How To Plan A Havasupai Trip

Havasupai is one of the most majestic places on earth! It’s a side canyon of the Grand Canyon that has beautiful blue/green water that creates many stunning waterfalls as it makes its way through the canyon. There are 5 named waterfalls, but endless smaller terraced waterfalls mixed in along the way. In this post, I am going to give you all the details for planning your own epic trip to Havasupai! This is a long post because I didn’t want to leave out any details, but each section is labeled, so feel free to skip to the sections you are most interested in.

These statistics include hiking all 5 waterfalls from Hualapai Hilltop to Beaver Falls

Distance: 24 miles

Elevation: 3,651 feet

Difficulty: Difficult

Type: Out & back

Permit: Yes

Bathroom: At Trailhead, Town of Supai & Campground

Dogs: No

Reservations: You MUST have a permit to do this hike. No day hikes are allowed. Reservations for Havasupai can be hard to come by, so you need to be prepared well in advance to snag one. Permits go on sale February 1st at 8 am (ARIZONA TIME) each year. The reservations are available for the whole calendar year following from February 1st-November 30th. The reservation is closed to tourists for the months of December and January. Reservations are non-transferable and non-refundable. (Sometimes they make special exceptions). You can make reservations at https://www.havasupaireservations.com/ or call (928) 448-2180, (928) 448-2237, (928) 448-2141, or (928) 448-2121. (Facebook Groups)

Cost: (cost is per person & including tax/fees) During Holidays and weekends an additional $18.34 per night will be added. 4 days is the longest reservation you can make, but you are allowed to make back to back reservations if the dates are available to extend your stay. 

  • 2 days/1night: $140.56
  • 3 days/2 nights: $171.11
  • 4 days/3 nights: $201.67

When Should I Go: The real answer, is whenever you can snag a permit. But there are definitely better times to go throughout the year. In our opinion, it’s best to go when it is warm so you can enjoy swimming in the stunning aqua blue water! But, monsoon season is something you need to be aware of, because the trail can close down at any time if the reservation feels it is unsafe. Monsoon season is typically from June 1st-September 30th, but can happen at any time. (The Havasupai Reservation had a monsoon July 11, 2018, followed by another smaller monsoon closing the trail until September 1, 2018). Another thing to consider is the Havasupai Tribe will shut down the trail if the temperature gets over 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, we believe the best times to aim for are Late April/March or late September/Early October. Although they only allow 150 people during Monsoon Season and 300 during other peak times, therefore it will be more crowded in spring and fall. During those times the weather should still be relatively hot enough to swim in the water, and has less chance from a monsoon or heat shutting the trail down.

What If I missed the February 1st Deadline?: There are a few alternative ways to get a permit if you miss the deadline, but it isn’t guaranteed. I wouldn’t bank on one of these options, but you might get lucky! 

  • One way is to join a Facebook Group for Havasu Falls Backpacking. Life happens and a lot of peoples plans change. Reservations aren’t transferable, but people might have a few people drop out of their group and need additional members. One catch, is you usually have to be with the person whose name is on the reservation, so you will have to link up with them to coordinate hiking plans. We joined this group: Backpacking Havasu Falls, and people are always looking for other people to take their friends reservations.
  • Another way, is to stay in the Lodge in Supai. People have up to 2 weeks ahead of their reservation to cancel it. There might be a waitlist you can put your name on for cancellations. 
  • There are also a lot of private companies that give guided tours. These guided tours come with permits but at a much more expensive price. If money is no issue, you may enjoy the convenience and perks that the guided trips provide. But, you’re required to stay with your group at all times, so you can’t venture out on your own.
Sign once you enter the Havasupai Reservation on Indian Rd 18

Trailhead: The name of the trailhead is Hualapai Hilltop (or Havasupai Trailhead). To get here you turn off AZ-66 onto Indian Rd 18 and continue for 60 miles. The road dead-ends at the trailhead parking lot. Also, you can put in Havasupai Trailhead into Google Maps and it will bring you to the parking lot. Try to avoid driving Indian Rd 18 in the dark, because there is wildlife and free range cattle all along this road. There is not nearly enough parking spaces in the lot, so many people have to park along the road next to the canyon rock walls. The line of cars can extend as far as ½+ miles from the trailhead (which is extra miles you have to hike there and back). The office for any helicopter rides, horse rides and bag drop offs (more info below) is located at the end of the parking lot near the start of the trail. If your carrying all your own gear yourself down to Havasupai, you don’t need to check in at the trailhead. Instead, you will check in at the office in the village of Supai (8 miles down the trail).

