Havasu Falls, Ms. Mallory Adventures, Curious Conservationist, Mallory Lindsay, Havasupai, backpacking, camping in Havasupai

Havasu Falls: The Beginner’s Backpacking Guide

First time hiking to Havasu Falls?

Here are the ‘must knows’ for any Havasu Falls first timer. . . or maybe even a few new tips for the  veterans out there. . .

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This location is truly a piece of heaven on Earth and definitely worth the frustrating reservation protocol (or lack there of) and the sore muscles that are bound to reward you.  Although the hike is quite beautiful and moderately strenuous, without the proper preparations, the journey can be quite the gruesome trek.

In this post I will share with you some tips I learned during my first hike to Havasu Falls.

Before you begin the hike:

Location: Havasu Falls is located outside the Supai Village in the Grand Canyon (not the South Rim tourist destination).

Reservations:  Reservations are a must!! The request lines open February 1st of every year and fill up quickly. 928 448 2121.  There are no day passes available. 

TIP: Use multiple phones and constantly redial.  You will feel like you are a contestant trying to win radio tickets. lol.  They will give you a confirmation number when you reserve (you pay when you arrive). . .don’t lose it. 

Prices and Camping Fees:

Campground

$35.00 per person – Entrance Permit
$17.00 per person / per night – Campground Fee –
$5.00 per person – Environmental Care Fee

Lodge

$145.00 per night – Up to 4 people
$40.00 deposit per room / per night
$35.00 per person – Entrance Fee Permit

**I highly recommend camping.  Nothing beats the feeling of knowing you were completely self sufficient-and survived- once you finished your journey . . .well, that, and a long shower!**

Packing 

  • Backpack- Quality will go far on this hike.  A Jansport is not going to cut it.  Be sure it fits well and you have hiked a few times with a decently heavy load so you can see how it lays on your back.
  • Lightweight Tent/Hammock- If you are solo,then I would opt for the hammock and save the weight. If you must have a tent, there are some really great brands that offer two-man tents that are less than 4 lbs. Either way, I would make sure to have a rain guard with you. There were a few light sprinkles and one heavy rain when I went in August.
  • Light Sleeping Bag/Pad- Depending on the time of year, the nights can get a bit chilly; however, not really enough for anything more than a light sleeping bag. Others may disagree, but I thought the pad was more valuable than my sleeping bag.
  • Hydration Bladder (at least 2 liters)– This will be a must during the hot, dry 10 mile hike in and out.
  • Flashlight / LED Lantern- A few extra batteries are a good idea, too.
  • Lightweight Cookware/Stove– A warm meal is hard to beat after a long hike or a day in the frigid waters.  Our group had a jet boil that was light weight and absolutely fabulous.  If in a group, coordinate so that their are no unneeded, surplus supplies taking up space. EX:Some bring cookware while others bring spare tanks. Space and weight is precious.
  •  Top Ramen/Dehydrated meals**-  As mentioned above, such meals are great after a hard day on the path. Dehydrated meals like Mountain House provide great protein and carbohydrates to keep you fueled. Cup of noodle soups are lightweight and cheap.
  • Collapsable 1 or 5 gallon bucket– If you will be preparing many meals needing hot water, it would be a great idea to bring one of these to fill instead of making the journey to the spring every time your water bladder runs out.  Walmart sells some cheap ones.
  • Snacks- A quick granola bar or fruit snack is a great ‘pick me up’ on the way up and down.  Also, if you decide that a lighter back is more important than hot food, than loading up ready to eat meals may be the path for you. Most MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) have a self heating pack inside that just needs water to react.  I saw someone bring  protein powder with a shaker and supplies for PB&J’s. . .What a great idea! Whichever your poison may be, remember to pack in and pack out all wrappers.  
  • First Aid Kit and Emergency Supplies– I love my VSSL kits. First Aide. Shelter. Basic Supplies.  They are convenient, light weight, and an ‘all-in-one’ kits for everyone. However, if you are not able to get these kits. . .I would say your essential first aide kit, matches, a fixed blade or folding knife, pedialyte or gatorade packets, and some chord.
  • Hiking Shoes- May seem like a no brainer, but I have known some to forget these essential items.  DON’T wear brand new hiking boots.  This is a long hike and blisters will make it feel even linger.
  • Aqua Shoes / Old-Pair of shoes- If you want to go exploring, these will make it so much more convenient and adventurous! Sandals will inevitable get swept away by the current.
  • Sun Screen/Sunhat- Don’t worry about looking cool or getting that tan on the way down.  Use your sunscreen and wide brimmed hat.
  • Bugspray- Of course this is the one thing I forgot and nearly drove myself insane on the last night as I raked my fingernails across the two dozen bug bites on my legs.  TIP: Cold water soothes bug bits.  I made constant trips to the river to soak my legs in cool waters.  It was shockingly cold, but helped tremendously.
  • Baby Wipes– There are no showers at the campground and I personally would rather not add chemicals and detergents to the water via soap, so I like to bring biodegradable wipes to clean up if needed.
  • A waterproof bag (for photographers or picture takers)– I also forgot this essential item and was in constant fear of slipping and having my bag plummet into the water.
  • Book or Playing Cards- Since there are no campfires allowed, something entertaining to do at camp is always a good idea.
**Remember that weight is everything, especially when you are making that last mile hike up the switchbacks to your vehicle.  I would highly recommend keeping everything under 35 pounds.  Overpacking (or too much camera gear in my case) can be easily done when one is trying to prepare for their first hike to Havasu Falls.  You will be amazed what you can live without.**

Hiking to Havasu Falls

The 10-mile hike from Hualapai Hilltop to the campgrounds is breathtakingly beautiful and exhausting.  I would say our group walked at a fairly rigorous pace and it still took us around 5 hours, so I would plan on hiking for 4-7 hours each way-the way up being one to two hours longer than the way down.  Leaving early in the morning will allow you to make most of the hike in the canyon’s shade.

