Backpacking Havasu Falls: Things to Know & A Pack List

Backpacking Havasu
Jennifer hikes back along the wash towards the Hilltop Trailhead.

Our 4th day of backpacking Havasu Falls started early at 3:30 AM. Packing up in the dark is always slow and it took us until almost 4:45 AM to hit the trail. The hike out was back the way we came. The climb out of the campground and up to the turnoff for Fifty Foot Falls was more strenuous with the heavy packs then I had thought it would be. That being said it was early and the weight of a backpack takes a while to settle in. It was, however, still dark and the air was cool so we had that going for us.

We arrived in the Supai village shortly after the sky lit up and took the opportunity to use the facilities there as they are the last before arriving back at the Hilltop. 

Use These Links to Navigate to Any Part of This Journey Through Havasu

Havasu Falls Guide Map
Hiking Map to all the waterfalls in the Havasupai area.

An Unexpected Supai Experience

Leaving Supai we had an odd dream-like experience. We were hiking down the main dusty road when a horse came running up from behind. It seemed as if he had escaped a pin and didn’t have a clue what to do with his freedom. He galloped up next to us and then slowed to a trot. He walked with us in this manner to the edge of town. One of the town folk passed us an inquired of the animal saying “that your dog?” When we reached the edge of town the horse spotted a few others in their pin and raced to them. The pack of horses began neighing frantically back and forth as if greeting a long lost friend. This entire episode was one of those completely unexpected events we won’t ever forget.

Climbing Out of Havasu

A tree inside Hualapai Canyon
There are only a few tall trees inside the narrow parts of Hualapai Canyon. This one had a good angle to gather sunlight.

Though the sun was out the path through Hualapai Canyon was mostly in the shade the entire way back so the air was fairly cool in early May. We made good time through the canyon and reached the base of the 1,100’ ascent back to Hilltop by 9:30 AM. The climb up to Hilltop was fully exposed with only short slivers of the switchbacks still covered in shade. It was a grueling climb out in the heat but very doable at a proper pace. I wouldn’t want to do this in mid-summer. It is intimidating looking up at the ranger station at Hilltop perched on the cliffside but the path up is well graded and is never overly steep. We arrived back at the truck at 10:30 AM having completed our amazing journey of backpacking Havasu and feeling blessed to have had the opportunity.

Was the Journey to Havasu Worth It?

Havasu Falls
The legendary Havasu Falls and her lime cliffs.

So the question we started this series with still remains: “Was it all worth it?” The answer to that question will most likely be different for everyone. Jennifer and I long ago discovered this place through photographs and when we set off on our Nomadic Life, backpacking Havasu was high on our priority list. For us getting to experience this place ourselves first-hand was the realization of a dream and one who’s beauty lived up to and surpassed our expectations. The processes of getting a Havasupai reservation is frustrating and inefficient, backpacking to the campground is a long and difficult journey, and the cost has become very prohibitive. With all of that in mind, I would still say that the journey to Havasu was worth it for it us. Sadly, because of the extreme cost, we will most likely never return. 

Would We Recommend Backpacking Havasu?

Backpacking Havasu Falls
The stunning Havasu Falls is an iconic journey that should be taken by those who can afford the high cost.

The next obvious question is would we recommend the journey to others? If you are physically and financially able to make the journey than yes it is one we highly recommend.

We spent $750 on the reservations for our 4-days in the wilderness. We have never spent even a tenth of that for our other backcountry camping trips of any length. Living on a nomadic budget that is a very hard expense to justify. The cost has increased annually at a very rapid rate over the past decade. Supply and demand are very much at work here. The cost will keep many away and if money is tight I wouldn’t recommend this trip. There are other places that are very beautiful that are far cheaper if not free. 

The strenuous nature of this trail will keep others away. Although, with packhorses carrying luggage down, helicopter flights available into Supai, and a lodge in Supai, those unconditioned for a trip into the desert can still make it here. However, the cost will be even higher.

Things to Know Before Backpacking Havasu Falls

  • Camping Reservations (4-days/3-nights)
    • $100/person/night (Monday – Thursday)
    • $125/person/night (Friday – Sunday)
  • You must have a reservation to enter the Supai land
    • Day Hikes are Not allowed and it would be too far for a day hike to have any time to enjoy the many waterfalls.
  • Do Not take photos of the Supai Village or its people
  • Don’t camp on the wrong side of the red line in the Havasupai Campground.
  • Everything you take in must be packed back out.
    • There are no trash services for the Havasupai campground.
    • This includes anything that you might have destroyed while at Havasupai. Real examples of trash we found: floats, shoes, & half squirrel-eaten packaging.
  • Campsites in Havasupai are first-come, first-served and very close together so please be respectful of your neighbors. Keep in mind that many will be up early to hike out.
  • Havasupai Campground has drop toilets.
  • Drinking water is available at the Havasupai Campground but filtering is still recommended.
  • Pets are not allowed on the Havasupai Trail.
  • Arrive at the Hilltop trailhead before dark. Large animals like elk are present along the 60-mile road in. You wouldn’t want to hit one.

Options for Backpacking Havasu

Helicopter to Supai
A short helicopter flight is a great option for visiting Havasu Falls.
  • Pack Horses are $400 (round-trip) and reservations must be made ahead of time.
    • Availability is limited so be prepared to make this reservation along with your campsite reservation.
  • Helicopter Flights are first-come, first-served, but the Supai people have priority.

The Supai Lodge

  • Located in the Supai village 2-miles from Havasu Falls. 8-miles from Hilltop.
  • $440/room/night (accommodates up to 4 people)
  • $110/person environmental & entrance fee
  • Reservations are made via phone only – (928) 448-2111 or (928) 448-2201
  • Reservations for the 2020 season started June 1, 2019

Backpacking Havasu – Packing Checklist

Backpacking Havasu Falls
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  • Backpack
  • Tent and/or Hammock
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Spork
  • Pack Stove
  • First-aid Kit
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • Deodorant
  • Headlamp & Solar Lantern
  • Sunscreen
  • 2-liters worth of water per person (3-liters in summer)
  • Water Filter
  • 4-days worth of Meals & Snacks
    • Supai Village does have a small grocery store.
    • There is also a food stand above Havasu Falls where frybread, hamburgers, and brats can be purchased (cash only).
  • No Alcohol on Supai Land (This included in your vehicle!)
  • Camera and/or tripod. No Drones.
  • Water Shoes are a Must!
  • Hiking Poles
  • 1 set of hiking apparel: shirt, pants/shorts, underwear, socks, and shoes.
  • 1 set of warm campsite apparel: pants & shirt
  • Underwear and socks for other 3 days.
  • Hat
  • Jacket/rain jacket
  • Swimsuit
  • Pack Towel
  • Day Pack
  • Ratsack or arrive early enough to grab a 5-gallon bucket.
  • Paracord (to hang everything not already in a bucket)

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Fred says:

    What a gorgeous hike! I’ve never hiked Havasu Falls but I’ve put it on the top of the list for my next hikes!

    1. NomadicMoments says:

      Hey Fred, It really is an amazing spot. Make sure you are ready when the reservations become available in the early part of next year.

  2. Nomad Joe says:

    Great article! It seems like a great place to go backpacking.

    1. NomadicMoments says:

      It really is amazing! I just wish it wasn’t so dang hard and expensive to get a permit.

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