Backpacking Havasupai


Hike Reports / Friday, December 16th, 2016

Ultimate Guide for Getting Permits and Trip Planning for Beginners

Hike to: Mooney Falls / Beaver Falls / Havasupai
Trail:  Havasu Falls Trail
Miles:  20 miles out & back (parking lot to Supai: 8 mi | Supai to Mooney Falls: 2mi)
Time:  1 overnighter (started 7 am first day, finished 2:30 pm second day). Please note one night camping reservations are no longer an option, see below
Date I went:  11/19 - 11/20 2016
Difficulty: easy beginners backpacking trip (except the last mile out kind of kicks your butt)
Hike Permit: Yes - read more for details
Parking Permit: No
Location:  Supai, AZ

*UPDATED PERMIT INFO, JAN 2020: as of 2017, the permit system is now done online at havasupaireservations.com and opens on Feb 1 at 8 am mountain time (7 am PST). Havasupai Campground Reservations are all 4 days/ 3 nights and can include up to 12 people:

2020 fees have not been released and all pricing is subject to change, but here are last year’s prices to give you an idea. Prices have been going up every year for the last few years so I wouldn’t be surprised if it increases again this year, but we’ll find out tomorrow.

2019 fees – Includes all necessary permits, fees, and taxes:
$100 per person per weekday night
$125 per person per weekend night (Fri/ Sat/ Sun nights)

Tips for booking your permit

  • Be flexible with your dates and have plenty of alternative options… I would even say to just select the month you want to go and pick any dates you see available if you’re determined to go.
  • Keep refreshing. Everything will likely be booked in the first few minutes once it’s open, but don’t give up. Refresh again (a lot) within the following hours as some people who have a temporary hold on their reservation may decide to release it and not complete their check out, which opens up more dates.
  • Weekdays are easier to get than weekends.
  • Don’t be discouraged by a late permit date! My first time visiting Havasupai, I got permits in mid-November and the temperature was much cooler but very enjoyable in the day time and the water felt nice still.

There are no refunds but the website has a transfer system in the case that you cannot make it. You can also enter a PATL (potential alternative trip leader) during registration in the chance that you may not make it.

Parking: Hualapai Hilltop (Havasupai Campground Parking Lot “Hill Top” will appear on google maps)

Getting there:  It’s about a 6-8 hr drive from LA and the parking lot is at the end of the road.  From the lot, the trailhead is at the end on the right side of the building.  There are restrooms on the left side of the building.

The below blog post is from my first time – a one night backpacking trip with all newby backpackers. Skip to then end for tips to plan your trip and most useful gear to bring.


The weekend before Thanksgiving (Nov 19-20, 2016), I had reserved a permit for 5 to hike Havasupai in Supai, AZ.  I ended up going with a different group than I planned because everyone kept bailing.  I took two complete beginners (not hikers or backpackers) and one experienced backpacker… & it all went surprisingly well! 🙂
Meet the group:

 

Only that first mile or so has elevation and you actually hike down in to the canyon and up on the way out, so it’s really just the last mile coming out that you have to work for it.  The rest of the Havasu Trail is flat.

We arrived at 6:30 am (don’t forget about the 1 hr time difference from LA… cause we totally did) and started to hike by 7 am. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow;  just watch out for the serious amount of horse poop on that first mile going down.  Once you reach the canyon floors, you can basically walk in the middle of what I assume is a dried up river, or if you look along the sides (sometimes right side, sometimes left), you’ll often find the sandy trail that’s easier to walk on since there are not all the small rocks.  The first few miles, if not all, are actually marked on the trail (but not if you are walking in the middle)… which we did not realize until coming back.

 

At 10 am, we reached the first sign for Supai and you are finally out of walking between the giant canyon walls.  This was the time to put on the sunblock.  Just a few minutes later, you see the flowing creek for the first time… and it’s just as pretty as you would imagine… but keep going, it’ll get better.

Around 10:45 am, we reached the town of Supai where we paid and picked up our permits ($62.70/each), went to the convenience store, and picked up food at the cafe.  All the reviews you’ve read about the cafe are true… it was practically empty when we went but still super slow… & our chicken strips were undercooked!! Thank goodness my sister noticed before we left so they could redo it for us.

img_5836An hour later, we were back on the trail and you fastly approach the sign for all the destinations you’ve eagerly awaited: Little Navajo Falls, Havasu Falls, Campground, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls.  The trail does decline just a teeny bit which is fine but remember you’re coming up and out.

At 12:10 pm, we passed Navajo Falls. At 12:25 pm, we crossed the bridge over the creek, and at 12:29 pm, we arrived at Havasu Falls.  We had to stop for a quick photo op but our plan was to stop by the next morning since we were only staying one night and wanted to use our daylight at Mooney Falls.

 

Just around the corner from Havasu Falls, a mere 3-minute walk, you come up to the beginning of the campground.  Make sure you grab an orange bucket to store your food in.  20 minutes later, we walked all the way to the end of the campground (1 pm) where Mooney Falls is and set up camp nearby.  You can set up camp anywhere off the trail (you’ll see plenty of spots) but you’re technically supposed to be a certain amount of feet away from the water/ edge, but we saw people set up camp literally right next to the top of the falls.  There are 3 restrooms scattered through the campground and one potable water source near the beginning of camp.


