Guide to Havasupai
Note – the following information has been updated for the 2020 hiking season for Havasupai.
You have seen the photos of gorgeous blue waters and powerful waterfalls all over social media and the internet.
Thinking of packing a bag and visiting Havasupai?
Don’t…. not until you have read our guide to hiking Havasupai as accessing the canyon is not easy for the tourists who visit each year to obtain the coveted permit and can only enter by hiking or by helicopter.
Locals of Havasupai
There are approximately 600 Havasupai tribe members and approximately 100 tribal members live in the village of Supai, located at the bottom of the Havasu Canyon (also known as Cataract Canyon). (Note: I did find a reference that there are 450 tribal members living in the village but personally feel this number is too high based on what I have seen.)
Tourism is the main industry for their tribe through the sale of permits to visit their amazing land and through services offered to visitors.
Be respectful of their tribe and land by honoring the “no photo” request of the people, village, and work animals and by packing out what you take onto their land.
I asked one of the local vendors why the children don’t play in the water as I would be as a child when not in school. She explained how the land and waters are sacred to them for their spirituality and do not allow the children to play in the waters or near the falls.
Note that there is a cemetery on the reservation and there is a sign that is easy to miss that asks that you do not photograph their cemetery. My first visit there I was photographing the skyline and didn’t realize the cemetery was part of what I had in my lens.
As with other requests by the tribe, please respect their land and their people.
Havasupai Falls Permits
Havasupai is rapidly becoming one of the most sought-after vacation destinations for hikers and adventure seekers alike. Located in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, Havasupai and Havasu Falls are known for their famous waterfalls, scenic views, and camping spots that all run along Havasu Creek which is responsible for supplying water to Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls.
First, you cannot show up at the trailhead and expect to hike to the waterfalls as each hiker needs a permit.
In the past, hikers were able to day hike but day hikes are no longer allowed. To access the Havasupai waterfalls, you will need either a camping permit or a reservation at the Havasupai Lodge, which is located in the village.
Also, outfitters are no longer allowed so if you are wanting to go as part of a tour, you are out of luck.
Permits and lodge reservations are not easy to get and I know people who have tried for years without success. With the new online system for campground permits, the process is easier AND you can look to see if permits have been turned back in from hikers who cannot use them.
The key dates for permits are February 1st at 8:00 AM Arizona time to try to get campground permits through the online reservation system which you must pre-register for an account through their website and June 1st to try to get lodge permits by phone.
The price for permits normally increases each year due to the cost to keep the place clean (meaning packing out the CRAP that people leave behind).
Besides the natural beauty of the falls and campsites, the limited number of people allowed to trek down to Havasupai makes it a highly sought-after and hard-to-capture experience.
With only allowing 300 people a day, reservations to book a campsite at Havasupai is about the same as trying to lock down tickets to a playoff game; it’ll cost around $400 and they’re gone within an hour.
Making reservations is not only a game of luck but a game that needs to be prepared for in order to increase your odds of winning.
For 2020, the permits to use the campground are $375 with full payment due when you book your online reservations for the campground.
The permits for the campground are for 3 nights and 4 days. If you want to go on fewer days and nights, you still pay for the fixed length they offer.
Details for 2020 from the official site:
ALL visits to Havasupai and Havasu Falls require a reservation made PRIOR to arrival.
There is only ONE name on a Campground Reservation – and a reservation is only valid if the person named on the reservation (the “Trip Leader”) is present at the Tourist Check-in Office in the Village of Supai (on the way to the Campground) with valid photo ID – otherwise, the reservation is NOT valid and will NOT be honored.
ALL visitors (even if they are not a Trip Leader) must have an account here on HavasupaiReservations.com made PRIOR to arrival so that they have confirmed their understanding of, and agreement with, Havasupai Rules and Laws.
ALL visitors must have proof of their account (a printout or screenshot of their Account Information Page), proof of their Campground Reservation (a printout or screenshot of the Campground Reservation that they are visiting under), and their photo ID available at all times while on Havasupai lands.
Step one – Making an account
This is the single easiest and least challenging part of this whole thing.
In order to reserve spots to Havasu Falls, you have to make an account with your:
- First Name
- Last Name
- Email Address
- Phone Number
- Zip/Postal Code
Once you enter all that in you’ll be prompted to add a payment method that can be done at the time of making your account or at a later date.
Do note that having your card information inserted before you try to grab tickets is crucial because it’ll save you precious seconds in the checkout process.
After you enter or skip the payment info, you will be shown a term and service agreement for the rules of the campsite and the falls. Part one is complete.
Step two – Making a Campground Reservation for Havasu Falls
This is the Black Friday step of the whole process.
You have to go in with a plan and be ready to execute it with precision or be able to adapt on the fly in order to compete with the thousands and thousands of other people trying to do the same thing.
Do note that you have exactly two minutes to complete the whole process or else your spot will be lost and you will have to start over.
First, you must enter the number of people in your group with a minimum of one person to a maximum of 12 people (this was the number for 2019 and at this time we do not know if the group limit has changed).
Once you have the number of people in your party selected, you smash that next button to get to the calendar page.
Here you will be able to select the dates that you planned for but be warned, you must always have back updates planned just in case your original dates are taken.
That very scenario happened this year to us where we had to fall back to a secondary date because the original dates we wanted literally vanished as we clicked on them.
As an added roadblock, the months are only shown two at a time so in order to get to the later months, you have to click past all of them.
When your desired dates are selected you must then make sure your information is correct as well as enter in your payment method. If you have the payment method already entered in all you have to do is check everything else and hit I agree to the Terms and Conditions and Buy Reservation.
Once you have purchased the permits, you will receive an email notification with all the details confirming your purchase.
What To Do After You Get Permits
You have your tickets so what do you do now?
If you can’t hike with 30-60 lbs on your back for 10 miles, then start training as soon as you can so that way once launch day comes, you’re ready.
Start buying gear so that you can sleep and hike with ease as you start a new day in the canyon.
If you need a packing list we will be releasing one this week to help guide you along your Havasu Falls Journey so be sure to check back in.
Past that there’s not much to it.
Make sure your account is accurate and filled out, go in with a plan, go in with a contingency plan, be fast, and hope for the best. Once it’s all said and done, the hassle and stress is worth it 10 times over to go and experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some people.
What To Do If You Don’t Get Permits
What do you do if you miss out on tickets during the rush? Fret not as they came up with a solution to that very problem.
If you miss out on tickets or want more for a bigger group, you can go to their transfer page where people trade dates or cancel trips and want to get their money back.
Here you can scroll through the dates available and buy ones that fit your schedule.
It is updated as permit holders release their permits back into the system. So if you don’t see a date you want, just check back in the next day to see if your luck is better then.
If you are looking to drop or transfer reservations, you will be refunded your campsite fee minus a 10% transfer fee.
If camping isn’t your thing then consider reserving a room at the Havasupai Lodge, which has 24 rooms and is $440 a night for up to four people per room. In addition to the $440 per night fee to stay at the lodge, each person will need to pay $110 entrance / environmental fee payable at the hotel.
At this time, lodge reservations can only be made by telephone by calling one of the following numbers: (928) 448-2111 or (928) 448-2201.
The reservations open on June 1st for April to December of the FOLLOWING year.
You will need to secure your reservation with a deposit of $100 per room per night to hold the reservation.
If anything happens and you cannot keep your reservation, a reservation canceled less than 2 weeks in advance is non-refundable.
Havasupai Security Checkpoints
There are multiple checkpoints to ensure that only valid permit holders or hikers with reservations at the Havasupai Lodge are allowed on the reservation.
On your drive on Indian Road 18 toward the trailhead, you will encounter your first “real” checkpoint manned by a private security firm.
Their purpose is to verify each person to assigned permits and to do random checks of automobiles and packs to look for contraband such as weapons, alcohol, and drugs.
They will ask you if you have these items and then they will search your vehicle and backpacks. The thoroughness of their search is random. We had a group of 14 people and everyone was searched differently the mini-van in front of us took a LONG time as they went through the car and backpacks very carefully.
THIS IS NO JOKE! DO NOT TRY TO BRING ANYTHING ON THE PROHIBITED LIST!
If you are caught with a prohibited item the best-case scenario is that it is confiscated and you are allowed to enter the Havasupai reservation.
The worst-case scenario is that your items will be confiscated and your permits will be voided with no refund. It is also possible that you will be banned for life to enter the reservation. Now, here’s a kicker… supposedly (I have not verified this) that if you are banned, the ban may carry to other nations such as Hualapai, Navajo (Antelope Canyon), etc.
Once you are on the reservation and start your hike into the canyon, you may be stopped by rangers on horseback asking you for your name, permit holder, and ID.
The last time you will be asked for your name and ID is when you check in at the tourist office for your wristband and backpack tags.
Prohibited Items at Havasupai
As stated above, there is a checkpoint to search for prohibited items and I cannot stress enough, DO NOT bring these items!
There are rangers that roam the campground throughout the day and night looking for people who are in violation of bringing prohibited items onto the reservation.
BTW, if you are with a group, make sure you trust the people you are hiking with as one person will ruin it for everyone on the permit. Even if you are not camping next to each other but are on the same permit, everyone will have their permits immediately voided with no refund and be asked to leave. (And… possibly banned for life.)
