10 things to know about hiking to Havasupai

(Source: Debbie Hendricks)
(Source: Debbie Hendricks)(Debbie Hendricks)

(3TV/CBS 5) -- Congratulations! You made it through the crazy that is obtaining a reservation to visit Havasupai. Now you have a lot of preparing to do and there are some things you should know about the land you have the privilege to visit. And whether you are going in the next couple weeks or next February, here are some things you need to know before you go. They are a bit random, but are compiled from questions all of us at Just Roughin’ It are asked during our seminars, from customers and from years of guiding in the area.

You Must Take a Bear Canister

Gone are the days when you could just leave your food in a plastic bucket that was provided by the Havasupai Tribe. They did very little to keep the most ravenous critters out of your food and likely contributed to the squirrel problems that have befell Havasuapai to the same level as that at Grand Canyon National Park – try sitting for 2 seconds at Indian Garden without a squirrel on your lap. Starting March 2020, you must bring a bear canister for food and trash storage when at the campground. This is the only way to keep animals from eating your food, leaving trash all over the campground and adding to their dependency on humans as their food source. OK, that came out wrong, but I have seen the squirrels. I am pretty sure we are all next on their menu.

Alcohol is not permitted

This is not a friendly request. Havasupai and Hualapai reservations are both dry reservations. This means they do not sell nor permit alcohol on their land. It also means that if you have it in your possession, you can be fined, banned from Havasupai or charged with a felony with the possibility of up to 1 year of incarceration. Don’t believe me? The statement below is straight from Havasupaireservations.com:

“Possession, distribution, or consumption of alcohol anywhere within the boundaries of the Havasupai Reservation (which also includes the Hilltop Trailhead parking area) is a Tribal and Federal crime, punishable by up to one year of imprisonment. 18 U.S.C. 1154 and 1156.”

So while an attorney can probably plea you down from jail time, it is an expensive proposition and not worth the beer.

You Need to Train

(Source: Debbie Hendricks)
(Source: Debbie Hendricks)(Debbie Hendricks)

This hike is not easy. It is 10 miles each way with an overall change of elevation of 2,000 ft. That’s a doddle, you may be saying, however you also need to factor in the terrain – rocky, sandy and gravelly. Then you need to factor in the weather. Did you land permits for April when it’s typically great weather for hiking, or are you going in July when temperatures can reach 120 F in the sun?

You Need to Carry Out ALL Your EVERYTHING

(Source: Debbie Hendricks)
(Source: Debbie Hendricks)(Debbie Hendricks)

While this concept should seem obvious, there is little evidence that it is. Campers leave trash, fuel cans, gear, rope, pool floats and other random items at the campground, along the trail and in the village of Supai every day. I cannot speculate on why this may be but here is how to know what you need to carry out. If you brought it in, you MUST carry it all the way to the trailhead, put it in your vehicle and drive it back home. Super Simple.

A Helicopter Ride is NOT Guaranteed

Many hikers enter Havasupai with the plan to hike in and helicopter out. While a seemingly good plan, it may not be feasible. Here’s why…

• The Helicopter – run by Airwest and not affiliated with the Havasupai tribe – only flies select days of the week. March 15 – October 15 it flies every Sun, Mon, Thurs and Fri and only Sun and Fri all other months of the year.

• Flights are first-come-first-served BUT tribal members get priority. This means you could be on the list at 5 a.m. but maybe not get a ride out until 5 p.m.

• Flights will be cancelled during inclement weather. So you could be waiting until 2 p.m., a storm comes in and grounds the helicopter – maybe for the rest of the day. Now you have to hike out anyway.

• See “You Need to Train.”

There is No Public Health Facility in Supai

This is another reason to train and be prepared. Injuries can happen to anyone, but it is best to prevent them. Hiking into Havasupai unprepared physically and mentally or disregarding the rules (like no jumping or diving) is a sure way to get injured. Since there is not a public health facility in Supai, you are hours to days away from help. A rescue is going to cost a lot of money and take some time. Hike smart, train properly, know your limits and be prepared for that “what if.”

There are Some Lesser Visited Waterfalls

(Source: Debbie Hendricks)
(Source: Debbie Hendricks)(Debbie Hendricks)

Everyone visits Havasu and Mooney Falls and most will hike the 6 miles round trip to Beaver Falls. But there are two others that are easy to access, yet see fewer people relative to the other three. On one or both of your two days at camp, be sure to visit 50 Foot and Little Navajo Falls.

You Can Get to the Colorado River (Bottom of the Canyon)

While Havasupai is in Grand Canyon, it is not at the bottom, but you can get to the bottom and see the Colorado River. It is approximately a 15 mile hike round trip from the campground that does consist of trail finding and numerous creek crossings. It is pretty straightforward for an experienced hiker, but there are some things to consider before attempting the hike.

• Do not attempt the hike during the monsoon season or if rain is in the forecast. While flash floods are always possible any time of the year, they are definitely more so June 15 through September 31.

• The hike usually takes longer than expected, so plan your day accordingly and keep in mind that you have less daylight and colder temperatures in spring and fall. This is not really a hike you want to attempt with just a headlamp or when it’s cold as hypothermia is a thing even in Arizona.

• You will be leaving Havasupai jurisdiction and entering that of the National Park Service (NPS). While Havasupai does not recommend leaving tribal land, you are permitted to enter NPS land and are subject to their rules and regulations.

Privacy? Maybe?

(Source: Debbie Hendricks)
(Source: Debbie Hendricks)(Debbie Hendricks)

Havasupai allows 350 people to stay at the campground per night. That is a lot of people to camp on a mile long campground along a creek in a narrow canyon. Privacy depends on what your prior camping experiences are. If you have never camped or backpacked, it may seem like total seclusion. If your idea of a great outdoor adventure is to have only bears hanging out at camp, then be prepared to feel everyone’s breath on your neck. It all depends on your expectations and how you set them. Also, if you do opt to hike those times of year that people try to avoid (February, early March and November), you are likely to find a smidge of solitude.

Expert tip – Don’t set up camp the first place you find. Continue farther downstream towards Mooney Falls and you can find some pretty choice spots away from the fray.

You Can Still Get a Reservation

You updated your account days before reservations opened up. You logged in at 7:59 a.m. on February 1 and clicked to pick your dates and boom, kicked out over and over again! I know this is frustrating but all hope is not lost. You can still grab spaces that someone else needs to unload. Go to www.havasupaireservations.com and you will see a blue button that says “Cancellation/Transfer List”. Click that and you will see a list of dates and number of spaces for reservations that are available to legitimately purchase. This will change throughout the year so keep checking.

Havasupai is an amazing place and when you visit, you will see why it is so difficult to obtain access. Hopefully this information will help make your trip more enjoyable for everyone.

By the way, we offer 1-2 fee seminars monthly at the Just Roughin’ It Scottsdale store if you would like to get more insight on what to bring, what to expect, and much more. Why not end this very long article with some self-promoting cheese – “Just Roughin’ It is YOUR one stop Havasupai shop!”