Chances are you have seen pictures on social media showcasing cascading waterfalls and unbelievably turquoise water. Yes, this place truly does exist and it is called Havasupai. It is located in Arizona near the Grand Canyon can only be described as an oasis in the desert.
If you are like me, once you saw a photo you probably wanted to book a trip ASAP. Before you get toooo excited, please read on to learn about reservations and obtaining permits, because it can be very difficult to do. But don’t let that deter you! Havasupai is 100% worth the trouble. I waited two years before finally scoring a permit to camp!
Ah the lovely topic of scoring permits for Havasupai. First off, PERMITS ARE REQUIRED to hike to Havasupai and there is NO DAY HIKING ALLOWED. Havasupai has become so popular in recent years that the Havasupai tribe limits the number of people who can visit.
I had success this year by reserving permits online at 8 am (Arizona time) on February 1st. However, I accidentally thought Arizona time and California time were the same, so I logged on 30 minutes late, which left me with very little options for booking. After selecting June 12-13 and inserting my information, I had to press the ‘Submit’ button around 50 times before it went through. When it finally did, I realized I had only booked one night and the next night was unavailable. Luckily, my friend kept trying for me and after pressing the refresh button countless times, she was able to book us a second night!
My recommendation is to book online, but some people have had success with calling the camping office. I tried that the first year and called over 500 times only to get the busy signal. Visit this website to book online.
1 person 2 days/1 night: $140.56
1 person 3 days/2 nights: $171.12
1 person 4 days/3 nights: $201.67 (*this is the maximum amount of nights you can book in one reservation)
Reservations are to be paid the day you make them. They are NON-REFUNDABLE and NON-TRANSFERRABLE. You will receive wristbands and a tag to put on your tent when you arrive in the Havasupai Village.
PLEASE do not underestimate the hike to get to Havasupai, especially in the hotter summer months. Although the hike is relatively flat, it is 8 miles to the village, 2 miles to the start of the campground and another mile to the end of the campground. Remember, you are also hiking with a pack containing all of your gear to camp out for a few nights, so you will get tired more quickly.
In order to beat the mid-June heat, we drove to the trailhead the day before our hike and spent the night in the truck. You are able to pitch a tent or sleep in your car at the trailhead. We had our packs ready so that when our alarm went off at 2:30 am we were able to begin our hike at 3:00 am while it was still dark in order to avoid the heat. We each carried 3L of water, which was plenty.
You have the option to have a mule carry your belongings while you hike ($134 one way, $264 round trip) or take the helicopter down ($85/person), but the mules must be reserved in advance.
True story about the helicopter: we decided to leave by helicopter instead of hiking in the heat. We arrived at the village at 5:30 am even though the helicopter doesn’t start flying until 10 am, and we were the 27th and 28th people in line! A fellow camper got there at midnight to be the first in line and give all other people numbers to avoid chaos, and it worked! So if that tells you anything, it is to get there EARLY if you want to fly out at a reasonable time.
Back to the hike, the first 1.5 miles are steep downhill and where you lose about 1000′ elevation. After this, the trail flattens out and runs through a dry riverbed for 6.5 miles with another gradual 1000′ elevation loss until you reach the village.
Once you reach the village, there is a tourist office where you must check-in to receive your wristband and tent tag, which both have the dates that you are staying. The village also has a small store where you can buy drinks and snacks, as well as a restaurant if you’d like to sit down for a meal.
From there, it is a 2 mile hike to the start of the campground. The sand is deeper here, so hiking is a little harder and your pack will likely start to feel heavier and heavier by this time. Keep going, you are almost there! Right before the campground begins, you will see Havasu Falls on your right, and you will quickly remember why you decided to trek 11 miles into the scorching hot desert.
The campground itself is 1 mile long and is first-come first-serve. There are no set “campsites,” so pitch a tent or hang a hammock wherever you can find space. Many people chose to sleep in their hammocks rather than lugging a tent down. There are plenty of trees near the water to hang your hammock.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND hiking to the end of the campground to find a spot because the campsites are right along the river so you have easy access to water. It is so peaceful to hear the flowing water at night and it’s also handy for rinsing your feet or clothes or taking a quick dip when you get too hot. If you can, try to find a spot with shade because the sun is unforgiving during the day.
Food and Water
Make sure to bring plenty of water with you for the hike! Adam and I each brought a 3L bladder full of water for the hike down. It was 105 degrees and very dry during the day in mid-June, so we made sure to have plenty of water for our day hikes as well. There is a fresh spring at the beginning of the campground that is regularly tested for contaminants. We did not filter it and had no issues! It may be smart to bring a filtration system just in case as well as an empty water bottle to fill up and keep in your tent at night.
As for food, one word: FRYBREAD. If you are able to try frybread from the food stand when you are in Havasupai, consider yourself lucky! Their hours are sporadic and they may open or close anytime they feel like it, but stop and check if you want some ice cold water and a calorie-dense meal. Their menu is simple, but it sure does taste good after hiking for miles. Bring cash and small bills as sometimes they want exact change.
Gatorade $4, Bean and cheese frybread: $8, Indian frybread with meat: $12
We ate this for lunch both days and only ended up eating 2 backpacking meals each. It is so simple, but so delicious!
What to Pack
Check out my blog post Top 10 Backpacking Essentials for the backpacking necessities to bring with you. For this trip, you need a few extra items since it is more than likely that you will be crossing rivers and hiking in hot weather.
- Water shoes: in order to hike to the waterfalls, you will want to have shoes that you are willing to get wet. I love my Chaco’s and Adam wore Vibram 5 Fingers. There are numerous unavoidable river crossings on the hike to Beaver Falls, and having water shoes makes it easier to cross without having to take your hiking boots on and off.
- Daypack: you will want a small daypack to carry water, snacks, floaty, cell phone, camera gear etc when you hike to waterfalls during the day. Both mine and Adam’s backpacking packs came with a built-in/detachable daypack, which was very convenient.
- Lightweight long sleeve clothing and a hat: instead of lathering up with sunscreen, we chose to wear breathable long sleeve clothing and a hat to stay shaded from the sun. Neither of us got sunburned and we didn’t get oily from sunscreen either!
- Paracord: critters such as squirrels and marmots hang out in the campground and are always hungry, so bring rope to hang up anything scented (food and toiletries) in a tree when you leave for the day or sleep at night. There is also the option to pick up sealable orange buckets from the ranger station close to camp but there is no guarantee they will have one for you.
- Insect repellent: the mosquitos were out and hungry in the evenings, so bring bug spray so that you don’t get eaten alive. Fun fact: there are tons of small bats flying around eating bugs at night.
- Toilet paper: there are bathrooms located within the campground, but they are not stocked with toilet paper so bring your own. No showers available.
- Trash bags: practice “Leave No Trace” and throw all of your trash away in a trash bag. Carry it to the village and throw it away there before you hike out.
- Jetboil: No campfires allowed, so bring a JetBoil or something similar to boil water for coffee, backpacking meals, etc.
- Headlamp: a must if you plan on hiking in before sunrise.
And there you have it: all you need to know before backpacking to Havasupai and seeing the most beautifully turquoise waters surrounded by red rock canyon!
Take a look at my Youtube video with GoPro footage from our trip to get a feel for what it is like in Supai! May the odds be ever in your favor when trying to get a permit on February 1 and be safe and enjoy this beautiful oasis.
Look out for another blog post coming soon about the 6 gorgeous waterfalls you need to see while you are there 🙂