Havasupai Falls, Arizona
20 Tips for Backpacking Havasupai
February 9, 2020 | Lauren Wood
First and foremost, I will note that although this content has been written by me (Lauren Wood), much of the information comes from the incredible planing and expertise of our trip organizer, my dear friend Lacey Smith of My Laced Up Boots. Lacey deserves all the credit for the work that went into booking permits, sending out backpacking lists to everyone in our group, organizing transportation and shared meals, and… well, pretty much everything. Thank you Lacey—I am just repurposing your information for the world to enjoy.
On February 1, 2020—the first day of the season—our group of 12 women backpacked into the Havasupai Indian Reservation for a four day, three night trip to Havasu Falls. Organized by our fearless leader, experienced and highly organized Lacey Smith of My Laced Up Boots, we had detailed group meals planned out, packed our own stuff in, and split shared items like tents, fuel, bear cans, food items for shared meals, and cook wear.
Lacey put together a detailed list of all the things we needed to bring and identified which items would be shared (meaning: things I didn't need to bring). I put together a list of these items on my Amazon Storefront so you can shop them directly.
To shop the complete list of items for a Havasupai backpacking trip, CLICK HERE.
We all flew into Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, with most of us arriving around 8 pm. Unfortunately one of our girls missed her flight, so we made a run to REI (10 mins away) for stove fuel, did a quick run to the grocery store, and went back to pick up the 12th woman of our group. That made for a late night—with the time change crossing into the Arizona border (Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time in winter), and the two and a half hour drive, we didn’t get to bed until 3 am. That meant for a rugged night with the plan being to be up by 6:30 and out by 7:30 am.
We stayed at the Hualapai Lodge, which is about an hour and a half from the trailhead. Then in the morning we got up bright and early, drive the 1.5 hours to the trailhead, and started our hike down. 5.5 hours later, we were at our campsite and in hikers heaven. We enjoyed four incredible days hiking in, setting up camp by the river, hiking to Beaver Falls and Mooney Falls, cooking group meals and enjoying the stunning scenery.
If you’ve got a Havasupai trip in the cards, lucky you! Use this guide to know what to expect, what items to bring, and the best products to buy before you go.
So without further ado, here are my 20 tips for backpacking Havasupai:
1. Hike in early to claim the best campsite.
If getting a good campsite is important to you—or especially if you are traveling in a large group and need site with space for multiple tents—the old adage “the early bird gets the worm” should be your new mantra.
Hit the trail early: like 6 am in the winter and spring, or even earlier in the summertime. Hikers in summer have to head in early to beat the heat, and I’ve heard people sometimes do this as early as 2 am. Any earlier though and you’ll be sitting in Supai waiting for the tourist office to open (which opens at 9 am Nov-Apr and 6 am May-Oct).
Depending on your ability level, the hike in should take you anywhere from 4 to 7 hours. Realistically, if you’re in decent shape and don’t stop too long in Supai, the hike in shouldn’t take you more than 5 hours. It took our group about 5.5 hours to get in (hilltop to campsite, which we chose at the end of the campground) with A LOT of stops (I mean, there were 12 of us, so…). We stopped a half a dozen times for short breaks, took a rather long break for lunch, and were stopped in Supai for about 45 minutes, where we checked in with the permit office, played basketball with the neighborhood kids, shopped in the market and bought fry bread from the cafe. Had we cut out the lunch stop and time in Supai, it would have taken us only about 4.5 hours.
So where is the best campsite you ask? Well, that largely depends on what you plan to do while at Havasupai and what’s most important to you. Since we had a large group, we really just needed to find a place that fit five tents. If I could do it over again though, I’d probably pick a spot at the beginning of the campground, close to the water source. We chose a spot close to the end of the campground by Mooney Falls, and although it was incredibly beautiful—and closer to the day hikes—it was quite far from Fern Spring, meaning we had quite a hike each day to refill our water bottles. If the longer day hikes—like to the Confluence, for example—are in the cards for you, perhaps a spot at the end of the campsite by Mooney Falls would be best for you to lessen the length of those hikes. If your plan is to just chill though—and if you don’t want to make the 10 mile hike in and out any longer—then choose a spot close to the beginning of the campsite so you’re not adding to the already long trek just to get there and back.
Speaking candidly, it’s ALL beautiful though, so it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get first pick of the campsites.