View From The Parking Lot

Camping At The Trailhead: Many people arrive the night before their reservation date and sleep in their car to ensure an early start time. There are restrooms located at the trailhead. It’s not advised to set up your tent in the parking lot, because you will be taking spots from other hikers and many cars arrive at night and might not see your tent pulling into a spot. There were tents set up on the ridge behind the restrooms that overlooks the canyon, but I don’t think it is allowed. Also, it’s a good idea to bring ear plugs & eye mask if your sensitive to light or sound, because the parking lot tends to be active with cars and people throughout the night. The last thing you want is a bad night of sleep before your big trip!

Cell Service: Verizon will have minimal cell service at the parking lot. I had 3 bars and Extended LTE.  AT&T didn’t have service. Unsure about other providers.

Gas: The last gas stations before Havasupai Trailhead will be Seligman, AZ (if coming from the East) or Peach Springs, AZ (if coming from the West). I’d suggest filling the tank in Williams, AZ (if coming from the East) or Kingman, AZ (if coming from the West) because it will be cheaper. You can always top off your gas tank at Seligman or Peach Springs if you are worried. We suggest getting the GasBuddy App to find the cheapest gas near you. 

When To Start: We highly suggest starting the hike before sunrise, because for most of the year the trail will be hot! On our way down we woke up at 3:30am and were on the trail by 4am, along with many other hikers. You should have a good flashlight or headlamp if you plan to hike in the dark. The first half mile descends steep switchbacks, and going off trail could be dangerous. Leaving at 4am gave us enough time to get to the campground before the heat of the day. On the way back up, we left at 5:30am and encountered the sun toward the end of the hike which almost immediately made the hike more challenging. The final switchbacks were about 50% shade and we were thankful for any amount of shade at that point. Check when the sunrise is during the time of year you go and plan to leave a few hours before. However, the Tribe doesn’t like visitors hiking through the village of Supai at night. Since Supai is about 2 miles from the campground, theres kind of a sweet spot where you start hiking at night, but don’t pass through Supai until just after first light.

Looking down the switchbacks (the morning we hiked out)

How Long Is The Hike: The hike to the town of Supai is 8 miles, and then an additional 2 miles to the start of the campground. It took us around 5 hours each way (Hualapai Hilltop to Campground & Vice Versa) with stopping for pictures and a couple snack breaks along the way. 

Checking In: There is an office located at the beginning of the Town of Supai (8 miles from Hilltop) where you need to check in and show your reservation number. You will have to sign a waiver and list all members in your party. They will give each person a wristband that you are required to keep on during your stay (rangers do check) and a tent tag to attach visible to rangers walking the trail. You also will receive a packet of papers that has information and maps of the village and the campground.

View Of Our Campsite

Campground: Tent or hammock camping in the campground is what majority of visitors do. The campground is first come, first serve, so there is yet another advantage of leaving early in the morning. The campground is 2 miles further past the town of Supai. You are only allowed to camp between the ranger station which is located right near the first restrooms and fourth restrooms by the top of Mooney Falls which stretches about ¾ of a mile. Many people choose to camp along the river but there are many located on higher ground along the canyon walls. There are campsites located on both sides of the river but due to the flash flood in July 2018, some bridges were washed away. There is still one “bridge” located further down the trail about a ¼ mile from where the river splits. Otherwise you might have to get in the water up to your waist to cross to the other side of the river. (Hopefully they are planning to add more bridges for the future). The campground gets VERY CROWDED, so just be prepared to have neighbors very close. We had people set up 5 feet from our tent, so be prepared to make some new friends! If you are sensitive to noise or light, this is another good time to have ear plugs and an eye mask. While most of the campground is close to at least one bathroom, the first half is definitely closer to the water source (info below).  However, the beginning of the campground tends to be more crowded. You will just have feel it out when you arrive and find a situation that works for you.

Campfires: Campfires are strictly prohibited, so don’t plan to cook any food over a campfire and plan your clothing accordingly.

