Monday, September 24, 2012

Planning a camping trip to Havasupai waterfalls

A Havasupai waterfalls camping trip is not something you can do on a whim. It requires lots of planning and preparation. I've made the trip twice, and each time I learned valuable information for next time. I'll share some of what you should know before you go in this post.

First, make reservations. I can't imagine what people would do if they hiked more than 8 miles into the canyon without reservations. (The website says people who show up without them get charged double.) They fill up fast. On Feb.1, the first day that reservations were accepted this year, the phone lines were tied up the entire day. The next day we were able to reach someone and get our desired camping dates in May. We chose weekday dates in order to avoid bigger weekend crowds and hopefully get a better camping spot.

You should know that this isn't a cheap camping trip. First, there is the gas to get there from Phoenix, or wherever you are traveling from. In addition to gas, we each paid about $160 for the trip, including a helicopter ride out. This included the $35 entrance fee, plus $17 a night for two nights. There is also a $5 environmental fee. We paid another $85 to be helicoptered out, which is obviously optional. (Note: Credit cards are accepted for both the reservation and helicopter.) It would have been cheaper of course to hike out, but after two days of camping and a 10-mile hike in with heavy gear, it was a no-brainer for us to pay for a ride out. Plus, the views are stunning.

Another option is to have your gear brought in by mule or to ride a horse down. The prices for those are on the Havasupai website. Wanting to save some cash, we opted to bring our packs in ourselves and fly out.


We picked out canned food that would be easy to heat up using a canister stove. (This requires you pack in enough butane/propane.) It's best to plan out your meals in advance so that you don't bring more than you need to, weighing down your pack. We choose soups, beans, Chef Boyardee pastas, trail mix, tuna, tortillas (for burritos) and PB&J. For the first day, I packed in tuna and a tiny bit of mayo in our little cooler so that I can have a tuna sandwich. We also brought our camping stove in the Jeep and cooked a frozen breakfast (potatoes, eggs, and veggies). This gave us some fuel for our long hike down.

Ideas on what to bring

  • Toilet paper. While there are bathrooms, on busy days some stalls were without.
  • Moist wipes.
  • Lighter and/or matches.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Water pack or bottles to refill at the spring.
  • First-aid kit and Blister Medic kit.
  • Hammock. It was nice to set one up near our tent and relax.
  • Water shoes.
  • Beach towel.
  • Lantern.
  • Headlamps.
  • Eating utensils.
  • Underwater or waterproof camera.
  • Good hiking socks/shoes.
  • Sunblock.
  • Small canister stove and propane.
  • Can opener.
  • Eco-friendly camping soap.
  • A trekking pole might help with the hike.
  • Watertight box for keys, cellphones, cash, etc.
  • Mosquito net.
  • Insect repellent.

*This list may grow.

Note: On each camping trip we got tired of drinking just water and hiked the 2 miles back to the town of Supai for sodas. We stopped at the other waterfalls along the way to break up the hike and cool off. Definitely worth it to me.

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