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How Do You Get Permits to Havasupai?

Updated: Feb 5, 2020

A First Timer’s Guide to Havasupai: Part 2

Probably the most asked question I hear about Havasupai is, “How do I get a permit?” Permits are essential to your Havasupai trip. You’d have an easier time entering the reservation completely nude than you would without a permit, and nudity is prohibited. I cannot stress to you enough how important they are. Picture Gandalf slamming down his staff and declaring: “You shall not pass!” because that is exactly what will happen to you if you show up without a permit in hand. I think you get my point. Now how do you get this most precious piece of paper that is your golden ticket to paradise?

It is important to know that permits open for the campground (lodge is different, see below) on February 1st at 8 am Arizona time. This time of the year means that Arizona is in the same time zone as Mountain Standard Time. This is important because Arizona doesn’t do daylight savings, and it’s just very confusing for us all. Except for Arizonians. Must be nice to never have to change your clock. Never spring forward. I digress, back to the point; permits open on Feb 1st, but the process actually starts waaaay before this, so let’s back it up a bit and bear with me, because we have a LOT to discuss.

Important things to know about Permits:

  • You need to create an account. Do this immediately. Right now. Go ahead, I can wait. Done? Awesome.

  • Speaking of accounts, one login per account at a time. This was a change made in 2019, in the past you could login on multiple devices using just one account. According to the website, it is no longer possible to do this and you will be kicked out of the system if you try. Are they just blowing steam? Possibly, but I wouldn't risk it. For those of you wanting to use multiple devices to snag a permit, how do you get around this? Create multiple accounts, of course! Those embarrassing email accounts from high school will come in handy.

  • The season starts in February and ends in November. HOWEVER: permits for February go on sale the year prior. Meaning February 2020 permits were sold in 2019. When reservations open on the 1st it will be for March-November.

  • When you go in to purchase your permit, you will need to select how many individuals are in your group. Say there are 4 of you. When you purchase the permit, it will be for all 4 members of your group. Other members do not need to go in and purchase permits, because you just did for everyone.

  • Don’t have each member of your group purchase their own permit, you will NEVER get it for the same date. Keep your group together and have one person purchase all of the permits at once. I would, however, have everyone make an account and try to get tickets. Just don't make a payment until you are sure no one else has made a purchase! More on this strategy later.

  • As of 2019, ALL reservations will be for 4 days and 3 nights. If you don’t want to stay that long you can leave early, but you’ll still have to pay the full cost.

  • 2019 prices are as follows: Weekday night, $100. Weekend night (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), $125. These prices cover permit cost, taxes, fees, campsite, everything. This is the cost PER PERSON, meaning that each member of your group will be paying between $300-$375 each.

  • All money is to be paid at the time of booking. You will be paying for all reservations, so make sure you are going with friends who are good for it, or get a deposit from them beforehand.

  • You can book back to back trips to extend your stay. Good luck with that.

  • New for the 2019 season: Permits are now transferable! You can transfer the name on the reservation to someone else in your group, you can transfer part of your reservation, or you can transfer the entire reservation. This all needs to be done on the tribe's website. There is a 10% transfer charge. Because of this change, public posting of attempts to fill spots on your reservation is prohibited and could result in your reservation being cancelled.

  • Starting in 2019, all reservations must be made online. In the past they would also take call-in reservations, but not anymore. If you try to call to make a reservation, they will not help you.

  • The person whose name is on the reservation must be present for your group to enter. So use the name of your most loyal, stalwart, ride or die, wouldn’t miss it for the world, amigo. That person who will hobble down in a full body cast if they must.

  • You may list alternate group leaders before you purchase the permit. However, if the registered trip leader is unable to go you will still need to use the transfer page to change an alternate to being the official group leader. Failure to do so would render your reservation as invalid. I don't know if there is a charge for this? Once the permit has been purchased you cannot edit this list either.