Drinking Water: It is recommended to have a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person for each day of hiking. There is no drinking water located at the trailhead or anywhere along the trail until you reach the town of Supai. There is a water faucet located at the Tourist Office, Lodge and General Store. But most people will be able to make it until the campground for water. The only potable water located at the campground is called Fern Spring. You will see signs for it on the left side of the trail just after the Ranger Station. Many drink the water from Fern Spring unfiltered, but even the Tribe suggested that we filter it. We figured it’d be a shame if one of us got sick in such an epic place. We use the Platypus GravityWorks water-filter system, and we absolutely love it! You can filter the water straight from Havasu Creek, but it’s suggested to have a high end water filter due to contaminants coming downstream. You will notice that the village of Supai has tons of horses. So when you consider all the horse waste plus the visitors “interacting” with Havasu Creek, the tantalizing blue water suddenly doesn’t seem so enticing to drink. The water at the campground really isn’t that far of a walk and much safer. Therefore, I would only drink the water from Havasu Creek in an emergency.

Critters: There are a lot of critters who love to eat human food. We suggest having a Rodent Resistant Bag or a Bear Canister. A couple we met there lost all their trail mix to a pesky squirrel. They hung their food on a line, but the squirrel ate through the line, ate through their bag and found the trail mix. The funny part is that they ate the nuts and M&Ms, but left the raisins. It’s a good idea to bring spare cash incase this happens and you want to purchase food from the frybread stands or cafe. Also, be aware of snakes and scorpions. Thankfully, we didn’t see any, but I suggest keeping your shoes inside the tent just to be safe.

Weather: Check the weather before going. If it is going to be raining you will want to check to make sure they are allowing people to enter the reservation. If you get a permit during Monsoon Season, check a week or so before you go that the reservation is open, because if they get a monsoon, they sometimes close down to fix paths/campground for tourists.

WIFI: Both Jake and I had cell service in the Supai, but there is also wifi available. But, you are in the most beautiful place, so who really needs wifi?!

Lodging: If camping isn’t your style, lodging is available as well. The Lodge is located in the town of Supai. Lodging goes on sale February 1st @ 8am (ARIZONA TIME). The rate per night is $175.00 (without taxes & fees) which accommodates up to 4 people. An additional entrance fee of $90.00 per person will be charged upon arrival. You can cancel your reservation 2 weeks before arrival for a full refund, cancellation within 2 weeks is non-refundable. Due to cancellations, you might be able to get a permit through the lodge later in the year. You can call to make reservations at: (928) 448-2111 or (928) 448-2201.

General Store: If you forgot something or need a snack, don’t worry because there is a general store that is similar to a gas station store. Be prepared to pay high prices as they have to fly all their supplies in. There hours are Monday-Friday: 7am to 5:30pm and Saturday & Sunday: 8am to 5pm. (Hours may vary)

Cafe: There is a cafe located before you approach the established part of Supai. They serve the “famous” fry bread along with burgers and fries. Their hours are from 8am to 5pm (hours may vary).

Frybread w/ Honey
Indian Taco

Fry Bread: There are also 3 frybread (fried dough) stands between the village and the campground. The hours vary and don’t seem super reliable (see sign above). But some people take the trek out to grab a “famous” frybread! Our camping neighbors grabbed some frybread and indian tacos and let us have a taste! They were delicious. They are cash only, so plan ahead if you want to indulge. 

The Hike Back Up The Switchbacks

Backpacking: Backpacking your own gear there and back is by far the cheapest option, but also the hardest option. Jake and I strongly suggest this mode of transportation! You will feel very accomplished if you hike in and out with everything on your back! Try to pack as light as you can and try hiking early to avoid the sun. (Packing list below).

