Horses and mules have always been used by the Havasupai Tribe as a means of transportation. Visitors who have never experienced a backpacking trip to Havasu Falls can make the trip easier by renting a horse or mule service from the tribe.
Don’t worry about how the pack animals are treated. A lot has changed about the Havasupai tribe’s pack animal service since they have been trialed in court.
The availability of riding a horse down to Havasu Falls have decreased over the years. There are two possible ways to get a horse. The first option is to talk to the workers who work for the village themselves. The second option is to talk to a local horseman that works privately. There are no major distinguishable ways to differentiate the two groups. Usually, private horsemen are at the entrance of the trail parking lot.
On my third trip to Havasu Falls (2016), one of our group members had a swollen ankle. We had to highlight the severity of the situation to the office receptionist before they considered giving us a quote since we didn’t have a reservation. We ended up not taking the horses because they said backpacks were not allowed on the horses. When we arrived at the top of the parking lot, we spoke to a few native tribesman who informed us that they could have taken us for a cheaper cost and with fewer restrictions.
Cost for a horse from the village: $80 (may have changed)
Cost for a horse from a private horseman: $40
Pack mules are a convenient way to make the trek down to Havasu Falls. Make sure your belongings are secured as the mules do not stop for fallen items, as our group learned the hard way during my first trek to the waterfalls. Two of our group members’ sleeping bags had unwinded and was dragged on the ground. Both bags got ripped and became extremely dirty. Luckily, the locals had extra hiking equipment that hikers left behind, and in the pile of equipment were sleeping bags.
When you arrive at the hilltop parking lot, unload what you want to be brought down where the shed that is close to the trailhead is at. Make sure to wait for someone to tag your bags before leaving. They will double check to confirm if you are staying at the lodge or the campground. Mules that transport loads to the campground will unload at the fenced area that’s right outside of the campground entrance, which is after passing Havasupai Falls. If you are one of the first packs to be tagged, the first drop-off is around 12 pm to 1 pm. If you reserved mules for a round trip, then you just leave your items at the fenced area before going back up.
The rate for one pack mule is $121 one-way or $242 round-trip. Prices have raised tremendously over the past few years, but it’s probably due to higher upkeep from new animal regulations.
Mules at Havasu Falls can be shared within the group as they have a load capacity of 4 bags or a total weight of 130lbs. There is also a load size limit, 36 inches long and 19 inches wide. For ice chests, be sure that it is no larger than 48 quarts, and it can only be 24 inches long and 19 inches wide. I must mention that there always has been a packing restriction. Luckily, the regulations had never been enforced on me from the times I’ve gone. Things may have changed since the tribe was in legal conflict.
Cost: $121 one-way or $242 roundtrip per mule
Reservation for pack mules is not allowed until closer to your permit dates. You must call to reserve your pack mule 1 week prior to arrival, or 1 day prior at the latest. However, I didn’t know this policy during my first trip (2013) and I got a mule at the trailhead – they may be lenient, but I would not risk it.
Reservation for Mules: (928) 448-2237
Havasu Falls Hike – Information about what is to be expected on the hike to Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls Camping – Information about camping at Havasu Falls and reservations
Havasu Falls Helicopter – Information about the Airwest helicopter service for Havasu Falls
Havasupai Packing List – A full list of camping/hiking gear and food that is required and what I brought