Guide for Hiking to, and within Havasupai/ Supai Falls, Arizona (and Gluten-Free!)

I can’t stop dreaming of our trip to Havasupai, Arizona. It is miles of hiking through the deepest reds of the Grand Canyon’s walls, only to find an isolated Native American reservation, home to hidden cascades of bright turquoise blue waters running off ancient cliffs, hugged by the greenest of flora and fauna. It’s magical, to say the least. However, planning to check this off the ol’ bucket list isn’t easy. As you have heard in other blog posts, this paradise is both physically and logistically difficult to reach, but entirely worthwhile. The information below is based off my own experience and information I found prior to our trip, and while within the reservation. 

 

Untitled.jpg

 

Making a reservation: It only took me calling everyday for three months to get through (that incessant busy signal was not stoked on my profanities). Someone recommended that it was easier to get through by calling the lodge than calling the campground. I tried both, until finally reaching the lodge. My advice is to just be patient, and continue calling. Apparently, they are working on an online reservation system... Though until then, you can reach campground reservations at 928-448-2121, and the Havasupai Lodge at 928-448-2111. Note, you will probably memorize these phone numbers. Also, note that the lodge is actually not much more costly to stay in per night, especially if you have four people per room. 

As of new, the maximum stay is three nights per reservation, or four days. Prices are subject to change without warning.

Lodge Cost in 2018

$145/night, for up to four people, with a $50 entrance fee per person. You will have to pay a deposit of $40, per room, per night. This is all taxable at 10%.

Camping Cost in 2018

  • 1 night – $140.56

  • 2 nights – $171.11

  • 3 nights – $201.67

All weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), holiday nights, and spring break dates will be charged an additional $18.33 per night. These include (Feb. 19, May 28, July 4, Sep. 3, Oct. 8, Mar. 5-8, Mar. 19-22).

Staying in the lodge also means you won’t have to hike in with a tent or sleeping bag on your back. Trust me, it’s divine to be in a real bed after a full day’s worth of hikes. What’s not divine? The lodge is in a corner of town, which is nearly 3 miles away and uphill from the campground/waterfalls. Pros and cons, BQrs. 

Preparation: This is the list I used in preparation for the trip. Here are some items that are missing, in which I would highly recommend bringing:

  • Cash! – I must not have read this loud and clear in other blog posts, because it is quite necessary. For example, after completing the 8-mile hike down into the town on a Saturday morning, we wanted to sit for a nice breakfast in the cafe. But alas, their credit card machine wasn’t working, and their bank is closed on the weekends and holidays…My hangriness had reach its prime and I was not about to wait on a jet boiler to do its trick. Luckily for us, we had a little bit of cash to get us each a meal. And in case we didn’t, the grocery store’s credit card machine was working, at least for that day. Look, we would’ve survived either way. But the point is, don’t rely on technology to get you the calories you need while in the canyon.

  • Blister Remedies- All hail New Skin and 2nd Skin… This hike will wreak havoc on ‘em feet.

  • Clif Shot Bloks Energy Chews – If you’re not a fan of instant coffee, these have both caffeine, sodium, and electrolytes and were a hit amongst our group.

  • Decent Water Shoes (over sandals) – Don’t be fooled, there are some sharp rocks beneath those pretty turquoise waters. And for them slippery stones, make sure your shoes have some traction. I am obsessed with KEEN’s water sandles.

  • Gluten-free Dehydrated meals – A couple of my favorites include… GOOD-TO-GO Thai Curry and Mountain House Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash. The hash is restaurant quality, which is a strange thought for free-dried food. Even my friends agreed. I ate it each day we were there, and will continue to pack it along on future backpacking trips.

  • Toilet Paper and/or Wipes – You will have to water the plants at some point during your hike into Supai. And if you’re a girl, you will probably need to wipe. If it weren’t for my friend bringing wipes, it would have been chafe city for me. Just make sure to also bring a zip-loc bag to stuff the toilet paper and/or wipes into. Do not leave your trash on the trail.

  • Climbing gloves - I couldn't have hiked down to Mooney Falls without them (see below). 

