Everything You Need to Know About Havasupai Falls: Camping, Permits, and What to Expect

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Rachel Off Duty: Woman in Front of Havasupai Falls

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Havasupai Falls is one of the most remarkable places in the world. Yes, there are waterfalls everywhere, but just picture this particular one with me for a second: 

You are walking through the desert for miles and miles and miles, carrying everything you need to keep you alive for the next couple of days on your own two feet. You feel like days have passed even though it’s only been a couple of hours, and the scenery – though beautiful – has seemed unyielding. You instantly regret your decision and wonder why anyone would put them through this hike for ‘fun.’ And then, just when you feel like your legs are going to fall off and you think it might be time to give up altogether, you begin to see it. Bright cerulean blue water, emerging from massive red rocks that just moments before seemed to go on for miles with no hope in sight. 

There are few other waterfalls in the world as remote as this, and sure, the hike is long and kind of crazy, but the payoff is one of the most beautiful natural phenomenons in the world. 

So why doesn’t everybody just hop in their car and head to Havasupai to see these incredible waterfalls for themselves?

In order to get to Havasupai, you need to be willing to hike 10+ miles carrying 20+ lbs of weight on your back. 

In order to hike, you need to have a permit. 

And in order to get a permit, you need to be incredibly persistent – Havasupai boasts one of the most difficult hiking permits to obtain in the world. 

Don’t let that discourage you, though. Havasupai is absolutely worth the effort. Here’s everything you need to know about prepping for and visiting Havasupai Falls. 

Everything You Need to Know About Havasupai Falls: Camping, Permits, and What to Expect

Rachel Off Duty: Havasupai Falls

Where is Havasupai?

Havasupai, also known as ‘Havasupai Falls,’ is located in Arizona in the Grand Canyon. However, while the Grand Canyon is operated by the National Parks Service, Havasupai is actually a part of the Havasupai Native American Reservation. 

Havasupai is a 5-hour drive from Phoenix, a 7-8-hour drive from Los Angeles, and a 4-hour drive from Las Vegas. As you can see, it’s a bit far removed from civilization! 

What is Havasupai?

Havasupai literally translates to ‘people of the blue-green waters.’ These people are the Supai tribe, and they have called the Grand Canyon home for more than 800 years. To get to Supai, which is located at the basin of the canyon (making it one of the most remote civilizations in the world), you can hike, take a helicopter, or ride a mule. There are no cars or vehicles of any kind that will take you there. Fun fact: Supai is the last place on earth that still receives its mail by mule! 

All that aside, more than 20,000 people manage to visit Supai and Havasupai Falls each year thanks to the Indian tribe’s camping permit system. 

How Much Time Do I Need?

As of 2019, the only permits you are able to get are 3-night, 4-day camping passes. No more, no less. 

With all that said, expect to dedicate about 5 full days to a Havasupai trip, including transportation time. 

For reference, I left LA at 6 pm on a Wednesday night, and got home on Sunday at 7 pm. 2 days off from work plus the weekend = not too shabby!

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Rachel Off DutyRachel Off Duty: View of Clouds and Havasupai Falls

Pre-Trip Preparation:

Securing a Permit

Havasupai’s permit process is notoriously challenging and fiercely competitive. Imagine Coachella for people who shop at REI. While in the past you could call or email and wait to get in touch with the Supai tribe, as of 2019, the only way to secure a permit is online. 

First, you’ll want to create an account on the Havasupai Reservations website. Do this ahead of time (i.e., do this before February 1st) so you don’t end up wasting precious time on the day the permits are released filling out your basic information! This is a necessary step and you won’t be able to secure a permit without an account in place. I’ve also read that it’s necessary for everyone in your group to have an account before you try to register for a permit. Best to be safe and have all your friends create accounts at the same time just in case! 

February 1st, 2020 is reservation time. On February 1st, at 8 am Arizona time, permits for the full 2020 season will release to the public. Expect to spend anywhere from a couple minutes to a couple hours refreshing the website before you’re able to get through. 

Once you’re in, you’ll have a chance to select the number of guests attached to your permit (up to 12 max), and select your preferred dates. Be flexible and be quick, and know that summer dates will usually be the first to go (but that’s okay – I went in October and honestly thought the weather was ideal). In general, smaller groups and off-season trip dates have a higher chance of finding availability. If you make it through this process and snag one of the coveted permits, it will cost you between $300 – $375 per person in your reservation for the 3-night permit.

For whatever reason, if you need to cancel after you get a permit, I believe you can do so on the Havasupai Reservations website. They won’t extend a refund, but you might be able to get instructions and/or assistance reselling it. 

Once you’ve successfully gone through the Coachella-like ordeal of permit hunting, HURRAH! You, my friend, are now the lucky ticket holder to one of the most coveted destinations in the world. Next up? Figuring out what to pack. 

Rachel Off Duty: Woman with a Backpack

What to Pack

Here’s an overview of the essentials that I packed for a 3-night, 4-day camping trip: 

  • Sleeping bag

  • Sleeping pad

  • Tent (2-person) 

  • Blow-up pillow 

  • Hammock (a MUST!) OR, if you don’t have a hammock, a nice lightweight folding chair would be a good choice, too 

  • Essential toiletries (toothbrush and toothpaste, body wipes, hand sanitizer, eye drops. Note – you don’t need toilet paper. There are bathrooms onsite!) 

  • Sunscreen

  • Bug spray 

  • Earplugs 

  • Headlamp 

  • Snacks for 4 days (protein bars, nuts, some sweets for the end of the day, energy chews) 

  • Backpacker meals for 4 days 

  • Camping spork 

  • Camping mug / cup

  • Camelbak 

  • Jetboil 

  • Minimal hiking outfits (rewear what you can! But a fresh sports bra every day is a nice-to-have, for sure) 

  • A comfy t-shirt and shorts to sleep in 

  • Wool socks (2-3 pairs) 

  • Gloves

  • Hiking boots

  • Camp shoes (sneakers or sandals to give your feet a break at the end of the day) AND/OR water shoes 

  • Hiking poles (not necessary, but they seemed to help a bit when I was carrying weight on my back) 

  • A water bladder

  • Jackets (sweatshirt, fleece, and a windbreaker) 

  • Swimsuits (I brought 2) 

  • A small quick-dry towel 

  • First aid kit

  • An animal-proof food storage bag

  • A trash bag for carrying out rubbish 

  • A camera (only if this is essential travel gear to you like it is to me, otherwise, it’s not technically necessary!) 

  • A portable battery 

  • A tiny bluetooth speaker 

  • A small book or e-reader 

  • A day bag (lightweight drawstring bag, fannypack, or similar should do the trick) 

  • A waterproof phone case 

Hey there! I’m Rachel, a travel writer and a full-time advertising / marketing expert. In 2019, I traveled more than 25 times while working 9 to 5, and since then I’ve committed myself to living a more adventurous life, even if it means bringing my laptop along for the ride.

Are you hungry to travel more, but overwhelmed with how to juggle work and play? You’ve come to the right place!

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