Everything You Need To Know About Havasupai Falls
Booking a Reservation
If you desire to go to Havasupai Falls, set multiple alarms to get your a$$ out of bed on February 1st before 8am Arizona Time. Have the website up on your computer and the phone number (928-448-2141) on speed dial. Be prepared with the list of nights you'd like to camp, including backup dates, and the number of people in your party. When the clock strikes 8am, have one hand free to refresh the website and the other hand free to press redial. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Tickets for the season are released all at once and sell out before you can say "They're all gone already?!" While the actual process of getting a reservation is not complicated, waiting for your server or phone line to connect you to the reservation center can cause some major anxiety. It is rumored that only 300 permits are issued per day and with the increasing popularity of the falls (Thanks, Pinterest), these tickets are becoming harder and harder to get each year.
I won't bore you with details of price and maximum night stay as the Official Havasupai Tribe Website includes a detailed explanation of that. What I will leave you with is this: it's worth it. The anxiety, the money, the long hike, it's all worth it.
Best Time of Year To Visit
If you are looking to swim in the crystal clear turquoise water that tumbles over gorgeous rock canyon formations into magnificent open pools, then go during Spring or Fall. Going during April/May or September/October months can almost guarantee you some time to doggy paddle around. Try not to choke while gawking at the beauty of where you are.
Spring and Fall not hot enough for you? Then June-August may be a better option. Just note, it gets really hot (over 100°F). You will need to hike in and out of the canyon while the sun is asleep to avoid this part of your trip being unbearable. Also, you may be SOL since this is monsoon season and flash floods do occur.
My trip took place from February 12th to February 15th. Yes, it was cold. I had to rent a 25°F cold weather sleeping bag from REI. It was also pleasant hiking weather and less crowded. People who aren't as interested in swimming, but more interested in connecting with the ethereal Havasupai Indian Reservation may want to consider coming during Late-February/March or Late-October/November.
What Camping/Hiking Gear To Bring
Quality Hiking Pack: I have the Osprey Kyte 46L. This is the same bag I used to backpack through Thailand and Indonesia for one month. It comes with an external hydration pocket, a rain cover, trekking pole loops, lots of pockets and top and bottom compression straps. On this Havasupai Falls trip, a raccoon or squirrel found its way through my bag. Forced to look for a new pack, I am interested in the Osprey Aura AG 65L due to its padded 3D Anti-Gravity™ suspension system.
Hydration Reservoir: Depending on the brand of your bag and the liter size it allows will determine which hydration reservoir you have. I have the Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir. Whichever hydration reservoir you choose, make sure to include a bite value cover unless you enjoy drinking dust and mud. Don't worry about bringing extra water than what you need for the hike in. When you get to the campground there is a fern spring you can drink from. No filter needed.
Waterproof Hiking Boots: I have a pair of Asolo's. In total, we hiked over 39 miles in four days and most of those miles were wet. You will want a good pair of waterproof hiking boots that won't leave you with wet socks or blisters. Bring a first-aid kit just incase.
Water Shoes: I have a pair from Teva. You will want water shoes to comfortably walk around the pools without worrying about your feet. I find Teva's extremely comfortable and a good choice because you can hike with them as well. The hike to Beaver Fall's included four river crossings. Instead of switching back and forth between my Teva's and Asolo's constantly, I simply tied my Asolos to the outside of my pack and wore my Teva's most of the way.
Lightweight Tent: Devin and I found an amazing deal during one of REI's garage sales on a Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 Tent. When purchasing a tent, make sure you will be okay with carrying the weight of it through the Canyon. Also ensure it is the appropriate size for your party. You will want to bring a rainfly if your tent does not come with one.
Sleeping Bag: As mentioned earlier, I went during February when the nights were freezing. I rented a 25°F bag from REI. It cost me $30 for 4 days/3 nights. The sleeping bag I own could only handle weather up to 40°F so REI's rental program was a good option for me. It is also a good option for those who don't camp often and want a temporary solution. They rent much more than just sleeping bags. You will also want a lightweight sleeping pad to cushion the ground beneath your bag and a blow up pillow.
Rain Shell: Layers are your best friend. During the day it could be 70°F and sunny while at night it could be 30°F and raining. I love my Marmot rain shell because it works well and folds up small.
Headlamp: A headlamp (or flashlight) is always a good idea. Simply said, once nighttime falls, it gets dark. With a headlamp you can easily navigating the campsite after the sun sets. You don't want to trip on the way to the bathroom. Talk about awkward. If your headlamp takes batteries, make sure to have extra. If it takes a charge, like mine, bring a potable charger.
