The Havasu Falls hike is the ultimate bucket-list adventure. Located adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park, the contrast of the bright blue water of Havasu Creek against the red canyon walls makes Havasupai one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the remote location makes it seem like you’ve just stumbled upon a secret desert oasis. Trust me, the long trek to get there is totally worth it!
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Keep reading for tips on planning your trip to Havasu Falls, including how to get a Havasupai campground reservation, what to expect on the Havasu Falls hike, and tips for viewing each of the Havasupai waterfalls.
Havasupai Trip Overview:
PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 1-3
Miles Hiked: 26
Trailhead: Hualapai Hilltop
Havasupai Itinerary Overview:
Day 1: 10-mile hike to campground
Waterfalls- Fifty Foot Falls, Navajo Falls, Havasu Falls
Day 2: 6-mile hike
Waterfalls- Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls
OR option to hike all the way to the confluence and back (17 miles RT)
Day 3: 10-mile hike back out to Hualapai Hilltop
Havasupai is an Indian reservation at the base of the Grand Canyon, where the Havasupai Indian Tribe lives. Havasupai means “people of the blue-green water”. Supai is the name of the town. Havasu Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Havasupai, and the Havasu Falls hike will take you about 10 miles from the trailhead. There are several other waterfalls besides Havasu Falls that are worth checking out as well, including Mooney Falls, Fifty Foot Falls and Beaver Falls.
How to Get a Campground Reservation at Havasupai:
(Updated for new 2020 reservation rules!)
So you wanna do the Havasu Falls hike? To hike Havasupai, you’ll need a permit/reservation. Day hikes are not allowed. It’s very difficult to obtain a reservation, but it’s SO worth the extra effort and planning once you get one. See below for tips on how to get a permit for Havasupai.
Campground Reservations for Havasupai:
I highly recommend camping (vs staying in the lodge), as the campgrounds are in a great location if you are wanting to go all the way to Beaver Falls (or the Confluence!). The campground is beautiful- every campsite is near the bright blue Havasu Creek, and you are able to choose wherever you want to camp. The campground stretches about a mile in between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls, meaning that after your Havasu Falls hike you are super close to the campground from there. There is fresh spring drinking water and 4 bathrooms throughout the campground.
The Havasupai Tribe requires an entrance fee and a camping fee for each person. The prices tend to increase a bit year-over-year. For 2019 it was $100/night per person for a weekday night, and $125/night per person for a weekend night (Friday, Saturday or Sunday). They enacted a new rule for 2019 that is still standing for 2020 that you can only make a campground reservation for 3 nights/4 days (no less or more than that). Depending on the number of weekday vs weekend nights, this will be $300-$375 per person.
Havasupai reservations for the entire calendar year open on February 1st, 2020 at 8am MT time. You can book online at Havasupaireservations.com. You can no longer call to make a reservation. Reservations will likely be sold out for the entire year within a few minutes, so make sure you get online right as it opens.
Before 2/1, make sure you set up your online account at Havasupaireservations.com.
Also new for 2019:
- All campground reservations are now officially transferable. This is great news if your plans change and you need to sell your reservation to someone else. You must do it through the Official Transfer System on the Havasupai website.
- All campground reservations are now for 3 nights/4 days ($300-$375 per person)
- All pack mule reservations are now online only. There will be fewer mules available than normal, so if you would like to use one you must put in a waitlist request after making your reservation
- All people in your party must have an online account set up prior to arrival at Havasupaireservations.com, not just the trip leader.
Pricing per person: $100/night for weekdays, $125/night for weekend nights
If you get lucky and are able to book a reservation- just know that the Havasupai reservations are non-refundable (however, they are transferable this year). While you don’t have to note the names of everyone in your party, you do have to note the name of one person, and that person has to be present at check-in with a photo ID in Supai in order to proceed to the campground.
Supai Lodge Reservations
Although I highly recommend camping vs staying at the lodge, staying at the lodge in Supai is an option if you are not the type who likes to sleep in a tent. There is a store and a small cafe in town if you don’t want the extra weight in your backpack to pack food. The only downside is that if you want to go to Beaver Falls for a day-hike, it will add an extra 4 miles round-trip to your hike to get there. Also, you would likely not be able to hike to the Confluence (where Havasu Creek meets the Colorado River) if you are staying at the lodge, because of the increased distance.
