Havasu Falls sits atop the bucket list for many hikers from the first time they see a picture of the aqua blue water cascading down red rock walls into the crystal pool below. On the hike, you will see Navajo Falls, Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls which are some of the most picturesque waterfalls and dramatic scenery found in the Grand Canyon. There is also Supai Village, a remote Indian village that is only accessible by hiking, horseback, or helicopter. Havasupai is roughly translated to mean, “People of the blue-green water”. The Havasupai people are an Indian tribe who have lived here for at least the last 800 years. If you are lucky enough to obtain a permit and view this magical place, you will understand why they have never left.
Quick Facts for Hiking Havasu Falls
- First day to get a camping permit: February 1st
- First day for Havasupai Lodge reservations: July 1st
- Approximate cost to camping at Havasu Falls: There is a maximum of 4 Days / 3 Nights per reservation (but you are welcome to make multiple back-to-back reservations to extend your stay if those dates are still available).Pricing for 2018 is as follows and includes all necessary permits, fees, and taxes:
One Person, 2 Days / 1 Night: $140.56
One Person, 3 Days / 2 Nights: $171.11
One Person, 4 Days / 3 Nights: $201.67
Weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), Holiday weekday nights (February 19, May 28, July 4, September 3, October 8), and Spring Break weekday nights (March 5-8 and 19-22) are an additional $18.33 per night.
All reservations are non-refundable and non-transferable.
- Link to Online Camping Permits (tip: use this)
- Permit Phone: (928) 448-2121 (good luck with this one)
- Link for Havasupai Lodge Reservations
- Trail Length: 22.1 Miles round trip trip (note this number can vary wildly depending on which trail(s) you do and if you use the copter. Get ready to hike your A* off)
- Limited groceries and supplies available in Supai Village
- Helicopter and mule rides available at Haulapai Hilltop and Supai Village
Tip 1: Get a Havasu Falls Permit Early
Camping permits for Havasupai Falls are some of the most sought after permits in the country. Due to this fact, obtaining them is extremely difficult, though not entirely impossible. You have to know the system and be willing to act quickly. The camping permits can be obtained each year starting on February 1st.
Before 2017, the only way to get them was to call the Havasupai tribe office via phone over and over and pray that someone picks up the phone. It is not uncommon for the entire year to fill up after the 1st day. Fortunately, since 2017 and beyond there is now an online reservation system where you can enter dates and check for availability. The server was reported to crash several times during the day, so be persistent. I would highly recommend using the website if it is available as using the phone lines can be a painful experience.
Keep in mind that you have to pay in advance for each permit you obtain. Each camping permit and day pass costs approx. $50 per person per day. If you are staying for 3 nights, you should budget around $150 per person for a 3 night stay at current rates. The person who obtained the permit must be present within the party with a valid ID to obtain the permits in the Supai Village (about 8 miles down trail). You can obtain as many permits as are available, however, you must pay in advance (new rule started in 2017).
Tip 2: Consider staying at the Havasupai Lodge
You can also reserve rooms in the Havasupai Lodge which is located the remote village of Supai. The rooms run around $145 a night, but each room contains 2 queen beds, so you could split the cost among friends. They are cozy and have heating and AC units in the rooms. If you are interested in staying at the lodge, you need to wait until July 1st, 201x. Call often as the lodge will fill up a year in advance within the 2 days.
Pros: The lodge is conveniently located in the Supai Village which is approx. 2 miles from the campgrounds.
You get to sleep in a bed and eat at the restaurant in the village. There is also a small market in the village. Both accept credit cards. This allows you to not have to pack most camping supplies and travel very light.
Cons: The lodge is inconveniently located further from the Mooney/Beaver falls hike. This adds another 4 miles to the already 8 mile roundtrip Beaver Falls trek, making Beaver falls a 12 mile roundtrip hike from the lodge.