  • Playing cards – Light to carry, and fun during down-time (I would not recommend gambling your cash though).

  • Inner Tube – I mean you don’t necessarily need this, but you need this. And when it’s time for you to leave, another hiker will be happy to take it off of your hands. At least that was our experience.

Items we brought, but didn't end up using:

  • Water purifier – The tap and spring water available was wonderful, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t bring one just in case. Speaking of the water, please make your voice clear and heard against the uranium mining that could be detrimental to the Supai and Grand Canyon Eco-system. With that said, I don't go anywhere without my water purifying straw, aka LifeStraw

  • Mosquito Spray – A couple of us got bites at the trailhead, but not within the reservation. Not sure if this was due to the time of year (early September), so do your research, especially if you’re also prone to mosquito bites. I recommend Meow Meow Tweet’s Herbal Insect Repellent. 

Untitled.png

Getting to the Hilltop/Trailhead: Regardless of where you are traveling from, it will be a feat to even make it to the trailhead. We decided to stay the night in the closest city (Peach Springs, AZ) to the trailhead, ensuring we got a good night’s sleep before the hike. Hualapai Lodge is on Route 66 and on the Hualapai reservation, and cost just $120 plus tax with an AAA discount for four us to stay in a double queen size room. We requested to be on the opposite side of the train tracks, as I read quite a few complaints about how loud the train can be.  None of us heard the train going by, nor used the free ear plugs the lodge provided... Did I mention they have a salt water pool, jacuzzi and free breakfast? Get itt.

Attached to the lodge, you have the best and only restaurant in town, Diamond Creek Restaurant. The restaurant is great, and even offers gluten-free options (bread, buns, waffles, etc!). Our waitress was knowledgeable regarding allergies, as well as patient and extremely kind. We were super impressed. They even have a hiker’s breakfast for 4.99 (if you’re leaving before their free breakfast at 8 AM), but that isn’t allergen friendly. Keep in mind, no alcohol is sold or served here, nor within Supai. Within town, you have the Hualapai Market and gas station (fill up on gas before you drive to the trailhead… we kind of forgot that one). Need something else to do while in town? The Grand Canyon Caverns (you can sleep in a CAVE HOTEL!) are nearby and are the largest dry caverns in the United States. They offer various tours throughout the day, and once again, you can sleep in a CAVE HOTEL! and there is restaurant attached to, and within the caverns. We arrived too late for the last tour… Tear. Next time! 

Ok, now for the fun part… We woke up at around 3:45 AM, and left the lodge by 4:30 AM. It is a pretty easy straight-shot drive, and Indian 18 road is well paved and beautiful. If you’re leaving at this time, it will likely be pitch black, and there is plenty of wildlife to be seen. Who needs caffeine when a buck is trying to jaywalk in front of your car, or when a bird slams into your window? Yep. We got to the hilltop at about 6 AM and it was crowded. You may have to add a quarter-mile to your hike, depending on how far back you park. A serendipitous warm-up, as I called it. During our warm-up, we noticed more than a few people sleeping in their cars. This is an alternative to staying in a hotel. Can’t speak on the comfort level, however. There are pit toilets right at the trailhead if you need to downsize before the hike. Enjoy your descent!

Hiking in: Take in the beautiful, clean fresh air, and the amazing topography. There is no place quite like the inside of the Grand Canyon. Be respectful and keep to the side for horses and mules coming through, and please please PLEASE don’t litter. We were sad to see how many empty bottles and wrappers sadly decorated the trail. Also, bring and drink a ton of water! We each brought a minimum of 3 liters. 

Supai: This is a very small and quiet village. Upon arrival, you will probably want two things: food and a restroom. And then the tourist office to register, of course. Enjoy service/wi-fi while you still have it. There won’t be any service once you head for the campground.  Granted, the best connection can be found in nature (ha ;>)

  • Bathrooms – There are bathrooms in the cafe and some more attached to the basketball courts (if they are unlocked).

