Ultimate Guide | Havasupai

Photo Courtesy of John Roig

Casi and I have been to Havasupai twice, once before the route changing flood and once after.  Trips to Havasupai takes some serious planning and forethought which is why we created this guide to make your trip even more enjoyable.  Additionally, there are some serious changes to the reservation process and fees this year (2017) that you'll want to know about which is included in the guide.  Let's get started.

Where is Havasupai and how do I get there?

The town of Supai, AZ is located at the bottom of a canyon on the Havasupai Indian Reservation.  Getting there requires hiking from the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop which is shown on the map below.  Also, here is a great map courtesy of the NPS.  Visitors from all over the world come to Havasupai and the two closest airports are Las Vegas and Phoenix which are both around a 4-5 hour drive to the trailhead.  The Hualapai Hilltop trailhead has a large parking lot and bathrooms available. 

TIPS:

  • We recommend planning your arrival at the trailhead the night before you are scheduled to be in Havasupai.  Park your car and sleep in the parking lot for a few hours and set your alarm for around 3-4 a.m. By hiking in dark, you don't have to deal with the heat during the summer months and you arrive in the town and at the camping office before everyone else and have the whole day to spend playing in the water!
  • There is no water available at the trailhead so plan ahead of time.
 

How to get a permit to Havasupai

Before we talk about anything else, the single most important thing you need to plan for is getting a reservation secured for Havasupai.  The Supai Tribe is in charge of a permitting system (which is awful and incredibly frustrating) and is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for your trip to the canyon.  Single-day, out-and-back trips are not permitted so don't try.  These permits generally sell out during the first few weeks/months of the year and are only taken by phone.  Here is what you need to know for your best chances of getting a permit;

When Does the season open?

Permits for the upcoming year open, to the best of my knowledge, on Feb.1st each year.  There are 350 permits issued per day with a "small" portion set aside for tours and guided trips.  I say "small" because I cannot find a true answer as to how guides obtain permits, although, I have a sneaky suspicion that they acquire them long before the general public.  The summer months May-September are the most popular dates and the first ones to go.  There is no limit on the group size but there is a maximum stay of one week.  

Fees and acquiring permits

This is the frustrating part.  Only a handful of operators handle the several thousand phone calls that flood in when the permits open for the year.  It is not uncommon to try, unsuccessfully, for 15+ hours or longer to get through.  Your best bet is to glue your phone to your ear and get used to the busy signal for a while.  I wish we had a better solution for you.  If you are one of the lucky ones that gets through, the remaining part of the reservation is easy.  

Here's what's new for 2017;

  1. If/When you get through to place your reservation, you must now prepay over the phone (Visa/Mastercard only) and only one credit card can be used per group.  This is new as reservation holders used to pay at the camping office in the Supai Village standing in long check-in lines.
  2. Reservations are now non-refundable and non-transferable.  This means if your name is on the reservation, you must be the one going.  I'm also assuming that you can no longer give away or sell your permits if you can't attend (someone correct me in the comments if I'm wrong).
  3. Higher fees.  See below for the breakdown.

Here is the information to make reservations:

The reservation office is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Arizona time, Monday through Friday.

Havasupai Tourist Office for Entry and Camping Permits:
928-448-2180, 2121, 2141 or 2237.
E-mail: httourism0@havasupai-nsn.gov (not reachable at this time...) nor are permits available to be purchased online.

How much does it cost for a permit to Havasupai?

Here is the breakdown PER person (as of 2017);

  1. Entrance Fee: $50 (was $35)
  2. Environmental Care Fee: $10 (was $5)
  3. Campground Fee: $25 per night per person (was $17)

Total cost to the falls for one person per night: $85

Note: If you are a Native American the entrance fee is waved (or so I hear? Can someone back me up on that in the comments?).  Also, there is no discounted rate for anyone, even children.  

I believe that you'll still need to check in at the Tourist Office in Supai which is right on the trail and you can't miss it. In years past, you received a wristband and a tag for your bag which is required at all times and a ranger will come through daily to check.  If this is no longer the case can someone comment and let us know? Thanks. 

The Trail and the falls

Okay, here we go.  We only recommend hiking in and out of Havasupai for several reasons but I think most importantly we believe that some things in life are worth the long, tiresome path.  You can take a helicopter in and out of the canyon but we think this is a joke and don't recommend stuff like that.  We also will only recommend packing in and packing out the gear you can carry on your own back and not on the backs of pack animals.  I don't want to get too preachy here, I'll leave that to Havasupai Horses, but I will say that you suck if you use them to pack all the crap you don't need to bring in the first place (and yes, I'm talking to you too "professional" guiding services!).  That's all.  Back to the trail.  