Use the restroom prior to the descent as there is little coverage if you need to go during the 8 miles to the village.

Remember that water bladder you packed?  Make sure you fill it up and use it.  I added some ice to mine before I left my hotel room to keep it cool along the way and it was heavenly in the heat.  DRINK YOUR WATER! Feeling thirsty is the first sign of dehydration.

The trailhead begins with 1 mile of switchbacks, where you will descend about 1000 feet into the canyon. Make sure to pay attention to for the mules (they are on a mission and will run you over if needed ) that the Havasupai Natives use to carry supplies.  After a few caravans, I learned it was easier to stay to the side.

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Once you reach the bottom of the switchbacks, your 7 mile journey to the village begins. I found it to be less exhausting to choose the higher, more compact trails than following the riverbed.  It may take a bit longer, but it was worth the saved energy I would have spent trying to fight each sinking step.

Eventually, you will reach a small convenience store where you can buy a cold drink and ice-cream.  You are almost to the main village.

Once you reach Supai, check in at the tourist office to your left. Make sure you have obtained your confirmation number and made your reservation in advance.

Little Navajo Falls, Havasupai, waterfalls
‘Little Navajo Falls’ on the way to the village.                      Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures

After leaving the village, you will continue descending down for another 1.5 miles, and you will reach your reward, the turquoise cascades of Havasu Falls. This stunning waterfall plunges about 100 feet into a relaxing swimming hole that you will be back to savor after unloading your pack at the campground.

You will continue past Havasu falls for another quarter mile or so to reach the campground. Once you enter the campground, there will be a sign pointing to a faucet for fresh spring water on the west side of the canyon. It is considered safe to drink without filtration. . . half of the party opted to trust the sign and had no issues.  There is also a small snack shop that sells delicious fry bread and cold drinks most of the day.

TIP:If you would like some privacy, there are a few campsites across the river and up another hill that many people miss.  The bridge is a simple plank bridge, so you will have to pay attention. 

 

Day Hikes while Camping:

Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls is the largest of the Havasupai waterfalls and closest to the campground in the opposite direction of Havasu Falls. This

After a somewhat treacherous descent, the view is spectacular.
After a somewhat treacherous descent, the view is spectacular.

trek is not for the meek.  Reaching the bottom of  Mooney Falls requires you to enter a small tunnel, followed by slippery chains, worn ladders, and metal handles that allow you descend the cliff.

 

TIP: Exercise caution and take your time descending down the cliff.  The chains and ladders are not as slippery in the morning when there is sunlight in the canyon.  Once in the shade, the means of climbing become coated in the fine mist from the waterfall.  

 

Beaver Falls

 

Havasu Falls, Havasupai, ivy oasis, Ms. Mallory, Ms. Mallory Adventures
The picturesque ‘Ivy Oasis’

If you decide to descend down Mooney Falls, I would encourage you to continue down the trail for another 5 miles through the ‘ivy oasis,’ arid cliffs, succulant groves, and ‘Amazon-ish’ shoreline reach Beaver Falls. Remember those water shoes you packed? This is the hike were they will come in most handy.

 

Ms. mallory Adventures, Havasu Falls, Havasupai, Mallory Lindsay, Ms. Mallory, Curious Conservationist
The water trail to Beaver Falls is much more scenic than the shore trail. Water shoes are worth their weight in gold. **Plus the cold water works great on those itchy mosquito bites!**

My boyfriend forgot his and had to find a way along the shore.  It is possible, but there are a few places where taking them off will be necessary.

The trail can be difficult to spot, but if you follow the river, you will soon spot it.   You will soon reach a point where you can climb up a ladder to continue the hike, or cross across the river to your left. You will want to cross the river or you will have to hike around the whole base of Beaver Falls to get to the swimming pools if you opt for the ladder.  Beaver Falls’ pools are a great place to go for a swim and do some cliff jumping.

Trail Distances

Hulapai Hilltop to Campgrounds – about 10 Miles

Hulalap Hilltop to Supai – about 8 Miles

Supai to Campground –about 2 Miles

Campground to Mooney Falls –about 0.5 Miles

Mooney Falls To Colorado River – about 8 Miles

Don’t let the distance or packing list scare you, Havasu Falls is worth every effort that goes into reaching it.  The more prepared you are the more enjoyable it will be.

 

Until Next time my friends, this is Ms. Mallory inviting you to. . .

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Have you been to Havasu Falls?  What was your ‘must have’ on the trip?  Please share!

 

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