The lodge is located in the town of Supai, which is an 8-mile hike from the trailhead, and 2 miles before the campground. From what I’ve heard, it’s very basic accommodations. The rates are $175/night, + the $90 per person entrance fee. Each room can sleep up to 4 people. You can cancel up to 2 weeks before your trip for a full refund. As of now, the only way to make a lodge reservation is to call: 928-448-2111 or 928-448-2201.
How to Get to Havasupai:
The trailhead to Havasupai is called Hualapai Hilltop, which you can enter in your GPS to drive there. It’s west of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I recommend flying into Las Vegas, renting a car, and driving there.
The drive from Las Vegas to the trailhead is a little under 4 hours. Some people drive straight to the trailhead and sleep overnight in their car before getting an early start to their hike. However, I personally recommend staying at a hotel the night before so that you get a good sleep before your Havasu Falls hike. The closest hotel is in Peach Springs, AZ a little over 1 hour from the trailhead, called Hualapai Lodge. The accommodations were nicer than expected, the beds were comfy, and the staff was friendly.
Note that the cell service as you arrive in Peach Springs is spotty (I have T-Mobile and didn’t have service at all on the drive from Hualapai Lodge to the trailhead) so make sure you pre-load the directions into your GPS before you lose service. You will continue driving on Route 66 until you reach Indian Road 18, where you will turn left. This road goes straight to the Hualapai Hilltop parking area.
There are a few options for getting to/from Supai Village:
1. Hike down with your backpack
This is the most common option. You hike down with all of your belongings (8 miles to town, 10 miles to the campground)
2. Hire a mule to carry your backpack
If you do not want to carry your backpack, you can hire a mule to carry your stuff. This option is popular for the hike back out, when people are worn out from all the hiking on their trip and don’t want to carry their packs for the 10-mile hike back out to Hualapai Hilltop. However, the new rules for 2019 state that you pretty much have to reserve a mule for round-trip instead of just one-way, via the waitlist online system after you make your campground reservation. I haven’t seen the prices for 2019, but in 2018 The mule cost $132 one-way, and can hold up to 4 bags. Pack Mule reservations are non-refundable and non-transferable. For the hike back out, you must drop your backpack off at the designated area near the campground by 8am that day. Note that if you do this and are a fast hiker, you may beat the mule and have to wait around a bit for your bags to arrive. The window for the bags to arrive back at the top of the trailhead is 10:00-12:00.
3. Helicopter from Supai
Another, more expensive option, is taking the helicopter to/from Supai. It costs $90 per person one-way, and you are not able to reserve in advance. Food/supplies and Havasupai Tribe members always get to be first in line over people who are visiting. The line can be super long- when we hiked down and arrived in Supai around 11:00am, we saw people in line to helicopter out who had been waiting in line since 3:00am!! I would really only use this as an option if you are injured and are physically unable to hike out. Otherwise, it seems like a huge waste of time.
Tips for a 3-day / 2-night Backpacking Trip to Havasupai
*Note that for 2020, all campground reservations must be for 3 nights/4 days. In this case, I recommend either a day of rest or hiking to the Confluence for the extra day.
Day 1 of your Havasupai trip: Havasu Falls hike and campground set-up (10 miles)
If you are hiking Havasupai in Summer, most people get to the Hualapai Hiltop trailhead around 4-5am to start their 10-mile hike in order to beat the heat (there is very little shade on the trail). However, if you are going in the Fall/Spring (I went in early November) you can plan to start hiking a little later. We started the hike at 7am, and arrived to town around 10:30am.
The Hualapai Hiltop trailhead has plenty of parking spots in the parking lot as well as along the side of the road. There is a bathroom at the trailhead as well. The hike into the town of Supai is 8 miles, and the hike to the campground is 10 miles. The hike to Havasu Falls is in between the town of Supai and the campground.
The hike starts with some switchbacks going down into the canyon. Once you get to the bottom, the rest of the hike is pretty much flat, following along a dried-out riverbed. Some people have said that the hike through the canyon is boring, however I thought it was super cool to be walking in between the two canyon walls. Although the hike is long, I personally didn’t think it was that difficult since most of the way is flat. However, you will be walking on sand and gravel for part of the way, which can make it a bit more challenging.
Eventually, you’ll see a sign for Supai (with a bunch of stickers on it) where you will turn left to head to the town. This is where you’ll get your first glimpse of the iconic blue water of Havasu Creek!
When you cross the bridge and follow the trail through the wildflowers into Supai, the first thing you will come across is the Sinyella Store on the outskirts of town.
