Havasupai... take two!

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about Havasupai

Havasupai is a sovereign nation with its own rules, customs, laws, and way of life - please be respectful of the land, the people, and your fellow visitors. The Havasupai Tribe (Havasupai meaning "People of the Blue-Green Water") hosts 20,000 visitors annually with an average of 300 daily.

I wrote about my first trip to Havasupai last year here. If you read it you will see how life changing this place can be - so when my computer would not load the reservation website and I missed out on permits for 2018 I was disappointed. Thankfully a few minutes later my good friend Ryan messaged me that he had obtained permits for May 19-22, 2018. The only real difference between last year and this year (aside from the time of year being much warmer) was the number of people in the valley. I spent three nights both times and was fortunate enough to stay in the same "campsite" but it felt as though there were at least twice as many people in the valley. I outline in this blog how we avoided the crowds (and having to use photoshop to remove other guests to the area).

This post is everything I wish I knew about visiting Havasupai before I was able to visit. All of the information and pricing is, to my knowledge and research, accurate and up to date at the time of writing, June 11, 2018.

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before you go

permitting

  • Day hikes are not permitted Havasupai Reservation!
  • Day hikers will be subjected to citation and be escorted out at own expense!
  • All visits require at least a one night reservation made prior to arrival.
  • All reservations include all necessary permits, fees, and taxes.
  • Campground reservations for 2018 are completely sold out - it is estimated that permits for 2019 will go on sale on February 1, 2019.
  • Campground reservations for all of 2018 (February 1 to November 30) started on February 1, 2018 at 8:00 AM Arizona Time.

    The campground is a "camp wherever you want" campground running for over a mile on both sides of Havasu Creek between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls in the Grand Canyon.

    There is a maximum of 4 Days / 3 Nights per reservation. You are welcome to make multiple back-to-back reservations to extend your stay if those dates are still available (however, there are no refunds on any resulting pricing differences).

    Pricing for 2018 is as follows and includes all necessary permits, fees, and taxes:
    One Person, 2 Days / 1 Night: $140.56USD
    One Person, 3 Days / 2 Nights: $171.12USD
    One Person, 4 Days / 3 Nights: $201.67USD

    Weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), Holiday weekday nights (February 19, May 28, July 4, September 3, October 8), and Spring Break weekday nights (March 5-8 and 19-22) are an additional $18.34USD per night.

    When making a reservation, you will have the option to add the name of a person you authorize to be able to use your reservation to check-in at the Tourist Office as if they were you. The reservation is only valid if at least one of the people named on the reservation is present at the Tourist Check-in Office in the Village of Supai (on the way to the campground) with photo ID - otherwise the reservation is NOT valid and will NOT be honored.

    All reservations are paid in full at the time the reservation is made and are NON-REFUNDABLE and NON-TRANSFERABLE (i.e. the individual listed on the reservation cannot transfer the reservation to another individual). Reselling of reserved permits is strictly prohibited. Any person caught reselling or buying a reserved permit may, at the discretion of the Havasupai Tribal Tourism Department, be permanently banned from Havasupai. Tribal discounts are processed upon check-in with a valid reservation and identification.
    This information is pulled from the reservation website: https://www.havasupaireservations.com/

  • It is NOT possible to make any new camping reservations
  • It is NOT possible to add people or nights to existing camping reservations
  • It is NOT possible to change the dates of an existing camping reservation

trailhead & parking

The trailhead (where you park your vehicle and begin your 8 mile hike to the Village of Supai) is called Hualapai Hilltop and is located at the end of Indian Road 18, 60 miles from the turnoff from Route 66 (which is 7 miles east of Peach Springs, Arizona). There are no fees or permits needed for parking here. There are also people checking permits for all hikers at the hilltop - in my two years of experience this parking lot is extremely safe.

The closest gas stations are nearly 70 miles from the trailhead in the town of Peach Springs tot eh west and 90miles to the town of Seligman to the east.

before & after lodging 

The closest to the trailhead lodge, restaurant, gas station, convenience store, RV Park, and campground are all at the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn. It is on Route 66 roughly 5 miles east of the turnoff to Indian Road 18 on the way to/from Phoenix: gccaverns.com/rooms-packages/the-caverns-inn/

Slightly farther away is the Hualapai Lodge. There is a restaurant in the Lodge and a gas station / convenience store across the street. It is on Route 66 roughly 7 miles west of the turnoff to Indian Road 18 on the way to/from Las Vegas. Note that this lodge is on a main train line with trains frequently passing by all day and night so it may not be ideal for light sleepers: grandcanyonwest.com/hualapai-lodge-and-route-66.htm

Do NOT “set up camp” in the parking lot - the parking lot is for vehicles only. This year we saw a number of people setting up camp along the rim... and one even blew over the rim as there is nothing to stake your tent into. We arrived late at night and slept in the car for a few hours before our 3am departure into the canyon. For anyone thinking they will "sneak in" without a permit in the middle of the night - there is someone 24/7 checking every hiker at the hilltop, in the town and at various points along the trail. 

