Havasupai Falls Backpacking Guide

If you love chasing waterfalls, enjoy hiking in canyons, swimming in beautiful turquoise waters, and sleeping under the stars then Supai, Arizona should be on your adventure destination list! Supai is an amazing destination where you not only get to experience the famous Havasupai Falls but also Mooney Falls, Navajo Falls, Fifty Foot Falls, Beaver Falls, and more!

Havasupai Falls
Another one of Havasupai Falls because it’s just so beautiful
Beaver Falls from the Canyon

Navajo Falls
Fifty Foot Falls

Booking Your Reservation

The trickiest part is securing a reservation. I call it tricky because you have to keep calling in the second reservations for the season open up on February 1st. I’ve heard the office hours are from 7am-7pm Arizona Time but this is not confirmed. Reservations book up fast so your best bet is to call on February 1st and keep calling until you get someone on the line.

The campground lines:

928-448-2121, 928-448-2141, 928-448-2180

Update (2/2/17): You can now book reservations online using the official Havasupai Tribe Site!

When making your reservation be ready to make the payment for your group. All fees and prices are subject to change without prior notice. Confirm pricing with the Havasupai Tourist Enterprises when making your reservation.

Environmental Care Fee: $5 per person
Entry Fee: $35 per person + 10% tax is for entrance to the Havasupai Indian Reservation
Campground Fee: $17/person/night + 10% tribal tax

During the reservation process, you can also reserve a horse to ride in (see below for alternative ways of getting to Supai) or a mule to carry your belongings.

Tips on Scoring a Permit

*Look at weekday dates
*Try the shoulder seasons (peak is May to August)
*Join hiking or outdoors groups (members may be planning trips and when someone can no longer go they usually post about opening in these types of group pages)

The Drive to The Trailhead

It took almost seven hours to drive from Los Angeles to reach the Hualapai Hilltop Trailhead. The van we rented was loaded up with myself and 11 other girls. We left LA at 9:45pm and arrived around 4:30am the following morning. We wanted to start early so we could avoid as much heat as possible. And we decided to drive straight there instead of getting a hotel close to the trailhead. The closest hotel/motel is about 65 miles away which is another option or you can also sleep in your car at the trailhead. It’s all pavement at the trailhead and I don’t believe you can pitch a tent.

The Hike In

The hike in is 10 miles (eight from the trailhead to the village and another two miles to the campground) but it’s all downhill making it a bit easier on you. Most people choose to carry their own backpack in with all their gear but there is an option to utilize a mule. Mules can carry up to 130 pounds and can carry up to four packs (the items need to be in a duffle bag or a backpack so that’s easy to distribute the weight on the mule). The mules can carry up to four individual bags.

Trail to Supai at sunrise
Right before the campground you’ll reach Havasupai Falls

Alternative Ways of Getting to Supai

If the 10 mile hike in is a bit too much there’s a couple options. You can ride a horse in. Or you can helicopter in. From March 15 to October 15 the helicopter runs from 10am – 1pm on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday. From October 16 to March 14 it runs Sunday and Friday from 10am – 1pm. It’s first come, first serve so it’s important to arrive early to secure a place in line. They pick up and drop off between the the hilltop, just below the trailhead on the canyon side and the helipad next to the tourism office. Each way will cost $85 and cash payment is recommended.

Please keep in mind that prices are subject to change. Airwest is the helicopter operator.

Rates for Horses & Mules:
Round Trip: Hilltop to campground & Back is $187
One Way: $95
Rates are always subject to change, check with the office

If you just need to secure a mule for the way out like my friends and I did arrangements can be made in person at the office. You can do this at check in or after but you do need to do it at least a day prior to your departure date. We did this the second day after we realized how much hiking we were going to be doing (and how much we had already done).

Note that there have been reports of animal cruelty especially with the horses at Havasupai. I did see some horses that were a bit on the skinny side but I didn’t see anything first-hand beyond that. The mules appeared to be in good shape. Please take into consideration the animals at Havasupai. If something doesn’t feel right or look right and you’re able to hike in/out or take your pack in/out, please do.

