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Everything you need to know and all the gear you need to have to hike Havasupai Falls.


I've written before about my experiences hiking Havasupai, but with it now being Havasupai hiking season I wanted to take a moment to boil it down to the basics of what you need to know to have a fun hike, including a basic gear list.

And here's a free pro tip:  cache snacks and drinks in your car for after the hike.  You've never seen anyone so jealous as my friends when I pulled out Doritos and a Dr. Pepper to munch on immediately after finishing the hike.


BACKGROUND AND PREPARATION
Havasupai Falls, as it is commonly known, is really a series of waterfalls along a turquoise creek flowing through the Havasupai Tribal Reservation in the Grand Canyon.  Though physically within the geological Grand Canyon, the Reservation is not part of Grand Canyon National Park and access to the falls is controlled and administered by the tribe.  That said, it is possible for an enterprising camper to hike down this finger of the canyon into the Grand Canyon National Park and to the Colorado River.

  • Distance from trailhead to campsite - approximately 12 miles
  • Water - yes, there is potable water available
  • Supplies available - yes, there is a small general store in town as well as a fry bread hut just past Supai falls
  • Reservations - required.  Make reservations through the tribe's website.  
  • Toilets - yes, composting pit toilets that are surprisingly nice
  • Showers - nope
  • Alcohol available - no, and furthermore it is forbidden within the reservation.
  • Websites:  National Park Services's description; Official Havasupai Tribal Website
Getting there:
Luckily it's an easy drive.  Not so luckily, it's almost certainly a long drive.  The biggest challenge you'll face is the many areas with no cell or data coverage--meaning you need to download or print your directions, and have plenty of music/podcasts/audiobooks saved to your phone.  For directions, plug in Hualapai Hilltop into Google--that's the trailhead parking lot.  Depending on which direction you're coming from either Seligman or Kingman will be your last stops with gas and meaningful food.  Since they'll also be your first stops on the way back, make sure you have plenty of gas. 

You'll want to watch for animals on the road for the whole drive, but be especially cautious once you hit Indian Road 18 because horses and cattle graze unrestricted along the road.  Once you get to the hilltop, take a loop through the parking lot before taking a parking spot.  You don't want to park up the road and add an unnecessary half-mile to your hike out.

The Night Before:
While many web posts indicate you can park at the trailhead and sleep in you car the night before hiking, I personally wouldn't do that.  I'm also not a fan of the drive-all-night strategy either. Instead, there are two hotels about an hour away from Hualapai Hilltop:  The Grand Canyon Caverns Inn and the Hualapai Lodge.  (each has online booking.)

I have stayed at the Caverns Inn twice and, personally, would rather sleep on bare dirt than stay in their beds again...but I seem to be the outlier because none of the other 15 people who have also stayed on those occasions had trouble sleeping.  Regardless, the Inn is convenient, with it's general store, seasonal restaurant, and free breakfast.  It also has a variety of lodging options, including:  queen and double motel rooms, a ranch house that sleeps at least 8, a room in an actual underground cavern, RV sites, and camp sites.  I have not stayed at Hualapai Lodge, but it looks updated and like a nice accommodation.
The Trip Home:
At this point you're probably just ready for a hot shower, a burger, and your bed.  But you probably have a four to five hour drive home still.  Take my advice to leave food and drink in your car for after the hike.  No matter how often you stopped to rest while hiking out, you're going to get real hungry and thirsty...and aside from the few vendors selling chips and drinks, the first "convenience" store is still an hour away at Grand Canyon Caverns Inn and fast food is about two hours away.  Hopefully you paid attention to your gas tank on the drive in since the nearest gas stations are also about two hours away. 
THE HIKE TO THE FALLS
The gist of the hike - hike down the canyon side for about a mile, hike through the canyon floor for about 9 miles, pick up your permit, hike for another mile or two past Supai falls to the campsite.  Reverse it to get out, without stopping for a permit.  Generally, it's an easy hike...just long.  The first mile in requires attention on the descent, the last mile out is taxing.  The mile leading to the campsite is a hike through deep sand, which can be defeating at that point.

Hiking in and out, I recommend leaving early (before sunrise, ideally) to limit sun exposure.  This is especially important on the hike out because the canyon wall constituting the last, most difficult, mile of the hike will be in full sun after 10 or 11.  On the hike in, sun isn't as big of a concern, but getting there early enough to snag a good campsite is still a big motivator.

If you think you can hike the 25 miles in general, but don't feel comfortable carrying your gear--or just don't want to--you can hire a pack mule to carry your gear.

Picking a campsite:  you must stick to one of the numerous areas designated as a site.  The balancing act between being in a scenic campsite and not having extra mileage on your hike out is enough to keep your mind occupied for the hike in.  It's definitely worth taking a walk through the camp area before pitching your tent. 

Obtaining your permit is likely going to be part of the February 1 free-for-all with available campsites flying off like startled birds and website overload causing it to move like cold honey.  Have a plan going in, you want to know your preferred dates, your preferred backup dates, and your preferred "screw it, I'm just going to go whenever I can" dates.  Keep in mind when choosing your dates that this is a hike in the desert and it gets HOT.  Check average temperatures to help make your decision.  Personally, I wouldn't want to be on this trip between May and September.

SUGGESTED GEAR LIST:
I love talking about trips and gear, so if you have any questions about what to take, what to buy, or anything about the trip feel free to shoot me an email at getthefunout@gmail.com.

If you want to know more, you can read my posts from my two past Havasupai Falls trips:  Havasupai Falls Adventure and Havasupai Falls Redo:  Beaver Falls and beyond.

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