My friend Kelly talked to a hiker who received a $1,500 fine for being in an area that is considered “off-trail” while they were hiking around Beaver Falls.
The following items and activities are not allowed on the Havasupai Reservation:
- Cliff jumping
- Diving into water
- Inner tubes
- Loud music
- Photos of the Havasupai people, village, or working animals
- Water guns
- Weapons or firearms
Fines for violating the rules of Havasupai:
- $1,000 fine for cliff diving or jumping
- $1,000 fine for littering and/or leaving trash at your campsite
- $1,000 fine for possession of alcohol and/or drugs
Review the Havasupai Tribe Law and Order Code
Located in Arizona, deep in the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls experiences the same highs and lows that a normal high desert in Arizona would.
While knowing what the weather at the campsite and village is nice, I’m going to list the average weather for all four seasons for the top of Hualapai Trail, the Havasupai village, and the surrounding waterfalls to help you plan out what kind clothes you’ll need to hike comfortably.
Just like other parts of the Grand Canyon, it can get HOT there during the high for the day.
June through September can be dangerously hot if you are not prepared to hike in the heat. If the temperature reaches 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the trails will be closed for hiking.
As you can see above “monsoon season” is typically in July and August. The few days that it rains it brings heavy thunderstorms and the chance of flash floods. July 2018 the area saw a flood that closed the reservation for tourism for about 6 weeks.
If you are trying to figure out the weather for your trip, you can use Supai, Arizona, and then use the “rule of thumb” is that temperatures drop 5 degrees for every 1,000 feet in elevation gain so with the Hualapai Hilltop at approximately 5,200′ and the canyon floor at 2,800′, there could be a difference of 10 degrees between the two areas, e.g., if it is 80 degrees at the parking lot, the canyon could be 90 degrees.
My friend hiked on the first weekend of October 2018 and there was snow at the trailhead but once they were off of the switchbacks they were peeling off layers.
Springs are typically cold in the morning and will stay cool most of the day starting around 20 to 30 degrees and maxing out around 67 degrees.
As you get into the later months of spring, the highs will start to climb into the mid-’80s and the lows will stay around the 40 to 50-degree range.
Summer is where the sun starts to show its bite.
The average low stays consistently in the low 60’s while the days will average out to high 90’s, even breaking into the 100’s.
During these months, be sure to bring plenty of water because dehydration is one of the biggest killers in the desert.
Fall is where the weather will change pretty drastically the further in you go.
At the start of fall, temperatures can range from the mid-’80s to low 90’s and drop to around 60 degrees at night. The further in you go to fall, like October and November, outside weather will start falling about 10 to 13 degrees a month bottoming out at the low 60’s for the high.
The same applies to the lows with the lowest average being 36 degrees in November
Winter isn’t actually too bad during the day with the coldest months being December and January topping out at 53 degrees. The nights all seem to have an average of 30 degrees varying a few degrees either way.
Spring down in the Havasupai village is about the same as the Hualapai hilltop even though it is deeper into the canyon. While a little warmer, Spring will range from the low 70’s going up as high as 88 degrees in May. You can expect weather at night to be as low as 40 degrees with it hitting 55 degrees in May.
Because of the elevation difference between the Havasupai village and the Hualapai Hilltop, summers are about five degrees warmer with most summer days easily hitting 98 degrees and going over 100 on some days. Surprisingly though, the difference of the weather at night is hardly noticeable staying at that comfortable 65 to 70-degree zone.
Summer is really the only month where the surrounding weather trends higher than at the hilltop so during the fall months, you can expect to feel the same temperatures as the hilltop. Highs will start at 92 degrees and creep down to 65 in November and lows will be 58 degrees and drop to 40 in November
Winter at Havasupai village isn’t a Christmas wonderland, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t get cold at night. Thankfully, the lowest high will hover around the mid to low 50’s and peak at 60 degrees during February. Much like Hualapai Hilltop, the nights will hover around 30 to 35 degree with February being the hottest of the three months.
If you’re wondering what the weather is like for Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls, just use the average weather for Havasupai village as a guide because it is nearly identical.
Havasu Falls and Beaver Falls may seem hotter, but that’s only because they see more direct sunlight than Mooney Falls.
So if you’re looking to feel a little warmer or do more water activities, Havasu Falls or Beaver Falls are your go to.
If sitting in the shade and chilling next to a waterfall is your cup of tea, then Mooney is the place for you.
RELATED ARTICLE >>> Hiking in the Heat
Flooding at Havasupai
A flash flood in a canyon is incredibly dangerous and you should always check the weather before you head into the canyon so you are prepared for inclement weather and know if there is a possibility of flash flooding.
In July 2018, the reservation experienced a flash flood that led to the evacuation of over 200 tourists by the locals using ATVs and helicopters. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured during the evacuation.
I followed the closing as we were not sure if we would be able to go on the dates we selected and were fortunate that the reservation opened a few days before we were supposed to hike. During the six-week period, I read the stories of the people who were evacuated and was shocked to learn that many had to leave behind their belonging, which included car keys for some! Because of this, we have a “flash flood” plan for whenever we hike and camp in canyons.
The sign above can be found above Havasu Falls.
If you would like an interesting read, check out these documents that have photos of the waterfalls dating back to 1899 that show them over the years and how they have changed due to flooding.
When the Blue-Green Waters Turned Red – Historical Flooding of Havasu Creek, Arizona
Bridal Veils (What Havasu Falls used to be called)
Best Time of Year to Hike
Visiting Havasupai will be enjoyed any day of the year but note that reservations are not taken for the months of December and January as the night temperatures can dip below freezing.
The spring and fall months are ideal because the weather is mild for hiking during the day when there is no shade and the nights are cooler.
The summer months (May-August) are the most crowded months but also the most desirable if you’re hoping to swim in one of the five waterfalls. The downside is that the nights do not cool down as much as the spring so sleeping may be a bit uncomfortable. We went at the beginning of September and it was so hot at night we laid on top of our sleeping bags. The biggest downside for the summer months is that the days are VERY hot and the hike in and out could be dangerous if you are not prepared.
The water temperature is consistent year-round at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Monsoon season in Arizona begins in mid-July and extends through August. In 2018 Havasupai was closed for about six weeks due to severe flooding. The hikers that were in the canyon had to be immediately evacuated. We were on the edge of our seats waiting to see if our dates would fall when they reopened or if we would have to reschedule. Fortunately, we were able to hike in a few days after they opened after the repairs.
Havasupai Packing List
The main backpack is the monster that you have to carry down to the campsite.
Depending on your size, what you want to take down, and party size, the pack can range from 50-liters all the way to 75-liters or more.
If you are new to backpack hiking, I HIGHLY recommend that you visit a place such as REI and be properly fitted for your new pack as nothing will make your trek miserable like a backpack that doesn’t fit properly.
Many people will try to convince you to buy their favorite brand. DON’T!!! This is a MAJOR expense and you need to buy what works for you and your body.
There are many brands out there that are “better” for body sizes and shapes you should test before taking your first trip. You can try most of the major brands at REI to see which feels the best for you once you are sized. My recommendation is to try each brand that is your size and they will weigh it down so you can walk around the store to get a feel of what 20 – 30 pounds will feel like with each pack.
Our preference is any pack made by Osprey as they fit us well, have lots of compartments, and the best thing about Osprey backpacks is that they offer a LIFETIME guarantee to repair or replace their packs.
You can find a competitive price on Osprey backpacks (and other brands) on Amazon and REI. I also shop eBay to find used Osprey backpacks at a cheaper price.
Your day pack is usually going to be a 10-liter pack or a backpack that’s about the size of your standard Jansport backpack.
If you are shopping for your larger pack, check to see if they have a model you like that has a removable “brain” as some turn into a day pack.
These days packs are perfect to toss a few liters of water and some snacks into and off for your waterfall adventure.
If your backpack doesn’t have a removable day pack, try to find something very lightweight and one that folds into itself.
Here is an example of a day pack that folds into itself on Amazon.
If you’re one of the ones using a mule to take your gear down, a duffle bag is recommended to prevent any damage that the canyon walls may cause on the way down. The last time we were there we saw both exposed backpacks and backpacks placed into containers on each side of the mule.
This duffle bag sold on Amazon is the perfect size to protect your backpack and add a few additional items if you have room. (Note, at the time of the publication of the article, the measurements were within the requirements.)
Now is not the time to show off your brand new 8-person, multi-room tent. The tents you want to bring down are usually going to be a one or two-person backpacking tent that will weigh about a few pounds to 8 pounds max.
Lightweight backpacking tents are expensive and if you are not going to be doing a lot of backpacking, consider borrowing or renting one.
We like to wait until the REI garage sales roll around to see if we can find one at least half the price.
Check out the top brands for backpacking tents on the REI website and be sure to read the ease of setting up and the reviews.
Top brands for backing tents can also be found on Amazon if you want to compare prices.
Hammocks are a great alternative to tents as they are lighter, easier to set up, and easier to take down.
A downside to hammocks is that they require trees to use but that isn’t really an issue for the Havasupai campground.
In my opinion, an expensive hammock is not needed if you choose to take on your adventure to lounge during the day or sleep in at night.
