Backpacking to Havasupai
Backpacking to Havasupai was part of our Southwest adventure trip we were all most looking forward to and that our entire itinerary to the Southwest was scheduled around. We secured our permits the moment they became available online in February for our trip in mid-May. Dillon came aboard the trip a few weeks after we secured permits and by that time, there were no permits left, so this trip ended up just being Charlie, Ian, and I. Havasupai is an extremely popular hiking destination, especially in recent years after a surge in social media (that’s how I discovered it) but it also very much lives up to the hype.
Overall, we backpacked about 25 miles in a little under 30 hours. For this post I’ve made a timeline photo essay of our journey.
10:00 PM – Go to bed after a fun day exploring Sedona, AZ. Big day in a few hours!
2:30 AM – Pack up and depart for the Havasupai Trailhead parking lot. It was about a 3-hour drive from Flagstaff. When we woke up in the morning the temperature was in the upper 40’s. While driving, the temperature reached a low of 33 degrees. We passed about 10 cars on the drive to the middle of nowhere and it was extremely dark.
5:13 AM – Arrived at the Havasupai Trailhead. The parking lot was packed, mostly from people who had already hiked in. We got lucky and ended up getting a spot pretty close to the trailhead. First light already occurred around 4:30AM and it was pretty bright outside even though the sun hadn’t risen yet. Several other people were also there also preparing for their journey. We did some last-minute packing and reorganizing and were ready to begin our decent backpacking to Havasupai!
5:30 AM – The Journey begins. We got beautiful views of the sunrise piercing the tips of the Havasu Canyon to start our trip.
Supai is considered the most remote town in the contiguous United States. They are the only town that receives their mail from the USPS by mule.
6:44 AM – Stumbled upon the “Tree of Life” deep in the canyon. It looked like something out of a biblical story and was our first taste of the desert oasis plant life to come.
8:07 AM – Arrived at outskirts of the Havasupai Village and took a picture with the Supai sign. So far about 2.5 hours of hiking.
7:37 AM – Arrived at the permit office. Handed over our permit papers and received some wristbands and a tent permit in exchange. They gave us a quick rundown of the rules and what to expect and then we were ready to go. Already exhausted, but still had 2 more miles to get down to the camping area, which is all downhill from the village.
8:33 AM – We get our first view of Havasu Falls and what a beaut she is!
9:45 AM – Once we got to the campground, people were scattered everywhere. There are over 300 possible campsites and most of them were already taken by people spending multiple days in Havasupai. We found a mediocre spot with not much room, so Charlie and I left our gear with Ian to reserve the spot while we split up and searched for other possible locations. We found a group of campers packing up their gear right next to the river and got a perfect camping spot! Had a little bit of privacy, plenty of room, a picnic table, right next to the river, and a spot to hang the hammock!
10:30 AM – The Greatest Nap of All Time. After setting up camp, we ate a snack and then we all wanted to take nap before exploring the falls. Ian and Charlie slept in the tent and I chilled in the hammock. The hike into Havasupai wasn’t too bad, but with the combo of heat and lack of sleep, we were all exhausted. We napped about 2 hours, and it’s the best sleep I’ve ever had while camping.
12:51 PM – Swimming at Mooney Falls! The water was cold, but swimming was a blast and one of the highlights of the Havasupai trip. We swam up close the falls and there was also a rope swing that we did a few times. None of us brought our phones or cameras down but a nice woman took a photo of us on her phone and then texted us these pics a few days later when she had service again! Thank you again kind stranger!
Getting to and from Mooney falls is an adventure all by itself. There are chains bolted to the rocks that we all decided to trust and then some sketchy ladders towards the bottom. The path is so close to the falls, that all the mist makes the whole path very slippery. And to top it all off, it’s really only a one-way passage, so there were several hold ups trying to get up and down because of the crowds.
3:58 PM – Explore Havasu Falls. We were in the back area of the campgrounds, so Havasu falls was over a half mile walk away. We didn’t do any swimming this time because the temperature was dropping, but we did a bit of wading in the water and exploring the surrounding area. We also brought some extra rope and set up the hammock in a perfect spot between two spaced out trees.
6:30 PM – Dinner time. We had 2 bags of Mountain House dehydrated meals. Charlie bought one for the trip, and Ian brought one from his Dad’s camping supply. (Back when we were in Zion I took a bite out of one of Ian’s protein bars and it was disgusting, turns out it expired 15 years ago haha.) However, dehydrated food has a much longer expiration date so we decided to try it. Had a hint of mothball flavor, but the spaghetti and meatballs were still edible and we were hungry hikers.
8:30 PM – End of day 1. Unfortunately, we only had permits at Havasupai for one night and would have to hike out the next morning. All three of us were still pooped and we were not looking forward to having to hike another 10 miles so soon. We wanted to get a very early start to beat the heat. And since we were getting up so early, we decided to tag on some extra time to do some astrophotography as well.
1:30 AM – Alarm goes off, start of Day 2. Packed up camp, filled our water bottles, and headed up to Havasu Falls. It was very dark outside and no one else at the campground was awake.
1:44 AM – We set up Ian’s camera, because he had a nice lens for astrophotography and spent the next 45 minutes taking pictures of the stars. We lucked out with clear skies and had an amazing view of the milky way directly over the falls in one of the darkest spots in the US. It was also very cool to have the Falls all to ourselves. We took turns illuminating the waterfall with our flashlights and getting the settings on the camera just right to get some sweet pics.
As we packed up our camera gear, first light was starting to cause the milkyway views to fade away, and we saw headlamps up on the cliff of people starting their hike out.
2:33 AM – The journey out begins, less than 24 hours after hiking over 10 miles. The first mile was steep and tough, but we were glad it was at the beginning of the hike instead of somewhere in the middle. We took a quick rest in the Supai village before starting the next 8 miles with gradual elevation gain.
8:01 AM – The final ascent. There was about a mile of switchbacks of very steep elevation gain to get back to the parking lot. Hiking this switchback was the most exhausted I’ve ever felt on a hike.
8:39 AM – We did it!
From start to finish at the Havasupai trailhead, we backpacked 24+ miles in less than 30 hours. The hike out was awful but totally worth it. Havasupai is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, and I’d love to go again some time. Next time I would definitely reserve a campsite for more than one night. We also never had a chance to explore Beaver Falls or further down the river which has a lot more hidden gems, such as Convolution Point, after some additional hiking.
All photos are by Ian, Charlie and I. Check out more of Ian’s photos here!