed is what’s going to get you to Havasupai without any problems.

After about what seems like forever, you will eventually come across a sign that says “Supai”, and this marks the 6th mile of your hike since you started. Only 2 more miles to get to the village, and 4 more to get to the campsite.

When me and my friends reached Supai Village, we were so tempted to stop and eat at their cafe. The sign that says “hamburgers” and “hot food” sounded so good after 8 miles of hiking, but we resisted. We knew that the campsite was going to fill up fast, and even if we knew we’d for sure have a spot, we wanted to be able to get the perfect spot right next to the river..so we continued on our journey and headed for the campsite.

Once we left the village, we started hiking right next to rivers and streams. Seeing the turquoise colored water motivated us to finish the last bit of the hike.

supai waterThe Campsite

The campsite is about 3/4 of a mile long, and is split into two sides with the beautiful turquoise river running in between. To get to the other side of the stream, you will have to cross some wooden planks, so be careful with those heavy packs and don’t topple over.

havasu river wooden bridge havasupai campThe bathrooms were surprisingly much better and cleaner than what I had pictured in my head. I saw about 4 restrooms near the campsite, one on each end, and 2 in the middle. The bathrooms, although no showers or faucets, were very clean and it didn’t smell bad at all. Biodegradable toilet paper was provided, and they also have wood chips available for composting.

If you really need to take a shower during your trip, then I suggest you get some biodegradable shampoo, and you can bathe in the river.

You will also be able to find a spring-fed water source within the campsite. Be sure to bring an empty gallon container with you to get water refills from here.

water in havasupai camp supai spring hiking water bottleThis water spring is located near the entrance of the campsite, very hard to miss because of the helpful signs in the area.

 

Exploring Havasupai IN 4 DAYS

havasupai grand canyonDAY 1: Hike In, Set Up Camp, and Relax

We started our hike at 7am sharp, and got to the campsite by 1pm. We picked a site and ate lunch at the picnic tables provided, before we started setting up our tents. We took a nap to regain a bit of energy from the tough hike we just had, and at around 3pm we made our way to the campsite’s entrance to pick up our bags brought in by the mules. Once we were able to settle in with all our stuff, we decided to stay and relax in the campsite, take a dip in the river right next to our spot, and then retire in bed so we can wake up early the next day.

DAY 2: Mooney Falls & Beaver Falls

Mooney Falls & Beaver Falls are both located further north of the campsite (if you don’t have a compass, this would be away from where the campsite entrance is). The trail to Mooney Falls is about 1 mile away from the campsite, and it will take you down the canyon via small caves, rope chains, and ladders –it was very thrilling and exciting. Once you reach the bottom, you’ll get to swim in the pools surrounding Mooney Falls, as well as swing and jump from smaller waterfall cliffs.

mooney falls supai mooney falls trailmooney falls trailAbout 2 more miles out on the trail, you will be able to reach Beaver Falls. I truly enjoyed the hike getting there because it offered such a beautiful view of the canyon, with orange-colored walls and so much green plants! It was like being lost in a lush jungle.

hike beaver fallsbeaver falls supai arizonaAlthough Beaver Falls is not as huge as Mooney Falls, I loved how it was a bunch of smaller waterfalls, cascading down. It offered a lot of pools to take a dip in, and was wonderful.

(Optional trip to the Colorado River – If you started your hike really early and wanted to explore some more, you could continue on the trail for about 3 more miles and you’ll be able to reach the Colorado River. This would also be an ideal trip if you had one more extra day to spare in Havasupai)

Because we were able to get back to camp earlier than expected, we decided to have early supper, so we could explore Havasu Falls at night. Although we were not able to take a dip because the water was cold, my friends hung out with me as I tried taking night photos of the falls together with the stars.

night time view havasu fallsDAY 3: 50 Foot Falls, Navajo Falls, and Havasu Falls

We started our day by hiking back up towards Supai Village, and stopped where the 50 Foot Falls and the Navajo Falls were. This is about a mile away from the campsite, and it offered a great spot for just chilling and swimming inside the pools. We also had a lot of fun going underneath the waterfalls!

