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Brief tips for planning a trip

Jan 2003 update: This page is woefully out of date, but I do still get emails about it and have updated the phone number info below. What follows are frequently asked questions:

How do I contact the Tribe for trip info, prices, and making trail/camping reservations?
      The Tribe used to have a web page with a phone number, but I can't seem to find it anymore. According to a recent (Jan 2002) article in Arizona Highways, their number is (everyone got a pen and paper handy?) (928) 448-2121 and (928) 448-2237 (ask for the tourism office). According to the same article the fee for coming into Supai is now $20/person and then $10/person/night camping. (thanks Dan). The number should lead to the Lodge run by the Tribe. They should be able to handle your trail reservations and give you updated price information.

How much does a trip to Havasupai cost?
     The prices change each season, but expect to pay about $20 up front to enter the Tribe's trails. The camping last year was about $10/person/night. A four day/three night trip runs about $50 per person. In general the prices are much higher than camping and backpacking on Federal and National parklands, but there are no rangers, etc., and the Tribe maintains the trails themselves. The scenery is incredible, and you can't put a price on that, so consider that when you are wondering if a trip will be too expensive.
     Note that the above prices are for backpacking only. It was surprising to me that the majority of hikers also use the pack animals available for an additional cost. You could have your 50-lb. pack hauled down and back up by a burro while you walk with a fanny pack for an additional 60-80 bucks. Even more shocking were the helicopter rides to the village below for about $120-150 with gear. I have no idea why someone would go to Havasupai and take one of those "shortcuts". It's a nice trail with wonderful views and it's really easy backpacking. So, unless you're really lazy, get a hold of a good backpack and head down on your own.

How hard is the hike down to the campgrounds?
     This is easier backpacking if you compare it to hiking the Grand Canyon. A typical Grand Canyon hiking trail has an elevation loss/gain of over 5000', while the trail down Havasupai is only about a 2000' drop. The first mile is reasonably steep, while the rest of the trail follows a very slight down grade. The hike is not overly difficult, and is a good one for first-time backpackers, but you do have to deal with a great deal of sun and heat. It will take about 4-6 hours to hike the ten miles each way, but don't try to go all the way down and all the way back in one day, you won't have too much fun.
     There are things that can make this hike demanding, but with proper preparation, it shouldn't be a problem; bring plenty of water and sunscreen. The first eight miles down are all in the sun, without any water sources, and there is little shade for relief. Carry plenty of water, 2 liters minimum. I carry 2 liters on every hike using a CamelBack Hydration System (those water bag things you see mountain bike riders wearing on their backs). I also use a waterproof sunscreen to keep sweat from washing it off, and wear a large full-brimmed hat. These things should be in everyone's backpack.

What's the village like on the bottom? Do they have food?
     There is a village about eight miles into the hike, but besides stopping to register your group, there is not much else to do there. It's another two miles to the campgrounds. Treat a trip to Havasupai like a real backpacking trip, carrying all your own food down with you, and minimize your trash (which you must also carry out). There were very limited goods available for high prices in some makeshift "convenience stores", and there was a place selling greasy grilled stuff that didn't sound too good to me (probably because I'm a vegetarian). With a little planning, you can eat well when backpacking, frozen vegetables last a day or two in a pack, as do frozen meats. Pasta is easy to pack and cook, and there are sauces that can be made from powders.

What are the campgrounds like on the bottom?
     The campgrounds have basic backpack sites, flat areas of a hundred square feet or so of dirt surrounded by shrubs and trees. You can probably fit 2-4 tents on most campsites, so about 4-8 people can stay in a single campsite. There are portable toilets to minimize dangerous waste, which get cleaned daily, but they are still quite "adventurous" to use. There is a spring near the sites with potable water (you can drink it without any required treatment). It is a long walk from the sites, and it is best to bring a 1 or 2 gallon collapsible jug to store water in around the site. Then you only have to make one trip to the spring a day, and the jug can be flattened and packed out.

What's there to do around the campsites? How long should I stay?
     There are three major falls near the sites, two above and one below (two are in the photos section, the third was almost dry when I went last year), each a short 15 minute walk or so, and you'll probably just want to sit around them and swim in the pools below. There is (from what I have heard) a great hike from the campsites down the canyon all the way to the Colorado River. It is six miles down Havasu creek, and visitors to this site have said it's the best hike down there. I only stayed there three days, which I spent swimming, reading, and sleeping. If I stayed another day, I would have made the trek down to the Colorado. I'd say four days and three nights is probably the optimum length of stay for this area.

I have children, how old should they be before I take them on a trip like this?
     Well I don't have children myself, but after talking with some friends who are backpacking parents, they agreed that a child should be 5-7 years old before you go out on a overnight trip with them. Younger children can be taken on day hikes starting at about 3. I have taken five-day trips with cousins as young as 8, and they had a blast.

Where should I stay before/after the trip?
     Well the trailhead is just about in the middle of nowhere. I came from California, so I stayed in Laughlin, NV the night before, which was cheap (cheesy casinos were only charging $18/night) and about 2 hours from the trailhead. Kingman, AZ is about the closest major city, and it is still an hour and a half away from the trailhead. There is a single motel on the way, though I forget the name (Peach something) that would provide the closest possible place to sleep the night before. From the east, Flagstaff is about 2 and 1/2 hours of driving from the trailhead.

When is the best time to go to Havasupai?
      I have only been there once, but have heard the best time to go it April-May and Sept-Oct. It gets really hot there, so June-August can be a bear. May is their busiest month, and requires reservations.

Should I change any information here? Let me know

[NEWS] [photo tour of the hike] [description of the hike]