Photo Courtesy of Rock Hounds

Photo Courtesy of Rock Hounds

The trail to Supai Village from the trailhead is around 8 miles.  The good news is that it is mostly downhill, especially at the beginning when you are making your way down the canyon.  The bad news is that you have to come back up the same way you went down.  From Supai to the campground is another 2 miles.  Before you hit the campground, however, you'll pass by New Navajo Falls which is worth the detour.  This is the first set of waterfalls in the series and is "new" because it was created after the flood of 2008 which diverted the path of the river.  After about 1/2 mile or so of hiking from Supai, look for a trail that hangs left.  Just before you descend into the campground you will pass the magnificent and jaw-dropping site of Havasu Falls.  This is the most popular waterfall in the canyon and for good reason.  This is a great place to stop, take some photos, and take in beauty of the canyon before you descend into the campground.

 

The campground begins shortly after Havasu Falls and is about a mile in length down the river.  There are several camping spots along both sides of the river and all come equipped with a picnic table.  We like to walk past the crowds and camp closer to Mooney Falls but that's just personal preference. There are four toilets in the campground with toilet paper and a water spigot near the front end of the campground.  

Mooney Falls is located about 1/2 mile below the campground and is the tallest of the waterfalls.  The path down to the falls is not for the faint of heart, however.  In order to reach the falls you must descend (at your own risk) down a series of chains and ladders which can be a bit scary.  From Mooney, you can make a 7 mile round trip visit to the most remote set of falls called Beaver Falls.  Again, the path to these falls are confusing and is quite far so we recommend getting an early start so you can enjoy the falls before nightfall hits.  

Maps Courtesy of Vegas Hikers

Please practice Leave No Trace principles while enjoying your trip.  We firmly believe that we, as a people, are responsible for the preservation or the destruction of our lands.  This place is so popular that it is easy to lose sight of this but we ask that you only pack what you can fit in your own pack and you leave your campsite better than you found it.  Let's not allow Havasupai to become the next party destination where losers treat our wilderness with disrespect. 

Once you have played in the water, taken thousands of pictures, made new friends, and had a trip of a lifetime, make your way out the same way you came in.

What should I bring to Havasupai?

Here are a few recommendations for items that will make your trip more fun and enjoyable.

  1. Regular backpacking gear.
  2. Camera. Phones just don't do it justice.
  3. Sandals that strap up.  The Travertine floors can be sharp and you'll want a good pair of sandals to explore in.
  4. Hammock.  Self explanatory.
  5. No tunes.  Put your gadgets away, you are in paradise.
  6. Anti chaffing cream.  For obvious reasons...
  7. Sunglasses. Sunscreen. Hat. Always.
  8. Day pack for day trips.
  9. An awesome, lightweight, quick dry towel.
  10. Friends.  Enjoying this solo is just not as fun.

Issues facing Havsupai and the Grand Canyon

We feel that it is important to mention some of the issues that Havasupai and the Grand Canyon are facing so we all can become better educated on the subjects that threaten our wild spaces.

  1. Havasupai Pack Animals: This is an extremely sensitive subject and is one worth noting.  There has been several discoveries of abuse of pack animals carrying gear into the canyons.  Here are some resources to read up on: Havasupai Horses, Havasu Horse Project, 12 News Article.
  2. Uranium Mining near the Grand Canyon: See our article posted about the potential reopening and mining of Uranium near the Grand Canyon.
  3. Save the Confluence:  Help save the canyon from turning into yet another theme park.  Save the Confluence, Grand Canyon Trust

How You Can Help

  1. Become educated by staying informed on these pressing topics

  2. Practice Leave No Trace Principles

  3. Make a purchase from our store (10% of the proceeds are used to fund wilderness cleanups)

  4. Share these messages with others

Parting Thoughts

Havasupai is one of the truly great treasures in this world.  It's something you'll talk about and reminisce about until you're too old to remember anything at all.  With that being said, we all are guests when we visit this little slice of paradise.  We should act respectfully to the Supai tribe as well as to other campers. We are all in this together, let's keep this place clean, safe, and fun for years to come. Enjoy your trip and good luck getting reservations!

10% of Every Purchase is used to fund wilderness cleanups!

 

If you have any additional information to add we'd be happy to consider editing this guide!  Leave a comment below!