Hidden deep in the Grand Canyon is a magical oasis inhabited by the Havasupai Indian Tribe. Havasupai translates to “people of the blue-green water” – and the water really is that blue, owed to high concentrations of calcium carbonate in the limestone riverbed.
This desert paradise is accessible by a 20mile round-trip trek to one of the most remote indigenous territories in the country, and there’s a lot of planning and preparation that’s necessary to undertake this adventure. What is the trek like? How do you get a permit? What do you do when you get there? What should you pack? Do you need a guide?
It can be confusing and overwhelming to piece all the information together, but I’ve put together this comprehensive guide with answers to those questions (and everything else you need to know) to help you prepare for a trip to this desert paradise.
What you’ll find in this post:
- What to expect from the trek to Havasu Falls
- How to secure a permit and reservations
- When to visit
- Driving directions to the trailhead
- Exploring Havasupai’s waterfalls
- Tips for your visit (and mistakes to avoid)
- What to pack
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE TREK TO HAVASU FALLS
- Length: 20 miles roundtrip (out and back)
- Difficulty: Difficult; must be in good physical condition
- Terrain: Exposed desert and wet canyon
- Trail Condition: Well maintained over dry riverbed composed of dust and loose rock
Day hikes: NOT ALLOWED
You’ve seen it featured in magazines, on Facebook, and plastered all over Instagram, but the trek to Havasu Falls isn’t for the faint of heart. The trek along the Havasupai Trail is very long, very hot, and very exposed to the boiling Arizona sun. It begins at the the Hualapai Hilltop, where you’ll find a sweeping view of the canyon below you. You will descend 2000 feet for the first mile into the canyon via a series of switchbacks. The steep descent will deliver you to a dry riverbed of loose rock at the bottom of the canyon. From here, it is 9 miles to the village of Supai.
You will follow a gently sloping trail through the loose rock and red dust of the canyon for the next 6 miles, with no protection from the intense desert sun. But soon after, you will find a river that will lead you downstream through a (seemingly sudden appearance of) lush forest of cottonwood and willow trees. The trees offer very welcomed shade while their bright green leaves stand in striking contrast to the surrounding red sandstone canyon. It really is a sight to see. From here, the Havasupai village of Supai is 1.5 miles away.
When you arrive at the village, you must check in at the tourist office and obtain your camping tags. You must have secured your permit prior to arriving at the tourist office. If you arrive at the office without a permit and subsequent camping reservation, you will be turned away and forced to trek back out or charged double the fee.
After taking a quick break in town, continue to follow the trail for another 2 miles until you arrive at the top of Havasu Falls. This iconic gem plunges 100 feet into a crystal clear blue-green lagoon. Every muscle in your body will be aching, your feet might have blisters, your shoes might be filled with sand. But the sight of this waterfall alone will make the long, hot trek worth every step. Continue to descend the trail along the falls until you reach the campsites, situated along the river downstream of Havasu Falls. Each campsite offers shade and a picnic table. Campfires are not allowed. There is one fresh drinking water faucet at the beginning of the campground. This water is generally safe to drink, but you may feel the need to treat it for peace of mind.
HOW TO SECURE A PERMIT AND RESERVATIONS
Havasupai attracts the eye of hundreds of thousands of people every year, but only a small percentage are among the lucky ones to score a permit to visit. The permit system is a tough one and spots typically fill up for the entire year within only two to three months of the lottery opening.
The permit system began at 8:00 AM Arizona Time on February 1, 2019.
*Permits sold at at record speed this year.
AS OF FEBRUARY 10, 2018, PERMITS ARE MOSTLY SOLD OUT, but you are still free to call and ask about cancellations and last minute openings.
Reservations and permits can be made by phone Monday through Friday 9:00AM – 3:00 PM Arizona Time, or online on the Havasupai Reservation website.