This convenient store sells a variety of things, including coffee, yogurt, fruit, cans of soup, ramen, toiletry items- even kombucha! There’s also a cafe attached, where you can try the ever-popular FryBread for $8. Definitely a tasty treat to reward yourself for the long hike! They also sell breakfast burritos here, which we didn’t try.
At 8-miles in, the heart of the Supai Village is not far past the Sinyella Store.
You’ll see the Havasupai tourist office on the left where you’ll need to stop to check in and get your wristband. Make sure you have a print-out of your reservation, your photo ID, and your car’s license plate number in order to check-in. They’ll give you wristbands to wear, as well as a tag to put on your tent. You can also reserve a mule here for your hike out if you want to go that option. (Reserve the mule at check-in if you think you want one)
Once you’re checked in, keep walking past the store, the lodge and the church to veer to the left to follow the trail to the campground. It’s 2 miles to the campground entrance from Supai, but there are 3 waterfalls to stop at on the way on this Havasupai Falls hike!
The first waterfall you’ll see from the trail is Navajo Falls. The water doesn’t look as blue here as the iconic Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls, but it is still beautiful.
Walk down to the falls and turn left, and follow the skinny trail closest to the water for a few hundred yards and back-track to come to Fifty-Foot Falls.
Fifty-Foot Falls is often over-looked, as it is not super clear how to get there and is not as popular as Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls, however this is a stop that definitely can’t be missed! It literally looks like you’ve stumbled upon a secret desert oasis. I wish we had gone swimming here- but we had our backpacks on and our swimsuits weren’t in close reach. Consider wearing your swimsuit on the hike the first day if you are interested in jumping in the water at any of the falls that you stop at before the campground.
Next, head back to the main trail and keep going for the Havasu Falls hike. Hiking to Havasu Falls from Navajo and Fifty-Foot Falls is quick. You’ll see a few more FryBread huts, although they weren’t open when we hiked past them around 11:30ish so if you want FryBread, definitely get it at the Sinyella Store on the way into town.
You’ll cross another bridge, and then soon after will come to Havasu Falls on your right. Even if you’ve seen a million pictures of Havasu Falls before your trip, nothing compares to seeing it in person! It’s truly amazing. Your first sight of the falls definitely makes the 10-mile Havasu Falls hike worth it.
You can walk down to the base of Havasu Falls and enjoy the viewpoint, and swim around. The water is chilly (I read that it stays at 70 degrees F year-round), but it’s worth it to at least wade around at the base of Havasu Falls. It’s so beautiful!
Once you’ve spent some time enjoying Havasu Falls, head to the campground and pick your spot. The Havasupai campground is about a mile long, stretching between the ranger station, just beyond Havasu Falls, and continuing to Mooney Falls. I recommend walking as far back as your can, towards Mooney Falls, to set up camp. Not only is it less crowded back here so you’ll likely find an awesome spot, but you’ll also be closer to Mooney Falls for the start of your day hike on the second day. There are little wooden planks at a few points where you can cross Havasu Creek to the other side where there are other campsites as well.
There is potable water at the beginning of the campground (you’ll see a sign for it). I recommend packing a collapsable water jug so that you can get water as you walk in to bring to your campsite for drinking and cooking, so you won’t have to go back and forth.
Spend the rest of the day relaxing at your campsite and resting up for your hike the next day! I recommend walking over a few feet from your campsite to check out Mooney Falls from above, but I would wait until the next day to hike down to the base of Mooney Falls to save your energy (and your legs- that climb is steep!)
Also, no campfires are allowed in Havasupai. I recommend bringing some lanterns so you have a light source once the sun goes down.
Day 2 of your Havasupai Backpacking Trip: Hike to Mooney and Beaver Falls- 6 miles (optional- hike past Beaver Falls to the Confluence + 10 miles)
Get an early start to beat the crowds (and the heat, if you’re hiking in Summer) and head down to the base of Mooney Falls. Mooney Falls is absolutely amazing, and climbing down to the bottom of the falls is quite the adventure! You’ll start by hiking down the trail, which then leads to a sign reading “Descend at Your Own Risk” where you will descend through 2 small caves.
The view once you pop out of the first cave is amazing:
Next comes the most treacherous part. After you come out of the second cave, you have to climb down a few ladders to get to the bottom. The ladders are wet and slippery from the mist of Mooney Falls. There are also chains hooked into the rock that you can grab to hold on to. Don’t look down!
The pictures of the ladders and chains definitely don’t do it justice. I remember reading about it before I went and thought to myself “that doesn’t look that bad” from the pictures I’d seen, but once you see it in person, it is definitely a little nerve-wracking.