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hike, heli or mule - how to get to havasupai

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hike

  • The trail from Hualapai Hilltop to the first major waterfall (Havasu) and the beginning of the campground is approximately 10 miles and includes an elevation loss of 2,000 feet (610m) - the most dramatic losses in elevation are in the first mile and last two miles of the hike.
  • All of the major waterfalls are between the Village and the north side of the campground except for Beaver Falls (which is an additional 6 mile round trip hike with multiple water crossings). 
  • Amplified music is not permitted anywhere along the trail or in the campground.
  • Music via headphones are not recommended as you will not be able to hear pack mules approaching (see below for right-of-way regulations).
  • Elevation profile of the hike:
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helicopter

Helicopter service (provided by AirWest) is very limited and only sometimes available, so plan your trip without relying on it (consider the helicopter only as a possible backup option if it does end up being available - and be prepared to hike with all your gear if it is not available).

Helicopter service is sometimes available (weather permitting) on Fridays and Sundays. Between March 15 and October 15, it is also sometimes available on Thursdays and Mondays.

The fee for the helicopter is currently $85 per person one way, includes one bag of up to 40 pounds. Bring cash since the credit card machine is not always working (and will cost you an extra $10 per transaction if it is). I have hear rumours that he cost for the helicopter will be going up this season significantly. 

Signup normally begins between 10am and 1pm, but the line often starts significantly earlier (the girls hiking with us packed up came around 4am to get in line for the helicopter) and, even if you are first in line, you will probably NOT fly until much much later in the day, and possibly not at all.

The helicopter service is primarily for the benefit of Supai residents and Village business - and visitors are thus the lowest priority for helicopter use.

See how unreliable this sounds : always plan on hiking in/out.

mule & horse

Reservations Required for Pack Mules and Saddle (Riding) Horses
All fees are subject to change without prior notice. Reservations must be made in advance (at least one day before, and up to one week prior to arrival) through the Tourism Office via one of these numbers:

(928) 448-2180
(928) 448-2237
(928) 448-2141
(928) 448-2121

Pack Mules (fees are per Pack Mule)
Between Campground (or Lodge) and Hilltop Trailhead: $132 one way, $264 round trip.
One Pack Mule can carry a maximum of 4 bags for a total weight of 130 lbs.
Maximum Baggage Size: 36 inches long and 19 inches wide.
Ice Chest: Max 48 quart capacity, not to exceed 24' long and 19' wide.
Maximum size and weight limits are strictly enforced.
$300 extra for a late run (if you miss the 7AM campsite drop off).

Saddle (Riding) Horses (fees are per Saddle Horse)
Between Campground (or Lodge) and Hilltop Trailhead: $250 one way.
Between Campground and Village: $175 one way.
Limitations: Maximum body weight of 250 lbs, small daypack no more than 10 lbs, long pants, and at least some prior horseback riding experience.

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NOTES

Trail etiquette

sharing the trail with mules:

  • Mules ALWAYS have the right of way and can quickly catch up to the average hiker - so be aware of your surroundings so you don’t get run over.

  • When on steep switchback sections, step to the side of the trail that is away from the edge, remain quiet and still, and give the mules plenty of time and space to safely pass.

sharing the trail with other hikers:

  • Uphill hikers have the right of way over downhill hikers.

  • If you are descending, slow down and yield to uphill hikers.

  • Some uphill hikers may see you and decide to stop or step off the trail - it's their call.

  • To pass someone who is headed the same direction on a narrow section of trail, slow down and politely let them know you would like to pass (a cheerful “hello!” usually works nicely).

  • Communicate in a clear quiet friendly tone. Do not yell.

  • Do not expect slower hikers to move out of your way.

  • Keep in mind that some hikers may not speak English and may not understand you.

water

  • There is drinking water available from a freshwater spring in the campground.
  • All other water should be treated before using.
  • If you want to be to be extra safe, consider filtering all water - I didn't filter the water from the spring and didn't die. 

weather

toilets

  • There are toilets at the trailhead, in the Village (north of the basketball court, across from the helipad), and throughout the campground. Please use them if at all possible.
  • If you must go anywhere else, since it is a high traffic trail in a narrow canyon that is often near the creek, please be courteous to other visitors and pack out everything that is non-liquid, including toilet paper (ideally, use a “wag bag” - but if you don’t have a “wag bag” then Ziploc Freezer Bags will work - flip the bag inside out and use as a glove to pick up all solids and then flip back and seal up and place in another sealed up outer Ziploc Freezer Bag).
  • Beyond that, please always practice Leave No Trace Principles: lnt.org/learn/7-principles

soap

  • Please do NOT use soap or shampoo of any kind in or around the water.
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my itinerary
(aka how to avoid the crowds, have fun & capture amazing images)

day one

  • Car-camp at Hualhupi Hilltop parking lot and wake up at an ungoldy hour to hike in to avoid the desert heat. We woke up at 3am to get on the trail for 3:30am - make sure too have your permit handy as it will be checked at the trailhead. 
  • Stop in the town of Supai and check-in at the visitor centre. 
  • Make it down to the ranger station and pick up a 5-gallon bucket to protect your food from the squirrels. 
  • Set up camp(the further down the campground the better) and have lunch. 
  • While everyone is getting ready for dinner shoot Mooney Falls (it was empty around 4pm). 
  • Eat dinner
  • Get some sleep.