  • 2020 UPDATE Per an email I just received from the tribe: "ALL visitors to Havasupai (not just the Trip Leader) must have an account". All this means is everyone in the group must either have a printed copy or a screen shot proving they are registered on the site upon check in when you arrive in the village. As far as I can tell, this will have no affect on purchasing permits, as in, you will not need to list the names in your group when purchasing permits.

  • Besides the one name on the reservation, you don’t need any other names or information from your group at the time of booking. They don’t care. Karen dropped out? She would, she’s so flaky. No worries, Susie is dying to go, she’ll take her place. Musical chair your crew away, but again, don't publicly post it.

  • You can have up to 12 people on your reservation. This is another new change as of 2019. Know that the more people in your group, the harder it will be to find available dates. It is easier to fit smaller groups in on the calendar. When booking, if you are having trouble finding available dates, lower your guest count. Karen’s not going to go anyway, let’s be honest. Just drop her.

  • You can make a reservation for just yourself, 1 permit. There is no "you must get x number of permits" rule.

  • When making the reservation, after filling out the number in your party it will take you to a calendar. You will only be able to click on the dates that meet your criteria. The day you click on is the first day of your reservation. If you can’t click on it, that means that date isn’t available, not for the first day of your trip anyway. For example: You want to celebrate your birthday down there, it’s June 7th (spoiler: we’re birthday twinners!). June 7th is blocked out, you can’t click on it. But June 6th is available. This means you will be staying the nights of June 6th, 7th, and 8th in paradise. Happy Birthday!

  • Reservations are for people, not campsites. You won’t be assigned a campsite. It is first come, first served down there. It is up to you to find a site that is large enough to accommodate your group. Don’t stress over this, it always works out.

  • 1 day hiking is not allowed, meaning you can’t hike down and out on the same day. I mean, you could. But you’d still have to secure a permit for the full 3 nights.

  • Kids 6 and under are free. You do not need to include them on the reservation, just bring them. The tribe discourages you bringing small children, as this is a strenuous adventure, but they won't stop you.

  • Discounts for Native Americans are processed when you check in; you have to pay the full price up front. You must have valid tribal identification with you.

  • The Lodge. I've never stayed in the lodge, and I honestly don't know why you would unless you have a condition that would necessitate it. It's a long, hard walk from the lodge to the waterfalls. But if the lodge is your jam, know that permits go up on June 1st the year prior. In 2020 the permits being sold on June 1st will be for the 2021 season. You must call to make these reservations, and it will take some time and dedication on your part.

Permits sell out fast. We are talking minutes for the desirable dates. Within an hour, including February and November. You gotta be prepared and on it if you want to be victorious.

When Is The Best Time to Go?

Whenever you manage to get a permit, if you want an honest answer. Getting a permit can be a messy process, so snag whatever one you can and make the most of it. I have been mid-March twice, May twice, and the end of June. So far my favorite time to visit has been May, but I have thoroughly enjoyed every trip there. May has warm days and cooler nights, which as someone who sleeps hot, I appreciate. I loved June as well, the heat made the water feel that much more amazing, the only hitch was it was just a taaaad too hot at night for me. My March visits were so long ago I honestly don't remember what the weather was like, but I am wearing shorts and tanks in pictures, so it must have been pleasant.

Besides being hot as balls, July and August are considered monsoon season, so I avoid those months. This can linger into September, but I would imagine September could be a nice month to visit, as well as early to mid October.

Just get whatever permit you can and make the most of the experience, weather be damned. The weather doesn't determine if the trip is a success, your attitude does, so go ready for an adventure and come what may and love it!

How to prepare for February 1st:

4 weeks out:

Put out feelers to see who wants to go with you

Start doing your research. Might I suggest reading some posts from the blogger She Hikes Utah? Girl has some awesome insights. Hint: you can find out pretty much anything you would ever need to know by reading my First Timer’s Guide in its entirety!