Pack Mules If you feel you will need assistance with your bags, then having your gear sent via pack mule is your best option. You must have your bags checked in at the registration office located at the Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot by 7am for the way down. They will advise you where to pick up your backpack and where to drop it off for the way back up. Maximum size and weight limit are strictly enforced. Each pack mule can carry a maximum of 4 bags or total weight of 130lbs. Maximum bag size must not be larger than the standard military size duffle bag (36 inches long and 21 inches wide). For a cooler, the max size is 48 quarts and must not exceed 24 inches long, 19 inches wide, & 16 inches in height. If you are with a group, you could split a pack mule with 3 other people to cut the price down. (Price is per pack mule)

  • Hualapai Hilltop to Supai (Lodge) or Campground: $132 one way or $264 roundtrip.
  • $300 extra charge for missing the 7am campsite bag drop off

Note: There has been a lot of backlash about the working conditions for these animals. If you search the internet you will quickly find documentation of malnutrition and poor working conditions even resulting in death to some animals. The group behind this website, HavasupaiHorses.org, has been trying to help fix the situation since 2016.  Because the Havasupai Tribe is a sovereign nation, it is difficult to enforce US laws. However, it seems that pressure on the Tribe has resulted in improvements. We paid close attention to the mules, and the 30 or so that we saw looked healthy. But there’s obviously more to a horses wellbeing than just looking healthy. My advice is to avoid using the horses altogether if you can.

Riding a Saddle Horse: This option is not the cheapest, but could be a fun experience. Each person is allowed one small day pack. Therefore, you’d have to pay an additional rate for a pack mule to carry your additional bag/s. The maximum weight limit is 250lbs including person and daypack. (Price is per saddle horse)

  • Hualapai Hilltop to Supai (Lodge) or Campground: $250 one way or $500 roundtrip
  • Supai Village to Campground: $175 one way or $350 roundtrip

Helicopter Rides: Backpacking isn’t for everyone, so we noticed a lot of people hiked in, but decided to get the helicopter out. But definitely don’t rely on using this service, because it isn’t the most reliable. No reservations are taken for helicopter transportation. The Airwest Helicopter Company is not associated with Havasupai Tourist Enterprise (the company you get reservations through). Helicopter rides are on a first come, first serve basis. Helicopter rides start at 9am (from Supai) but it is encouraged to arrive a few hours before to put your name on the list. There is a check in office located at Hualapai Hilltop for rides to the village and a check in office in Supai Village for rides back to Hualapai Hilltop. The helicopter ride takes about 3 minutes one way. Havasupai Tribe members will take priority over tourists.

  • Hualapai Hilltop to Supai: $85 one way

Drugs & Alcohol: The Havasupai Reservation doesn’t allow the consumption of drugs or alcohol.

The 5 Waterfalls: There are 5 different named waterfalls along the hike. Each stunning in their own unique way!

Fifty Foot Falls

Fifty Foot Falls: Fifty Foot Falls are the first waterfalls you will encounter. About ½ mile past the village, an unmarked trail will veer to the left. The trail to the right will take you straight to the campground, but if you want to take your pack off and take a little detour take the trail to the left. We set our packs down and changed our footwear so we could cross the water and get a good look at the waterfalls. I believe many people miss this falls because they hurry to the campground and you’d have to backtrack (3 miles roundtrip) from the campground to reach this one. And don’t expect to see it on your way out because if you leave early morning on your departure day (our recommendation), it will be dark when you pass it.

Little Navajo Falls

Little Navajo Falls: Little Navajo Falls is shortly after Fifty Foot Falls. Continue down the path past Fifty Foot Falls and along the river you will see small terraced waterfalls leading to another larger drop. This waterfall has changed since the last Monsoon. We spent a few minutes enjoying the falls and taking some pictures before heading on to the campground. There is a path to the right that leads you back up to the path that takes you to the campground.

Havasu Falls
Cascading Pools Down The Creek From Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls: About ½ mile before reaching the campground, you will come across the breathtaking “Havasu Falls”. You will hear the giant falls before you can see them. Continue on the path down toward the campground and to your right, you will see the beautiful aqua blue falls. Since this is only ½ mile from the campground, we snapped a few photos and continued on to set up camp and change into bathing suits before heading back. The sun will pass fast on this falls between the tall canyon, so head there mid-morning and stay to swim til early afternoon if you want to get some sun! (May vary based on time of year)