Setting Up Camp

There are no assigned camping sites at Supai. It’s first come, first serve. The campground is long and has plenty of room so scout around for a spot that works for you. There are plenty of trees so it’s a perfect campground for a hammock. I took my 2-person tent but a friend of mine brought an extra hammock for me. I slept in the hammock the first two nights. The night can get a little chilly. It was about 50 degree F at the end of summer and I was comfortable sleeping in my sleeping bag. It did get a bit chilly the first night when I decided I didn’t need the sleeping back. That was a mistake. I crawled into my tent for the rest of the night.

The campsite stretches along a stream that leads to Mooney Falls. You can sleep pretty close to the top of Mooney Falls if you’d like but it is pretty noisy. However, this area is great for star gazing because there are no trees in the way.

What To Do at Supai

There’s plenty to do at Supai. Once you’ve reached the Supai Village you will have completed eight miles. You might still have cellular service here but once you’re at the campground that service will be long gone so if you need to make a call do it here. There’s also wifi in the lodge so if you’re having trouble connecting try to get on the wifi.

On the two-mile hike from the village to the campground, you’ll pass Navajo Falls and Havasupai Falls. These are great waterfalls that are in the immediate area. At the end of the campground is Mooney Falls. You’ll have to climb down a rock tunnel on wooden ladders. Be cautious because the ladders do get wet from the falls and become slippery. Once you’re down there you can hang out near the falls or in the lower “pool” area. There’s also a rope swing you can jump off from.

On the trail to the campground, you’ll pass Navajo Falls
Hanging out behind waterfalls
Climbing down to Mooney Falls
Mooney Falls from above
Mooney Falls

Three miles from Mooney Falls is Beaver Falls. This waterfall isn’t massive in height like many of the other falls but the swimming area is wide. There’s also less of a crowd since it’s further away from the campground.

Beaver Falls September 2016
Beaver Falls September 2017

If you get tired of the waterfalls (but why would you?) you can hike to the Colorado River. From Beaver Falls it’s about an additional five miles although I’m not sure how accurate that is. My friends and I attempted the hike but we lost the trail. However one of my friends tried to find the trail again the following day and it was a success. She tracked about 26 miles that day on her Fitbit so it’s possible that the trail she ended up taking was a bit longer.

There are tons to explore around the campground. Our group was large and some of the girls found a “pool” on top of Havasupai Falls they hung out in while others hung out in the hammocks. And if you love lounging in the water don’t forget your pool floatie!

Camping Food

Prepping food for camping is one of my favorite things to do. You’ll probably be doing a lot of hiking while at Supai so load up on carbs and foods that are high in sodium. My favorite camping food is ramen noodles. I easily boil water with a portable stove and I’m ready to go. My friends are big fans of pre-made backpacking meals. Mountain House is a popular brand and you can purchase this online or at an outdoors equipment store such as REI. I also like tuna in a pouch and Spam in a pouch. Spam isn’t a favorite for everyone but eating some sort of meat product while roughing it just hits the spot. Alternatively, you can bring beef jerky to satisfy your carnivore needs. And if you’re a fan ofa s’mores like me, pre-pack the amount you’ll use you need to make some.

Don’t forget snacks like nuts, trail m, x and dried fruit. Bars also go a long way especially when you’re hiking. Clif, Kind and Larabars are my favorites. I also bring dark chocolate. I have a sweet tooth and I’m a happier camper when I have some chocolate. An important substance that isn’t really a snack is energy chews and gels. What are energy chews you might ask? They are gummy chews (or a gel) that you eat (or drink) to give you a boost of energy. These are great for the hike in and out. I took about eight packs and each pack came with four chews.

I keep all my food in an odor-proof bag no matter where I’m backpacking. It keeps my food dry and organized in my pack and animals can’t smell that I have food. At the campground, you can borrow a bucket with a top to store your food. This is recommended so critters don’t mess with your food. I saw a mouse one night but they’re just looking for something to eat.