2 weeks out:

I would finalize your crew, your tribe, your homies. Whatever you want to call them. Figure out who is definitely down to go. You don’t have time for wishy-washy people. You are only as strong as your weakest link, and if it’s February 1st and you’re still trying to accommodate someone who is iffy, it could very well cost you the trip. So get your core group finalized. Fence sitters are out. Tell everyone to create their own account. The more accounts on your team working to get permits, the merrier. And they will need to make an account eventually, might as well get on it.

I would strongly suggest that whomever is taking one for the team and being financially responsible for the reservation get deposits from everyone in the group. It is going to be expensive, and you don’t want to be the one who is financially burdened when Karen drops out. I would also let your card company know that you will be making a large purchase on the 1st. It would be a horrible time for them to freeze your account because of suspicious activity!

Once you have your crew finalized, get together and discuss possible dates. Choose your top 5 preferred dates that work for everyone. In addition to that, last year I also had everyone in my group give me a list of the days they absolutely couldn't make work. This gave me a lot of flexibility in selecting dates, since none of our preferred dates ever showed as available. Flexibility is KEY to getting a permit.

Get your game plan for game day set. Who has the fastest internet and best connection? You want to go there. You want as many computers, tablets, and phones as possible, however many for the amount of accounts you have. Assign people their dates to go after so you're not all trying to click on the same one. For example, John is in charge of trying to get June dates, Brett is over July, whatever works best with your particular game plan. This is an all hands on deck, strength in numbers kinda event.

If you are unable to all be in the same place at the same time, create a system where you can easily reach one another all at the same time, be it a texting thread, messenger, Marco Polo, whatever. Something where you can communicate quickly with everyone in your group. If one of you gets through, you need to be able to quickly communicate that before you end up with multiple reservations. You have 2 minutes to confirm your order, so you have to communicate fast.

Some people have better success on different browsers, or on different devices. Be ready to try all options. If you feel you need to install some new programs on your computer, now is the time to do it.

Day of:

They say love is a battlefield, but so is getting Havasupai permits. This is it, the moment you’ve been training for. The adrenaline is pumping through my veins as I type just thinking about how intense it was last year! Gird up your loins, folks!

1 hour to go time:

Meet at your arranged home base. Make sure you are connected to the internet, all systems a go. Clear your cookies and cache. Anything that might slow your computer down. Have a bagel. You’ll need your strength.

10 minutes to:

Login to Havasupai Reservations and start refreshing periodically. If you are unable to be in close proximity with your trip mates, check in on the system you have in place, make sure everyone is ready.

1 minute to:

Start staring at your screen. They say it should refresh automatically with the "Find Reservations" button as soon as the clock strikes 8 am. I like to hit refresh a couple of times anyway. Makes me feel a little more in control. Can you feel the intensity in the air?! The blood pumping through your veins? It. is. go. time. people. May the odds be ever in your favor!

February 1st, 8 am MST.

And you are ready. You were born ready! You know what to expect, you’re practically an expert. Even Eminem is rooting you on.

At 8 am, the site is supposed to automatically refresh (but keep hitting refresh just in case because who trusts technology to work correctly). A nice big button that says “Make a 2019 campground Reservation” will appear on your screen. Click on that. It will take you to a screen to select the number in your party. From there, to the calendar with all the available dates that match your criteria.

By lucky stars, your first choice of date is still available! You click on it, so happy. You made it! Not so fast. It now says it’s unavailable. Okay. Back to the calendar. Date number 2, you click on it. Again, “this date is no longer available”. But it was just there! How? It was just barely available! Sweet baby Jesus, take the wheel!

99% of you are going to have this happen. It’s frustrating. By this point, you can practically feel your heart beating out your ears. Just keep clicking on those dates, friend. This is where being flexible comes to play. In 2018 the only reason I got a reservation is because I just kept clicking (just keep clicking, just keep clicking). I must have gone through 5 different dates before one stuck. Stick with it, don’t give up hope yet!

