A few months ago, I visited Havasu Falls for the first time. It was incredible! While I’d seen photos and had heard great stories from friends who’d been there, I didn’t quite understand how beautiful it was until I arrived. While I was planning the trips with friends, I realized there are plenty of photos of the falls and campground out there but there aren’t too many resources that clearly spell out how to plan your trip. This post is my solution; my Havasupai camping guide that will walk you through the permit process, the hike down to the falls, camping, and what to pack.
Havasupai Camping Guide: The Best Time to Visit Havasu Falls
Located in Arizona, it’s no surprise that a trip to the Havasupai Reservation can be HOT. When you plan your trip, make sure to carefully consider what you’d like to experience most. Are you most keen on swimming? You’ll love a summer visit to Havasupai. More interested in hiking and smaller crowds? The late fall months (when I visited) would be most ideal. Consider the following pros and cons when deciding when to visit Havasupai:
Pros: Amazing, hot weather perfect for swimming and spending you days in that gorgeous blue water
Cons: Tons of people, monsoon season could mean flash flooding, and potentially miserable conditions for the 9+ mile hike to/from the falls
Pros: Fewer crowds, more comfortable sleeping and hiking conditions
Cons: Water temps may not be ideal for much more than dipping your toes in depending on your tolerance for cold water
Havasupai Camping Guide: How to Get to Havasu Falls
Roughly 5 hours from Phoenix and 4 from Vegas, the Havasupai Reservation is an easy drive on paved roads. Once you arrive at the trailhead, there is parking and a small bathroom area. Note: There is no water at the trailhead so plan appropriately! When I visited with my friends, we camped in the parking area the night before so we could get an early start for the hike down the next morning.
Havasupai Camping Guide: Obtaining a Permit for Havasu Falls
Permits are most likely the trickiest part of your trip, and they must be obtained in advance. Usually, all permits are sold out completely during the first few months of each new year. It’s a simple system that requires you to call in or, new for 2017, register online. If you’re calling in, know it can literally take hours to secure the correct permits so be prepared to keep trying! When we first began calling, it was nonstop busy signals for a while. Luckily, we managed to eventually get through. The last time I checked, the online reservation system was shut down due to volume issues with the host, so it may be best to simply call in.
One tip for permits for Havasupai is to have flexible dates. If you keep a flexible mindset, you can continue to call in the event someone cancels and a reservation opens up. You never know when you may be able to sneak in your trip despite permits originally being sold out for the year!
Here’s the fine print for the permit process:
- Payment must be made in full at the time of the reservation
- Only one card can be used to make the reservation
- There are no name transfers or refunds offered for any reason
- The reservation line is: (928) 448-2121
- There is no dayhiking on the Havasupai Reservation; if you’re caught without a permit, you’ll be charged at least double the regular price
Havasupai Camping Guide: Havasu Falls Permit Fees
When planning a trip to Havasu falls, keep in mind that if you stay longer, your price per night decreases. This is because the reservation charges an entrance fee. I’ve never heard of any discounts offered other than Native Americans who have a current Tribal ID card (no entrance fee charged).
- Camping: $25/night/person
- Entrance Fee: $50/person
- Environmental Fee: $10/person
- Tax: 10%
Havasupai Camping Guide: The Hike Down to Havasu
From the Hualapai Hilltop parking area, the trail down to the Havasu Falls campground is 9.5 miles. Roughly 7.5 miles into the hike, you’ll reach Supai village where you will check in, obtain wristbands for everyone in your group, and find restrooms, a cafe, a small general store, and the helicopter pad. Overall, the hike in is easy, scenic, and on a clearly identifiable path (an initial section of switchbacks from the parking lot followed by a sandy wash with towering rock walls around you).
For the hike out, ensure you’re adequately prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and sun protection. If you will be hiking during the summer months, the temperature and sun can be a brutal combination. For this reason, most campers opt for a very early morning departure. Usually, most summer hikers are up & heading out of Havasupai Campground by 4-5 AM. When I visited in the fall, we began our hike out at 7 AM. The sun was still pretty intense as there is little to no shade for most of the hike. All this being said, if you’re smart you’ll have a fantastic workout coupled with gorgeous views and scenery!
If you’re not a hiker but still want to explore the gorgeous grounds and camp, you can opt to take the helicopter in/out of Havasupai. While fees vary, my boyfriend’s mom took this option and ended up paying $185 for her round-trip ticket. Additionally, if you’d like to hike but don’t want to schlep all of your gear on your back, the Reservation offers pack mules. As of 2017, it’s $121 each way for up to 4 bags. Some of our friends opted to mule their packs for the hike back up and split the cost. I personally would rather carry my things as I hike, but I wanted to make sure I included all options for everyone in this camping guide. 🙂
Havasupai Camping Guide: Camping in Havasupai
The campground at Havasupai is gorgeous. Filled with trees, streams, and fun natural bridges, there are plenty of places to tuck away. Each site has a picnic table and lots of trees for those of us who love our hammocks. During my trip, I tested out my new
One important note is there are absolutely zero fires allowed anywhere in the campground. Also of note for some is there are no shower facilities. There’s a wonderful spring to fill your water bottles and containers and decently maintained flush toilets for your convenience.
Havasupai Camping Guide: What to Pack
Packing for Havasu Falls is like most hiking/backpacking trips, plus a few fun extras. Keep in mind that if you opt to hike in and out of the Havasupai Campground, you’ll most likely have all of these things on your back so remember to keep it light when possible!
Here are the Havasupai-specifics for what to pack, plus links to my personal favorite products that I take with me:
- Bathing Suit
- Water shoes
- Waterproof camera case
- Hydration pack and filtration (while the spring is clean and tested monthly, there are times when it’s recommended people filter their water)
- Bug spray
- Towel (preferably something that dries quickly)
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