How Much Food To Bring
When you're thinking about how much food to bring, consider how much weight you're willing to carry and what you're willing to live without. Devin tried to convince me that we'd be fine living off CLIF bars for four days, I'm glad I didn't listen. Instead, I bought us flatbread (so we didn't worry about the bread getting squished) and Justin's peanut butter with honey packets. I also bought us ham and cheese cold cuts. Because we didn't have a cooler, a quarter-of-a-pound of each was enough for a hike snack and dinner that same day.
We brought all of our favorite camping/hiking snacks: jerky, protein bars, Honey Stinger Waffles, shot bloks, and individually packaged protein shakes for our blender bottle. We wouldn't have gone hungry, but we were thankful that there were options for food. By the campground there is a fry bread hut, offering sweet fry breads, tacos, and hotdogs. Also, there is a market in Supai, the town just 2.5 miles outside of the campground. Here we bought apples, peanut M&Ms, iced tea, cantaloupe, pineapple, and more. Avoid the first small market you arrive at from the hike in. It is very expensive. Go to the market in the center of Supai, next to the basketball court.
Other campers have suggested bringing a Jetboil. A jetboil will give you boiling water fast to make freeze-dried meals, instant coffee, macaroni and cheese cups, or whatever your heart desires. Note that going this route may require bringing utensils.
Make sure to hang your food from a string in a bag off a tree branch or put it in a tightly sealed bucket. The raccoons and squirrels like to eat too. Also, leave no trace. This means, whatever garbage you bring in, plan to bring a bag to hike it out. If you need a bag or a bucket, ask the ranger at the entrance of the campground.
Havasupai Falls will leave your heart full with beautiful waterfalls to remember forever. In order of which falls you will see first hiking into the campground, the five major falls are known as the Fifty Foot Falls, Navajo Falls, Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls. From the campground, the first three are easy for hikers at any level to get to. The last two take more effort.
Because Havasu Falls is the closest of the easier falls from the campground, it is good to save for your last day before hiking out. On Valentines Day, Devin and I sat at a picnic table around Havasu Falls admiring the beauty of nature. PS We were told it is possible to swim behind the falls and enter a small rock shelter.
Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls can be done in the same day. At the end of the campground there is a sign that reads, "Descend at own risk." These are the last words I read prior to hiking through two tunnels before descending 200 vertical feet to Mooney Falls holding nothing but chains and ladders. Mooney Falls is the tallest and most forceful of the five waterfalls which soaks the surrounding rocks making the hike down steep and slick. Slow and steady wins the race on this one.
After making it down and enjoying Mooney Falls, there are four miles left to reach Beaver Falls. These four miles felt like a real-life game of chutes and ladders. Submerging knee deep to cross the river multiple times while following a network of rickety ladders nourished by inner child's sense of adventure. Arriving at Beaver Falls will make you thankful you surpassed any fear of heights that may have held you back. From Beaver Falls there is an option to hike to the Colorado River, but we heard the water was still too high in February so we didn't attempt to go further.
Why You Shouldn't Bring Your Dog
Anyone who knows Devin and I understands that when they invite us somewhere, they are also inviting our husky, Jack. He comes nearly everywhere with us. After some negative feedback on bringing a dog to Havasupai Falls, we decided to leave him behind and safe with friends. Here's why:
Although dogs are more than welcome on the Indian Reservation, there are already too many dogs to count. Wild dogs are common in Havasupai Falls and while most of them mind their own business, this means you have to keep your dog on a leash at all times to avoid doggy conflict. (Jack hates being on a leash.)
From the hilltop to the campground, paid mules hike back and forth carrying hikers belongings. They also go #2 a lot. This fecal matter ends up in rain puddles that our dog would definitely find interest in drinking from. Also in reference to the mules, they speed through the trails with a one-track mind and won't stop to avoid your dog if he/she gets in the way.
Most importantly, your dog will be unable to go past the campground to Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls. If you read earlier in "The Waterfalls" section, the descent to these falls are vertical and you need opposable thumbs to hold onto the chains and ladders to make it down safely. This significantly reduces your range of exploring while in the canyon.
Some Do's and Dont's
Do bring a camera. Havasupai Falls is extremely photogenic.
Don't bring a drone. It's not allowed.
Do bring a hammock. There are plenty of spots to hang a hammock and relax.
Don't bring alcohol. It's not allowed.
Do abide by quiet hours. These are listed on a sign at the entrance of the campground.
Don't attempt to day hike. After hiking eight miles in, you will be turned away in Supai.
Do bring baby wipes to "shower." There are toilets, but no showers.
Photography by Devin Groody.