If you haven’t heard of Havasu Falls, believe me when I tell you, you need to keep reading!

Havasu Creek is a collection of waterfalls most commonly referred to as Havasu Falls. Famous for their out of this world turquoise waters contrasted by the surrounding rust colored travertine terraces. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but a dream to swim in.

 For those who want to see it with their own eyes, it’s not necessarily the easiest trip to take since it’s extremely remote. Think of it more as an adventure, only deserving of those willing to make the effort.

Havasu Falls is located on the Havasupai tribal lands inside the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The first thing you must know is, it is not accessible by car. It’s a rocky and rugged 10-mile hike from the parking lot to camp, one way.

There is no day hiking allowed, this is an overnight trip! As of 2019, there are not longer 1 or 2 night reservations, all reservatons are 3 NIGHTS/4 DAYS.

Permits are required for everyone and there’s no getting around this. The reservation line for these passes opens up for availability every year on February 1st at 8 am Arizona time. They book out for the entire year ahead, filling up almost instantly (instantly = within hours).

The official website is https://www.havasupaireservations.com.  Even if you missed your chance and they are full, always check back throughout the year for cancellations.

Another option is to join this facebook group , which often people will post when they have extra passes. It also has a great deal of helpful information!

Two years in a row I wasn’t able to get permits before they sold out, so instead, I opted to go with an outdoor guided tour group. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Since it was my first-time backcountry camping, I preferred the extra help and guidance that you receive with tour groups.

Going with a guided tour group costs a great deal more than going on your own (especially when you think to yourself you’re paying this amount to sleep on the ground in a tent with no shower…), but believe me when I tell you, it was worth every penny! Details of my trip are here.

Havasupai Tribe recently prohibited tour companies for 2019, so as of now this is no longer an option.

The campground is very simple; there are outhouses and fresh running spring water. You’re surrounded by canyon walls, can take a dip in the creek at any time, and close walking distance to Havasu Falls.   It’s first come first serve for campsites, so the earlier you arrive the better chance you have at getting your pick. You must carry in and carry out everything you need. Another challenge is there are no campfires allowed.

Before my trip, I searched the internet like a mad woman, trying to fill my endless curiosity and to make sure I was adequately prepared. Below I am going to do a Q and A, of everything I personally wanted to know. If anything is missing, add it in the comments, and I’ll add it in!

Q & A :

How many miles is the hike?

These are all one way, so when you add it all up it’s a minimum of 20-30 miles roundtrip.

From Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot 

8 miles – Supai village

(Passing Fifty Foot Falls, Upper Navajo Falls, and Lower Navajo Falls)

10 miles – Havasu Falls & Campground 

10.5 miles – Mooney Falls

13 miles – Beaver Creek 

18.5 miles – Colorado River  (Most don’t venture this far)1

How hard is the hike?

It is strenuous! Not only do you drop about 2400 feet in elevation in total, but 1000 of that is in the first 1.5 miles! It’s also pretty rocky terrain for an extended period which isn’t so easy on the joints.

I was more concerned about the hike out since, generally speaking, we think of uphill as being harder. I actually found the uphill to be less challenging, besides the last mile and a half to the top, which is without a doubt the hardest part of the whole hike.

It’s going 1000 feet up with switchbacks in broad daylight. In our group of 8, the average time was 1 hour to tackle this last portion.

The whole 10 miles took us about 6 hours both heading there and back (including stops to use the bush toilet and to snack).

It is also challenging in other ways, for instance, to beat the heat most people head out well before sunrise (even as early as even 3 am). Which can add an element of stress or excitement depending on which way you look at it! Hiking in the dark while half asleep and exhausted has a way of making it seem more strenuous than actuality.

 My legs felt like jelly after the hike and I was sore in places I never thought imaginable. I also acquired a quarter-sized blister on my heel, which could have made the way out very miserable, luckily it was gauzed nicely.

Do I need to be in shape? 