Mooney Falls
Cascading Pools Down The Creek From Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls: Mooney Falls is a stunning 200 foot drop into a deep aqua pool. Mooney Falls is actually very similar to Havasu Falls, but a bit taller and much harder to reach the bottom. The campground ends right near the top of Mooney falls, so some dare-devil people set up camp right along the cliff above Mooney Falls. But you are not supposed to set up past the last bathrooms, so perhaps they got reprimanded. If you plan to hike down be sure to use the bathrooms before heading down the treacherous ladders down to the bottom of Mooney Falls. The path down to Mooney Falls is dangerous, but doable. You sign a waiver upon your arrival at the tourist office stating you will not hold the Havasupai Tribe accountable for any mishaps. But honestly, if you take your time and be extra cautious, you will make it up and down with no problems. The path down consists of climbing down a steep canyon rock wall. You will first descend through 2 tunnels with stair-like carvings in the rocks until you reach the steepest section with ladders held up by bolts and chains to hold onto. Mooney Falls sprays mist on the rocks and chains, so they can be very slippery. Since there is only one route to travel up and down, it can become very crowded. It is best to go early to avoid lines, and especially best to go before the crowds start to make their way back up, but once there are lines either direction, it might be nearly impossible to go the opposite direction of the crowds. We encountered a couple trying to go down at about 3pm. They were perched in the rock face about halfway down the ladders with no way to communicate to the line of people coming up. I bet they waited almost 30 minutes for an opportunity to go the rest of the way down.

Beaver Falls

Beaver Falls: Beaver Falls is the last of the 5 named waterfalls. Located 2 miles from the end of the campground you will finally reach one of the many cascade pools you can swim in. This one is also the hardest to get to due to its length and challenging paths. Beaver Falls is about 2 miles further down the river from Mooney Falls. There is a trail to the left if you are looking down the creek. The path changes to each side of the river, so you will need to cross the creek a few times. About .5 miles from Mooney you will encounter very plush green vegetation between the canyon walls. Follow the path until you reach a giant tree that looks like a palm tree with no trunk. There are 2 paths you can take from here: the high road or the low road. The high road will climb a couple ladders on the right, just after the palm tree.  We suggest if you plan to take the low road to do it on the way there so you are going with the current. You will encounter a few small waterfalls you have to either pass on the side or jump down to continue toward Beaver Falls. If you take the low road, beware that the water level changes throughout the year, so you can’t always walk along the creek floor, and have to swim in areas. it’s about a 1/4 mile till you reach the top of Beaver Falls. It may be tempting to jump the waterfalls at Beaver but it is against the Havasupai Tribe rules. (We also don’t know how deep it is or if any rocks or logs are in the way.) In order to get to the bottom of Beaver Falls you will need to scale a wall for about 8 feet and climb a rope down a steep rock wall to the left if looking down the falls or if looking to the right, you can connect with the high road and continue that way. If you choose the high road, you have to climb a few ladders and along narrow paths with large cliffs to one side. Both are doable, but again be extra cautious. If you want the sun to be shining while you explore Beaver Falls, you should plan to get there before noon.  

Colorado River: Many people don’t make it past Beaver Falls, but if you are up for the challenge, you can hike to the Confluence where Havasu Creek and the Colorado River meet up at the Grand Canyon. The hike is an additional 4 miles from Beaver Falls (12 miles round-trip from the end of the campground). Jake & I decided to turn back after Beaver Falls, but some brave soles decide to hike down to the Colorado River. The trail starts to the right if you are looking down river from Beaver Falls. There are two ways to get down the ridge, one requiring rappelling and the other safely descending over the ridge to the right. The hike is said to be difficult and hard to follow at times, but inevitably follows the river. You will need to do many river crossings along the way to stay on the trail. It is advised to start this hike at sunrise and to bring a headlamp incase you underestimate the time it will take you. Bring at least 2 gallons of water or a water filter, sunscreen, & extra snacks.

Packing List: (Links included to our favorite products)

Contact Info:

Reservation lines are open from 9 A.M. – 3 P.M. on Monday through Friday

  • Lodging reservations: (928) 448-2111 or (928) 448-2201

Reservation lines are open from 9 A.M. – 3 P.M. on Monday through Friday

Takeaway: This is one of the most special places on earth. When you are there, you don’t know how something so majestic exists. While it may be an expensive and hard to plan trip, it will be worth every penny. Respect the tribe and leave the reservation better than when you arrived!

Note: Drones are Prohibited. There is NO dayhiking allowed.

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Emily is a blogger and aspiring van-dweller. She loves adventures such as hiking, camping, snowboarding and waterskiing. My goal is to give you the best advice on hikes and gear based on my first-hand experience.

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