Tips and Tricks For your Trip to Havasu Falls
If you are planning on going on the hike to Havasu Falls, I can’t recommend it more highly. It was incredible, and well worth the effort. There are only three ways of getting there; by helicopter, through the use of a horse/mule train, or on foot. Unless you are physically incapable of getting there on foot, hike it in. The payoff for the hike, Havasu Falls, is so much more worth it after having hiked 10 miles in the draining sun, with a heavy backpack. If you make the wise decision to adventure in on foot, here are some useful tips for the journey:
Making Your Reservation
First off, make sure you have obtained your permit and made your reservation in advance. Day trips in and out are not allowed and you need to have a wristband (which will be periodically checked) to be in the campground. Each year there is a certain date when they open up reservations for that year. For 2018, that date is February 1st at 8:00am Arizona Time. Click here for the registration site. When we registered, we had to call in. However, the tribe has updated their reservation method to an online system. Reservations fill up quickly. If you don’t register within that first couple of days, you most likely won’t be able to get in. But, keep trying! You may get lucky!
I highly recommend making a three or four day reservation. It is nice having one day to hike in, one/two to stay and do day hikes, and one day to hike out. Also, the temperatures in March were great for hiking, but cold if you wanted to swim. I’ve heard that going in May you get a good balance of both. Please note, that if the temperatures get above 115, the trail to will be closed. As this is a possibility in the middle of summer, plan accordingly.
I recently heard that if you are staying at the motel in Supai, they allow guests to book their trip for the following year upon checkout. However, you must have stayed at the motel, but this is something to consider if you are wanting to go again the following year.
Nights Before and After
Unless you live close to the reservation, plan to stay the night before at a hotel, the nearest ones being an hour+ away. Leave early so that you can hike in the cool temperatures. It will take 3 – 6 hours to hike in, depending on your hiking speed/ability. The hike out will take longer because it is a constant uphill walk. We had another hotel booked for that night.
It’s long and hard, but totally doable if you have trained your body for the strain that you will put on it. Remember that you will have a backpack on which will also put strain on your body. The trail starts with a 2000 foot drop into the canyon along switchbacks, then continues in a gradual descent into the canyon. During the majority of the hike there is limited shade, so slather on that sunscreen.
On the hike out, you go along the same trail. Instead of going downhill, you are hiking up hill. It isn’t noticeable until the last couple of miles, and especially during the last mile. During the 2000 foot climb, some members of our groups swear by the 2oo steps goal. Take 200 steps then take a break. Repeat until you arrive at the top. Then celebrate that you conquered that trail!
- Hulalap Hilltop to Supai – 8 miles
- Supai to Campground – 2 miles (more if you have to walk up and down trying to find a campsite, which is likely)
- Hulapai Hilltop to Campgrounds – 10 miles
- Campground to Mooney Falls – 0.5 miles
- Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls – 3.5 miles
- Mooney Falls To Colorado River – 8 miles
There is no water along the trail. Come prepared to hike at least 8 miles to Supai where you can purchase water and sports drinks. It’s more expensive than normal, but it is cold. Or, you can hike the additional 2 miles (10 total) to the campground where the water is free from a spring. Some people were drinking it straight from the spring, but we preferred to use our filtration pumps to fill our bottles. I carried a two liter hydration pack in my backpack. I also packed a couple smaller water bottles and Gatorade packets, which I would mix up as needed when I need to refuel electrolytes.
For the way back out, it is the reverse, two miles to Supai and 8 miles to the trail head. However, when you get to the top, unless there are vendors selling water, there won’t be a place to fill up until you hit the first gas station about sixty miles away (Peach Springs, Arizona). We planned ahead and had water and Gatorade waiting for us in a cooler stored in the car. We had crammed it full of ice so the bottles were still cool and refreshing after the hike.
