A trip to Havasu Falls had long been on my bucket list. For years I lusted over pictures I’d come across, depicting an other-worldly land with mystical turquoise waters everywhere one looks. I finally made my dreams a reality, and obtained a highly coveted permit for a June 2017 hike. Being a first-timer, I didn’t know what to expect when preparing for a trip to Havasu Falls. Like many getting ready for a trip, I scoured the internet, reading blog after blog in hopes I could find enough information to adequately prepare me for my upcoming adventure.
While I did find plenty of useful tips and tricks to prepare me for my trek through Havasu Canyon, there were still a number of things I wish I had known beforehand. Had I known these key pieces of advice, it would have made my trip even more spectacular than it was. If you plan to go to Havasu Falls soon, or it’s slowly making your way up your bucket list, here are 10 things I wish I had known before my trip in hopes it helps yours be more seamless.
Hike Out Early
By early, I mean literally far before the sun rises. This is especially important and crucial during warm months when temperatures can skyrocket to nearly 85 degrees by 9am. It takes the average hiker approximately 4-5 hours to get from Hualapai Hilltop (trailhead) to the Havasupai campgrounds. A 3am start time is ideal to ensure you get the most shade coverage as possible on an already lengthy hike.
Be Aware of Helicopter Service
You may have high hopes of hiking the full 20+ miles it takes to get out-and-back from Havasu Falls, but sometimes are body tells us otherwise. If you are feeling extremely fatigued, ill, or simply like you can’t make it back by foot, don’t push yourself. You know your body better than anyone and sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry. Helicopter services are available on certain days of the week during certain times.
Please note that passengers are accommodated on a first come first serve basis. If you know you want to take the helicopter out, it’s best to get to the Tourism Office as early as possible to check-in. At the time of this post, the cost to fly out was around $85 in cash per person.
Mules Can Carry Your Pack
Although this is a controversial topic due to discussions of animal cruelty, mules can and will carry your packs for you both going in and coming out of Havasupai. For around $120 one way at the time of this post, a mule can carry up to four packs on their backs to and from the campground. I considered this on my hike in, but opted to carry my pack in instead to see the conditions of the mules before deciding to have them carry my pack out.
All the mules appear to be very well cared for and taken care of by the Havasupai people. I never once questioned the health of these animals, and furthermore read an informative article written in response to abuse allegations in which the tribe responds, “No one values the well-being of the horses in Supai more than the Havasupai people.” This seemed entirely true based on my own personal experience in Supai.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
It may sound like common sense, but a decent night of sleep will do your body wonders. A few of our friends camped at the top of Hualapai Hilltop and didn’t’ have the best night’s sleep the night before their hike. Needless to say, the 10-mile trek to the campgrounds was nothing short of exhausting for them. If you have trouble sleeping while camping, opt for either the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn or the Hualapai Lodge. Both are a little over an hour drive to reach Hualapai Hilltop, but may be worth it for the comfort.
Drink Electrolyte Drinks
The hike to Havasu Falls is strenuous one, even for the most experienced hiker. Hiking 10 miles with a pack is no easy feat, especially when heat is involved. Your body will expend an adequate amount of energy. In situations like these, water is simply not enough to stay fueled. I’d recommend bringing at least one electrolyte drink to help maintain your energy levels and stay safe. Electrolytes will help you avoid cramping and promote proper functioning of your digestive, nervous, cardiac, and muscular systems.
Bring a Day Pack and Water Shoes
When you’re packing your backpack, it’s likely you wouldn’t think to bring yet another pack. Yet the last thing you’ll want to do once you’ve hiked 10 miles and reached the Havasupai campgrounds is lug your heavy pack any further. Instead, bring a small pack to carry water/food for your shorter treks to the nearby Mooney and Beaver Falls. You’ll also want to bring water shoes as the rocks near the falls are slippery and can be painful to walk on.
Watch Out for Squirrels
The squirrels you’ll find at the campgrounds are clearly comfortable around humans. They have no problem digging through your bags, rummaging through your tents, and scurrying through your campsite to find food. Avoid run-ins with these cute critters by keeping your food tightly sealed and out of sight. We kept ours zipped in our tent and only had trouble with them when we were trying to cook.
It’s a rarity for me to carry cash on me these days. I think most people will echo the same sentiment. Havasupai is a place you’ll want to bring some extra cash. Credit cards are accepted at the registration office, however there are a few instances where cash is helpful and needed. If you want to divulge in the delicious pop-up Frye Bread stand they have in the campgrounds, cash is only accepted here. Additionally, cash is needed at the village café. If you’re booking a helicopter ride out of Supai, you will be charged an additional $10 for using a credit card.
Filter Your Water
The Havasupai Campgrounds does have one natural spring where campers can fill up their water. However, untreated water from a spring does have the potential to cause illness, which happened to me. I would recommend bringing water filtration tablets, or a compact filtration system to avoid getting sick. You want to take full advantage of the limited time you have here, and this is near impossible when you aren’t feeling 100%.
Take a Nap in a Hammock
After stalking #Havasupai photos on Instagram for a good month, I saw an abundance of hammocks. This led me to believe that most campsites were located near trees. When I arrived at the Havasupai campgrounds I wasn’t misled. Indeed, no matter where your campsite is, there is a large likelihood that a tree will be nearby. It’s worthwhile to bring a hammock and take a quick power nap after a long hike to the campground before chasing the nearby waterfalls.
Fees to Keep in Mind (as of summer 2020)
- Cost to hire a mule one way: $121
- Cost to fly out of Supai Village: $85
- Camping permit: $25 per person, per night
- Environmental fee: $10 per person
- Entrance fee: $50 per person
- Havasupai Lodge up to 4 people/room: $145/night (does not include entrance fee)