There are a lot of decently priced backpacking hammocks on Amazon that have over a thousand reviews that are rated well.
Hammock pads help give your hammock a little more structure so it doesn’t feel like you’re sleeping in a banana all the time.
What a hammock pad also does is it helps you stay warm by blocking the wind and keeping your body heat close to you.
Our regular hiking group is split on whether or not to use a hammock pad when backpacking. If you are not sure, set up your hammock and hammock pad to test before your trip so you are not packing in extra bulk and weight.
Sleeping pads are almost a must-have depending on if you’re ok with sleeping on the hard ground.
They’re not going to be like an air mattress that keeps you off the ground, but they do pair nicely with sleeping bags to give you a little bit of cushion.
Depending on the time of year you visit Havasupai may determine which sleeping bag you take with you.
Our first trip we took ultra-lightweight sleeping bags and it was too hot at night to use them and ended up sleeping on top of them.
Sleeping Bag Liner
If you are visiting later in the year and the nights are nippy, you may want to consider a sleeping bag liner to help keep you warm.
One backpacking trip to Coyote Gulch, I used my liner instead of my sleeping bag since it was hot at night.
Inflatable pillows are great if you don’t want to bunch up hiking clothes to rest your head on at night.
If you’re using a hammock, inflatable pillows become less of an issue but are still nice to have if you can fit it.
Tent Repair Kit
Small and easy to pack, tent repair kits should be packed anytime you plan on using a tent. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it especially with all of the critters that have been known to tear through tents to get food.
FOOD AND WATER
For the hike in, it is recommended that you have 2 – 3 liters of water and/or electrolyte drink for the hike to the campground. The warmer the weather, the more you will need.
You will not have a chance to replenish until you reach the village to purchase from the store or until you arrive at the campground to refill at the natural spring.
RELATED ARTICLE >>> Havasupai Water
For us, we only eat dehydrated meals at night for dinner and snack during the day.
Ideally, you want higher protein and higher carbs type snacks. Trail mixes are a great addition to your snack arsenal.
Rat Sack or Bear Canister
The campground is the home to the trifecta of vermin, which includes squirrels, ravens, and raccoons. All these animals are smart and know what goodies are inside backpacks.
There are 5-gallon buckets at the ranger station (normally) but don’t bank on it.
Bring a rat sack to hang from the tree lines to keep your food, snacks, and toiletries safe (yes, they eat toothpaste and sunscreen).
RELATED ARTICLE >>> Securing Food at Havasu Falls Campsite
Backpacking Camp Stove
Based on our group backpacking experience, you really only need about one stove per 5 or 6 people in your group unless you can’t wait to get your food going.
While all the rage is to take a Jet Boil, we take the small adapters that attach to the fuel canisters which is lighter and less room in your backpack.
Add a few baggies to your pack as you never know when they will come in handy. They made a great “dry bag” for your phone and personal items such as cash, credit card, and keys if you don’t own a dry bag.
We normally take one of the Stanley cups to boil water in and then depending on the group size sharing the resources, we will take an extra backpacking pot to heat water in to use to “cook” our dehydrated meals and hot water for you coffee drinkers
Before you stock up on fuel, check in the various Facebook groups for Havasupai to see if there is fuel available at the ranger station. Historically, there is an abundance of fuel there as hikers will, unfortunately, dump theirs so they don’t have to carry them back home.
Fires are not allowed at the campground but a lighter is needed in case your camp stove won’t self-light. It happens. And when it does a lighter is a lifesaver.
We took dehydrated meals for breakfast and dinner and skipped them for lunch as we were normally away from the campground.
While dehydrated brands such as Mountain House are popular, my friend takes various soups and places in freezer bags for dinner.
If you are on the trail and need a small snack but don’t want to stop to enjoy it, Gatorade Chews and Stinger Waffles are great to keep in your daypack. There are other items you can take such as energy bars, trail mixes, etc.
Whichever you prefer, make sure you pack enough for the days you are there hiking.
Water is wonderful but electrolytes are even better. Grab some single servings of electrolyte powder to keep in your daypack to keep you running and to help make your spring water or filtered water taste better.
My favorite electrolyte powder, Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier, comes in single servings at Costco and they can also be found online at Amazon.
Most of the dehydrated meals you will eat out of the bag but if you have the two serving packets, you may want to bring additional utensils and a plate or bowl so you can easily share the meal.
Leave the fine china at home and stock up on plastic sporks, plates, and bowls. With most of your meals coming from a bag, a fork, and a spoon, or just a spork, is really all you need to make it through the trip. If you can only fit a bowl or plate, I would take the bowl simply because it has more utility and it does what a plate does, just not as flatly.
Container for Water for Day Hikes and Campground
There is a spring near the campground that you will be able to get water as needed.
Containers to carry the water back to the campground from the spring are water bladders, Gatorade bottles, and collapsible containers.
As stated before, there is a spring near the campground so filters aren’t 100% needed unless you need water out on the trails. If you do want to take a filter, the life straw style or even bag filters would be your best bet.
Cooler Full of Frozen Drinks
This is more for when your trip is done. The idea is to freeze Gatorades and waters and to leave them in a cooler, in your car, before you trek down to the campground.
It’s nice to come back after a long hike and have a nice COLD beverage waiting for you.
Whether or not you take a beanie will be dependent on the time of year you hike down with Fall, Winter, and early Spring being the obvious seasons for beanies.
Flip flops are a mostly needed item rather than a must-need item. While they aren’t crucial for you to have to make the trip down, you’ll more than likely want them to walk around in after a long day of hiking unless you like walking around barefooted.
There are a few items that are considered a must-have for this trip down and hiking boots are one of them.
You’ll want a boot with a thick sole, ankle support, and good grip if you’re planning on using them in the water.
Some may say that you can get away with not taking them down, but it’s not worth ruining the entire trip from a rolled ankle on the way down because you took athletic shoes.
Deciding on whether or not to take long pants comes down to a combination of personal preference as well as the time of year that you’re hiking down.
I personally hike in jeans or long pants unless it’s over 110 degrees outside because they act as an extra layer of defense from brush, rocks, and the sun.
Again, much like long pants, taking a long-sleeved shirt is going to come down to you. Long-sleeved shirts are great at blocking out the sun and protecting your arms from the brush and rocks you may encounter on the way down and at camp.
Short-sleeved shirts are a basic necessity in just about every scenario I can think of when hiking down to the Havasupai campground. It’s better to have layers available in case it becomes too hot than to be stuck with only long-sleeved shirts.
Queue up the broken record because I’m going to say it again; taking shorts is entirely up to you and your preferences. If it’s hot, take them with you. If it’s cold, consider leaving them at home or bringing a pair of pants to use just in case the weather becomes an issue.
This is one item that I recommend that you pack multiples of.
One year we took our hiking boots and water shoes but now leave our water shoes at home and get our boots wet. It takes a while for the socks to dry so take a few extra pairs if you don’t want to stick your feet into cold wet socks before you head out for your hike.
Unless you are one of those who prefer to hike “commando,” be sure to pack comfortable underwear that does ride or chaf.
Nothing is worse than picking out wedgies on the trail or having chaffed thighs.
And ladies, a sports bra or tank with a built-in bra is recommended vs a regular bra as it takes a while for them to fully dry.
BEATING THE HEAT
Cooling towels are a great way to supplement other heat prevention methods like hats and umbrellas. They work best when you place them around your neck or on top of your head under your hat.
Nothing fancy here, just a good old fashion hat. Baseball caps work best once you’re down at the campsite but sunhats work nicely for the hike down.
Most people think lip balm is just used to prevent chapped lips, but most lip balms have SPF in them so you don’t burn your lips. If your lip balms don’t have SPF in it, I would highly recommend getting some because burnt lips are no bueno.
Sunbrella aka Solar Umbrella
Sunbrella’s are good for those who aren’t power hikers and are going to be in the elements a little longer than others in your group.
If you are a power hiker and prefer to be a few degrees cooler, umbrellas do make a difference.
No exception, take it or else you run the risk of ruining your trip because of existing hurts after the first day in the sun.
Sunglasses are always needed anywhere you go hiking and where ever there’s the sun, so all the time.
Hiking in the Heat – Tips to Stay Cool
Carabiners are needed to keep your gear off the ground so that you don’t trip over it while moving around during the day or even at night.
We use fishline to build a line between the trees and then clip our bags to the line. We use the fishing line because the squirrels have a hard time grabbing onto it.
Cards or Small Game
Time flies when you are hiking during the day but once the sun goes down and it’s dark outside boredom may set in fast.
Since we normally do backpacking trips in a group, we always take a small game that is easy to take and fun to play or a deck of playing cards.
There are picnic tables available throughout the campground but in the instance that you are not able to secure one for your area a backpacking chair is WONDERFUL to sit in at the end of the day with the back support.
Collapsible Solar Light
Not a necessity but a nicety, most collapsible solar lights are incredibly lightweight and put out a lot of light at the campground to help avoid the use of headlamps.
A few ounces of lights will add ambiance to your campground and help you find your way in the dark at night without blinding your friends and campground neighbors with headlamps.
Nope, we are not going fishing. Instead, use it to make a line between trees to hang your packs and food storage bags. This will help keep the squirrels and raccoons out of your stuff since they cannot grab ahold of fishline.
