Havasupai Falls: At a Glance
Type: Overnight, Out-and-back
Length: 10 miles (each way)
Time to Complete: 4.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 2,155 feet
Season: February through November
Havasupai Falls is a dream-like tropical paradise of a destination. Located in the Havasu Canyon on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, these pristine aquamarine pools bordered by lush vegetation provide stark contrast to the red rocks of the surrounding desert. Havasupai itself means “people of the turquoise waters.”
Before you visit Havasupai...
Due to the immense popularity of this desert paradise, the Havasupai tribe limits the number of visitors allowed each year and requires that all visitors obtain a permit. There is no day-hiking allowed on the reservation, so all permits include an overnight stay of 3 nights and 4 days.
Obtaining a Permit to Hike Havasupai
Permit reservations are released February 1st of each year, and most are booked within the first few days. Campground permits cost between $100 and $125 per person per day depending on if your stay includes weekdays or weekends. You must make reservations to stay at either Havasupai campground or Havasupai Lodge.
Havasupai Falls Safety
Once you have obtained your permit and are planning your trip to Havasupai, there are several things to take into consideration.
Fitness: You must be in good physical condition to hike to Havasu Falls. Though a moderate hike for the average backpacker, the 10 mile hike can have temperatures of over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and the hike back out of the canyon is all uphill.
Seasonal Concerns: In addition to the extreme temperatures of May through September, monsoon season (July through September) can also cause extreme rains and flash floods.
Where should I park for Hiking Havasu Canyon to Havasupai Falls?
The trailhead into Havasu Canyon is located on Hualapai Hilltop, on Indian Road 18, on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The hilltop itself is one of the most scenic views of the entire hike, but you’ll want to arrive at the trailhead absolutely no later than 9 am (preferably earlier) to avoid hiking the shadeless trail during the hottest parts of the day. There is no camping allowed at the trailhead, so plan on a very early morning drive.
What should I bring for Hiking to Havasupai Waterfalls?
If you plan on camping in Havasupai, you will need to bring everything you need for a 3 to 4 day stay. If you do not want to carry all your food in and cook, there is a cafe available in Supai that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the cafe is a 2 mile walk from the campground. This shadeless hike sports sky-high temperatures for most of the year. Bring a minimum of 2.5 liters of water per person and plenty of trail snacks to replenish calories on the way. Sturdy footwear compatible with multiple water crossings is ideal for this trek.
The Hike to Havasupai Falls
Once you’ve properly prepared for the hike to Havasupai and obtained the necessary permits, it’s time for the… fun part? The hike into Havasupai entails a 10 mile descent into the Havasu Canyon. This hike is listed as moderate but can be made more difficult by the lack of shade and the intense temperatures the canyon experiences for most of the year. Not to mention the fact that visitors who decline to use mules or helicopters to transport their gear are carrying enough food and gear to sustain themselves for up to 4 days.
What to Expect When Hiking Havasu Canyon
The trailhead is located at the top of Hualapai Hill, 1,000 feet above the valley floor. It is recommended that hikers leave the trailhead no later than 9 am to avoid hiking during the most grueling heat of the day, but leaving closer to 7 am is ideal. The trail begins with a steep descent into the canyon via a series of switchbacks for 1.5 miles. Once you reach the valley floor, the trail turns north and follows a sandy drainage path for 4.5 miles to Havasu Creek. Turn left at the creek and continue 2 more miles until you reach Supai. After checking in with the office, the campground is another 2 miles downstream. Between Supai and the campground is the ethereal Havasu Falls, the most popular waterfall in the canyon.
Can I Camp in Havasu Canyon?
As day-hiking in Havasu Canyon is not permitted, you will be required to have a reservation with either at Havasupai Campground or the lodge in Supai.
Camping at Havasupai Campground
The campground is a mile-long designated area along the creek with space for up to 300 campers. There are no designated or assigned campsites; simply pick a spot along the creek that does not encroach on the space of others. There are picnic tables located in the campground but there are not enough for each group. Be sure to make room for your fellow campers and meet new friends. While out exploring during the day, most people leave the rest of their belongings in their campsite. Be sure to hang your food in a critter-proof bag and do not leave food in your tent. There is a spring with potable drinking water or water can be filtered directly from the creek. Restrooms consist of composting toilets.
Havasupai Lodge at Supai
The lodge is Supai’s only motel. Reservations are released each year on June 1st for the following year and fill up quickly.
The Five Havasupai Waterfalls
Easily the most famous waterfall in Havasu Canyon, Havasu Falls offers fantastic opportunities for swimming, relaxing in the sand, and even enjoying shaded spots.
Mooney Falls is located 0.5 miles past the campground. The descent to the falls includes a trail of chains and ladders to get to the base. Climbing to the base of the waterfall can easily take 45 minutes. Mooney Falls is the tallest waterfall in the canyon at almost 200 feet high.
Beaver Falls is the furthest waterfall downstream in Havasu Canyon. It is located 3.5 miles from the campground and requires a bit of off-trail bushwacking, scrambling, and wading to reach its pristine waters. This hike is difficult and can take 5-7 hours of hiking.
Navajo Falls (Upper)
This waterfall is the first cascade you see after leaving Supai on your way to the campground. A view of the falls is located a 5-minute walk from the main trail. Reaching the bottom of the falls is more difficult, but also usually quite a solitary experience.
Fifty Foot Falls
The first pool ideal for swimming between Supai and the campground, Fifty Foot Falls offers wonderful views of the red rock cliffs through the sparkling water. This waterfall disappears and reappears over time. The most recent appearance was in 1970.
No matter when and how you choose to visit Havasupai Falls, the trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whether it’s once-in-a-lifetime due to the difficulty in obtaining permits, or because no hiker wants to hike out of the canyon twice, is up to you to decide. Always respect the land and the people who care for it, as we are mere visitors.
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