A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to be invited on a backpacking trip to Havasupai. If you’ve tried to get a permit here in the past, you know how difficult it is to get through. But man, once you get that permit confirmation, it feels great. So what next? Plan your trip with our guide to hiking Havasupai here.
The hike into Havasupai is a 20 mile trek (10 miles there and 10 miles back). The beginning of the trail starts off as a steep downhill, going for about 1 mile. Then, there is a 6 mile hike on flat-ground with the last 2 miles being the toughest. Once you make it past the village entrance (hallelujah!), you have about 0.5 miles to the village office. Stay at the village entrance if you want to refuel on fresh watermelon, food, or iced cold Gatorade. The village office is where you sign paperwork, pick up your permits, and relax your legs for a little bit. Finally, from the village office you have a 2 mile trek to the campground (at long last!). During this part of the trail, you will get to see 3 waterfalls (Fifty-Five Foot Falls, Navajo Falls, and Havasu Falls). The remaining 2 waterfalls (Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls) are past the campgrounds.
Guide to Hiking Havasupai
About the Permit: In the past, you would have to call in and wait for an eternity on the phone. Starting in 2019, permit and campground reservations must be made online at HavasupaiReservation.com. Reservations open on February 1 at 8am MST for the entire season (February through November). 3 nights/4 days max.
Best Time to Go: Peak season is from March through October. Best seasons to go are fall and spring if you want to avoid the heat and frequent flash floods. If you plan to go in the summer, hike early in the morning to avoid the sun and Havasupai’s average 90+ degree weather. Many hikers start their hike at around 3:00-4:00 a.m. We went during Labor Day weekend and encountered flash flood warnings and rainfall.
The Cost: A trip to Havasupai is quite pricey (but worth the experience once!). Reservation fees are paid at time of booking. Additional fee payments are made at the office in the Supai Village (this is about 8 miles from the Hilltop and 2 miles before the campground). The rest of the fees are dependent on your plans. The fees are listed below:
All fees and prices are subject to change without prior notice.
- All necessary permits, fees and taxes (includes reservation, entrance and environmental fees):
- $100 per person/weekday night (as of 2019)
- $125 per person/weekend night (as of 2019)
- Round Trip Pack Horse (Between Hilltop Trailhead and Campground Entrance): $400
- Helicopter: $85 per person – One way
- Lodge: $175 per night ($60.50 deposit per room/per night)
Make sure to do everything at the village office, before starting the hike to the campsite (questions, check-in, campsite permits, etc). If not, you will have to make the 2 mile hike back up to do all of that. Villagers will not let you in the grounds without the permit.
One mule can carry 3-4 packs weighing about 130 pounds in total. If you decide to rent a mule, you can split up the cost between 4 people. Reservations for a mule must be made at HavasupaiReservation.com.
Tips For Backpacking Havasupai:
- Start the hike before 6am to avoid the heat. Most people were already hiking out at 3 or 4am. The hike takes 4-7 hours. Plan accordingly depending on when you want to get to the campsite and for the slowest hiker in the group.
- If you are backpacking, don’t plan to carry more than 1/3 of your weight. During a 10 mile hike, every single ounce counts.
- Pack communal items to share so each person in the group can split the weight in their packs
- Each individual needs about 4 liters of water for the hike down. There is a natural spring in the campsite to refill water. Bring a hydration pack!
Packing List (Individual):
- Comfortable Hiking Boots
- Wool Socks (to prevent cuts and blisters)
- Water Shoes (You’ll need these to hangout in the water. Find cheap brands on Amazon, Zappos, etc.)
- Lightweight Sleeping Bag (A good backpacking one should weigh no more than 3 pounds.)
- Lightweight Sleeping Pad
- Day Pack (to carry around lighter weight once you’re in the Havasupai campground)
- Dehydrated Foods or Backpacking Food (The pad thai, breakfast skillet, and chicken risotto are all backpacker’s favorites. Choose the ones that sound most tasty to you!)
- Energy or Protein Bars (We’ve only tried Clif Bars, Pro Bar, and Stingers, but these are all good options.)
- Trail Mix/Salty Snacks (to replenish the salts you’ll lose when you sweat)
- Electrolyte Chews/Pills (these give you energy when you’re feeling low)
- Packed Lunch (One for the hike down and another for the hike back up. Peanut butter sandwiches are easy to make, easy to carry, and can withstand being out in room temperature for a longer period of time.)
- Wide-Brimmed Hat
- Quick Dry Towel (click on the hyperlink for options depending on the size you want to get)
- Mosquito Repellent (because water plus the outdoors equals lots of mosquitoes)
- Small First Aid Kit (probably won’t have to use it, but always good to have just in case)
- Moleskin/Bandages (for blisters)
- Reusable Utensil (super lightweight 3 in 1 utensil)
- Sunscreen (Choose eco-friendly ones. you can find most of these brands at Target: Bare Republic, Sunology, Blue Lizard, Goddess Garden, Yes To, Honest Company.)
- Trekking Poles (recommended)
- ID and Some Cash
- Waterproof Phone Case or Bag (if you want to take pictures in the water)
- Camera (optional)
Packing List (Communal):
- Backpacking Tent
- Jetboil, Stove/Pan/Pot, Fuel, Lighter (we only brought a pot to boil water since we only have dehydrated food. made set ups and cleans up super easy)
- Dry Bags (optional)
- Hammock (optional)
About the Campground:
- All campsites are First-Come First-Served, “camp wherever you want”. Plan to get there first if you want a good spot.
- Fresh drinkable water can be found through a natural filtered spring. Bring a 4 liter hydration pack for easy refilling.
- Pit toilets are available throughout the campground. They are super clean and fresh.
- There are dogs hanging out freely around the campsites. We think these belong to the Supai people, however, we’re not 100% sure. You are not allowed to pet them or feed them.
- The Supai people make a special fry bread that are sold at the entrance of the campground at $5 a piece (cash). It’s a village version of a funnel cake with self serve toppings (e.g. nutella, strawberry syrup, powdered sugar, cinnamon and more).
Other Things to Do:
For an epic adventure, add a hike to the Confluence of the Colorado River and Havasu Creek to your itinerary. The Confluence is a phenomenal sight showing the meeting of the brown Colorado River and the blue-green Havasu Creek. It is roughly a 16-mile round trip hike which starts from the Havasupai campgrounds. This is a full day hike so plan to start before or around sunrise. Bring along a map, GPS, and good water shoes. The trail is poorly marked and without the right equipment you can end up very lost. If you’re contemplating whether you want to hike The Confluence or not, ask yourself “When’s the next time I’ll be at Havasupai?”. We unfortunately could not hike it ourselves because we didn’t know about the trail until we got there and did not budget enough time for it.
At the Mooney Falls area, you can swing off of a small waterfall. It’s found a bit further out from the falls, near a small cascading waterfall. Below the swing, you can swim under the waterfall into a cave. We got to swim by there and it was such a neat experience!
Overall, Havasupai is an absolutely beautiful and sacred place. It’s no wonder the destination is extremely touristy and full of all types of people from all parts of the world. We were shocked to see the amount of people there. One thing we still can’t get over is the amount of trash we found throughout our hike and in the campgrounds. It was a sad sight. If you ever find yourself in Havasupai, please do your part to keep this place as pristine as possible. It is the Supai people’s home. Savor every moment you get to spend in this hidden wonder of the Grand Canyon. You are one of the few lucky people that get to experience it. Please keep it beautiful for others to enjoy too.
Jennifer and Vivian
*This article was updated on January 29, 2019.