  • Supai Café – The cafe is open 7AM - 7PM, but this is subject to change and intermittant closures. Bear in mind, all of their food is transported via helicopter and they are limited in terms of their menu. This also means that they run out of items quite regularly. Considering the transportation cost, we were happy with the prices. I didn't have many options, because there are no separate areas to cook gluten-free food. Anyway, no complaints here! (Remember how long it took to get to Supai? Give them a break on negative reviews). 

  • Market – Also open 7AM - 7PM, and offers what you would imagine a small town market offers. You will not find many gluten or dairy-free products, but you will find frozen gatorades and delicious chips (just make sure there are no holes in the bag... seriously. Hungry critters are rampant). It is really important to remember that these products are also transported via helicopter and not to raise expectations too high.

  • Bank – Open weekdays, and closed on weekends and holidays (as we learned the hard way).

  • Church – Service on Sundays, which is open to the public.

  • Post Office – Open on weekdays only.

  • Health Clinic – Open everyday, various hours.

  • Tourist office (6AM- 6PM during peak season) – If you are camping, this is where you will pick up your wristband, and a map. If you’re staying in the lodge, you will need to go straight to the lodge in order to receive a tag to tie to your backpacks as identification. 

Havasupai Lodge: As mentioned previously, this doesn’t cost much more than camping, especially if you are sharing with a few others. The lodge is located at the end of town, close to the trail which leads to the campground/waterfalls. Check-in is at 1PM, and they will not budge when it comes to an early check-in. Due to this delay, we left our backpacks inside the lodge and picked up our tags, in order to grab something to eat. Upon returning at 12PM, we noticed the doors were locked. The receptionist didn’t mention that they closed for lunch or anything, nor was there a sign stating such. Anyway, we waited with cold drinks and chatted it up until she returned back at 1PM (cue the playing cards!).

There are no bathrooms inside the front-desk area. In the front of the reception desk, people leave and have access to excess supplies and food left by the microwave. This might come in handy if you need more food or need to drop off some kilos before making the hike back up. The rooms were basic and clean. None of us were expecting anything spectacular, and each of us were pleasantly satisfied. The picnic tables were wonderful to eat our dinners on, and it was fun to socialize with the other guests. If you are arriving after 5PM (when the front desk is closed), you can simply knock on the manager’s door. 

Campground: We didn’t stay the night in the campground, however we spoke to others who did. The campground is beautiful, and located alongside the river. When signing in to camp, you will be provided with a tag to hang where you are camping. Camp sites are on a first-come first-serve basis. There are no showers (just the beautiful river) and there are four buildings we counted with pit toilets. We also noted a fry bread tent with snacks near the campground, open during certain hours of the day. There is a freshwater spring in the middle of the campground for water. 

Hiking to the falls: Don’t get the map twisted. Little (New) Navajo falls and Fifty Foot Falls are about 2 miles downhill  from Supai. Supai Falls is then another .5 miles away, followed by the campground another .25 miles down the trail. Mooney Falls is just on the other side of the campground. So, if you’re staying at the campground, you are surrounded by spectacular waterfalls on either side. There is a cemetery on your left-side when walking to the falls. Please be sure to respect the sign that states ‘no pictures.’ This also goes for the Supai people. Please do not take photos of them, without their permission. Continuously remind yourself that you’re on sacred land. Something else. The waterfalls are constantly changing due to flash floods. Meaning, you will probably see a variation of the waterfalls that you saw in pictures, or they may change on future visits. Kind of neat. Also consider the weather when hiking to the falls. Flash floods are very real thing here, but you can prepare by checking the weather reports daily and if there is a warning, make sure to get to higher ground ASAP. 

ddUntitled.jpg

New Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls – These are both equally gorgeous. We mostly hung out in and around the travertines in between, because they was so easy to access. Our group had fun exploring the caves behind the waterfalls and jumping off rocks. When hiking towards the campground, be sure to stick to the left, otherwise you will easily miss these beauts. 

ddddUntitled.jpg

Havasu Falls – By far my favorite. Easy to access, and just… amazing. Plus I conquered my fear of jumping from the little waterfall! 

