OVERVIEW: I just returned from a 4 night stay in Havasupai. Our group consisted of 13 avid hikers from Salt Lake City. We left SLC at 3PM MST on Wednesday and arrived at the Havasupai trail head at 12:45AM PST. We pulled up and parked along the canyon leading up to the trail head. Within 10 minutes we had pulled out our sleeping bags and pads and were ready to sleep for the next 4 hours.
When the sun started to come up around 5AM we packed up and were on the trail by 5:45. We had reserved mules to carry our larger packs and would make the 10 mile hike with a small day pack. The office opened at 5AM and the packs would be delivered to the campground by 5PM. (They arrived about 3PM)
We spent our 2nd day hiking to Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, and for some of us all of the way to the Colorado River. During our stay a small flash flood came through and turned our crystal clear water into a chocolate brown color that takes 48 hours to clear.
On our return Sunday morning our packs needed to be at the entrance of the campground by 7AM and would arrive at the trail head between 10 and noon. We departed the campground on Sunday morning at 7AM and arrived at the trail head by 11AM. The final 1.5 miles of the trail is a steep incline and is no fun during the heat of the day. To beat the heat you should try and leave camp before 6AM.
Our packs arrived by mule at the same time we finished hiking and we were on the road within 30 minutes. There was a small food truck with scones and Gatorade for purchase, but we were ready to get home. The nearest town is about an hour and a half away and though we planned to shower at a truck stop we didn’t see any showers until Vegas and by then we were used to the smell. =) We were back in Salt Lake City by 10:30PM MST on Sunday night. I felt like this was the perfect amount of time to spend in the area and a great way to see everything.
1) PERMITS: Permits are $35 per person. (as of 7/4/13). Permits become available in February for the upcoming year. A local advised me that the best time to visit is end of April first of May. Great weather and less people. You will pick up your permit at the Tourist Office in the Supai Village (8 miles from the trail head). You will wear your permit on your wrist during the entire stay and will be asked multiple times by security to verify you have a permit.
2) TRAIL HEAD: The tail head is called Hualapai Hilltop. There is no water at the hilltop, however there is a bathroom. Everyone camps along the road on pads or in cars. Some hike down while it is still dark to avoid the heat.
3) MULES: Our group rented 3 mules which carry 4 x 30 lb packs each. The 13 of us split the cost which ended up being $57 pp round-trip. You drop off your packs beginning at 5AM at the trail head office. You pick up your pack before 5PM at the campground. You must return your pack to the entrance of the campground by 7AM the day of your departure and they will arrive at the trail head between 10am and noon. You will need a black sharpie to write your group name on the tags that are placed on all of the bags. My friend Scott also suggested putting a strip of duct tape on each pack with your group name since the packs are not covered when they are taken down by the mules and tags are known to fall off.
4) HELICOPTER: As of 7/8/2013, the cost is $85 per person each way. (includes 1 bag) The trail to the campground is down a beautiful canyon with plenty of coverage from the sun as long as you leave before 9AM. Some people choose to hike in and fly out. This is a great option. The only concern would be that you do not know when your flight will depart. You arrive at the Tourism Office located in the Supai Village by 10AM to put your name on a wait list. (Some arrive as early as 5AM to get in line) The locals are allowed on the plane first and then it goes by wait list. Though the flight is only 7-10 minutes there have been times that passengers do not arrive to the trail head until 3-5PM.
5) CAMPGROUND: Camping is $17 per person per night. The campground has Havasu Falls on one end and Mooney Falls on the other end with the creek running down the center. You will want to arrive at the campground as early as possible to get one of the best spots along the river however none of the campsites are bad. During the rainy season you will want to camp away from the canyon wall where rocks have been known to slip. You will also need to find sites that are considered “high ground” if there are any flash flood warnings.
6) THE LODGE: There is a lodge located in the village that would provide lodging if you are uncomfortable with camping. However, the village is 2 miles from the creek and the falls and this is not a good option if you are wanting great scenery. I would not recommend staying in Supai Village.
Click here to reserve your permit, the lodge, mules, helicopter and the campground. **NOTE** – Take any of your confirmation paperwork with you. We had a lot of mix ups on our trip and they didn’t have any of the correct info. However, they were nice and fixed everything easily.
8) DRINKING WATER: You will need 2-3 liters to make it from the trail head to the Supai Village. (8 miles) In the village you will have access to water at the tourist office and inside the cafe. You will also have a fresh spring in the campground (2 miles). We never needed to filter water. I suggest bringing a bucket for transporting water from the spring to your site for meal time.
