You’ve probably heard that getting permits to hike Havasupai, Arizona is really, really hard. And it is, but it’s not impossible. My group happened to get permits the first year we tried, but I also think we got lucky.
Prior to 2017, the only way to obtain a permit to hike/camp at the legendary waterfall was to call the Havasupai Tourist Office non-stop during opening day (February 1) and the subsequent days following. We had a group going that did exactly that. 15 of us called the following phone numbers non-stop for about two days:
If you go this route, be sure to call from a landline beginning at office opening hours Pacific Standard Time.
I don’t know that there’s actually a difference between calling from a landline and calling from a cell phone, but I’ve heard that landlines are more effective. Also, when our group was calling, the few that had gotten through were all landlines.
Have a credit card handy because once you get through, you’ll have to pay the entire amount up front. You can no longer book then pay once you get there. Have the following information ready:
- Number of permits desired
- Arrival and departure dates
- At least 3-4 back-up dates because your first choice is probably not going to cut it
- Credit card information. Remember: the person booking must be willing to pay for everything up front.
That being said, we were not able to book through calling the office directly. I think our group got through on about 4-5 separate occasions, but the line would cut out (or the office person would hang up) abruptly upon answering. Every. Single. Time. Super discouraging.
Then, my friend Kim told me about the brand spanking new online reservation system. It had JUST launched, probably about an hour or two before, so not many people knew about it yet. I jumped in and booked a one-night campsite for 20 people immediately, going off of our preferred date options. Our top 3 weekends were already unavailable by that time, so I think I had to reserve our #4 or #5 preferred date range. You really can’t afford to be picky, especially when permits are selling out by the minute (within 30 minutes of me booking, permits for the entire year had sold out).
Sunrise Reservations will send you a confirmation email.
The system’s a little confusing because it gives you a campsite number, but the sites are first-come-first-served and there are no numbers or real “campsites”. You basically just find a patch of dirt in between the trees and that’s it. Keep that in mind if you have a large group, because it’s easy to get separated and end up with multiple campsites, and that’s fine too.
Here are the camping fees for 2017:
Camping Fee: $25/person/night + 10% tribal tax = $27.50
Environmental Fee: $10/person + 10% tribal tax = $11.00
Entry Fee: $50/person + 10% tribal tax = $55.00
Total = $93.50/person for 1 night of camping
Here are the camping fees for 2018:
Camping Fee: $30.56/person/night
Environmental + Entry Fee: $110/person (one time fee)
Total = $140.56/person for 1 night of camping
For 2018, there’s an additional $18.34/night for weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), holiday weekday nights (2/19, 5/28, 7/4, 9/3, 10/8), and spring break weekday nights (March 5-8, 19-22).
Pretty hefty just to camp right? Just know that the money goes towards the Indian reservation and upkeep of the camping area (the bathrooms are cleaned daily). The good thing is, the more nights you camp, the more worth it your trip will be since the entry and environmental fees are one-time only. Just keep in mind that anything paid to the tribe is nonrefundable.
This total price is your ‘permit’. There is no physical permit for you to pick up. Instead, you get a wristband for every member of your group which shows your arrival and departure dates, total number in your party, and the name that the reservation is under.
The person who booked the trip will need to be present to show an ID at the tourist office in order for everyone to pick up their wristbands. If you’re not there yet, everyone else will have to wait. There is shade and picnic tables outside of the office for just that.
There is no day-hiking allowed. And even if it were allowed, why would you want to put yourself through that? It’s a 10-mile hike each way and even if you were able to physically hike 20-miles (with a 2,000 ft. elevation gain) in one day, you’d be missing out on the most important part: actually enjoying the falls. I don’t know why anyone would even want to try it.
That’s it! Your two choices are to either call the office or book online. Happy Travels!