Everything you need to know and all the gear you need to have to hike Havasupai Falls.
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
- 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.
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.
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:
- Raincoat (weather depending)
- 1 pair long pants
- Additional shorts - optional
- 1 lightweight long sleeved shirt (sun protection)
- Hat/buff for sun protection
- 1 pair (at least) Quick drying underwear
- Freeze dried backpacking meals (Backpacker's Pantry pad thai is AMAZING)
- Backpacking spoon
- Backpacking mug
- Backpacking bowl
- Water jug
- Toilet paper
- Camera - point and shoot or DSLR
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.