9) WEATHER: My group visited over the 4th of July weekend. Weather was 100 degrees during the day and 80 degrees at night. We had flash flood warnings while we were there. One storm changed the water from blue to dark brown which takes about 48 hours to clear. These storms are more common in August. Campers were told to sleep on areas of the campground marked as high ground. We had a few small rain storms and a few short wind storms. Make sure to avoid areas with tall trees during wind storms and the canyon walls during rain storms.
10) MEDICAL: You will sign a waiver when you arrive at the tourist office that advises you that you will not have medical services while on the reservation. However, there is a small clinic in the village and security that can call for help in case of major emergencies. You should have a good first-aide kit amongst your group with items for blisters and bug bites. In case of an emergency, do not expect to be out of the campground in under 2-3 hours. We witnessed an emergency and were shocked at how long it took to get someone with a broken back to the hospital. Be careful.
11) SUPPLIES: Backpacking pack with removable day pack, backpacking hammock, small towel, jet boil, coffee cup, silverware, pocket knife, rope, garbage bags, playing cards and 3 liter bladder for each person.
12) FOOD: There is a small grocery store and cafe in the village. You can buy almost anything you need and the prices are reasonable even though everything in the village is flown in by helicopter. We stopped for a breakfast burrito on our way in and the cost was $8.50. Suggested items for your camp food would be: instant coffee, instant oatmeal, peanut butter and honey sandwich’s, granola bars, Gatorade packets, freeze dried meals for dinner, trail mix, fruit snacks and dried fruit. During our stay there was a small tent set-up at the campground entrance where a local woman was selling some amazing scones and bottles of water for $5.
13) ALCOHOL: No alcohol is allowed anywhere on reservation land. Federal officers can ask to check your pack at anytime and any alcohol will be dumped out and fines issued. Attempt to sneak it in at your own risk.
14) CLOTHING: 3 night stay = 2 pairs of shorts, two quick dry tank tops or t-shirts, 1 long sleeve quick dry shirt, 3 pairs of socks, swimming suit, 3 pairs of under wear, and a poncho or small compact rain jacket. Hiking shoes, flip flops, and water shoes are all worth bringing.
15) CREEK: Havasu Creek runs from Supai Village all the way to the Colorado River. The water is clear blue and gorgeous. You feel like your on a tropical jungle vacation as you hike from the campground to the Colorado River. The water stays at about 70 °F (21 °C) all year around. The creek is well known for its blue-green color and distinctive travertine formations. This is due to large amounts of calcium carbonate in the water that formed the limestone that lines the creek and reflects its color so strongly. Be careful with cameras and clean them regularly. A white film will cover everything and can ruin your equipment.
16) HIKING: A. The trail to the Havasupai campground takes about 4 hours to hike 10 miles. The trail is mainly downhill or flat. I would rate it a beginner trail while carrying a day-pack. If you start by 545 AM you will avoid the majority of the heat. On the return trip you will be going uphill and will have a 1.5 mile steep hike at the very end. To avoid the heat on this final stretch you should leave camp by 6AM.
B. When hiking from camp to Beaver Falls you have two options. 1) A trail that stays on high ground and has very few views of the creek but will get you to the falls quickly. 2) Head straight up the river from Mooney Falls. You will enjoy dozens of mini water falls along the way that are perfect for jumping off and the water is normally no higher than 3 ft, however the river can be slippery and difficult to navigate at certain points. The nice thing is that you can easily access the trail if you need it. *NOTE: Bring water shoes that are very comfortable. My friend suggests wearing socks with your water shoes to help avoid blisters.
C. The hike to the Colorado River is 7 miles from the campground. Head towards Mooney Falls and follow the trail all the way to the Colorado River. You will cross back and forth from one side of Havasu Creek to the other. The trail will end on one side and you will notice a cairn on the opposite side of the creek that will get you back on the trail. It is a very simple system and it would be difficult to lose your way.
17) BUGS: Mosquitoes and spiders are abundant and I highly recommend repellent.
18) TRASH: They tell you on the official website that you will need to pack out all of your own trash so be prepared to do so. However, they took our trash from us at the entrance to the campground when we dropped off our packs for the mules.
19) HOTEL vs. CAR CAMPING: Our group car camped at the trail head however my friend Scott suggests staying at the Peach Springs Best Western on Route 66. The cost to split a room is low and they allow you to shower on your way back for $10.
20) ENTERTAINMENT: Havasu Falls turns into an adult playground during the day and you will see as many as 70-80 people hanging out at the base of the falls. Our group brought along some float toys to lounge around in. You’ll feel like your at a Caribbean resort. (minus the Pina Colada’s) Card games are also a great source of entertainment at the campsite after a long day of hiking. Camp gets dark around 8:30PM in July.
Overall this was an amazing trip and should be on everyone’s bucket list!