Arizona, Havasupai

7 Things I Wish I Did Differently on My Havasupai Hike (First Time Backpacker Mistakes)

Yes, I’ve been slacking lately…but life catches up with you! By now, I’ve written quite a few detailed posts on Havasupai—how to get a permit, how to train for it, how to get there, how to find Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls. Looking back now, there are a few things I might have done differently for this trip, and hopefully from my regrets lessons, you can avoid the same mistakes! This is basically an entire post expanding on some travel pearls, and I have one last post in my Havasupai series before moving on to the next topic, so stay tuned. 😛 [Update: Check out what to pack for Havasupai!]

To refresh, our exact itinerary (if you haven’t read the first few posts) was essentially as follows:

Day 1: Fly to Las Vegas, pick up some supplies, visit Seven Magic Mountains, drive to Peach Springs, stay overnight at Hualapai Lodge.
Day 2: Hike in to Havasupai, set up campsite, play at Havasu Falls
Day 3: Hike to Mooney Falls, hike to Beaver Falls, come back to hang out at Havasu Falls again
Day 4: Hike out of Havasupai, drive back to Vegas, eat up a storm of real food, drankkks, do whatever people do in Vegas, stay overnight (we stayed at The Linq)
Day 5: Eat some more, fly out of Vegas

I thought our trip was pretty awesome and I only had to take 3 weekdays off! Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 so here are my thoughts on what I’d do differently for an even better experience. I numbered them in the order of importance to me:

1. I wish we had left Havasupai EARLIER in the morning.

This is the biggest mistake I think we made because we underestimated how hot and how steep the trail back up the canyon was. We woke up around 5am to finish packing and to eat something before leaving. But in reality, we probably left around 6:30am, which was WAY too late.

I had actually woken up at 3am to hear our neighbors in one campsite over packing up and leaving in the pitch dark. I thought to myself, what an ungodly hour to be up and hike out! Little did I know they were the smart ones because they avoided almost all the heat and sun! They got the last laugh.

We probably just took too long to pack, so if you’re experienced, you’d probably be way faster and out like a pro. The photo above was 8am when we reached the village of Supai from the campsite to get rid of our trash. See my Travel Pearl below.

By the time we FINALLY made it to the top, it was around 1pm — which means it took 6.5 hours to get out. In the cool night, it would be much more comfortable, and I hear the stargazing can be amazing too. But you’ll just have to be careful with hiking in the dark; nothing a good headlamp can’t solve.

The last 1.5 miles of switchbacks is really the killer portion. We actually made really good time for the first 6-7 miles. That last mile probably took more than an hour. Combine the steep switchbacks with the heat of almost 100F with NO shade and a heavy pack, and I would seriously walk like 500 feet and then need to stop again.

Keep in mind we had been hiking a lot already in the past few days. This is where physical conditioning comes into play (and also taking care NOT to get sick right before your trip so you’re not a runny nose faucet the whole time.)

Travel Pearl: Get a frozen Gatorade in the Supai Village before you leave. It will be the best overpriced purchase of your whole trip. It stayed cold the whole time on our hike out and slowly melted into cool lifesaving liquid.

 2. I wish we had taken the helicopter out of Havasupai.

Or a mule. Just kidding; I didn’t have a photo of the helicopters since I never saw one, so here’s one of a mule. 😀 Helicopters would have saved the hassle of the heat, the weight, and the incline. However, you need to make sure you will be leaving on a day that there ARE helicopter rides and wake up early enough to get in line for it because they are first come first serve.

When we got to Supai on our hike in, there were still tons of people waiting in the village for the helicopter ride out around 2pm. Just be prepared to wait and hope you are lucky to catch a ride! See section Transportation in this post for the helicopter schedule and costs.

 3. I wish we had gotten TO Havasupai earlier in the day.

We really should have left for the trailhead from Peach Springs earlier in the day to get started on our hike. Starting at 9am was really way too late, (see all that sunlight pouring into the canyon in the above picture??) and I know we didn’t intend to start that late but getting enough sleep, repacking, and breakfast took too much time.

Essentially, the hiccup was probably arriving in Peach Springs too late the night before so we couldn’t sleep early enough. My bad. I wanted to see the neon rocks. Sigh. #doitforthegram

Starting earlier would mean getting to the campsite earlier to have your choice of pick of the campsites! AND it also meant getting set up earlier so you could enjoy Havasu or Navajo Falls while the sun was still in the canyon! 🙂

4. I wish we had gone earlier in May or late April.

The heat. Enough said.

Choose wisely and hop on the permit site early to get choice pickings! See my Havasupai basics post for tips on this if you need.

5. I wish we hadn’t overpacked food.

Quite frankly, this was really about weight. ANYTHING to lighten your load would be helpful, so don’t overpack and try to buy the lightest things you can (weighing cost vs. benefit of course, which I’ll go over our packing list).

In regards to food, the pre-packaged dry food above in the photo aren’t too heavy but they come in big packs that take up space and adding it all up it can weigh a bit. If you don’t eat some of the meals, that’s just extra weight you can’t shed!

We had allotted a packaged meal for each meal during the trip, but actually didn’t get time to eat some of the lunches and breakfasts! It was still okay because we had snacks, and I never really felt extremely hungry during the trip.

Okay, and fine, I may have brought an extra bikini or shirt for options. I’m a girl; sue me. My back was the one that suffered. 😛

Travel Pearl: Also remember that you do need to bring out any trash you bring in, so you don’t get to lose THAT much weight on your way out. However, you can drop off your trash in the Supai village before you continue out and that hike is 1-2 miles from the campgrounds and that’s where I would shed some weight!

 6. I wish we had stayed one more day longer (for a total of 4 days, 3 nights).

This might mean more to pack in terms of food, but I kind of felt like we were constantly on the go from one spot to the other and didn’t get as much time to just relax. That extra last day may have been nice to explore Navajo Falls too, the only one we didn’t get to go down to (photo above).

My husband thought our 3-day/2-night trip was already perfect, so it just depends on you! A lot of people we ran into told us they stayed 4 days, 3 nights. And for an extra night, it’s really not that much more money.

I do think Beaver Falls is definitely worth seeing though! (Picture above.) Obviously, you could shorten this trip too. If you wanted to fly home on Day 4 after driving back to civilization from the Hualapai Hilltop, that is doable. Or you could go for just one night and make sure you hike in early enough to visit Navajo, Havasu, and Mooney Falls. My dental hygienist told me that she only did one night at the lodge in December 2 years ago, and she felt it was enough for her.

 7. I wish I had bought water shoes suited for hiking.

This one is not quite as important, and it’s really just an extra cost, but it might have been nice to have during the Beaver Falls hike so I didn’t have to bring my hiking shoes and switch from that to my water shoes. But my water shoes were some pretty cheap $10 ones from Walmart, and true water hiking shoes can be $60 or more. Not sure if it is all worth it in the long run, but if I knew I’d be doing more water fording hikes, I think I’d seriously consider getting some!

And there you have it! Hope these tips will be helpful for you in planning your trip better. I’m working on a packing list of what I thought was most essential for a first time backpacker next! 🙂

4 thoughts on “7 Things I Wish I Did Differently on My Havasupai Hike (First Time Backpacker Mistakes)

    1. Rofl I think as girls we can’t help but overpack!! B also overpacks, strangely enough…he likes “options”…which is exactly what I say 😂 Water hiking shoes sound like a really good idea now. Let me know if you find one you like!!!

  1. These are fantastic tips – thanks for sharing!! You have so much valuable information on this hike on your blog – it is super helpful for a non-hiker like me! lol

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