How to Reserve a Permit for the Insanely Popular Havasupai Campground (and What to Do if You Can’t)
Permit reservations for the insanely popular Havasupai Campground open on February 1; here’s everything you need to know to snag one before they’re gone
Another year, another opportunity to fight tooth and nail for a coveted camping permit at Grand Canyon National Park‘s Havasupai, home to countless waterfalls, some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and the Havasupai (“people of the blue-green water”) tribe, who generously share their land with eager campers like us.
Reservations for all arrival dates from March 1, 2020 onwards will become available on February 1, 2020 at 8am Arizona time at havasupaireservations.com. Mark your calendars and set your alarms; permits sell out almost immediately.
There’s a reason these permits are so hard to come by: they’re strictly limited, which keeps the land from overuse and the campground itself from overcrowding. So, how can you possibly guarantee you’ll get one? Well, you can’t, but follow these steps and you’ll have the best chance.
Know This First
Some things to note before you commit:
-All reservations are for four days, three nights.
-According to the reservation website, pricing is subject to change at any time; 2019’s price per person was $375.
-It’s a 10+ mile hike to the campsite and an uphill 10+ mile hike back to the parking lot, with not much shade. If that sounds too daunting, you can rent a pack mule to carry your gear, or pay for a helicopter to take you down and bring you back up.
-Reservations can be made for up to eight people, no more.
-After your reservation has been made and paid for, no changes are allowed. This rule is strict, so triple-check before you click that reserve button.
-All reservations are paid in full at the time the reservation is made and are non-refundable, non-changeable, and non-transferable (except via the Official Transfer System—more on that below).
-Alcohol, smoking, campfires, and nudity—among other things—are not permitted, so leave your party pants at home (but definitely bring other pants).
All visitors to Havasupai must have a registered account on havasupaireservations.com. There is zero chance you’ll get a permit if you wait to register until the day they become available, so get this step taken care of now! In addition to all the usual info (email, address, phone number, etc.), you’ll need to enter an emergency contact, and will be given the option to enter your payment information in advance. TAKE THIS OPTION. Your info will be stored securely and you’ll only be charged if a reservation goes through. And trust us, a reservation will only go through if you’re not wasting time entering your credit card number that morning.
Have All Your Details Ironed Out
Prior to February 1, figure out exactly who’s going on the trip (up to eight people per reservation) and for what four-day/three-night timeframe you’re going. Ideally you’ll be flexible on when you can go, as space fills up quickly. Instead of picking just one timeframe, have a few picked out, or better yet, create a calendar with your fellow travelers and block out any dates you can’t go, so there’s a clear record of all the timeframes that are fair game for reservations. If you have a group larger than eight, you’ll have to split into two separate reservation groups, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to score the same, or even overlapping, dates. Consolation prize: You’re very popular.
Have Multiple People Try to Reserve
This one is a bit tricky: For it to work, everyone trying to reserve must be in contact with one another so if one person gets through, the others can abandon ship. Also, whoever makes the reservation becomes the “Trip Leader” and MUST be present at check-in, so only take responsibility for reserving if you can 100% commit! The only way around this is to add a Potential Alternative Trip Leader to your account. Basically this means that you’re authorizing another person (or people—you can add more than one) in your party to take over your reservation, which can only be done through the site’s Official Transfer System (again, more on that below, we promise). Additions or changes to your PATL can only be made prior to making a reservation, so think it through and choose wisely.
Choose your own adventure, Havasupai edition: If you snagged a site, read on. If you missed out, scroll down to learn that all hope’s not lost.
You Got a Site! Here’s What’s Next:
Congratulations! Seriously, this is a big deal. Rejoice, celebrate, brag, then make sure everyone in your reservation has a registered account on the Havasupai website. Every individual who arrives at Havasupai must have an account and must have proof of that account in the form of a printout or a screenshot. This is mainly to prove that you’ve read (and agree to) all the rules—there are quite a few, but they’re all in place to keep Havasupai clean and quiet, and to ensure the Havasupai people living nearby are comfortable and treated with respect. Don’t break the rules. Once you’re all registered, the only thing left to do is plan and pack. There’s plenty to do in Havasupai, so read up and figure out what you definitely don’t want to miss.
You Didn’t Get a Site. Bummer, but…
…it’s not over yet! Here’s where that Official Transfer System finally comes in. The Havasupai website is very clear that reservations are non-refundable, non-changeable, and non-transferable. The one, blessed exception to that rule is if you go through the Transfer System, which can help you do a number of things. If the Trip Leader can no longer make the trip, they can transfer the reservation to their PATL (remember the PATL?), so long as said PATL was designated pre-reservation. If the entire reservation needs to be canceled (stuff happens), it can be placed on the Official Transfer System, where anyone who’s still looking for a site (that’s you!) can browse for reservations that suit their dates and number of campers. Once there’s a match, the new reserver buys the reservation—and becomes the new Trip Leader—and the original reserver is refunded. Trying to buy someone else’s reservation in any other way (Craigslist, through a friend, on the black market) is forbidden, and won’t work anyway due to the whole Trip Leader business.
A few tips for navigating the Official Transfer System:
-Sites become available more often than you’d think, but they get snatched up just as quickly as you’d think. Check often, and be ready to seal the deal at any moment. Our travel editor scored her 2019 reservation during a bout of insomnia at 2am.
-You can’t (and shouldn’t) take a reservation that’s for fewer people than the number in your party, but if money is no object or you’re willing to give up fancy lattes for two months, you are able to take a larger reservation, so long as you pay for all of it. Our advice is to keep this within reason and be considerate of other campers; a solo traveler taking a five-person site is not only insanely expensive, but also unfair to the many folks just like you who are trying to snag a site.
-All the tips above about preregistering and entering your payment info in advance hold true here as well, so if for some reason you still haven’t saved your credit card on the site, DO IT NOW. Happy site searching!