Mooney Falls – A few things. They mean it when they say ‘descend at your own risk.’ This hike is treacherous. If it wasn’t for my friend bringing an extra pair of gloves, and guiding me down, I probably wouldn’t have gone. The descent is extremely sleep, with chains and limited railing to guide you down, followed by two ladders. The second half of the descent is wet and slippery (next to the waterfall), and I am not sure I would personally do it again.

Be sure to bring gloves, and shoes with good tread, and to use three-points of contact at all times. Go slow, and don’t let anyone rush you. Aside from it being treacherous, the frustrating part was communicating for groups to stop ascending or descending at the same time, as there isn’t room for two people. With patience, we made it work. The waterfall is of course breathtaking, and there is a smaller waterfall with a rope to jump from. There is a picnic table set up close to the base of the falls (the only dry spot in the area!). If you make it down to see these falls, great. If you don’t, just enjoy the view from the top. You’ve still got Havasu Falls right behind you!

Beaver Falls– You will unfortunately/fortunately(?) need to hike to Mooney Falls first, in order to hike an additional two miles to these falls. We didn’t have the willpower, but I hope you do!

Airwest Helicopter: Call us lame or awesome or whatever, but we decided to helicopter out. A) None of felt like getting up that early to hike out considering how much we had hiked already, B) Um, it’s probably the cheapest helicopter tour through the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, no one was offering us any solid information on how to go about this, including the tourist office or even the Air West operator in Supai. In addition, per some reviews I read, it isn’t guaranteed you will get out (and no one wants to start hiking at 1PM in 100 degree heat). We decided to hope for the best, and to prepare for the worst, in case we had to start hiking at a later time.

Here is the deal. Weather permitting, the helicopter runs from March 15th – October 15th, operating on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10AM - 1PM and from October 16th to March 14th on Fridays and Sundays from 10AM - 1PM. They will operate until everyone is accommodated OR until it gets dark. The cost is $85 with a $10 surcharge for credit cards (another reason to bring cash!). People literally started lining up from 12:30 AM on the day we left. Our group took shifts starting around 6 AM, and there were about 40 or so people ahead of us. For us, the sign-up list was brought out at 9 AM and became a free-for-all. Meaning, some people in the back ran to the front of the line to sign-up first. Not cool. Be respectful of the people who got in line before you did. Also, Havasupai natives are given priority, meaning they can show up at anytime to use the helicopter regardless of the list.

So you’re on the list, what’s next? After exhaustingly pushing through a crowd to get your name on the list, go grab yourself a bite to eat or a cold drink and take a deep breath. Be mindful of which page you are on and be conservative with your time. They generally begin flying around 10AM, and flights are every 15 - 20 minutes, carrying both passengers and cargo/supplies. Since there were four of us, each of us could take turns taking breaks, while the others paid attention to where we were in line. We also brought playing cards, which made the time in the heat pass by nicely. We didn’t end up leaving until around 2:30 PM and the flight was roughly five minutes long. The flight was wonderfully smooth, as were the views. At the top there was a woman selling cold beverages, and it just felt good to get on our way after such an awesome weekend. One thing I should mention is, if you’re not prepared to hike down or up into Havasupai, you should probably reconsider visiting in the first place. The helicopter is never guaranteed due to weather and other potential circumstances, and you shouldn’t depend on it for transportation. Otherwise, Bon Voyage!

Havasupai People aka People of the Blue-Green Water: The Havasupai people have inhabited this land for over 800 years, and were some of the first groups to arrive in North America around 20,000 years ago. They have quite a history, full of culture and tradition, with the Havasupai Reservation forming in 1882. Their history also includes a struggle of regaining land and other ongoing oppressions.  They live and continue to thrive in one of the most remote communities in the USA. Their language (Havasupai) is the only Native American Language spoken by 100% of its indigenous population.  They are deeply connected to the Grand Canyon and surrounding plateaus. To learn more, you can read Stephen Hirst’s ‘I am the Grand Canyon.’