Tip 3: Plan to spend the night close by to get an early start
The hot, dry Arizona sun can sap the strength of even experienced hikers. Of course, you would never catch an experienced hiker heading down canyon in the heat of the day. They would have started in the cool morning shade, or even the dark hours before dawn. The hike starts at Haulapai Hilltop, which is 30 miles down a dead-end road that branches off a desolate stretch of Route 66. There are really only four choices on where to stay: camping on Haulapai Hilltop, Grand Canyon Caverns, Peach Springs, or Kingman.
Camping on Haulapai Hilltop: A lot of people camp on Haulapai Hilltop before descending down to Havasu Falls. Why not? You already have your gear with you, right? You have never seen a starry sky until you camped on top a mountain in Arizona.
Pros: You will find a parking spot close to the trailhead, which you’ll really appreciate on the way back. You can also start hiking right away and it’s absolutely free. There are port-a-poties available and water for purchase. NOTE: water will not be available until 9:00 or so because the store is closed so don’t plan on getting an early start AND buying water on at the top.
Cons: This is not comfortable camping. It’s a parking lot. You might be able to pitch your tent in front of your car but there will still be traffic leaving all night long from night hikers returning to their vehicles. It’s also cold and windy up on the mountain top. You are 3000’ higher than the elevation of the campground, which equates to about 15 degrees cooler.
Grand Canyon Caverns: This is a cute, kitschy tourist stop from back when Route 66 was traveled. There is a restaurant cave tour, disc golf, memorabilia to make things interesting. You have your choice between hotel rooms or camping. This is the closet hotel to the trailhead from the Arizona side but it ain’t that close. (928) 422-3223
Pros: A real bed, air conditioning and heater, running water, hot showers.
Cons: It’s 35 miles from the trailhead down a 35 mph road to get there. You can beat the heat of the day with a super early start.
Peach Springs: Peach Springs is the closest town to the Havasu Falls Trailhead from the Nevada side. There are some restaurants, a grocery store, gas, and hotels here. The Haulapai Lodge would be our recommendation here. (888) 868-9378
Pros: A real bed, air conditioning and heater, running water, hot showers. (sound familiar)
Cons: It’s 36 miles from the trailhead down a 35 mph road to get there. You can beat the heat of the day with a super early start.
Kingman or Seligman Arizona: These town gets regular traffic and has a large selection of hotels and restaurants to choose from. If you’re coming fro the west, look at Kignman. If you’re coming from the east look at Seligman.
Pros: More selection and better prices. Shorter drive the day before the hike.
Cons: An additional hour or so drive added to an 0-dark 30 start.
Tip 4: Enjoy the hike down
With any luck, your boots will be pounding the ground when the first rays of light shine on Haulapai Hilltop. The trail down starts with a series set of switchbacks. You zig and zag down and impressive, red rock cliff. As far as your eyes can see, the landscape is broken by canyons that were carved by water running into the Grand Canyon and Colorado River for centuries. The switch backs stop, but the hill continues, like a toboggan run dropping you into a dry creek bed about 2000’ below the trailhead.
A multitude of rouge trails cut across the sandy creek as it meanders lazily down the canyon with almost no perceivable elevation change. You do notice the ever-present sand and pretty soon start picking the patches that look like they have solid ground. Solid ground is hard to come by, so you soon make peace with the sand.
Soon, the walls of Haulapia canyon have risen around you and you realize that this would have made a fine hike in its own right. Every now and then, you notice green cottonwood trees extracting water from deep beneath the dry creek. You can tell the water is getting closer to the surface, because the trees are getting bigger and closer together. By then end of the canyon, there is a small trickle of water seeping over the rocks. Hardly a stream and much less a water fall. Just when you begin to doubt the possibility of Havasu Falls existing, you come out into Havasu Creek.