- Camping reservations by phone: (928) 448-2121
Information on reservations:
- Maximum 4 days/3 nights on a single reservation
- Full payment must be made upon reservation
- Only one credit card per group is allowed on file
- Payments are non-refundable and non-transferable
2018 Pricing – adopted from the Havasupai Reservation website
- 2 days/1 night: $140.56 per person
- 3 days/2 nights: $171.11 per person
- 4 days/3 nights: $201.67 per person
WHEN TO VISIT
Havasupai is open to visitors from Spring to Fall. Although the temperature of the water consistently remains in the low 70’s year round, the air temperature and crowds vary with the seasons.Summer months (June – August) are typically unbearably hot, but are considered peak season, and due to high air temperatures are best for swimming.
Monsoon season falls between July – September, during which the chance of monsoons creates a higher chance of flash floods that may flood the campground and turn the waters from brilliant blue-green to muddy brown.
The days between February – June are the best for a less crowded Havasupai experience, when days are a bit cooler and better for hiking and campsites are a bit less crowded.
HOW TO GET TO THE TRAILHEAD
The trailhead is located approximately 4 hours from both Las Vegas, NV and Phoenix, AZ by car.
Access step-by-step driving directions from McCarren International Airport (Las Vegas, NV) and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (Phoenix, AZ) by clicking on the google maps below.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE: HAVASUPAI’S WATERFALLS
Rock Falls & New Navajo Falls:
Rock Falls and New Navajo Falls are the first waterfalls you’ll encounter. They’re located 1 mile between the village of Supai and the campground. These falls are a great stop to rest on your way to Havasu Falls or a great way to spend the day for families or for people who don’t want to hike down to Beaver Falls. The pools at the base of the waterfalls make for a great swimming hole and for relaxing away from the crowds sometimes found at Havasu.
One of the most photographed waterfalls in the world. Plunging 100 feet into a crystal clear blue-green pool and located just a few minutes away from the Havasupai Campground. Surrounding the pool at the base of the falls, you’ll find picnic benches and relief from the baking Arizona sun in the shade underneath cottonwood trees. This waterfall makes for a great spot to hang out all day, swim, or string a hammock.
Cascading over 200 feet, Mooney Falls is the tallest of Havasupai’s waterfalls. Its found at the end of the Havasupai Campground, approximately 1 mile from Havasu Falls. The base of the waterfall is accessible by scaling the cliff face, and much like the trek to Havasupai, the descent to Mooney Falls is not for the faint of heart – suitable for only the most agile of adventurers. The introduction of thick chains and rebar serve as an assist in climbing down the slippery rock. You’ll find signs warning you to descend at your own risk. Mooney Falls is not safe to swim around as it has a dangerous under-current.
Beaver Falls is accessible by a 3 mile hike through the canyon from the base of Mooney Falls. The trip to Beaver Falls makes for an excellent day-trip. The trail will take you through lush-green grapevine fields, across bridges over the crystal blue waters of Havasu Creek, and up and down ladders installed in sandstone cliff faces. Beaver Falls is best known for its enchanting 5 cascading waterfalls and gorgeous pools, perfect for wading and swimming.
During the spring and fall, be sure to arrive early in the day. The sun will still be shining on the water (and you might avoid the crowds and have the place all to yourself!)
The trail past Beaver Falls will continue for another 4 miles to the Colorado River.
- Supai to New Navajo Falls: 1 mile
- Supai to Havasu Falls: 2 miles
- Campground to Mooney Falls: 1 mile
- Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls: 3 miles
Beaver Falls to Colorado River: 4 miles
TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT (and mistakes to avoid):
GET AN EARLY START
Start at or before sunrise. The weather will be cooler while the sun is down, you’ll avoid hiking in the midday sun, and you’ll even get to witness the spectacular sunrise in the Grand Canyon.
To get an early start, consider renting accommodation or camping at your car in the parking lot at the hilltop.
- The closest option for accommodation is the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn, located just outside of the reservation.
- Or rent an Airbnb and save $40 on your first stay
FILL UP ON GAS
The last gas station before the trailhead is located in Peach Springs, Arizona. Stop here to top off your gas, since it is the only gas station within 100 miles of the trailhead. If you run out of gas on the reservation, you most likely will not be able to get it at all. The locals don’t have gas to give to you.
