I recently went on a backpacking trip with two friends to one of the most beautiful natural places in the world (no hyperbole intended). It was a hike in which every turn we took, we were taken aback by the scenery. The intense contrast of colors, with the burnt orange and reds of the canyons clashing with the blue skies and aquamarine waters was something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
One of the first things we noticed when researching Havasupai Falls is that there are a lot of names for the place. It is named for the Havasupai Tribe, whose reservation the hike runs through. The campground is located just about a mile down from Supai Village, in the Havasu Canyon, which was created by the Havasu creek which feeds into the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. Although most people refer to the destination as a whole, as Havasu Falls, those falls are only a single eyegasm along a winding 4-5 miles of water falls, rapids and streams which nourish a wonderful oasis in the middle of the desert.
Camping Reservations for Havasupai Falls
The Havasupai Tribe which manages the campground and surrounding areas caps the total number of people that are allowed to hike down and stay overnight. Although it is not always mandatory to make a reservation, if you hike down and they have space available, you will have to pay double the price to get a wristband to enter. There is a $35 entrance fee for your permit to enter the area and a $5 environmental fee. If you are camping at the campgrounds, the Havasupai camping fee is $17 per person per night. All of this is paid just after you pass the Supai Village. They take credit and debit cards, so don’t worry about packing in a ton of cash.
To make a reservation, you should call the Havasupai Tourism dept. at 1-928-448-2141. Their lines are often busy and the only thing to do is keep colling until you get through.
Packing for Havasupai Fall Hike
I always have a tendency to overpack for my hikes, even after going through everything several times to take out un-needed items. I did the same when packing for Havasupai. Now, something we realized after hiking down there was that you can actually rent burrows or helicopters to take your stuff each way. The donkeys are actually reasonable and if you have 3-4 people you can get one for about $20 a person. If you opt for this, then I would recommend packing down a cooler with some ice for that first day and maybe smuggling in some beers or wine for a post hike drink. (Careful, Havasu Canyon is located on an alcohol free reservation)
Clothing to Pack for Havasupai
Although it’s generally safe to bring some gear in case the weather changes dramatically, there really wasn’t a need for my hoodie or extra t-shirts (we went down in early June). Because it was so hot, we were able to wash our clothes in the river and hang them to dry in a matter of hours. Our shoes dried out completely each night. If you’re going down for a three night trip, I would recommend packing 2-3 tshirts, a pair of shorts, two pairs of boardshorts, a pair or two of underwear, 2 pairs of socks, a pair of water shoes, a hat or two and sunglasses. The hike was on a sure trail so you could hike down in athletic shoes if you don’t have a pair of hiking boots broken in.
Food To Pack for Havasupai
Because there is a village and convenience store located down near the campgrounds, you can do alright if you under-pack on food. We ended up bringing down dehydrated food packs for lunch and dinner each day and then some fruit, jerky, Cliff Bars, and other snacks for breakfast and in-between meals. We also brought in some energy tablets to put in our water which provided some extra electrolytes and a little caffein.
Extra Gear to Pack for Havasupai
There are no open fires allowed in the campgrounds so you will need to bring a self contained cooking stove like a JetBoil, which was perfect for cooking our dehydrated food packs. I also recommend bringing a hammock, a tent, a sleeping pad, a flashlight and lantern, extra water bottles to fill up, a lighter, a smaller backpack for day hikes from the campground, a camera or GoPro, and your basic toiletries.
Getting to the Havasu Canyon Trailhead
It is quite the drive to get to the Trailhead of the hike, which is located at the edge of the canyon. We stayed at the Grand Canyon Caverns Motel the night before our hike which is the closest lodging to the trailhead at about an hour and a half away. This motel was actually pretty cool. They had a bunch of old-timey gas station stuff and random dinosaurs – basically the stuff you’d expect at stops along Route 66 – along with a pool, convenience store and bar. One thing you should take into account is that their hours are limited. They open late and close early.
We made the mistake of not filling up our gas tank the night before and had to backtrack over an hour before we found a gas station that was open! This cost us when we made our decent into the canyon. The last 2-3 miles were during the middle of the day when the temperature was breaking past 100 degrees. I highly recommend getting to the trailhead at least an hour before sunrise to give yourself plenty of time to get to the falls. This will make the hike much more enjoyable, especially around miles 8-10. There seemed to be plenty of parking at the trailhead.
Parking at the Havasupai Trailhead
They had a big lot with free parking and there was open space along the side of the road for overflow. Luckily we were heading in on a Sunday, so I could imagine that the place probably fills up even more on Fridays and Saturdays.
Part 2: What to Expect When Hiking to Havasupai Falls