Havasu Creek is flowing with beautiful, clear, cold water and lined with lush, thick cottonwood trees. You have found the source of Havasu Falls. It’s hard to say what’s more beautiful, the rushing creek or the shade of the trees. Up ahead, you see giant towers of limestone towering over irrigated fields. Those spires are called Wii’igliva, or the watchmen, because they stand guard over the village of Supai.
Entering Supai is like a dream. This village has been around longer than Washington DC, farming in the fertile Shangri-La. What makes it even more dreamy? The first house you come to has a sign on the door selling ice cream. Ice cream, ice cold Gatorade, frozen Gatorade and all kinds of stuff that are cold, wet, and sweet. A little bit farther in town is the grocery store, helipad, lodge, and all-important permit office. There is even a restaurant, with decent burritos.
Eight miles down, two more to go. Leaving the village is anticlimactic. You leave the creek bed and all ice cream stops behind you and plod along the red dirt road that always just a little too dusty. The let down doesn’t last long. As soon as you rejoin the creek, you can visit your first waterfall of the day, Upper Falls. After the falls, the trail is gorgeous. You wind along the creek, crossing it twice on wooden bridges. Just when you think it can’t get better, you hear that distinctive sounds of roaring water.
You start climbing down a staircase, but you aren’t noticing your pack anymore or the sand in your feet. All you can see is Havasu Falls cascading off the cliff beside you. It looks just like the pictures, but better. This place is actually real and you can feel the cool mist rising up to you. Just past the falls is Havasu Falls Campground, where you will be spending the next couple days.
Pros: You get to do the hike
Cons: You have to do the hike
Tip 5: Take a helicopter back to the top from Havasu Falls
The helicopter costs $85 per person and includes your packs. They accept cash or credit, but charge an additional 10% fee for using credit. It is a magical 10 mile, 5 minute trip back to the top. I highly recommend it. Keep in mind that most campers are planning to take the helicopter back out. In fact, even though the helicopter starts running around 9:00 am, most people start lining up in the Supai Village around 7:00 am. The list is first come, first serve. The Supai tribe members always get to ride first, then it goes to the list. It is possible that wind conditions or mechanical problems could cause the helicopter to not run, though this rarely occurs. If it does, you can still arrange to have a mule take your packs up. As a general rule, the helicopter will run all day until everyone that pays is taken to the top. It’s a quick trip to the top, but budget a full day to get a ride. This is one slow moving list so be prepared for the worst. Note, the helipad is in Supai, which is still two miles away from the campground. Call ahead to confirm the helicopter is running – (623) 516-2790.
Pros: Fun ride, amazing view
Cons: $$, working with the logistics waiting for your turn to ride.
Tip 6: Let a mule take your pack
If you want to travel as light as possible you can send your heavy gear down ahead of you all the way to Havasu Falls Campground. You just need a water pack and some light snacks for the hike. (Good shoes and hiking socks are a must as you will be walking on gravel for extended periods of time.) The tribe offers mules to take the heavy packs down and conveniently drops them off at the base of the campgrounds. The mules cost approx. $120 and can take 4 packs down, each weighing no more than 40 lbs. You can only reserve the mules within 1 week of your arrival date. You do not have to worry about renting a mule, they don’t run out. Call (928)488-2121 for reservations.
Tip 7: Take side trips
Let’s face it. Even if you used a mule, you worked you ass off to get to Havasu Falls. It would be a shame to leave to quickly. Here are some side trips that are well worth taking in approximate order from up-canyon to down canyon.
- Exploring Navajo Falls: The falls cascade over multiple drops just past Supai Village. Wet trails and hidden routes take you through a maze of waterfalls.
- Swimming beneath Havasu Falls: There is a large pool at the base of Havasu Falls that feels incredible after a hot day hiking
- Descending Mooney Falls: Mooney falls are about 2 miles past Havasu Falls at the other end of the campground. You get to crawl through the rock and descend down some pretty sketch chains and ladders, but it’s totally worth it to see the biggest falls in the canyon and reach the destinations below.