havasupai navajo fallsSaving the best one for last, we headed back to Havasu Falls and hung out there for the rest of the afternoon. It was a nice place to just relax and eat our lunch. This was the most scenic location out of all, I must say..and the photos don’t do it justice!

hasaupai falls arizona havasupai adventureBefore heading back to our campsite, we made a quick stop at the Frybread Hut place, ran by the locals. They offered tacos and dessert, served in their own signature frybread. I’ve never had it before and it was delicious! They have meat with lettuce and cheese for the tacos, bean & cheese, and also some nutella, strawberry syrup, and powdered sugar if you wanted something sweet. It was around $5-7 each.

havasu frybreadcheese beans frybread havasu frybread dessert havasupaiUpon reaching the campsite, we started packing our stuff to prepare for our hike out the following day. (If you lost your mule tags, this day would be the best day to get new ones. You will find the person in charge of this along the entrance to the campsite)

DAY 4: Hike Back to Hualapai Hilltop

Woke up at 4am, packed our tent and prepared the bags which will be for the mules. We carried everything (including trash) and left the packs with tags for the mules right by the entrance of the campsite. They have a designated spot for trash bags as well, so keep an eye out for that.

We then made our way up to Supai Village and stopped there to buy snacks and some souvenirs. If you were planning on riding the helicopter, this is the place where you will line up for that.

At around 7am, we started our long hike back up the canyon, and reached Hualapai Hilltop by 1pm. Our bags carried in by the mules were already there once we got to the parking lot.

havasupai hikeIt was such a bittersweet finish once we were back at the top. I was so proud and happy of what I had just accomplished, but very sad to be leaving such a beautiful place.

4 days was definitely enough to explore what Havasupai has to offer, but if given another chance, I would do 5 days. It was such a great place to unwind, so hard to get tired of the views, and I would need one ore extra day to soak it all in.

I hope this guide helps you achieve a wonderful and memorable trip to Havasupai. It truly is a magical place, a little piece of heaven here on earth! If you ask me, getting to experience a place like this for a couple of days is totally worth the challenging hike.


OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER:

Motels Nearby

I highly recommend staying at Kingman, AZ a day before your hike. This city is about 2 hours away from Hualapai Hilltop, so leaving at 5am will give you ample time to get to the trailhead to start your hike by 7am. There were a lot of cheap and clean motels in this area, as well as great food options.

Respect The Land

Havasupai is part of the Indian Reservation and it is owned by the tribal members living in the area. Be sure to pay respect to their land, follow their rules, and do not ever leave trash behind.


Do check out my adventure video for Havasupai to see more of how this trip went! We definitely enjoyed this place, and I know you will love it here, too!

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive free products. As always, all opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

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58 Comments
    1. Great hiking trips and planning advice for Havasupai, and Arizona hiking in general! People underestimate how hot summers really are. I love all of the amazing hiking spots in Arizona. I have hiked and backpacked many of these trails around Havasupai, but I have not done this one, yet!

      1. Thanks, Jen! Really glad you found this helpful. Heat waves are truly no joke! I hope you get to visit here soon <3

    1. Very beautiful place but I don’t think I would be able to carry 40 L of backpack and hike with it! You must be very strong girl 🙂
      And I don’t understand why they charge that much for everything?

      1. I didn’t fill it up so much, because I knew it would be torturous, especially since I’m not used to carrying a heavy pack. The prices are so high because the demand is so high. Worth every penny, tough!

    1. Wow, This is such a fantastic guide! Your photos are absolutely stunning and have made this a place I really want to see in the future! What camera & lens do you use? Great details, thanks for all the info!

      Georgia | http://www.bohemianbythesea.com

      1. For this trip I used my Sony a5100 with a 20mm f1.8 lens + wide adapter. Happy you found this helpful, Georgia! I appreciate your kind words 🙂

    1. Wow:-) love the pics, Sassy. Glad reading this post after the initial trip. So do I have to stay on grounds to enjoy this because I have not camped in decades? Great list. I do not think you left anything out.