day two

  • Wake up an hour before sunrise. 
  • Hike to beaver until the sun hits the falls or people show up, whichever comes first (we were there for almost three hours before either of these happened)
  • Hike back to camp and eat lunch.
  • Have that afternoon nap we all know you need.  
  • Shoot Havasu Falls while everyone else eats dinner.
  • Late dinner.
  • Sleep!

day three

  • Havasu take two!
  • Sneak up to 50 foot falls while the morning light is still nice.
  • Visit Navajo Falls and maybe take a swim.
  • Chat with the rangers who will explain to you how to get down to Hidden Falls safely!
  • Eat Lunch
  • Relax, enjoy life, play in the water, take a nap
  • Eat Dinner
  • Head to be early - big day hiking out tomorrow.

day four

  • Remember that ungodly hour from day one? Well it's time to visit that again - remember that the hardest part of the hike is at the end so the earlier you get up and start hiking the cooler it will be. 
  • Drink coffee.
  • Hike out
  • Pat yourself on the back for getting out before the heat of the day. If you're out early they have ice cold water, pop and snacks for sale in the parking lot!
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my (warmer weather) packing list for three nights at havasupai

bring

  • Backpacking backpack - 50L
  • Water(and you will want lots of it) - it is recommended to bring a minimum of 3L (2 gallons) of water for each the hike in and out. There is no water at the hilltop, and remember to leave some in your car for when you get out - you will want it.
  • Camp stove - for me the lighter the better but fires are prohibited on the reservation so you will want a way to boil water (and make coffee) - the smallest canister of fuel will be more than enough and don't forget waterproof matches (self igniters sometimes fail too - Ryan's did on this trip, and it is worth bringing a lighter to avoid a smug Andrea)
  • Food - I packed in oatmeal and almond butter for breakfast, dehydrated meals for dinners and too many salty and sweet snacks for the inbetweens - we relied on the cantinas for lunch (to save weight and also they are delicious!)
  • Cash - all businesses in Supai that we visited were cash only(USD)
  • Daypack - someone told me this before heading down and I was hesitant, but I tucked the lightest and most compact day pack I could find into my backpack and used it every day for adventures
  • Dry bags - for your hike over to beaver falls or the confluence.
  • Camera - with spare batteries
  • Headlamp / lanterns for camp
  • Sleeping bag / tent / mattress pad OR hammock and appreciate accessories
  • Sunscreen and lip chap with SPF
  • First-Aid kit and wet wipes
  • Clothing - I brought(and used) a pair of shorts, a pair of tights, two tank tops, a long sleeved shirt, a down jacket(nighttime still gets cold), a lightweat rain shell and of course underwear
  • Swimsuit - although jumping from the waterfalls is not allowed you will still want to swim in the water - and if you make the trek to Beaver falls you will end up in crotch deep water when river crossing
  • Hiking shoes/boots/trail runners - the trek down is 10 miles but not technical, make sure you have comfortable shoes to do it in - I used trail runners last year and lightweight hikers this year.
  • Water shoes/Sandals - keep your hikers dry for the trek out, and also the rocks can be both sharp and slippery in and around the water

food storage 

  • Small wild critters in the campground (mice, squirrels, etc) will try to get to your food (and anything else with an odor), even if it means chewing through your pack or tent. This has happened to almost everyone I know who has been to Havasupai including our group last year.
  • Store all such items in odor and rodent proof containers.
  • There is a very limited supply of five gallon buckets with lids in the campground (but please do not count on being able to get one and come prepared if one of those buckets is not available). This was our lifesaver this year! 
  • At the very least, put everything in a Ziploc freezer bag (to limit the odor) and then put that in a Ratsack or waterproof bag (to prevent critters from chewing through) and then hang from a tree (to keep it out of reach). But these squirrels mean business and we even had one try to steal food from a campsite while people were there.

leave at home

  • Alcohol is NOT permitted
  • Drones are NOT permitted
  • Jumping / diving / rock climbing is NOT permitted
  • Amplified music is NOT permitted

(this list is pulled directly from the website of the Havasupai tribe -  be respectful and remember that you are a visitor to their land.)

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Thank you to my good friend Ryan Clennett for obtaining permits, helping me capture photos and being the raddest hiking partner this trip!