Knife or Multi-Tool
Multi-Tools are always great to have in your pack just because of the versatility they offer. Big knives down in the campground aren’t really needed because they can big clunky and heavy which is why we prefer to have a small multi-tool that does the same job in a smaller package.
We do NOT use paracord to hang our packs and food sacks from the trees but keep it on hand in case it’s needed to make a rain fly or other use as needed.
Silver Emergency Blankets
Lightweight and has multiple uses, emergency blankets are great to have on hand for a cold night or when there is a chance of rain to make a fly or to cover your gear.
Leave no trace – pack it in, pack it out. Terms you hear often when backpacking.
We take small bags to tie up the trash each day and then give each hiker a small bag to carry out when leaving the campground. Note – take extras as one year one of the bags broke on the trail from bouncing around from being clipped on the back of the pack.
You don’t need a lot but a small length of duct tape is always great to have on hand.
Tip: Take a strip and wrap it around your hiking pole or lighter.
GETTING WET AND KEEPING IT DRY
Some hikers take dry bags while others do not. If you do not want to carry the larger dry bags consider at least taking a waterproof case for your phone.
Gloves With Grip
Not a necessity but they do help when climbing up and down the slimy wet chains when visiting Mooney Falls.
A cheap garden glove works great!
This is not something we pack but we know many who do. If you are hiking in cooler months you may want to consider a pair to help keep your feet warm when hiking through the water.
Quick Dry Towel
A light-weight quick-dry towel is wonderful to have on hand to dry off if you decide to go for a swim or to lay on when visiting the various falls.
As a personal preference, we no longer take both hiking boots and water shoes but that is our personal preference.
If you are going to take water shoes, make sure they are a sturdy pair that you can use in water and on the trail with comfort.
My biggest mistake on my first trip to Havasupai was taking WAY TOO MUCH camera gear. Two bodies, lenses, batteries, chargers, and two GoPros… way too much weight and I didn’t use them like I thought I would.
I found myself taking more photos with my phone and the “hero shots” with my Canon 70D.
If you want to shop at the store, in the village, stop for fry bread ($5 – $15 each), grab a frozen Gatorade ($3-5 each), or pay for the helicopter ($85 each way)… you should bring cash.
If the internet is slow or down, you will not be able to charge.
One year we took a solar-powered charging bank and it worked well as we were located in an area that received sun during the day.
If you don’t want to use a solar-powered charging bank, make sure you have one that will recharge your phone for the time period you are there.
Even in airplane mode, you will drain your phone fast if you are using it to document your amazing waterfall trip. Don’t forget to pack your cords so you are able to capture all the moments that you want.
I like to take a few in baggies to clean up before “cooking” our meals and before eating.
First Aid Kit
A must on any hike. Top items are Ibuprofen, moleskin, band-aids, Benadryl, and antiseptic.
We include in our “big” first aid kit magnesium pills, Excedrin, nail clippers, and tweezers.
We normally take a larger kit to keep at the campground and make a smaller one to take with us for the day hikes.
RELATED ARTICLE >>> First Aid Kits
Not really needed but recommended, especially if you are doing Beaver Falls or the Confluence to help you find your way there and back.
Some people prefer not to carry in a toothbrush and toothpaste and use chewing gum instead.
If you don’t want to carry toothpaste and not into chewing gum, check out the tooth bites instead.
Good to have on hand if you don’t have wipes to clean your hands after visiting the bathrooms, etc.
Headlamp With Fresh Batteries
If you are hiking in early, headlamps are a must.
They are also good to use at night at the campground and to find your way to the bathrooms.
Note, people were breaking camp EARLY and their very strong lights were shining all over the area and woke most of our campground. Please keep this in mind when using yours at the campground.
Trail etiquette is to keep your music to yourself and if you are one who likes to rock out while hiking, keep it to yourself and bring your headphones.
Also good at night if you want to watch downloaded movies, etc.
Another personal preference, hiking poles are GREAT for the hike down to help with your pack load killing your back and knees.
Maps are really not needed unless you are wanting to hike to Beaver Falls or the Confluence. Marry them up with GPS coordinates and you should be good to go.
Add your first aid kit and personal medication to a waterproof bag. Realistically, they shouldn’t get wet but you never know when a cloud may appear with rain or accidentally dropping onto the wet ground.
Normally the bathrooms are fully stocked with bathroom tissue but if you go in the middle of the night you may find yourself looking at an empty holder.
They are also great to use on a trail. (Tip, take a baggie or small bag to put your used wipe in to pack out when you leave.)
I know some folks who use them for a “sponge bath” after a day of hiking.
Personal Hygiene and Toiletries
This very much varies from hiker to hiker. Some hikers will bring a full-on cosmetic bag with everything to others who only bring a travel-sized deodorant.
Whatever your preference, please keep in mind to keep items that leave behind chemicals on the ground and water at home.
Remember, no trace.
There is enough traffic on the trails that if there is an emergency someone will find you. The issue is if time is of the essence, the time for someone to hike to get help and the time for help to reach you could be crucial hours wasted.
We use the Garmin inReach SE + Satellite Communicator to take with us in case of medical emergencies.
WHAT NOT TO BRING TO HAVASUPAI
The items below are prohibited on the Supai Reservation:
- Boats, Floats, Inner Tubes, Pool Toys, Kayaks, or Rafts
- Fire Arms
- Smoking Items
- Water Guns
How to Get to Havasupai
If you are flying as part of your trip to Havasupai, you may choose to fly into either Las Vegas or Phoenix as your top option. ADD HOTELS AND AIRPORTS AND GEAR RENTAL
When driving to the trailhead, be aware of the wildlife. It doesn’t matter if it is day or night when you drive this 60-mile stretch, the wildlife is dangerous on this road and had caused too many wrecks. In one of the Facebook groups, I saw a MANGLED automobile that hit either a cow or an elk.
It is HIGHLY recommended that you download your maps and directions prior to leaving as there is no service in the area leaving Hualapai Hilltop.
Directions to Havasupai from the following major cities:
From Las Vegas, Nevada, the drive is approximately 223 miles and 4 hours (starting from McCarran Airport)
Directions from Las Vegas to Hualapai Hilltop:
- Take I-11 S and US-93 S to AZ-66 E/E Andy Devine Ave/B-I 40/W Historic Rte 66 in Kingman. Take exit 53 from I-40 E/US-93 S – 1 h 37 min (106 mi)
- Merge onto I-215 E – 8.4 mi
- Use the right 2 lanes to take exit 1 for I-515 S/US-93 S/US-95 S toward Boulder City – 0.7 mi
- Merge onto I-11 S/US-93 S/US-95 S – 8.5 mi
- Keep left to continue on I-11 S – 12.3 mi
- Continue onto US-93 S E
- Entering Arizona – 71.6 mi
- Use the left 2 lanes to turn left to merge onto I-40 E/US-93 S toward Flagstaff/Phoenix – 4.0 mi
- Take exit 53 for State Route 66 E/Andy Devine Ave toward Kingman Airport
- Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto AZ-66 E/E Andy Devine Ave/B-I 40/W Historic Rte 66
- Continue to follow AZ-66 E/W Historic Rte 66 – 53.9 mi
- Turn left onto Indian Rd 18
From Phoenix, Arizona, the drive is approximately 264 miles and approximately 4.45 hours.
Directions from Phoenix, Arizona to Hualapai Hilltop:
- Get on AZ-202 Loop W from E Madison St and S 40th St – 7 min (2.0 mi)
- Head east toward E Madison St – 0.2 mi
- Slight right onto E Madison St – 161 ft
- At the traffic circle, continue straight to stay on E Madison St – 0.4 mi
- Turn right onto S 40th St – 0.9 mi
- Use the left 2 lanes to turn left to merge onto AZ-202 Loop W toward I-10/Los Angeles
- Take I-17 N, AZ-69 N, AZ-89 N, I-40 W and AZ-66 W/W Historic Rte 66 to Indian Rd 18 in Coconino County – 3 h 12 min (202 mi)
- Merge onto AZ-202 Loop W – 1.7 mi
- Use the left 3 lanes to merge onto I-10 W toward Los Angeles – 3.9 mi
- Use the right 2 lanes to take exit 143A-143B to merge onto I-17 N toward Flagstaff – 61.6 mi
- Use the right 2 lanes to take exit 262 for AZ-69 N toward Cordes Lake Rd/Prescott – 1.3 mi
- Continue onto AZ-69 N – 20.2 mi
- Turn right onto Fain Rd – 7.2 mi
- Use the middle 2 lanes to merge onto AZ-89A S – 6.3 mi
- Take exit 317 for AZ-89 toward Prescott/Chino Valley – 0.4 mi
- Keep right at the fork, follow signs for Ash Fork and merge onto AZ-89 N – 1.4 mi
- At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit and stay on AZ-89 N – 3.8 mi
- At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit and stay on AZ-89 N – 0.8 mi
- At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit and stay on AZ-89 N – Pass by Dollar General (on the right in 3.0 mi) – 3.8 mi
- At the traffic circle, continue straight to stay on AZ-89 N
- Pass by McDonald’s (on the left in 0.2 mi) – 1.3 mi
- At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit and stay on AZ-89 N – 32.5 mi
- Turn left to merge onto I-40 W – 24.9 mi
- Take exit 121 for Interstate 40 Business Loop toward AZ-66/Seligman/Peach Springs – 0.2 mi
- Turn right onto I-40BL E – 1.1 mi
- Turn right onto AZ-66 W/W Historic Rte 66 (signs for Peach Springs) – 29.4 mi
- Turn right onto Indian Rd 18
Parking at Hualapai Hilltop
Hualapai Hilltop is the official name for the parking lot at the trailhead that leads down to Havasu Falls.