An important thing to remember is to stay hydrated! Water is an absolute must while hiking. You’ll want at least three liters for the hike in and at least 5 for the hike out, especially if you’re in the heat. There’s clean drinking water at the campsite so unless you’re going on an extra long excursion that’s away from the campground you can forgo the water filter. And to make sure you’re staying hydrated, pack some electrolytes. I brought dissolvable electrolyte tablets and dropped them into my water bottle.

What to Pack

Basic backpacking gear is recommended for Supai. If you’re only planning on staying in a tent, bring a tent but if you have a hammock and are comfortable sleeping in it you can leave your tent behind. However do check the weather for rain. It rained while I was there which is common in the canyon so you’ll want a waterproof tarp to put over your hammock and belongings. I also recommend a sleeping bag. Check the weather to make sure your sleeping bag will keep you warm enough.

You’ll need cooking supplies for your food and a utensil to eat with (a backpackers multi-use utensil works best). If you’re in a group I recommend consolidated and only bring one portable stove for every four people. And don’t forget propane. Depending on the group size and what you’re planning to make you may only need a small canister.

Gear List:
• Tent and/or hammock
Waterproof tarp
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad if you're sleeping in a tent
Trekking poles
Portable stove/Jet Boil
Propane canister
Lightweight cooking pot made for backpacking
• Eating utensil
Solar-powered lantern
Headlamp 
Water bladder (3 liter bladder is recommended)
Water bottle (you’ll want a water bottle for your cooking water and/or to drop your electrolyte tablets in)
Extra large ZipLock bags (you need to carry-out your trash so bring at least 2)
Ear plugs
Travel sized toiletries (skip anything you can do without and use biodegradable products if you plan on washing in the stream)
Toilet paper 
Bug spray
Sunscreen
Small first aid kit
Moleskin to prevent blisters
Day pack
Clothing List:
Hat/cap for sun protection
Dryfit tops
Athletic shorts and or pants
Dryfit undergarments
Light waterproof jack (check weather if needed)
Hiking boots
Moisture wicking socks
Swimsuit
Sturdy water sandals that you can swim and hike in or water shoes but you will need to hike in your boots if you bring water shoes instead
Flip flops (or use your water sandals)
Travel towel

The Hike Out

So now for the hike out. This is up hill so it’s going to be more difficult then you’re hike in. And after your days of hiking from waterfall to waterfall you’re probably going to be a but tired. We reserved a mule to carry out packs for that reason. After three days of trekking carrying 30-40 pounds (depending on how you pack) up hill is brutal.

Side note (updated October 2017):
I recently revisited Havasupai and did the hike with my pack. I packed as light as possible without skipping out on the essentials and took my time. We left our campsite at 3am and arrived at the hilltop at 8:30am. Take your time, make some stops to eat and don’t forget to stay hydrated! Upon completing the hike we pack the van and headed home. Last year we waited hours for the mules to arrive with our packs. If you don’t want to hike with your pack and don’t want to use a mule the helicopters can transport your pack for a fee. 

The mules carrying our packs

Pack plenty of water for the hike out. There is no water available after the village. I packed five liters and felt like that was enough. It’s also good to prehydrate and stay hydrated so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water while you’re at Supai.

Alternative Ways of Getting Out of Supai

Again there’s hiking out, riding a horse out or taking a helicopter. Don’t forget to make reservations for the horse when you’re booking your reservation. You can also make the reservation for the mule at this time as well. You must make the reservation for a one-way mule out at least one day in advance.

Once you’ve reached the top of the trailhead you have completed your trip back! If you had a mule carry your pack you may have to wait until around 2pm to retrieve the pack. The mules arrive around 2pm (at least they did when I went), but ask the office and ask again when you drop off your packs at the campground.

Enjoy your trip to Supai and have a blast at the falls!

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Check out my video from Havasupai!

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