Something I noticed was how many Havasupai members were wearing Bob Marley shirts, and or were playing his music. Not to mention, there were a few poster sightings around town.  While in the cafe, I saw and read a short article posted about Bob Marley and his connection to the Havasupai Native Americans. In further research, I found this article with documentaries and more information on the topic. In short, Bob Marley’s music was brought to the Supai people in 1970, in order to lift their spirits. The people of Havasupai were and are able to relate to his lyrics regarding similar oppressions, but also his words about peace and love. Bob Marley was supposed to visit Havasupai, but passed away before he could. In 1982, a year after his death, Bob Marley’s mom and Tyrone Downey honored Bob’s wishes and visited Havasupai and its people, as well as sang some of Marley’s songs together. More information can be found in ‘Rasta Heart: A Journey Into One Love’ by Robert Roskind. 

It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to visit this sacred land. Please be safe, and respectful.  Always pack in and pack out.

And as always,

Buen Camino! 

P.S. CHECK OUT OUR VIDEO FROM HAVASUPAI HERE! 

IMG_0187.jpg
food, PACKING LIST, PREPARATION, north america, NATIVE AMERICAN, National Park, adventure, gluten-free, CAMPGROUND, SOUTHWEST, dairy free, tips, HIKING, Allergen free, ARIZON, travelChristina P. KantzavelosMOUNTAIN HOUSE, BEAVER FALLS, STINGER, PREPARATION, NEW SKIN, HELICOPTER, MARKET, STEPHEN HIRST, CAMPING, BREATHTAKING, HILLTOP, NATIONAL PARKS, HIKING, CLIMBING GLOVES, ROUTE 66, GOOD TO GO THAI CURY, LIST, DIAMOND CREEK RESTAURANT, TRAVEL, PEACH SPRINGS, CASH, NO PICTURES, HIKE, MOULA, BOB MARLEY, WATERFALL, SUPAI CAFE, RASTA HEART, A JOURNEY INTO ONE LOVE, CLIF, WIFI, HERBAL INSECT REPELLENT, MARLEY, SEPTREMBER, BANK, URANIUM MINING, LODGE, GLUTEN FREE, PACK IN AND PACK OUT, CLIF SHOT BLOKS ENERGY CHEWS, SUPAI PEOPLE, PEOPLE OF THE GREEN WATER, ROCKS, INSTANT COFFEE, MOONEY FALLS, GLOVES FOR CLIMBING, THRE POINTS, DEHYDRATED MEALS, WATER PURIFIER, FALLS, BEEF JERKY, FIFTY FOOT FALLS, VIDEO, NATIVE AMERICANS, US, UNITED STATES, BUENQAMINOS, HAVASUPAI PREPARATION, ONE LOVE, MAKING A RESERVATION, CLIF SHOT BLOKS, FALL, TOURIST OFFICE, GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA, WANDERLUST, DONT LITTER, SUPAI CITY, TOILET PAPER, PLAYING CARDS, MOUNTAIN HOUSE SPICY SOUTHWEST BREAKFAST HASH, GLOVES, NATURE, YOUTUBE, ROADTRIP, HUALAPI LODGE, PACKING LIST, HEALTH CLINIC, 2ND SKIN, AIRWEST, GRAND CANYON CAVERNS, HIKING IN, NPS, HIKERS BREAKFAST, BUENQAMINO, INDIAN, TRAILHEAD, CAMPGROUND, NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGE, WATERFALLS, AZ, HUALAPAI RESERVATION, PARKING, CHURCH, SOUTHWEST, MEOW MEOW TWEET, HAVASU FALLS, WIPES, RED ROCKS, ALLERGEN FREE, BLISTERS, POST OFFICE, INTERNET, SPRING WATER, AAA, INDIGENOUS, KEEN'S, TURQUOISE WATERS, SUPAI FALLS, I AM THE GRAND CANYON, HAVASUPAI, INNER TUBE, BUEN CAMINO, PREP, BATHROOMS, DAIRY FREE, FOOD, BON VOYAGE, HUALAPAI, NATIVE, USA, ROADTIRP, CAVES, CLIF BARS, GOOD-TO-GO, BIKINI, HAVASUPAI LODGE, WILD ZORA, KEEN'S WATER SANDLES, PLAYING CARDS CANADA, NEW NAVAJO FALLS, TURKEY JERKYComment