There is a “long” parking lot at the Hualapai Hilltop to park your car during your hike. At the end of the road is the bag drop for the mule and the trail entrance. The parking lot itself is surprisingly big for being where it is but do note that you could be doing a little bit of pre-trail hiking to get from your car to the trail. The parking lot is big but not in a Walmart sort of way but more of a long and stretched out big as seen in the satellite image below.
Depending on the time you arrive, you may be able to grab a cold bottle of water and a delicious frybread breakfast burrito before you hit the trail from the locals who are selling them. When we were there in September 2019, the prices were $2 for a bottle of water and $6 for a breakfast burrito (cash only).
There are a couple of pockets where you can park cars in the middle of the lot, but for the most part, you’re going to be parking on the side of the road. Because most of the parking at Hualapai Hilltop is on the side of the road, you should be ready to have to parallel park if the other spots are taken.
As shown in the satellite picture above, the road in and out is very narrow. Those trying to drive in with RV’s should try to find another vehicle due to parking not being available for something that big as at times it can be hard for a regular size car to maneuver around the parking lot.
Staying the Night in the Parking Lot
For those who want to stay the night before the big hike, you are able to sleep in your car in order to try and leave early before the sun rises. If you are looking for a solid night’s sleep it may not happen as I know hikers who have stated that it can be a bit bright from headlights and noisy from about 2 AM on as people arrive for the hike down.
If you do what we did and arrive at the parking lot around three in the morning, be aware that some cars may have people sleeping in them so try to keep the noise to a minimum.
If possible you may want to park away from the wall since the parking lot is located next to a giant rock wall and there is the possibility of a piece breaking off, or having a stray rock fall from the top from animals or high winds, and hitting your car.
On the way to the parking lot, wild animals and even livestock have been known to stand in the middle of the road. Driving in the day, this issue is easy to avoid but at night, the animals become much harder to see so be sure to pay attention to everything even though it seems like an easy road to drive on.
Because the parking lot is located on a cliff, there will be verticle drops on one side of the road. When you drive in, the massive rock wall will be to your right but on the way out, it’s a straight down drop.
The only real time I can see this being an issue is at night or when the roads become slick. There are guard rails to try and prevent accidents and they do a good job maintaining that road, just be sure to drive smart and don’t push it because things do happen.
Parking and Driving During Winter Months
During the warm months, I don’t really see a need for a 4×4 vehicle as mine did just fine, but if you’re going when it’s snowing, I would highly recommend it. If the snow and ice get bad to a certain point, the road will be shut down until it can be safely driven on.
The road is two lanes wide and can have inclines and declines at times, so the last thing you want to do is start slipping on the way in or out. If you don’t have access to a 4×4 or all-wheel drive vehicle, snow chains should work just fine. Just be smart about it, plain and simple. You know what your car can handle so make sure to look at the weather before you leave to help you plan accordingly.
Parking Lot Amenities
Besides knowing how the parking lot is laid out, there are a couple of things at the top you should know about.
First, there is a bathroom at the top next to the trailhead. It is a single male and female bathroom but it is outhouse styled so there isn’t running water. If you want to hit a “real toilet” before you start the hike down, be prepared you may need to have your own toiletries as there may not be bathroom tissue early in the morning.
Second is that the parking lot is located right next to the helicopter pad that carries hikers and villagers down to the village. If your plan is to take the helicopter from the village to the parking lot, you may want to park closer to the helipad.
The last and most important thing about parking at the Hualapai Hilltop is that it’s free. There have been some saying that it costs to park there but from my own experience as well as others who have gone at different times, you won’t have to pay to park.
Gas Near Havasupai
Depending on which way you are approaching the Hualapai Parking Lot, Peach Springs, Arizona (67 miles), and Grand Canyon Caverns, Arizona (65 miles) are the nearest places to the trailhead with basic services like gas, food, and water.
What to Take to Havasupai
The key to an enjoyable hike in and out of Havasupai is to NOT OVERPACK, especially if you are visiting during the hotter months of the year.
Alternatives to getting your gear to your campground or lodge room are to hire a mule or helicopter. (More information down below on each.)
The recommendations of what to take is a large list so we created a special article for you to read about our recommendations on What to Pack for Havasupai
- Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot to Supai Lodge in the village: 8 miles / 13 kilometers
- Supai Lodge in the village to Havasupai Falls Campground: 2 miles / 3 kilometers
- Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot to Havasupai Falls Campground: 10 miles / 16 kilometers
- Havasupai Falls Campground to Mooney Falls: 0.5 miles / 0.8 kilometers
- Mooney Falls to the Colorado River (also known as the Confluence): 8 miles / 13 kilometers
NOTE: The distances are one way
RELATED ARTICLE >>> What is a Switchback
View the Havasupai Trail Map
- Fifty Foot Falls: Fifty Foot Falls is the first waterfall as you hike toward the campground and it is approximately one mile past the village. I enjoyed our time there as there were very few people in the area. The feel of this waterfall is different than the others as it reminded me of waterfalls you would see in Asia or Hawaii with the lush green growing on the walls behind the waterfall.
- Little Navajo Falls: Little Navajo Falls, also referred to as Rock Falls and New Navajo Falls, is the second waterfall you will encounter as you head toward the campground.
- Havasu Falls: One of the most photographed and the most famous of the Havasupai waterfalls, Havasu Falls is a welcomed sight to tired hikers as it’s the sign that you are almost to the campground. Havasu Falls is the third waterfall you will see on your journey toward the campground. Click here to read our article on What to Expect at Havasu Falls.
- Mooney Falls: The highest waterfall at 200′, Mooney Falls is located at the end of the campground. Hikers can choose to enjoy Mooney Falls from the top or climb down the side of the cliff using the tunnels, ladders, and chains that take visitors to the bottom. Those that choose to climb to the bottom, they may continue on to visit Beaver Falls or The Confluence. Click here to read more What to Expect at Mooney Falls at Havasupai.
- Beaver Falls: Some argue that Beaver Falls should not be considered since it is made up of lots of “little falls” instead of larger waterfalls. It is the last of the “Big 5” at Havasupai, located approximately 3.5 miles from Mooney Falls. To access Beaver Falls you need to descend the wall at Mooney Falls, hike through a field of vines, and have possible creek crossings depending on which route you take. Also, there are places where you are climbing smaller ladders and scrambling on rocks.
Camping at Havasupai
So you’ve got a hold of some permits to go down to Havasu Falls and now you want to know what it’s like camping there right?
Luckily, camping at Havasu Falls is no different than camping at any other campsite for most people but just in case it is, I’ll go through my experiences there to help answer any questions and let you know what to expect.
The campgrounds start at the fence line near the ranger station and run along Havasu Creek to the last restroom near Mooney Falls spanning almost a mile in between these “landmarks.”
There are approximately 300 campsites, which are subject to availability on a first-come-first-served basis. If you arrive later in the day and can’t find a “good” spot, talk to people to find out when they are leaving and if you can have their spot the next day.
I know some people are okay with people setting up there tents on the trail but I personally wish people would respect others and not do this. For those who are visiting the restrooms during the night, it makes it more difficult to navigate.
When selecting a camping spot, consider the following:
- Are you going to filter your water or walk to the natural spring?
- There are restrooms along the trail that runs through the campground. Are you okay with a small walk in the middle of the night or should you be closer? AND, do you want to be crossing the creek in the middle of the night to go to the restroom?
- Are you tent camping or sleeping in hammocks? This will determine if you need a flatter spot to set up your tent or more trees for your hammock.
- Where are you going to spend most of your time? You may want to set up closer to Havasu Falls if you plan on hanging around this area vs. Mooney Falls which you need to cross through to access Beaver Falls and the Confluence.
The campground may include the following “amenities” but vary from space to space: an area to set up your tent, shovel, rake, wheelbarrows (to use to move bags for the mules), picnic table, and a nearby pit toilet. If you stop by the ranger station you MAY find buckets for food storage and partially used fuel containers (some are empty). Some campsites may have lines from tree to tree that is leftover from earlier campers.
Havasu Falls Campsites
The campsites start a short walk down from Havasu Falls and extend all the way down to where Mooney Falls begins.
I’m not sure about the exact distance the campsite covers, but it was around a mile long so you won’t have to worry about being pressed for space with other campers.
For those who are tent camping, just about every open space is available for you to set up shop and call it home for the next few days and nights.
Hikers who want to use hammocks instead are able to, just note that some spaces aren’t hammock compatible because they lack the trees around to support a hammock. If you can’t decide on which to bring, click here to help you decide whether you want to hammock or tent camp.
Because the campsites are located below Havasu Falls, a river flows through them.