Once you get to the bottom, spend a few minutes admiring Mooney Falls before continuing on to Beaver Falls.
To get to Beaver Falls from the base of Mooney, take the trail on the left side. It will take you up and inland close to the canyon walls initially , but generally follows the river. You’ll have to cross the river 3 times to get to Beaver Falls. I definitely recommend bringing close-toed water shoes to hike in on day 2 so that you don’t have to change in and out of your hiking boots for each river crossing. I bought these shoes on Amazon and they worked great!
The hike from Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls was hands-down the most beautiful hike I’ve ever done in my life. It’s truly incredible hiking in between the red canyon walls, looking down on the bright blue Havasu Creek flowing along, guiding you on the trail. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a Big Horn Sheep! We saw one during one of our river crossings.
The trail will take you through fields of grapevines, through the river, and up a few ladders until eventually you’ll see a sign for Beaver Falls.
Beaver Falls is a great area for swimming. Climb the ladders down to the base of the falls, and explore! There are a few different levels to the falls, and you can swim around on each of them. The bottom of the river was never very slippery, so it’s surprisingly easy to maneuver around. At the top section of Beaver Falls, you can even walk behind the waterfall! Even in November, we still braved the cold water for a bit to swim around. Definitely worth it.
If you want to hike to the Confluence (where the Havasu Creek meets the Colorado River), it is an extra 6 miles each way from Beaver Falls (16 mile round-trip hike from the campground). While I really wanted to hike to the Confluence, going in November means a lot less daylight and a lot less sun shining through the canyon. Based on this, we decided to forego the Confluence and instead spend more time hanging out and enjoying Beaver and Mooney Falls. If you do want to hike to the Confluence, you will need a super early start from camp and must not depart Beaver Falls later than 11:00 am. You definitely want to make it back to Mooney Falls before dark, as climbing up those ladders and through the caves at night would be super sketchy. I’ll have to come back sometime in Summer and hike to the Confluence! Definitely another bucket-list item.
On your way back to camp, stop by Mooney Falls and wade around and enjoy the scenery. It’s such a magnificent waterfall! Be careful swimming too close to the fall, though, as there is a strong under-tow.
Day 3: Hike Back to Hualapai Hilltop
On your last day, you’ll hike back out the way you came, through the canyon floor and then up the switchbacks at the end until you reach Hualapai Hilltop. Make sure to stay hydrated and bring plenty of water for your journey!
Other Tips for Havasupai:
- Stay Hydrated – Make sure you pack enough water for for your hike- there is no potable water until you make it to Supai, and no other sources of water for filtration along the way either until you get there.
- License Plate – Take a picture of your car license plate before you start your hike, so that you can easily grab the plate number upon check-in at the Havasupai Tourist Office in Supai
- Sunlight – Just because it’s daytime doesn’t mean that the sun will be shining through the canyon. Because of the way the canyon is situated, when I was there in November, the sun was only peeking through the canyon at certain times of the day
- Photography – If you’re trying to take pictures of the waterfalls, the best time is when it’s either completely in the sun, or completely in the shade, but never half and half.
- Trails – The 10-mile trail through the canyon to Havasu Falls and the campground has little off-shoots of trails that I considered a little shortcut. From my experience, all of those little trails you see will converge back with the main trail. As long as you are following the dried riverbed on the way in, and following Havasu Creek after that, then you won’t get lost!
- Cell Service – Don’t plan on there being any cell service in the canyon
What to Pack for Havasupai:
- Bring layers- it gets chilly at night
- Backpacking tent
- Water Shoes for Day 2- (I bought these off Amazon and they worked great!)
- Daypack for day hiking on the second day
- Camelback Water Bladder
- Collapsible Water Jug for the campground
- JetBoil– this thing is awesome. You can easily boil water for dehydrated meals
- Eno hammock– there’s lots of trees at each campsite to hang your hammock
- Hiking Boots
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Best Time to Hike Havasupai Falls:
Fall/Spring– This is the best time for hiking Havasu Falls, in my opinion. The temperatures are pleasant for hiking, and the trails are less-crowded.
Summer– unbearable heat for hiking mid-day, however it makes swimming in the falls feel great! July-September is monsoon season, meaning you run the risk of a flash flood happening.
Winter: The campgrounds are closed December/January for maintenance
Hopefully this post is helpful in planning your trip, and I wish you luck getting a permit reservation!
Questions? Comments? Shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org