Well, I think it’s recommended that you are physically fit enough to hike and carry a backpack that could weigh as much as 40 pounds. You really don’t have to be an athlete, nor do you have to have done something this extreme before.

It is always best to be prepared and to adequately train, as there are no easy ways out. Unless you catch a ride on the helicpter, more on that below.

Everyone is going to be sore after hiking in/out/around, it’s inevitable! It was my first 10-mile hike, but from the views to the serenity, to the satisfaction of accomplishment, it makes it all that much more worth pushing through your comfort zone.

How do I get to the trailhead?

The closest airports are either Phoenix or Las Vegas, both about 5 hours away. The trail into Supai begins at Hualapai Hilltop, which is 66 miles from Peach Springs, Arizona. 166 miles from Flagstaff and 118 from Kingman. 

Peach Springs is the closest place that has gas, food, limited lodging, and water. The other lodging options would be Flagstaff or Kingman, but a couple hours drive.

I would suggest trying to book a place in Peach Springs for the night prior since all other options are hours away.

Can I start the hike at any time of day?

Because of the severity of the hike and heat especially in warmer months, you’ll find that people start very early in the morning. We were at the trailhead by 7am, so if you’re staying in Flagstaff, this could mean waking up at 3am or 4am to get on the road. 

Starting VERY early is one of the most important things you can do. Weather in the summer can reach a high in the 100’s during mid-day, and there is practically no shade. 

What’s the best time of year to go?

While certain times of the year are much more ideal, if you get a permit you should jump at the opportunity regardless of the season!

Summer can be pretty brutal with the heat, but other times of the year can be chilly and not quite warm enough outside to enjoy the year round 70-degree water.

Ideally, something in the late spring or early fall will have the most ideal weather, but all seasons can be manageable as long as you are adequately prepared.

Average High/Low by Month

  • Jan: 53/27 (CLOSED TO PUBLIC)
  • Feb: 60/32
  • Mar: 67/37
  • Apr: 75/43
  • May: 86/50
  • June: 96/60
  • July: 99/66
  • Aug: 99/64
  • Sept: 89/56
  • Oct: 78/46
  • Nov: 64/35
  • Dec: 53/27 (CLOSED TO PUBLIC)

How many people will be there?

The campground holds 300 people. This seems like a lot of people to be sharing the experience with, but from my experice (on Memoral Day Weekend at that) for most part people are coming and going on different days, so it doesn’t feel crowded.

What is at Supai Village?

Supai village is considered the most remote community in the U.S., with no road access within 8 miles. There are said to be about 200 people living in the village. 

A fun fact is it’s the only place in the states where the mail is carried out by a mule!  

Here the tourism office is located where everyone must check in and pick up their wristbands.

There’s a tiny convenience store with a very minimal selection, such as water bottles, ice cream, snacks, and some household items.  I wouldn’t recommend trying to supply food for your entire trip from the store.

The very minimalistic lodge is located here in town, for those that don’t want to camp. However, reservations open in June of every year and book up rapidly.

There are public restrooms and a cafe as well. But for the most part, you will just notice homes, horses, and people wishfully hoping to catch the helicopter out to forgo hiking…

What do I need to bring?

This is a list of essentials to bring and for a complete detailed camping list check out this super informative blog post by Trails to Peak.

  • A worn-in pair of durable hiking boots (SO IMPORTANT) 
  • A headlamp 
  • A camelback that can hold up to 3 liters of water
  • A swimsuit
  • Sunscreen (preferably biodegradable)
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks 
  • Sun Hat 
  • Water shoes
  • Clothing dependable on the weather/time of year you are traveling!

What will I eat?

As someone who’s world revolves around food, I was so worried about this! Thankfully our tour group had us completely covered, we had everything from chicken curry wraps, salmon pesto pasta, chicken fajitas, coffee, eggs for breakfast… but that is EXTREMELY spoiled in regards to what you can eat while camping there.

This is an excellent article on what to bring foodwise. 