During the dry months, the river is a non-problem allowing for campers to safely camp next to them without the worry of being flooded out.
If you hike in during the wet months, avoid camping on or next to the river if you can due to the unpredictable nature of flash floods.
Even though I said that the river flows through the campsite, there are a variety of options away from the water for those who don’t want to sleep next to it.
As far as the terrain goes, expect to level out the ground for tents and remove any big rocks that may cause an issue when setting up. Usually, if you take a highly trafficked spot, it’ll be mostly set up ready because of previous campers doing the work for you. If you decide to do what we did, which was camp a little further down and off the path, be prepared to have to do a little campsite grooming.
Havasu Falls Campsite Amenities
With Havasu Falls being located in a canyon, many expect a barebones, no-nonsense experience and while that can be mostly true, the campsite does have some basic amenities.
Tables are provided at most of the spots for campers to use, just note that some tables may have been moved by other campers so you may have to do the same if your spot is lacking a table.
Bathrooms are located the entire stretch of the campsite and will usually have about four toilets with two being male and two being female. The toilets are raised outhouses without running water and have toilet paper provided.
There have been tales of the outhouses running out of toilet paper in between maintenance periods, so it’s best to bring a roll of your own just in case that happens. Disposable wipes are allowed, but be sure that they’re environmentally friendly as the whole point of Havasu Falls is to enjoy the scenery without damaging it with plastics and non-biodegradable materials.
The last and most important thing campers will have access to is water. The campsite’s water is fed by a spring and is pouring out water nearly 24/7. The water is tested to ensure that it’s safe to drink and cook with.
For those who can’t handle being away from society and social media, the village you pass through to get to the campsite has electricity as well as wifi for you to check your emails and whatnot.
If you don’t feel like making camp food, the village also has a little restaurant that you can buy food as well as two convenience stores.
If you decide to go with that route, get ready to pay for snack items at a premium because all the food has to be flown or hiked into stock the shelves.
- Campfires are not allowed any time of the year.
- Firearms are also prohibited.
- The use of alcohol as well as illegal drugs are not allowed and if you’re caught with either of these on you, you may face several fines, expulsion from the campsite, as well as potential jail time depending on what you’re caught with.
- Even if you’re from a state that has legalized marijuana, it is still a federal offense to take it to a natural park as well as a tribal offense so it’s best to leave it at home.
- Cigarettes are allowed, just be sure to dispose of the butts and do it away from anyone who may be sensitive to the smoke.
- Drones are not allowed in the village, on the campsite, or at the falls unless you have a special permit from the tribal council or tribal chairperson.
There are rules that are more specific so to get the complete list, click here to read the official Havasupai Tribe Law and Order Code.
Things to Keep in Mind
Even though this seems like a random place in the middle of the Grand Canyon, it’s still home and a way of life for an entire tribe of people, so be respectful to their rules so that they continue to allow us to camp and hike there.
All trash that is brought in has to be taken out as there are no trash cans at the campsite for you to throw stuff away. People in the past have left their garbage behind but like I said before, respect the surroundings and don’t ruin it for the rest of us because of laziness.
Another thing to note is that there is wildlife down at the campsite with it mainly birds, deer, and squirrels. While they may seem innocent, the squirrels are masters at getting into your food at night or while you’re out camping.
Taking hammocks vs. taking tents has been the question for campers and hikers alike no matter where they end up going and Havasu Falls is no different.
Due to the nature of the hike, I prefer to take hammocks simply because of the fact that they’re super light and take up little room.
My bias aside, I’ll go over the pro’s and con’s of hammocks and tents so that you can make the best decision.
Pros for Hammocks
For the Havasu Falls campsite, you have to bring in everything that you’ll need for the entire trip, sleeping arrangements included. As stated before, that is one of the main reason I prefer to use hammocks when camping down there. The most popular hiking hammocks will top around 12 ounces and the top insulated hammocks at about a pound.
Another reason to take a hammock would be the ease of set up and take down when the trip is done. All you need is a couple of nicely spaced trees, solid ground beneath you, and about a minute to get it ready. Hammocks also allow you to feel more open while sleeping as well as letting you look up into the night sky much easier than a tent. While these are more subjective, they are something to consider while making your choice.
Camping with hammocks seems like a no-brainer, right? They’re super light, easy to set up, keep you off the ground at night, and let you enjoy the night while going to sleep. Well, like everything, there are downsides to camping with a hammock.
Cons for Hammocks
The first and foremost issue with hammocks is that they leave you way more exposed to the weather than a tent would. You can buy an insulated hammock or one with a cover to shelter you from the rain, but that still doesn’t solve the problem of winds and precipitation coming in from the sides.
In general, if you hammock camp you have to have trees to tie to or else you essentially packed a glorified blanket with strings. Because of hammocks’ reliance on trees, picking the right camping spot could be tricky. While finding a spot with trees was incredibly easy, as they are everywhere, when we went down in September, it could be an issue during different months.
For those looking for the four walls and a roof-style feeling that tents give you while sleeping, hammocks don’t generally do that. Even though the hammock walls surround you on either side, you still end up feeling like you’re a little exposed. And while I can’t speak for everyone, that’s what I’ve felt every time I use a hammock while camping.
Pros for Tents
When people think of camping, tents are almost always at the top of the list right next to campfires and marshmallows. They’re the icon of camping and can be used at nearly every campsite in the world. Something that tents do very well is allowing for multiple people to use them at the same time as well as letting people store their gear in them.
Because Havasu Falls has hiking no matter which way you turn, you will be away from your campsite most of the time during the day and leaving all of your belongings out in the open alone can make some feel uneasy.
Even though it’s just a thin sheet of plastic, keeping items hidden in one place helps the campsite stay neater and it also keeps wandering eyes from identifying valuables from a distance or walk by the campsite. While we were there, stealing seemed like a non-problem but you can’t always count on campers respecting camping codes.
Tents have always felt secure, at least personally, from the outside while sleeping because of the four walls and a door. Like I said before, tent walls are only thin pieces of plastic but that opaque piece of plastic gives you privacy and a sense of safety that a hammock really doesn’t. If privacy is a huge deal to you, tents are the way to go.
Lastly, major advantage tents have over hammocks is their ability to resist the weather. When secured properly, tents can withstand surprisingly strong sustained winds without rocking the campers within as a hammock would. Tents are also, personally, preferred when it comes to rain and snow because the slope of the walls makes the water roll off without the worry of it collecting under you turning your hammock into a bathtub.
I’ll also pick a tent over a hammock in the winter simply due to the fact that tents can act like little ovens if you have multiple people sleeping in one. Although it may only warm up the air by a few degrees, those few degrees can make a world of difference when trying to stay warm.
Cons for Tents
Now it’s time for the ugly side of camping with a tent at Havasu Falls campsite. The obvious one is the weight. Most of the backpacking tents I found weighed around two to four pounds and while that seems like a cakewalk, remember that every pound you carry in is felt after 10 miles of hiking.
Another problem with tents is the potential setup. Most, if not all, tents will require poles and anchors to make sure the tent has some sort of stability and structure to it. Again, it may not seem so bad, but after hiking anywhere from two to even five hours, the last thing you want to do is fumble around and get frustrated at your temporary home that you’re trying to set up.
Tents will always have to be in contact with the ground making every bump and divot felt while trying to get comfortable. Because the campsite is in the middle of the Grand Canyon and not in the flat open plains of Kansas, finding level ground can be an issue.
Even though this one is a more personal issue I have with tents, the dangers they add to a campsite should be stated. I’m not saying that the tents are going to conspire against you and kill you at night, but I am saying that the spikes and ropes tents need to stay up to pose a threat to everyone at the campsite at night or even during the day.
If I had a nickel every time I tripped over a tent rope while walking around campsites, I would probably only have like $10 to $15 but that’s still easily over a couple of hundred times and nothing feels worse at night than trying to shimmy to the bathroom without waking everyone up to only activate a tripwire and yell timber as you fall.
To sum everything I’ve just said up, both tents and hammocks will have their ups and downs and if you want a quick reference for what they could be, I’ll list it out below. I still prefer to use hammocks when I go down to Havasu Falls mostly because of the weight and ease of setup. The other cons that come with hammock camping don’t really bother me but if they did, I would start weighing tent camping a little more.
- + Lightweight
- + Easy setup
- + Easy to take down
- + Keeps you off the ground at night
- + Feels more natural while sleeping
- – Prone to bad weather
- – Doesn’t feel as secure from the outside
- – Bad coordination = bad time with hammocks
- – Requires two nicely spaced trees or supports
- + Can hold multiple people
- + Better at weatherproofing
- + Feels secure while sleeping
- + Allows for gear storage at night or when you’re out and about
- – Tends to be on the heavier side
- – Can be draining to set up after hours of hiking
- – Not the best for uneven or craggy ground
- – Adds a danger element to the campsite with ropes and spikes
Places to Eat
Our favorite place is Sinyella, which is the first “store” you will see when you are close to the village. It is a “mom and pop” place where they run the grocery store from the back of their home and the “kitchen cafe” from the front of their home.
They have an area that has covered picnic tables for visitors to use to enjoy the snacks purchased.
