The journey to the 5 waterfalls of Havasupai is not only a glimpse into a unique canyon culture of the native people who live there, it is feast for the senses and an adventure one will never forget. The water is even more stunning in real life and there truly is nowhere else like it. With the fame of it’s beauty growing it can be extremely difficult to acquire permits, but the following will guide you in making your trip plans if you are lucky enough to score some.
Day hiking in and out of Havasupai is prohibited. Campground reservations are required to stay overnight and become available February 1st of each calendar year. Reservations are limited and often sell out within hours. A good strategy for snagging one is to have all the members of your group ready and online here as soon as they become available at 8am. Conduct a coordinated effort to grab a permit. The group member who procures a reservation needs pay for the entire group immediately and also needs to be present with their ID at the tribe’s check-in building at the bottom of the canyon (after the 8 mi hike in.) Upon check-in you will need to list the full names for each group member as well as the make, model, and license plate numbers of the vehicles left in the parking lot on the canyon rim.
Although you may not get your first choice of dates try to avoid the peak summer months. Temperatures climb as you hike lower into the canyon and it can get up to 120 degrees IN THE SHADE at the canyon bottom. Also be aware that mid-June through mid-September is monsoon season and flash floods are a very real possibility. It doesn’t need to be raining where you are to have a flash flood occur so know what to do. Lastly your campsite may come with a local dog or two. Embrace them, love them, and either hang your food or store it in odor concealing bags.
Book a few extra days at the campground. My biggest regret is that I planned a 2 night 3 day trip. This left us just one single day to explore and enjoy the the amazing place we had hiked to. The entire group wanted more. Trust me you will not regret having more time in this magical place. It is worth every penny.
The best way to reach Havasupai is from Highway 66 six miles east of Peach Springs. Peach Springs is your last chance to pick up supplies. From there take Indian Route 18 which is a 64 mile road that dead ends at Hualapai Hilltop. Once on reservation land watch out for cows, they like to stand in the road. Most people arrive the evening before they plan to start hiking and either sleep in their cars or pitch tents on the canyon rim. Restrooms are available but water is not.
From the Hilltop parking lot there is an eight mile trail to Supai Village. A trail map is not necessary as there is only one way in and out. No matter what season you visit it is a good idea to begin your hike at sunup or before. It is especially crucial to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day in the summer months. Heat stroke is common so carry at least 3 liters of water and have a trusty headlamp if you choose to hike in the dark. If visiting in the cooler months a predawn start is still preferable as it will give you ample time to enjoy the first two waterfalls during the warmest part of the day. Additionally the cafe in Supai Village tends to run out of items later in the day. You don’t want to be the hungry hikers who show up after they are all out of fry bread and burgers.
The campground is just two miles beyond the village. On your way there stop at Fifty Foot Falls and Navajo Falls and take time to enjoy them both. They are breathtaking and hiking back out that way after reaching camp will not sound appealing at all. Navajo Falls was my personal favorite. The water is deep enough for swimming and there is a ledge behind the falls where you can become one with the falling water.
If you are lucky, at the entrance to the campground, some local women will be set up making and selling fresh fry bread. Bring cash and order more than one. It is the most authentic and delicious treat available in the canyon. It blows the fry bread from the village cafe out of the water!
The Two Remaining Waterfalls
Upon reaching the campground you will have seen 3 of the 5 waterfalls (Havasu Falls is next to the trail on the way in and is impossible to miss.) Set up camp and relax for the night. If you plan to hike to Beaver falls the next day start early. You are going to want as much time as possible to enjoy the astonishing scenery. However, it is an understatement to call the climb down at Mooney Falls sketchy. If you are afraid of heights or have no climbing experience it would be more apt to call it super-hairy-gnarly-sketchballs. The climb is steep, wet from the waterfall mist, and slippery. Most in my group were visibly shaking with fright during the climb. If you are a climber it’s not a big deal but if you are not there is still a magnificent view of Mooney Falls though the cave at the first landing. Getting there doesn’t require climbing and there is plenty of room on the landing to pose for some great pictures. If you do attempt the climb carry as little as possible and leave your trekking poles in camp. You will need both hands free.
After the climb down the hike to Beaver Falls has a multitude of water crossings. If you want a direct route bring swim gear and water shoes, but it is possible to get there with dry feet. There are plenty of picnic tables in beautiful spots along the way so bring lunch in a day pack.
- While on the Grand Canyon trail you will encounter several horse and donkey packs. They move quickly and will not stop for you. Yield to pack animals on the high side of the trail to avoid falling over the edge.
- The campground is hammock heaven. You can save weight in your pack and leave the tent behind. Just pack an under quilt during colder seasons.
- There is a fresh water spring in the middle of the campground that doesn’t need filtering. Bring a collapsible water carrier or two so you can tote water back to the campsite for cooking and such.
- There are also several restroom facilities with hand sanitizer and pit toilets built throughout the campground. It is NOT OK to dump your trash in them. Please be respectful and acknowledge that it is a privilege to be invited to visit this sacred place.
- Campfires are not allowed in the canyon but stoves are permitted.
- Pack as light as possible. The hike in is no problem but the hike out is 10 miles of nothing but uphill. The last 2 miles out are the steepest and you will be fatigued from the previous 8. It would be wise to condition with a fully loaded pack before the trip.
- Break in new hiking boots with at least 50 miles of uneven terrain before any backpacking trip to avoid blisters.
- Although you will see litter in the village please don’t add to the problem. We gathered as much trash as we could carry from the trail on the way in and out. There are trash cans in the village and at the parking lot on the rim for all to use. PLEASE pack out your trash and don’t destroy what we all travel so far to enjoy.
Want more trail details? Read my Nov 2017 Havasu Falls trip report