I just cannot reiterate enough, you will be burning excessive amounts of calories, so having plenty of snacks and sufficient food for meals is so important. Our tour guides made sure we each brought 4-6 snacks on us every day so we could always refuel.

I heard there is a helicopter…

Yes, there are! Helicopter rides are offered daily and during peak season run from 10am to 1pm, weather permitting. It cost $85 per person each way and you are limited to one medium-sized backpack of no more than 40 pounds. The flight takes off from Hualapai Hilltop and takes less than 10 minutes to drop you off in Supai Village and vice versa. Check out this website for more info!

However, the flights are first come first serve, and they give priority to tribal members. So lining up early is a must! To give you an idea…. We saw people already in line at 5am when we were hiking out of the canyon, 5 hours before the helicopters even start.

What are the mules for?

There are mules that you can use for personal transport and/or carry gear. This is also something you need to have a reservation for. The pack mule used to carry baggage can cost about $264 roundtrip, and one mule carries a maximum of 4 bags weighing no more than 130 lbs. There are specific time drop offs times early in the morning (it’s a $300 extra fee for late runs). Here’s a link for more info!

I read online the mules are malnourished…

If you’re like me and have done some researching, you have may have come across reviews about the horrible treatment of the mules in Havasupai, including being overworked in the heat often times with open sores on their bodies.

However, after doing more reading, since 2016 after the issue was brought to light by eye witness accounts and groups like SAVE Stopping Animal Violence, it spurred a federal case in which one tribal member has been charged with a felony for animal abuse. Since then the rules and regulations around the mules have been drastically changed and there’s been an improvement in their well being, including veterinary checks and weight limits imposed. 

Side note, it is crucial that if you do see anything not aligning with proper animal treatment that you do report it. 

Is the water really that blue or are people over-editing their photos?

The water is just as beautiful in person as you see online! Havasupai actually means “People of the Blue-Green Water.” It gets its teal blue color from the vast amounts of calcium carbonate that formed into limestone around the water reflecting the color so strongly. It also stands out so vividly next to the travertine rocks surrounding the falls. Keep in mind if there’s been a storm or flood though, the color can quickly change and not be the blue-green you had quite imagined.

This photo taken on my Sony A6000 only hasn’t had any color adjustments

Is hiking down Mooney Falls dangerous?

I had heard about the trek down the side of Mooney Falls, and since I have a fear of heights, I nearly convinced myself not to attempt it. The descent to Mooney Falls, IS THE TRAIL that continues on to Beaver Creek and the Colorado River. So if you want to see it all, you have got to tackle this portion.

Mooney Falls is the largest of the waterfalls at Havasu Creek at approximately 190 feet. And the trail literally descents down the steep cliffside on the side of the falls. It starts with tunnels going through the bedrock, and then you get to chains, wooden ladders, and rock stairs— all of which are damp and can be slippery from the combination of the impact of the waterfall hitting the ground and the breeze that can add to it.

First and foremost, as long as you have proper hiking shoes on and take it slow, it isn’t as bad as it seems. I, however, had the help of my guide who literally told me where to step and where to hold onto while I was trembling from nervousness. To be honest, my state of mind mostly came from the anticipation and fear I built up more so than feeling in danger at the moment.

It is frightening for sure, but seeing people later in the day be talked down gave me more confidence in how to best navigate the wall. For starters, always go down the ladders facing the wall! And always treat it as a one-way road, so wait for anyone who’s coming down to finish before heading up, vice versa!

Can I bring wine?

Havasupai Indian Reservation has a no alcohol policy. It’s best to abide by the rules, and they do enforce them.

I was so bummed in preparation thinking I would want a glass of wine at the end of the long trek, but to be honest, we were so exhausted I didn’t even need it.

Please add any questions that I may have missed or if you personally have anything to add — COMMENT BELOW! Thank you!

Next up: 

Now its time to hear all about my trip!

Here’s a detailed account of my time at Havasu Falls!

Jenny Habdas
Spread the love