The sign says they at 7:00 am but when we hiked out and craving breakfast, they didn’t open until 7:30 am. This delayed us by an hour getting out but her frybread breakfast burritos are delicious and were worth the wait. (Note: They will feed 2 – 3 hungry hikers.) Normally, they stop serving at 5:00 PM.
The store accepts cards with a $20 minimum and the “kitchen cafe” is cash only.
Supai Village Cafe
The cafe in the village has been closed for 2019 and am not sure when they will open for business. I asked a local and was told there was a plumbing issue and they “had to start over” with the renovation to fix it.
When it is open, they have a nice menu with everything from a traditional breakfast to burgers.
There is a Wi-Fi connection that is strong in this area so if you want to post a few pics, this will be the time to do it.
They accept cash and credit cards.
Supai Village Grocery Store
The grocery store in the village we normally bypass unless we really don’t want to go to Sinyella, as I stated above we prefer to go there.
One thing they have for sale that Sinyella doesn’t is ice by the 10-pound bag or by the cup.
They open at 6 AM and close at 6:30 PM and I haven’t been there when they haven’t been open so not sure if they are sometimes late to open for business.
Note: Visit on your way in if you think you want to visit later during your trip as they close for a half a day for inventory and you don’t want to hike up there only to find out that the day you pick is inventory day.
You will find the frybread stands are near Havasu Falls but they are hit and miss on which days they open, when they open, and if they have fry bread to serve.
The first big “tent” you will see when hiking to the campground is a lady who only sells drinks and “tourist” items.
All of these stands are cash only.
Tip: If you are with a few people, order together as they make a certain number of orders and then put up a sign that says there is a 20-minute wait. I ordered for myself, my sister, my son, and a friend and our order was the last before the sign went up which meant the rest of my group didn’t get to order and decided not to wait.
Havasupai Food Storage
When camping in general, wildlife-proofing your food is a must to ensure that your trip isn’t ruined before it ever really got started. Normally, animals like raccoons, deer, or even bears are the big bads of food stealing but at the Havasu Falls Campsite, it’s squirrels.
The squirrels at Havasu Falls are renowned for their ability to get into the food supply that you worked so hard to carry in from the hilltop.
Knowing this ahead of time, our group prepared to make it all the way through the trip without any stolen food, and for the most part, we did alright.
Even though we had many of the right ideas to hide the food, it was simply execution that leads to the downfall of five pounds of trail mix, beef jerky, stinger bars, Brookside chocolate blueberries (This one still hurts the most), and for whatever reason, half a bottle of sunscreen.
Ratsacks and Wire Mesh Bags
So this is the part that we nailed in trying to animal-proof the campsite.
Wire mesh bags, or ratsacks, were the first thing we packed because they’re light and small enough to put anywhere in or on the backpack without causing an issue, which is a big plus when carrying everything in.
Now that you have the bag, you need some rope or string to hang it with right? While most people immediately jump some generic Walmart rope or twine, it’s actually best to take high-strength fishing line. The difference between the two is that while the food bag may be suspended in the air, the everyday rope is coarse enough to allow the squirrels to climb up and down it whereas the fishing line is usually too slippery or slick for them to get a solid hold on.
Click here to view ratsacks on Amazon.
Another solution we came up with was to buy two 5 gallon buckets from Home Depot or Lowes and store the food that way (one friend brought an empty cat litter container!). The buckets actually seemed to work the best because the squirrels and other wildlife couldn’t open the lid with their stupid little hands.
The downside to the bucket idea is that you have to have someone who is willing to listen to buckets hit everything as they hike down the canyon. If you find someone that’s willing to do that, I personally had the best luck with the buckets while I was down there.
That and the buckets can act as multipurpose containers if there isn’t food in them just yet.
Coolers with a lock or the ability to be weighed down are also a good solution as they act as a container and a fridge for those hot summer days. With coolers being the brick shape that they are, you usually won’t see many people with them as they are a pain to lug around for 10 miles.
Note: You used to be able to put coolers on the mules if you reserved one but new rules do not allow coolers.
Best Way to Set Up
And this is where it all went down, fast. After we set up camp with all of our ideas and went to bed and woke up to a factory of sadness.
Everywhere you turned, there were wrappers and remnants of happier time. What we forgot to account for when hanging our food bags is the fact that even though squirrels are tiny, they have the ability, to what can only be described as hardcore parkour, to get up the bag and start eating.
Make sure that when you’re hanging your food up, to hang it about four to five feet off the ground. Also while hanging, be sure to clear any rocks or tables near the sack so they can’t jump off of them to shorten the distance.
As far as the bucket or cooler ideas go, simply make sure that the tops are secured and that they’re away from the tent areas. The animals down in the campsite are just squirrels and sometimes birds, like ravens, so you don’t usually have to worry about animals using their weight to pry open things.
When storing your food, try not to store it in the tents. Even though it seems secure in the tent away from animals and other camp goers, the animals will eat through the tent to try and get to your food.
Animal Proofing the Campsite
Even though the ratsacks and buckets work when properly used, here are some other things you can do to help deter animals from your campsite.
Cleaning and picking up your trash is probably one of the single biggest things you can do to deter animals.
When wrappers and trash are left out in the open, the scent of the food is carried for miles because the scent is exposed rather than concealed by a bag or container.
Certain companies make liquid or granular repellents that claim to deter animals from wanting to walk into your site, foraging for food. Most of these are eco-friendly as they are designed for camping, just make sure to check the label before busting them out.
If you don’t want to buy commercial repellents, I’ve seen people recommend or even swear by using laundry dryer sheets. Supposedly, wildlife can’t stand the fragrance coming off from the sheets and will often avoid the area that they are in.
Sticking a couple of these on your trash bag and food bag could help deter animals from coming in. I can’t attest to this personally, but it’s a cheap and readily available solution for those wanting to give it a whirl.
There are many animals that you may see during the day and at night. Most of the animals in the area should be the same that can be found within the Grand Canyon National Park.
During my trips to Havasupai, I have only seen various lizards, squirrels, raccoons, ravens, bighorn sheep, heron, and tent caterpillars.
Others have reported seeing bobcats, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, scorpions, and tarantulas.
From talking to others, the raccoons seem to be more prominent closer to Mooney Falls.
RELATED ARTICLE >>> Securing Food at Havasu Falls Campsite
Restrooms at Havasupai
There is a restroom at the trailhead that is a hit and miss with having toilet paper so you may want to take some if you want to use it before hitting the trail.
In the village, there is a nice restroom beside the village grocery store.
There are a few composting pit toilets as you get closer to the campground and several along the trail throughout the campground.
While I took my kids all over the world to experience travel with us as a family, I am not sure I would have taken them to Havasupai until they were at least teenagers.
The main things I would personally research before taking smaller children is the length of the hikes, the terrain, and the climb down to Mooney Falls if you want to go to Beaver Falls and beyond.
Because my children are now adults, it is hard for me to judge their capability at a particular age. Because of this, I recommend that you join one of the Facebook groups listed below and “talk” to other parents who have taken their kids and get feedback on their experience.
Pets at Havasupai
I have always heard that dogs are not allowed at Havasupai but on my last trip, I saw hikers with dogs hiking out and one group camping beside us had one too.
At this time I do not know the definitive answer and will try to find out and update as soon I can.
Havasupai Post Office and Mail
Supai has been referred to as “the most remote community” in the contiguous United States by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is accessible only by helicopter, on foot or by mule.
It is the only place in the United States where mules still carry the mail, most of which is food.
Bring your own postcards or buy some at the grocery store in the village and take to the post office to get your postcards stamped with “delivered by mule.” Note: You have to request the special stamp be used or they will use the “normal” one.
Everywhere you look there are signs and warnings for you to pack out what you pack in, meaning your trash.
Leaving your trash behind puts an expensive burden on the locals to fly it out or mule it out, which may increase permit prices each year. Also, leaving your trash behind is asking for trouble with the local trifecta of trash fiends to scatter the trash all over the campground.
On our last trip, we were in the village and a local thanked us for packing out our trash and offered to take our bag of trash that was hanging on a backpack from us. (Of course, we agreed to let him do it!)
If you are caught littering or leaving your trash behind, you may incur a fine.
Pack Mules at Havasupai
I know there is a lot of controversy regarding the pack mules at Havasupai. This is not a place that will be discussing either side but I will state that each time I have visited Havasupai, the horses and mules running the bags and items for the village looked very healthy and were sore-free from what we could see. The mule drivers were very friendly and one even tossed us a bottle of water on the switchbacks as he passed by. New for 2019 are the water troughs at the Hualapai Hilltop for the mules and horses to refresh before their trek back into the village.
When on the trail, be sure to listen for the mules coming your way as you will want to hit the higher ground off of the trail as they may be running fast and they don’t care about your personal space. Also, don’t stand too close to the trail as there could be a bag swing your way and knock you down if you are in their space. NOTE: if you are listening to music, you may want to keep it low and only with one earbud so you can hear them coming down the trail.
If you choose to use a mule for your hike in and out of Havasupai, you need to join the waitlist through the online reservation system after you purchase your permits. Once a mule has been assigned you will receive an email with the information to prep your bags for the bag drop and charged $400 round-trip.
You are allowed to pack 4 bags that are 32 pounds or less. The maximum bag size is 36″ x 19″ x 19″.