You’ll know you made it when it shows you a summary of your order. Review this page! This is a timed process, which really puts the pressure on and as a result, many people accidentally buy permits they can't use. Stay calm and carefully review all of the information before moving on. I mean, hi. This is how I almost ended up going solo this past year. I thought I reserved 2 permits, and had I carefully reviewed this page I would have realized this wasn't the case. Face palm. When you hit continue, the information fields will auto fill with your account information. This is where you can make edits, and I believe change the name on the reservation if you want to put a different name on there. Again, review everything before clicking on to payment.

Next, time to pay up! When you register for your account you have an option to include a card. If you included one, the info will auto-fill, if you didn't, you'll of course have to fill it out. Again, review all before clicking that make payment button. And then…you’re done! I can't remember what the final screen says, but it makes you feel all warm and giddy with a bow tied on top. Breathe that sigh of relief, you have gone into battle and come out the other side waving the victory banner. You’re going to Havasupai, my friend!

I didn’t have any computer issues in 2018, but I know others who did. Website freezing (on the summary page no less, how heart breaking!), being kicked out of the reservation system, you name it, people had it happen to them. That is what happens when thousands upon thousands of people are all on one site at the same time. I logged in and had my permits within minutes. I used Chrome and had no problem. Others said Chrome didn’t work for them. It’s a crap shoot.

2019 was a completely different experience from the year before. In 2018 permits were gone, within in minutes. In 2019, I don't know what was going on, word is bots were running amok... it was just crazy. No one could get through. I can't even tell you how many times I had to refresh and confirm I wasn't a robot. It took two and a half hours for me to get through and secure a single permit. Sometimes I would be on and it would look like no desirable dates were open, but if I clicked on a date I didn't want (no offense February), and then exited out, other, more desirable date would show as available. Honestly, it was a bit of a s#*! show. It's not going to change though, so embrace it for what it is and make the most of it. Know that I’ll be thinking about you and be sending good vibes your way. I truly hope everyone reading this is able to secure a permit! We got this, fam!

You Didn’t Get a Permit, Now What?

This post is already crazy long. If you’re still with me, know I am thankful to your dedication. I’d hug you, if I could. At this time I’m going to ask you to go check out my (much shorter) post about what to do if you find yourself in this conundrum. I’d address it here, but I gotta put this baby to bed.

You Have at Permit (praise Jesus!), Now What?

It takes hours for the adrenaline to stop coursing through my veins, every time. Like, seriously. I'm a hyped up mess after. But man, what an awesome feeling to know that you are headed to Havasupai! Immediately after purchasing my permit I always check my inbox for my confirmation email. If you don't receive this email, something somewhere went wrong. Don’t lose this baby! Print that sucker, print it a few times. Save it to your computer. Make sure you don’t accidentally delete it. This email is your permit! When you make the reservation, they will suggest you join the Facebook page Havasupai and Havasu Falls. This is a great tool to follow. Be warned though, it will take over your news feed of people asking every question I just addressed and will continue to address in my following posts. The inspiration for my "A First Timer's Guide to Havasupai" actually came from these questions. Maybe share this post with them, they need it.

I’m so happy for you. Check you out, baby. You did it! Time to figure out the finer details of this adventure!

For everything you need to know about flying, driving, helicopter, and pack mules, check this guy out: A First Timer’s Guide to Havasupai Part 3: How Do You Get To Havasupai?

Questions about the hike, the village, and campgrounds? You'll find this helpful: A First Timer’s Guide to Havasupai Part 4: What to Expect in Havasupai: The Hike, Village, and Campgrounds

And last but not least, everything you need to know about the waterfalls can be found here: A First Timer's Guide to Havasupai Part 6: The Waterfalls of Havasupai

{as always: practice LEAVE NO TRACE. stay hydrated. tell someone where you are going. wear appropriate clothing. be mindful of the weather. be nice to fellow hikers. have fun, make good choices, & hike smart}

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