Figuring out how to best organize my blog and posts is still something I’m working on, so please bear with me! But I think I’m going to table Bora Bora for a little bit while I have Havasupai fresh on my mind. I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries about all the details of getting to this magical land…and I don’t blame ya!
The famous turquoise blue waters come from the calcium and magnesium leeched out of the limestone. The color of the water truly stands out like an oasis in the middle of the hot red rock canyon, topped off with a roaring majestic waterfall. If that doesn’t stir up major wanderlust, I don’t know what will!
I’m going to start with this post on the basics of getting all your ducks in a row so that you can get a better idea of how to plan a trip here. Then I’ll do more detailed posts about each day of our camping/hiking to chase these dreamy waterfalls if you want further specifics, plus some of the things I learned that may be helpful for a novice backpacker like me!
How to Get to Havasupai
First of all, before you start planning, it’s probably a good to know where the Havasupai Reservation is and whose land you are entering! The Havasupai, or “people of the blue green waters” are an American Indian tribe that have been living in the southwest corner of the Grand Canyon for over 1000 years. Their population is only about 639, and this is their home you are traversing to see some natural wonders.
Hence, you will need permits (see below) to see the rest of their canyon and stay overnight. If you don’t have one, they can send you back out of the canyon and that’s another 8 miles you don’t want to have to do again in a day!
The Hualapai Hilltop is your starting point for the hike into the canyon. It is 191 miles from Grand Canyon Village (4 hours drive), or 66 miles from Peach Springs, AZ (1.5 hours drive). The total hike to campgrounds is 10 miles.
Peach Springs is the last town you can stop at to get gas, food, and water. It’s about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas, and there is the Hualapai lodge you can stay at. A double queen room for us was about $160 a night and we drove here from Las Vegas the day before we planned to start our hike. From here, you take Route 66 for another 7 miles, then look for Indian Highway 18 and drive all the way to the end for the hilltop.
From the Hualapai Hilltop…it is an 8-mile hike to Supai, the village where you check in with the tourism office. They will give you wrist bands here with the dates of your reservation and the number of people in your party.
The first 6 miles there are no water sources, and by mile 6 you will start to see water and the Havasu Creek. The first 6 miles are also sparse in shade and can be very hot in the summer.
From Supai, it’s 2 more miles to the campgrounds, and then you’re there! The last 2 miles are through a lot of fine red sand and hiking this part felt like the hardest part on the hike in, in my opinion.
Havasu Falls is right at the campgrounds. The campgrounds are about 1 mile long and Mooney Falls is at the end of it, and requires going down through a few narrow rocky tunnels and scaling down the side of the canyon wall (rocks, ladders, cables).
How to get a Permit
Permits are available for purchase on the website. Currently, it appears they are booked for the rest of the year and possibly through March 2018.
You can still try to call the office at 928-448-2121 (M-F; 9-3)This was the first year reservations were taken via online reservations, and they went FAST!
In the past, people called in on February 1 when the reservation lines opened and there were 4 different numbers. This is what we did this year (2017), but after a fruitless day of calling all 4 numbers over 500 times, all we got were busy tones. The website was launched secretly the next day (February 2). My husband was perusing forums diligently all morning, and around 10am he texted me to get to a computer and hurry up to make the reservations online!
We had already figured our 3 weekend dates in May that would work for the 4 people going in our group, but by the time I got to the website, only our last choice weekend was available to book! There were only about 300 maximum allowed on the campgrounds per day. The online reservations system was also inconsistent and would sometimes kick me off at the end of my check out process. Just be persistent and keep trying!
Travel Pearl: It doesn’t matter which “camp site” you select when booking the website. We thought it might reserve a specific spot for you, but no such thing. Camp sites are first come, first serve after you check in with the tourism office in Supai. So book any open campsite you see on the website! Snag them and check out before someone else does!
Reservations are non-transferrable and non-refundable, so make sure the person booking the reservations is definitely going on the trip! They do check your ID.
Entrance Fee: $50 pp
Environmental Care Fee: $10 pp
Camping Fee: $25 pp per day*
+ 10% Sales Tax
Total Cost: $121 per person (for 2 nights)
*A day hike as it is not technically allowed so you will have to camp one night or stay at the lodge.
If you don’t want to camp overnight, you can stay at the Havasupai Lodge in the Supai village! There are only 24 rooms at $145/night + taxes/fees. These can have up to 4 people per room. No TV’s but I read you can access the village wifi, and hey, at least there’s AC!
Call (928) 448-2111 or (928) 448-2201 for reservations and try to book as early as you can! You can cancel up to 2 weeks before with a full refund.
Just keep in mind you will have to hike 2 miles to get to Havasu Falls, and add on another 3 miles to get to Beaver Falls. The advantage of the campgrounds is that it is literally right next to Havasu Falls and you get to be one with nature! 🙂 There are some cafe foods available at the village store.
If you don’t want to carry your own camping supplies, you can hire a mule or horse to carry your supplies down to the canyon and back up. Each mule can carry about 130 pounds. I’m not sure of the price on this, but from different websites, I’ve seen $95 to $120 one way. It may be best to call the tourism office for official current pricing.
You can book the mules up to a day before you leave the site too, but I think mules going in need to be booked further in advance (1 week?). I’m not entirely sure how the process is, but we saw mules dumping bags up at the hilltop and the hikers catching up to them at a later time. There are a few of the natives at the hilltop that might watch belongings.
It’s a little sad for the mules/horses, but they seem like they’re used to it and the natives won’t make them do more than a trip a day (hopefully).
Upon exiting the canyon, I tried asking a lady (only half jokingly) if she would let me hire her two horses who were not carrying any loads to take me to the top of the switch backs (1 mile or so left) because I was absolutely dying in the heat. She looked at me pityingly and said, “No, sorry, they are done for the day.”
You can also take a helicopter ride in or out of the village ($85/ride) with a 20-40lb load, but rides are first come, first serve on Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday (March 15-October 15). They leave Supai starting at 10am, weather permitting, and fly until dark. So get in line early for this!
For off season (October to March), only Friday and Sunday helicopters operate.
Best Time to Go
Honestly, the best time to go might be any time you can get permits. 😛 Just kiddinggg. Partly.
I think I would go with late April. Just my opinion. It may not be too hot yet and not too cold either. The water from the creek is COLD, so going in warmer weather is better to enjoy it. However, you don’t really want it to be too hot either because hiking in and out will be absolutely miserable, unless you wake up at like 3 or 4 am. In retrospect, we probably should have done this because it was way hot in mid-late May!
We ran into a girl on the hike out of the canyon who said she had just done the hike in March, and it was a pretty cold hike out. But she said she preferred that to this heat we were currently experiencing in late May.
Summer months (mid June-September) also run the risk of monsoons and flash floods, but you’ll probably enjoy the water much more too. So really, it’s hard to find a happy medium and I’d say just take your chances as long as you can get a permit! We wanted to go a little earlier in May but our dates were taken. It was still a great trip and we counted ourselves lucky to have gotten permits!
Lastly, be respectful of the land. I cannot stress this enough! You would want a guest entering your home to be respectful of your space, too. There are no alcohol, drugs, weapons, drones, or pets allowed. And please don’t graffiti the canyon walls. It was a little sad to me to see people adding painted handprints to the walls down by Beaver Falls.
Leave nature the way you found it–glorious all on its own! 🙂
Next posts will be about the actual hike in, our day trip hike to Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls, and the hike back out…plus tips from a novice backpacker on how to physically prepare for this and what NOT to pack. 🙂