Be sure to check your email that has the mule information as you will need to create a tag that has your name, confirmation number, date in, and date out for each bag that will be going on the mule.
The bag drop at the Hualapai Hilltop parking lot is by 10 AM and the bags should arrive at the drop zone at 2 PM. (For some reason, our bags didn’t arrive until about 6 PM.)
The bag drop at the ranger station is at 7 AM and the bags should arrive at the parking lot drop zone at Noon.
Cell Phone Service at Havasupai
Depending on your service carrier, you may be able to connect at the Hualapai Hilltop, Sinyella, and the village. When in the village it appeared to be best for AT&T around the grocery store area.
My sister had service at the frybread stand near Havasu Falls with Verizon but I had no service in the area with AT&T.
The water at Havasupai is world-renowned for its bright blue and soft green tones that flow year-round, allowing for anyone to enjoy them no matter when they visit.
In order to get to these stunning falls and relax in the natural pools of water, you have to hike about 10 miles and in order to do THAT, you need water.
Some may be worried that you need gallons upon gallons of water to survive the trip to Havasu Falls and then even more to survive the days and nights while camping.
While you will need access to readily available water during the hike, you don’t have to pack water the entire trip.
Do note that all the trails will not have tested running water available so bring what you need and then a little more just in case something happens. Also be sure to keep frozen Gatorade, water, and a cooler in your car before you leave for camping. While it may seem weird, the water and Gatorade will stay cold, or even frozen depending on the cooler, allowing you to have an ice cold victory drink once you make it back up to the parking lot.
For those who elect to hike down instead of taking the helicopter, you should expect to pack anywhere from two to four liters of water depending on how fast of a hiker you are as well as when you hike down.
If you go during the busy season, which is during summer and early fall, you should be packing around three liters of water at least due to the outside temperatures reaching upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
When we went down early September, it was around 80 to 90 degrees and I alone went through about 2 liters and other people in our group went through more.
If you’re hiking alone, I would highly recommend taking whatever you think you need, plus another liter simply because you won’t have the liberty of sharing water with a group of friends like those who hike down in groups would.
The trail is trafficked pretty frequently so you may get lucky if you run out but don’t count on that as an option.
Once you arrive at the village, water will be available for purchase at one of the two convenience stores if you ran out on the way down.
At the campsite, unlimited water will be supplied for free to anyone who has access to it.
The drinking and cooking water for the campsite is fed from a spring which has been channeled to a spigot where people can fill their bottles and plastic containers with as much water as they can carry back.
I would recommend bringing in a five-liter collapsible bag and hanging it in a safe place because it reduces the number of trips you need to take to get refills.
The water coming from the spring spigot is perfectly safe to drink and is tested regularly while the water flowing over the falls may not be.
The water in the pools and rivers is safe to swim in which should mean that they’re safe to drink, but there may be one or two times where you get unlucky and it ruins your trip so it’s best to just stick with what you know has been tested.
LifeStraws are a nice middle ground when it comes to water solutions on the trails because it can reduce the weight of your pack tremendously while still supplying you with water. The only downsides to the LifeStraw are that you need water around you in order to use it as well as being awkward to use sometimes due to the fact that you have to crouch or even lay down at water level.
You can also bring water treatment tabs if you want to be extra safe, just note that the water may take up to 30 minutes for the tab to do its work. Time will vary depending on what kind of treatment tab you use, so be sure to read the instructions before using them.
In short and in my experience, bring around two to four liters of water for the hike down to the village, don’t worry about bringing extra water in because the campsite has drinking water, and pack about a liter of water per two hours of hiking when you’re out on the trails. LifeStraws can come in handy in a pinch, I just prefer to bring in something I know will always be within arms reach.
Airwest Helicopter Service
There is an option to fly into and out of the Havasupai Village using the third-party helicopter service offered by Airwest, which has a schedule that varies based on the time of the year and on the weather for the day.
The helipad is located approximately 200 yards from the trailhead on the left as you are driving towards the trailhead and the helicopter will land in the Supai village, which is approximately 2 miles from the campground.
The cost is $85 each way and it is best to pay by cash instead of a credit card since sometimes the card reader may not be working (I do not know if they do manual credit card transactions) and it is cheaper by $10 to avoid the credit card fee.
You cannot make a reservation for a seat on the helicopter and have to put your name on a waitlist to be called in the order of sign up. I know many people who get up very early to get their names on the list. When we flew out we arrived around 9 AM to the village and flew out around Noon. We were okay with this as it gave us time to take off our packs, grab a “real” breakfast, and relax a little before hitting the road for our drive back to Las Vegas.
We took the helicopter out our first time visiting Havasupai and the short flight (about 5 minutes) is beautiful.
I was able to fly my son’s backpack out for an additional fee but I have heard that the option is no longer available. Once I verify this, I will update the article.
The helicopter runs on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from March 15 through October 15 and the schedule changes from October 16 through March 14, by running on Sundays and Fridays.
The helicopters start running at 10:00 AM and continue until everyone has been accommodated, normally until around 1 PM.
For more information, call Airwest Helicopters (623) 516- 2790.
Note: Tribal members receive priority boarding before tourists, so even if you are the first person the list, it may be a while before your name is called.
Swimming at Havasupai
Swimming is great at each of the waterfalls with pools of various depths.
Thinking about climbing up the cliff to dive into those gorgeous blue waters? Don’t. It could lead to a hefty fine.
Fifty Foot Falls and Little Navajo are less crowded and offer deeper pools to relax and for water play.
One thing we never skimp on when considering the weight we back in, is our first aid kit. On our big treks, we take a larger kit and then have a smaller one for our day hikes.
The key items for this trip I would recommend is a lot of moleskin and Ibuprofen than your normal stockpile.
If something major happens, it may be a while before help can get to you as you are miles (and hours) away from phone service and medical help. We always take a Garmin with us, no matter how short or long our hikes because sometimes, minutes may matter.
RELATED ARTICLE >>> First Aid Kits for Hiking
Drones at Havasupai
I would LOVE to be able to take my drone to Havasupai but keep them at home as they are not allowed on the Havasupai reservation.
Understandable as drone owners would be all over the place in slot canyons with loud buzzing above ruining the peaceful experience for everyone.
If you are caught with a drone, you may incur a $250 fine and have your drone confiscated.
From the Havasupai Tribe Law and Order Code
Out of concern for the safety of aircraft, the village, and the village’s residents, and for privacy, all drone usage is strictly prohibited within the exterior boundaries of the Reservation, unless granted written advance permission by the Tribal Chairperson or the Tribal Council. Persons found in violation of this Section shall have their drones confiscated by the Tribe and if they wish to have them returned, shall pay shipping postage. Persons found in violation of this Section shall also be liable for a civil fine of $250.00.
Other Notes About Havasupai
Below are notes of observations from my friends who have experienced Havasupai:
Notes from my friend Kelly H. (September 2019):
- If the cafe is closed, sometimes there is a guy with a cooler that sits in front of the store. His wife makes food from scratch. Her breakfasts with biscuits are amazing, and apparently her burritos too, but they sell out fast.
- Talk to a local if you get a chance. They have interesting stories to tell.
- The bottom of the canyon gets windy when the temperature changes. Make sure to have your tent set up by then, and secure all lightweight items, or they’ll wind up blowing into the creek.
- If you don’t have much upper body strength or practice with backpacking, try to practice carrying your loaded backpack around before the trip, to get your shoulder muscles accustomed to the weight.
- Coffee is like gold there. You can use it to barter for different stuff
- You don’t have to leave super early on the last day if it’s not in the summer. I’m not a strong hiker, and I did it. This way, you can take your time in the town, the rodeo/farm/store where everybody shares their stories, and on the hike itself. You just have to make sure you have a lot of water (more like 3L rather than 2L) and think like a desert animal. Don’t push yourself hard in the open areas, when the sun is high. Use the shaded outcroppings on the side of the canyon to cool down and regulate your heart rate/breathing. Protect your skin. Enjoy the views during your breaks. If you take you time that last day, however, make sure you are prepared to sleep in the car, cause the Peach Springs hotel is expensive & usually booked, and the drive to Kingman is long when you’re tired.
- If you want to use the rest area, across from the Peach Springs hotel to sleep, be warned… It is right across the street from the train tracks. However, they sometimes have earplugs at the gas station and always at the hotel.
- Don’t forget pain meds/anti-inflammatories… You will probably want them at some point.
- The locals say that hikers can fill up their water containers at the Sinyella Store and Frybread Stand. The hose that they are referring to is dropped into a horse trough at one end. I would not recommend drinking from this. Either be prepared to filter your water, or buy some fairly expensive bottled water from that store.
- If you want to have a relaxing stay, get pretty pics and have time to spend at all the waterfalls: helicopter in and stay at the lodge. If you want to push yourself and get that feeling of accomplishment and self-reliance then hiking/camp. It’s difficult to do both.
There are several Facebook groups on Facebook that are very informative.
Also, they have groups based on the month you are visiting so you can ask questions about that particular month. (March vs. September, for example, will have different info for temperatures, current propane bottle status, etc.)
Below are the Facebook groups that I know about, if I missed one of your favorites, please let us know and we will update this article.
Facebook groups by the month you are visiting:
Related Facebook groups