- Playing on Rope Swings: The exact locations of these swings change every season but rest assured somebody has found some way of swinging into the water. One is near the bottom of Mooney Falls. There is also a small cave you can duck into under the waterfall.
- Jumping Beaver Falls: Beaver Falls cascade over several drops creating beautiful calcite formations.
- Climbing Ancient Palm Trees: Arizona is home to distinct native palms. One of these beauties is right on the trail as you continue past Beaver Falls.
- Reaching the Colorado River: If you continue past Beaver Falls, you will eventually connect with the Colorado River, but it adds another 5+ miles of hiking to an already long hiking day.
Tip 8: The perfect Havasu Falls Itinerary
Day 1 – Drive to Havasu Fall. Stay close to Havasu Falls Trailhead (Haulapai Hilltop).
Day 2 (AM) – Hike to Havasu Falls
Day 2 (PM)– Play above Havasu Falls and Navajo Falls
Day 3 – Day hike to Mooney Falls (and continue to Beaver Falls and beyond)
Day 4 – Return to the real world
I would recommend coming in on a Thursday or Friday and returning on a Sunday. Why Sunday? Because the Air West helicopter runs on Sunday year-round from the Supai Village. By the end of the trip, you have probably will have hiked over 30 miles and are likely pretty tired. Taking a helicopter from the Supai Village to the top of the Hualapai Hilltop (10 miles) will sound very appealing by then. Jenn Coleman doesn’t agree on this point. She hiked in and out carrying her pack both ways with one new titanium knee and the other needing to be replaced. Something about old school adventure, finishing what you start, and you kids stay off my lawn.
Weekends are the premium days to be at Havasu Falls so make sure get your permits pronto!
Tip 9: When to go to Havasu Falls
Every season offers something special at Havasu Falls. The winter months offers easier permits, cooler hiking weather (be careful camping on the hilltop), and less crowds. You need to be careful of the summer heat. Make sure you get an early start, carry enough water, and travel fast enough not to get caught in the heat of the day. However, the long days leave a lot of time to play in this wonderland and the heat makes the blue-green water that so beautiful. Spring and fall offer the best hiking weather and most days are warm enough for a little water play.
Is it worth it to go to Havasu Falls?
After reading about how difficult it is to obtain permits and plan this trip, you might ask yourself, why go through all this trouble? Is it really worth it? The short answer is “YES”.
The water from Havasupai arise from an underground spring which has been stored underground for over 30,000 years in limestone caverns. While underground, the water obtains calcium, limestone and magnesium. This causes the water to reflect sunlight and make the water appear amazingly blue.
Hiking the trail to Beaver Falls is like hiking back through time. The canyon is virtually untouched for thousands of years by man. Nature, when given enough time, can produce some of the most beautiful places you will ever see. I’m not sure if this is my favorite all-time hike, but I am certain this place will stay with me long after I leave its hallowed grounds. The pictures are certainly beautiful, but there is no comparison to experiencing it in person.
I personally appreciate the amount of effort needed to see such an amazing place. It makes the entire experience feel more real. You will be tired and sore by the end of the trip. Almost certainly you will be left breathless, not from the hiking, but from the dreamlike scenery that will stay with you for a lifetime.
”Nothing of value comes without being earned.” Michael Jordan
Spencer works as a senior software engineer by day. He is a self proclaimed adrenaline junkie. Serving as the president of a local caving group, he enjoys exploring caves, rappelling down waterfalls, cliff jumping and generally anything that involves adventure and danger. He loves to travel but appreciates the beauty of Southern California (and his wife) above all else.
Spencer’s better half (most of the time) serves as a Guest Ambassador at the Safari Park in San Diego. She also enjoys caving, canyoneering, hiking, and adventure. She is an avid Horror movie fan and frequents horror movie festivals. She is an animal lover and is active in protecting all endangered species (especially the Lemurs in Madagascar).