      1. Thanks, Rosi! They also have a lodge in the area (which books out twice as fast!), so that’s an option. You would need to hike or ride the heli to get to it too 🙂

    1. It’s been a long time since I last backpacked and I choose to travel a little differently these days but I would love to visit just to see those amazing waterfalls up close and personal. I’ve been to Arizona a number of times but only fleeting visits. I love that you took a solar charger I had never even thought of that but it is now on my wish list!

      1. I would definitely consider it a must-have gift item for travelers! Good thing the holidays are coming up, right? 😉

    1. Wow the waters here are so beautiful…Arizona has so many pretty spots, thanks for sharing!

      Valerie

      1. Thanks, Valerie! Arizona truly is wonderful, and I never thought a paradise like this existed in the desert!

    1. I just came home from a backpacking trip, so this is exactly what I needed to remind me to get out again! Looks absolutely fabulous.

      1. Aww, it always makes me feel so sad when I get home from a trip..which is why I blog about it so I can relive the memories! 😉

    1. WOW, really well done your post. Especially loved the packing list. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a solar charger ( how ignorant of me). Anyway, if I ever go to this part of the world, I will check your list. Thanks

      1. I didn’t know until just a couple of months ago, too! When I learned about it, I was sooo happy. Now I can go on my adventures without worrying about the battery of my camera.

    1. First off, amazing photos! What are you shooting with? I have wanted to do this hike for a while now, so I’m really happy to find this post. Thanks for all of the detailed information. Saving this!

      1. Thanks, Kristen! <3 I use a Sony a5100 🙂 I can't wait for you to experience Havasupai!

    1. Such a cool blog. So happy to have discovered it. I am an outdoor person and totally loved this blog. I had never heard of Havasupai until I stumbled upon this blog. What a hidden gem!

      1. Thank you, this makes me really happy 🙂 I hope you get to visit Havasupai soon! And if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!

    1. What an amazingly beautiful experience this must have been! The photos are spectacular!

    1. Very thorough and informative list! Beautiful photos 😀

    1. What an adventure!! I have always wanted to do this – that waterfall is breath-taking. Arizona is way too hot in the summer though, I have traveled extensively and AZ is the hottest place on the planet haha

    1. What an awesome adventure! Those pictures are stunning and the waterfalls look amazing!

    1. WOW. Thats genuinely all I can say. Those sights are absolutely BREATH-TAKING!

    1. The place looks so beautiful! I am always afraid of hiking and camping but this looks like it’s worth every moment!

    1. Wow, this is so detailed and full of great info! If I ever go hiking there, this would be my go-to guide. Also, those waterfalls are just stunning.

    1. This looks exhilarating! I have been to Arizona once as a child and only saw the Grand Canyon. I would totally come here and do the camping! Looks amazing.

    1. Love the details in your post! Looks like an amazing place to visit when we decide it’s time to take kiddos on an adventure!

    1. Although I think this is beautiful and I would love to see it, I don’t think my bad ankle could take the hike. It is beautiful, though. I’ ll just enjoy your photos of it.

    1. What a beautiful place. I’m still practicing my hiking skills locally before I venture for overnights or too far away.

    1. I haven’t tried backpacking or camping and this post is really helpful for my future backpacking experience. Bookmarked this for future reference. Thanks for sharing. 😉

    1. Excellent guide! Sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    1. Beautiful photos and trip! I am a little nervous to go camping, but I would love to try it! Your trip inspires me to get out of my comfort zone.

    1. have been long long time since i backpacked, i have lo now :), this was really inspiring.We need to start backpacking again

    1. Wow looks like different world:) really beautiful place. If one day I will be able to go there I will definitely use your list

    1. Your pics are amazing as always! And I love how detailed the description and attractions are. Your site is such a great resource for other curious hikers. Can’t wait to read more about your adventures!

    1. Such a great post! What type of hiking boots do you have/recommend? I’m heading there in June and am so overwhelmed with the options.