After relaxing a little bit (I only got 2 hours of sleep from the drive over), we started to make our way down to Mooney Falls at 2 pm.  Let me tell you… I’m terrified of heights… I really am, so just looking at the trail down, I thought I may not go – don’t let that view scare you! It’s really not as bad as it first appears. It’s actually quite fun!  It starts off like a normal downhill trail with steps (but steeper so be careful), then you reach some flat parts, then go through a narrow but short cave, and then you reach the more dangerous part.  The chains are your best friend – hold on with a good grip because the trail does get slippery and wet from the falls (yes, you will be drizzled). There are three flights of ladders at the end that are trickier to maneuver.  Just take your time because everyone else is on the same journey.  30 mins and a gazillion pictures later, we safely made it to the bottom of Mooney Falls.

The weather was nice, a little chilly, but not so cold that we couldn’t quickly dip in the water in our bikinis.  An hour later and we were back at camp.  We couldn’t make it to Beaver Falls because we were losing daylight and some people said it’s hard to find, but now I have a reason to go back.

After we got back to camp, we got potable water, cleaned off, made dinner, and crashed early.  It was dark by 5:30 pm.


The next morning, we packed up around 8:20 am, hung around the top of Mooney Falls to enjoy it one last little bit, then headed out at 9 am.  We stopped at the bottom of Havasu Falls to take some pictures and play around and got on our merry way by 10:20 am. The trail is now an incline on the up and out… and it’s not the most pleasant when you’re carrying a 20 lb pack.  Reached Navajo Falls 20 mins later and made it to the helicopter around 11 am.

We literally spent about 45 mins deciding on whether to wait for the helicopter, send just our packs in the helicopter and hike out, or just hike out with our packs.  Well, our estimated flight time was 5 pm… so pass.  It only costs $20 (cash) to send your overnight bag in the helicopter, so we opt for that and hiked out with our day packs.

We started hiking out at 11:50 am and walked about 2 hours on the flat ground before reaching that incline at the end.  We flew by all the other hikers on the ground simply because we didn’t have our heavy packs… best decision ever!  The last mile was super slow and more of a struggle for the beginners of our group.  We went slow and took our time and got back to the car at 2:30 pm. Our packs were up there waiting for us too!

I’m sooo proud my little group did so well! 🙂

**Keep in mind this hiking pace is that of beginners and picture takers and not my usual speedy self, but it was still a good, comfortable pace.

*revised: Please note – this trip report was my first time at Havasupai for just one quick night; all permits now require three nights. I went back again early June 2017 and the weather was hot (90s in day). If you hike 3 days/ 2 nights in the summer, I’d recommend starting the hike out early before sunrise to beat the heat if you’re trekking up and out with your pack on the last day. Although the canyon is mostly shaded in the mornings… it still heats up.

I’d recommend Day 1 – sunrise down to camp and head back to Navajo and Havasu Falls to enjoy the afternoon.
Day 2 – explore Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, and if you have it in you go to the confluence
Day 3 – start hiking out super early, before sunrise to beat the heat

I had a very different experience my second time and may write about it later, but feel free to comment below if you have any questions.

Top 4 recommended items for this trip:

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and comments below. & as always, please don’t forget to practice Leave No Trace 🙂

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19 Replies to “Backpacking Havasupai”

  1. How am I just reading this!? Tiff, thank you so much for posting this, everything was super helpful! I’m planning on going this year with my boyfriend and a couple of friends so your write up and pictutres especially, helped calm my nerves! Thanks again for the post!

    1. You’re welcome! Glad it was helpful for you! It was maybe in the 40s which isn’t too bad… I got a little chilly in my 3 season bag sleeping alone, but my friends in the 2 person tent with each other said they weren’t cold at all… and one of them gets cold just as easily as me. I think you’ll be fine! Totally tolerable 🙂

  2. Super cool post Tiffany! Thank you! My trekking friends and I are getting online tomorrow and hope to get 2 nights in May or 3 nights in SEP, wish us luck ?
    Can you do a blog on the gear needed from your experience? We would totally appreciate it. Oh and is it dry camping only?

  3. Any tips on camping type food to eat? Is there drinkable water on campsite? We’ll be there 4 days/3 nights in March! So excited!!!

    1. Hi Star! So sorry missed your comment. Did you go already? There is potable water at the campground and my personal favorite food when backpacking is ramen/ cup of noodles, but dehydrated meals are very common. Hope you have (or had) a great time!!

  4. Hi Tiff! Love this post! Can you give me more info re the helicopter ride? I know u opted for just the packs at $20. But how much is it if u would have went?

    Thanks,
    Julie

    1. Hi Julie,

      I don’t know how much the helicopter ride was because I didn’t actually do it, but if I recall correctly, I think my friends paid around $70-80/ person (including packs) CASH

  5. I know that is option to go down with helicopter…where should I go to get the helicopter? How much cost?
    How do I contact them?

    Nice photos!!!! ;)))

    1. Hi Michelli, thanks! 🙂 I don’t know how to get the ride down there, but to get the ride back up and out, I know you can just show up and line up but definitely line up super early! I listed the camping office phone number in my blog post and I’d recommend reaching out to them about arranging a heli ride down.

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