Instead of stopping for a meal, which would slow us down, we snacked during the hike in and out. Each person had their own snack pack that we kept in outside pockets of the pack for easy access. We enjoyed homemade trail mix, Larabars, hard candies, fruit leather, cuties, carrot sticks, and M&M’s (our favorite backpacking chocolate because it doesn’t melt the same way as other chocolate). The fresh, and heavy items, we ate on the way in, packaged on the way out. Eat often to keep up energy.
We highly recommend stopping at one of the diners in Supai to get the frybread, either with powdered sugar or as a taco. They were sooo good after that long hike. We may have gotten both…
The most important thing you need to know when planning your food: fires are not allowed in the campground. This means you will need to pack a camp stove and fuel or food that doesn’t need to be cooked. Make sure to plan accordingly or to hike back and forth to the diner in Supai.
Since we were coming from out of town, my Mom did all the planning and shopping for our food. When we arrived, we helped to package each meal in a labeled gallon sized Ziplock bag, which was then dispersed among the hikers in our group. Some of our family’s favorite backpacking meals (not all eaten on this trip) include:
- Instant oatmeal packets, hot chocolate or cider packets, and fruit leather.
- Dehydrated eggs, bacon bits, dehydrated hash browns, wrapped in a tortilla with ketchup packets.
- Tortilla wraps with chicken from a packet, mayo packets (like you get from a fast food place), cranberries, and almonds. Eaten with dehydrated sweet potatoes.
- Cheesy mashed potatoes (from a packet), sweet pork jerky (from Costco – tastes like a pulled pork sandwich), dehydrated edamame.
- Angel hair pasta mixed with Parmesan cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and sausage. Eaten with flatbread and fruit leather.
- Bear Creek dehydrated soup eaten with flatbread.
- Mountain House dehydrated meals.
- Pudding – instant pudding mix with dehydrated milk placed in Ziplock bags, mixed with cold water and shaken to create the pudding texture.
- S’mores – marshmallows, Nutella in a tube (you can purchase the tube at outdoor retailers and then fill with whatever you want), graham crackers.
There are port-a-potties at the trail head, restrooms at the store and diner in Supai, as well as long drop toilets in the campground, but nothing for the rest of the trail. Make sure you bring a poop shovel and toilet paper as well as some anti-bacterial gel. There are plenty of places to pop a squat while completely hidden along the way.
The campground is located on the banks of the the river between Havasu and Mooney Falls and is first come, first served. We arrived later in the day and there were many people already there from previous days. This meant we had to search for a place that would accommodate our group. It took a while, but we found a great location on a little island at the very end of the campground, separate from most of the other campers. Campers are periodically checked for wristbands, which acts as your permit for staying there. There are heavy fines if you don’t have it on, as you are technically trespassing.
Once you have hiked in and set up your campsite, you have several other day hikes that you could explore. We chose to check out Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls. The trail head to these Falls starts at the end of the campground. Mooney Falls is under a half mile from the campground, and Beaver Falls is three miles from that. Be prepared to climb through tunnels and down slippery steps and ladders to get to the base of Mooney Falls, and the continuation of the trail to Beaver Falls. Someone with a fear of heights may feel tentative, but as long as you are careful and deliberate with the climb, you will be just fine.
Just for you we have created a PDF of our Havasu Falls Ultimate Packing List. Click HERE to download and customize as you need for your adventure.
While this is everything you will need for the backpacking portion of the trip, we highly recommend you have a separate bag waiting in the car with fresh clothes, underwear, and toiletries for the night after you hike out. You are guaranteed to be covered in layers of dust, bug spray, sunscreen, and sweat by the time you reach the trail head. Being able to shower all that off and put on clean, non backpacking clothes was incredibly refreshing.
Enjoy your Adventure
The trek to Havasu Falls is one of our family’s favorite adventures, and we can’t wait to do it again! We hope that many other people will be able to enjoy their explorations there, too. Let us know in the comments if you have questions or want to share your tips for this backpacking adventure. Until next time, get out and explore!