      1. Hi Meagan! I used hi-cut boots while hiking the dunes, to avoid getting sand inside, but it didn’t really work. Lol! I still had to keep taking them off to get rid of sand inside the boot. So i’d say regular hiking shoes, even trail runners, would work for this place. In June, it might be hot in Death Valley, so i would probably opt for sandals, like Chacos 🙂

        1. Thanks so much for the tips! I’m actually heading to Havasupai (not Death Valley – maybe that will be next on our list!). Just trying to narrow it down to hi-cut boot, low-cut boot, or trail runner. I’ve seen people wearing so many different types.

          1. Omg! I was looking at the comments through my phone and had thought you responded in my other post. Fail! I’m so sorry about that 🙂 For havasu, I used my trail runners and they were perfect. The terrain is sandy/rocky, but mostly flat – not too rugged. I’d say go for your comfiest pair because it is a long trip down to the campsites.

    1. Hi Sassy,

      I have a trip coming up to Havasu during Memorial day week for 3 nights. So, I started doing some research and have finalized most of the stuff.

      While finding info over the web, I came across your blog and to be honest I found it much more useful from a practical point rather than just a trip log. Thank you very much for answering many questions on the blog from which I got most of the info.

      I have few more questions for which I’m not finding answers anywhere so thought of getting your help. Would you be kind enough to help me on the below questions:

      1. We are a group of 5 and are taking couple of tents. We are confused as to what kind of sleeping pad to go with. Would a simple thermarest with 1-1.5″ thickness would be sufficient ? or is the floor too uneven that we need a more thicker pad ? We have a separate sleeping bag to go along with this

      2. We will be carrying few DSLRs and tripods. Wondering once we are done with photos and are getting into water, can we just leave the Camera/Tripod in the daypack on the shore ? Is it safe ?

      3. How helpful are hiking poles ? We are backpacking and would be carrying around 35 lbs each. Some of my friends are suggesting if we take the poles we can just take one pole whereas I’m of the opinion that we need a pair. Please advise (a) if need hiking poles (b) if we need it, do we need 1 or 2 poles ?

      Thanks a lot for your time on this and really appreciate your help in advance !

      1. Hi Manas! Thanks so much for your kind words, it means a lot to me that you found this useful! 🙂 To answer your questions:

        1. I had a thermarest prolite and it worked great for me. The ground on some sites may be uneven, but it’s not rocky so i think the one you have should be good!

        2. It’s always best to keep an eye on your stuff. When we were out there we hung our bags on trees near where we decided to take a dip. I suggest taking those waterproof baggies so your cameras will be safe, and pack them in ziplocks for extra protection. For the most part it is safe, but you’ll never know..

        3. The first and last part of the hike is downhill, but I didn’t think it was too steep. We did fine without poles, but then again we made use of the mules so our pack wasn’t as heavy as it would have been. To be honest though, i’ve never used poles on any of my hikes yet, so it’s kinda hard for me to tell how much help it could give you on this trip.

        Feel free to email me for more questions, i’d be more than happy to answer them 🙂 I’m very excited for your trip, and i truly believe that the planning stage prior to it is super important so you can make it a memorable one! 🙂 Good luck and be safe out there!

        1. Thank you very much for the quick response Sassy ! Very helpful . Will ping you back if I need more help. Thank you again 🙂

    1. Hi Sassy,

      One more quick question. Do we need to hang the trekking backpacks etc while we go out to avoid the squirrels etc ? or is it just ok to make sure all the cooked food is not stored in the tent. We are taking only the Mountain house packs and will be planning to finish off whatever we cook for that meal. i.e. we won’t store any cooked food. Please advise.

      1. We kept our packs inside the tent, and just made sure that no food or snack was inside – our packs were untouched 🙂 if you have snacks that you need to leave behind, there are lots of trees on site and i suggest bringing a small bungee cord for that, and for hanging the trash bag also. There is no place for trash in the campsite so we had to make sure our garbage bag was not left on the ground while we were away.

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