FILL UP ON WATER
There is no water between the Hilltop and Supai. Carry a lot of water – more than you think. In the dry heat, you’ll be unaware of your perspiration because it will be evaporating off your skin so quickly. It is recommended to bring 3L of water PER PERSON, gatorade or other electrolyte-rich drink, and salty snacks.
Fresh drinking water is available outside of the tourism office once you reach Supai, as well as at the campground.
CARRY ONLY WHAT YOU NEED
10 miles over loose rock in the baking sun is a long way to carry an overweighted pack. Alternatively, there are horses and pack mules available to carry your gear in for you at the trailhead, but be mindful of the numerous reports of animal abuse and neglect against these animal in Supai. If you are able, please carry your own gear. You are stronger than you think.
INVEST IN GEAR
Invest in trekking poles and good/sturdy hiking boots or hiking shoes. This gear will make a world of difference as you are trekking the varied terrain within the canyon.
WATCH FOR HORSE AND MULE TRAFFIC
You’ll be sharing the trail with natives, as this is their only access road between the Hilltop and the village.
CHOOSE A CAMPSITE WISELY
The campground is 1 mile long. While you can camp wherever you want within the campground boundaries, it is wise to choose a site close to the drinking water fountain (at the beginning of the campground) for easy water access and close to an outhouse.
BRING A HAMMOCK
The entire campground is filled with amazing hammock trees. If hammock camping is your thing, you don’t even need to bring a tent
NO CAMPFIRES ALLOWED
You’ll have to bring a camping stove and fuel if you plan to cook your meals
DONT CARRY YOUR WATER UPHILL
When trekking out, dump your water at the base of the hill between the campground and Supai village. You’ll save yourself the weight of carrying the water 2 miles uphill. Refill your water at the tourism office in the village.
TREK (all the way) OUT
If this is your first time visiting Supai, make the trek out! The trek out was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We were tired, bruised, achey, and sweaty. The path is slightly uphill and the switchbacks seem to drain any energy out of whatever reserves you have left at the end. But applause by fellows hikers and onlookers awaits you at the top. And the sense of accomplishment when you take the last steps out of the canyon is unparalleled. To know you completed the entire path makes every step worth it.
ALTERNATIVE TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION:
– If you are unable to hike in or out, a helicopter runs between the Hilltop and Supai. It will drop you off and pick you up in the village, 2 miles from the campground. The helicopter service only runs at certain times of the year and on certain days of the week.
Helicopters run from 10am until everyone has been accommodated or until it gets dark. Passengers are served on a first-come-first-served-basis, but locals generally get priority regardless of when they arrive. So it is important to arrive early to allow yourself enough time in your schedule
Fee: $85 per person per direction.
Lodging: Lodging in the village is an alternative to camping. Click here for lodging information.
Tours: It is not necessary to book a tour to visit Havasupai. However, there are many tour agencies available that will take care of the planning and permitting for you (for a price…)
Click here for tour information.
WHAT TO PACK:
- Breathable, lightweight pants and shorts
- Swim suit
- Sturdy hiking boots or hiking shoes
- Lightweight wool hiking socks
- Water shoes or sandals
- Breathable, lightweight t-shirts and tank tops
- Wool base layer (pants and shirt for cool weather at night)
- Rain jacket
- Sun hat or baseball hat
- Warm hat (for cool weather at night)
- Sturdy and well-fitting pack
- Hydration bladder
- Reusable water bottle
- Lightweight tent with rain fly
- Stuff sacs for clothes
- Trekking poles (you’ll be glad you have them!)
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Camping utensils and plates or bowls
- Flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries
- Bug repellant
- Portable charger
- Camera with extra batteries!
- Camp soap (biodegradable, eco-friendly)
- Energy bars – meal bars, protein bars
- Instant oatmeal, granola, bagels
- Mixed nuts
- Peanut butter sandwiches
- Soft-packaged tuna
- Dehydrated meat
- Water treatment
- Backpacking stove, fuel, pots and pans to cook pasta or backpacking meals
- Lightweight day pack