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How-to Havasupai

Everyone has seen the photos - the blue green waterfalls tucked away at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. There is a reason that Hasvasupai falls appears on more bucket lists than it is missing from and on the day that I turned 27 I opened my phone to a message from a friend inviting me to check it off of my list. The Havasupai Tribe (Havasupai meaning "People of the Blue-Green Water") hosts 20,000 visitors annually with an average of 300 daily and is already completely sold out for the 2017 season. Lying just on the outskirts of the Grand Canyon National Park, patience is a requirement in securing permits or crossing your fingers for a cancellation as day hiking is not allowed and permit checks are a regular occurrence both along the trail to the town of Supai as well as once you are at the bottom of the canyon.

What I was not expecting on this trip was the actual town of Supai - it is home to 136 houses with a fluctuating population around the 500 mark and offers services including a café, general store, tourist office, lodge, post office, school and two churches. As well, outside of the town, located between the base of Havasu falls and the campground is a ranger station and a small cafe that offers both sweet and savoury snacks for the weary camper.


Here is my (updated after the fact) packing list for three nights at Havasupai*. (I also am very aware that there are alternative transportation options for Havasupai but our group of girls hiked and carried our packs in.)

Yes:

  • Backpacking backpack - we each had a 65-70L bag but I would pack down to 55L next time - get help and don't be afraid to as questions when purchasing a backpack(they aren't inexpensive but a well fitting pack is worth it's weight in gold), salespeople at outdoor shops are trained in fitting packs - get them to help you and show you how to adjust. When you get home throw weights in it and walk around for an hour or so just to make sure. 
  • Water(and you will want lots of it) - I brought a full 2L bladder for each of my hike in and out, and packed in empty bottles for daily use - remember that there is a 10-mile hike through the desert to get in and out of this oasis so staying hydrated is important (I also tossed in electrolyte tablets)
  • Camp stove - for me the lighter the better but fires are prohibited on the reservation so you will want a way to boil water (and make coffee) - the smallest canister of fuel will be more than enough and don't forget waterproof matches (self igniters sometimes fail too)
  • Food - I packed in a daily oatmeal breakfast, MRE dinner and too many salty and sweet snacks for the inbetweens - we relied on the cafes for lunch and to save weight
  • Cash - all businesses in Supai that we visited were cash only
  • Swimsuit - although jumping from the waterfalls is not allowed you will still want to swim in the water - and if you make the trek to Beaver falls you will end up in thigh to waist deep water when river crossing
  • Hiking shoes/boots/trail runners - the trek down is 10 miles but not technical, make sure you have comfortable shoes to do it in
  • Water shoes/Sandals - keep your hikers dry for the trek out, and also the rocks can be both sharp and slippery in and around the water
  • Lightweight backpacking towel
  • Daypack - someone told me this before heading down and I was hesitant, but I tucked the lightest and most compact day pack I could find into my backpack and used it every day for adventures
  • Dry bags - not only for keeping your gadgets dry but a dry bag will (hopefully) keep your food safe from the squirrels - one of our girls had all of her food stolen from camp the first night and we found the stuffsack filled with squirrel teeth marks and garbage upsteam the next morning
  • Clothing - I brought(and used) a pair of shorts, a pair of tights, two tank tops, a long sleeved shirt, a puffy jacket, a lightweat rain shell, my toque, small gloves and of course underwear. 
  • Camera - and a spare battery
  • Headlamp / lanterns for camp - solar powered or rechargeable are my preference 
  • Charge pack and cables for your gadgets - nobody needs their headlamp or camera dying on day two - this Solar Charger gets more than enough power from the desert sun to charge your gadgets 
  • Sleeping bag / Tent/ Mattress pad
  • Sunscreen and lip chap with SPF
  • FIrst Aid kit - as I meandered through the aisles of REI in Phoenix an employee and I got to chatting, I told her about my adventure and she came back with a pack of moleskin, I added it to my backpacking first aid kit and by the end of the trip, between the four of us, I was all out. Tossing some wet wipes in also isn't the worst idea. 

Hard no - keep in mind that this land does have a long tumultuous history and belongs to the Havasupai people - these are pulled directly from their website. So be respectful and remember that you are a visitor to their land.
  • Drones
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Fires
  • Weapons
  • Rock climbing
  • Waterfall jumping 
  • (Okay the last two aren't packing items but general no-no's) 

Soft no:
  • Water purification - we brought a gravity bag and a few steri pens but the campground has a pump with clean filtered water for consumption 
  • Hammock - we packed in a few not realizing the amenities, with multiple picnic tables at every campsite we hardly touched our hammocks 
  • Toilet paper - there are established and well maintained/cleaned washroom facilities scattered throughout - save your weight/space
Bonus:
If you are not one of the 20,000 lucky permit holders for this year, there is one alternative that I have found for snagging a spot. Hiking outfitters have managed to secure permits for blocks of time throughout the summer and at the time of writing this several companies do have spaces available.


*Please keep in mind that our trip was in early April where the temperatures were a little dicey including an afternoon of rain strong winds.
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