Your Complete Guide to Hiking Havasu Falls in 2018 - Trail Details, Camping, Permits, Weather, Photography, and More
If you are connected on social media in some form and follow fellow travelers and outdoor enthusiasts, then you have probably seen a photo or two from the Havasu Falls Trail. The beautiful bright blue waterfalls look like something out of a dream or from a different dimension, and they almost seem fake or like they are oversaturated photos, but that is not the case at all here. Havasu Falls is truly a unique gem here in the United States and the waters are ACTUALLY that blue! There are a lot of resources out there for this hike and a lot of good trip reports, but in this post I will try to make this process simple for you and cover everything you need to know about hiking Havasu Falls from getting a permit, trail details and GPX files, to what you should pack on your visit. However you approach this trail and these beautiful waterfalls, whether backpacking your own gear in, going on a guided tour such as with Arizona Outback Adventures, or even helicoptering into Supai and day hiking, this should definitely be on your traveling bucket list. I have yet to explore another place quite like it. Let's dig in.
There is a lot of information in this post, if you are looking for something in particular, feel free to skip ahead to one of the below categories. Our below Havasu guide will review the following:
- A Brief History - Just a little information and history about Havasu Falls and the Havasupai People.
- Hiking Details - All the data for the trail. How many miles, elevation gain, and more.
- Permits - Everything you need to know about getting a Havasu Falls Trail Permit
- Map & GPX File - I've created an interactive map in google detailing the whole trail and the waterfalls that you can explore. You can also download this file as a GPX file to upload into your own personal GPS device.
- When to Go - Details about the best times of the year to visit Havasu Falls and typical weather to expect
- Getting There - Where is Havasu Falls located and how can you get there?
- Havasupai Campground - What is the campground like on the Havasu Falls Trail.
- Additional Ways to Enjoy Havasu - From mules to helicopters, to staying at the lodge in Supai, there are lots of different ways to experience Havasu Falls.
- What to Bring - What are the essential items you should bring on your backpacking trip to Havasu Falls?
- Photography - Michael's tips for taking the best photography shots of the waterfalls at Havasu.
- Trip Report - Our detailed trip report talking about the overall trail experience and each of the waterfalls on the Havasu Falls Trail.
Havasu Falls and Havasupai- A Quick History
This hiking area gets its name, "Havasu Falls Trail" from one (out of five) of the main waterfalls in the area called "Havasu Falls". This Havasu Falls Area is located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The word Havasupai translates to "people of the blue-green waters". The Supai Village, located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, is currently the most remote village in the United States. All of their supplies and mail are brought in via pack-animals and helicopter. Want to know more about why the waters at Havasu Falls are so blue? Read this excellent description of the waters from the UC Davis Educational website.
A brief history:
- 1776: The first white man, Padre Garces, discovered the Havasupai area and tribe
- 1882: The Havasupai tribal lands were reduced to 518 acres by the federal government, which forced hard times on the tribe
- 1919: The creation of Grand Canyon National Park - Havasupai is now surrounded by National Park land
- 1975: 185,000 acres were re-distributed back to the tribe and this region is now very prosperous again due to tourism.
Most people typically hike all the way down to Beaver Falls, so the distances below reflect that as the turnaround point:
- Roughly 25 Miles Round Trip (From parking lot to Beaver Falls and back)
- 8 Miles from Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot to Supai Lodge (You will officially check in for your permits here at the Tourist Check-in Office in the Village of Supai)
- 2 Miles from Supai Lodge to Havasupai Falls Campground
- 0.5 Miles from Havasupai Falls Campground to Mooney Falls
- 2 Miles from Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls
- Hiking the Havasu Falls Trail is pretty straight forward. The trail is well defined and well-signed.
- The beginning of the trip is all downhill, you descend about 2,500 feet into the canyon, but that means the total elevation gain for the trip is about 2,500 feet when you hike back out.
- Trailhead elevation: 5,174 feet starting at Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot
- Plan to at the minimum have 2 nights and 3 days to do this hike. Here is a general suggested itinerary:
- Day 1 - Hike 10 miles down into Havasupai Falls Campground. Explore Fifty Foot Falls, Navajo Falls, and Havasu Falls.
- Day 2 - Spend this day exploring Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls, a total of 5 miles round trip from campground and back.
- Day 3 - Hike Out, back to parking lot, 10 miles uphill.
- Bring enough water for hiking down to the campground. Near the front of the campground there is a water spigot flowing with creek water. However, it is highly suggested that you still treat the water! We used my Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter on this trip, but you could also use something like the SteriPen as well.
- Dog friendly? Unfortunately, it's best to leave your dogs at home on this hike.
All about havasu permits
Getting Havasu permits is probably the most complicated part about hiking the Havasu Falls Trail. It is a highly competitive permit to get and you are not guaranteed to get one.
When to apply?
- Campground reservations for all of 2018 started on February 1, 2018 at 8AM Arizona Time.
How to apply?
- There are two ways to apply for a permit.
- RECOMMENDED: Apply online via the Havasupai Reservations Website. It appears that this is the primary recommended way to apply for a permit. All the official Havasupai websites are pushing the "apply online" method in 2018.
- Apply by phone. There is still a phone number you can call for campground reservations if you must resort to this method, although I can't guarantee how successful it will be. The phone lines are noted to be busy a lot of the time, particularly when reservations open up. Call one of these 4 numbers: (928) 448-2180 or (928) 448-2237
(928) 448-2141 or (928) 448-2121 Reservation lines are open from 9 A.M. - 3 P.M. on Monday through Friday
- You can only have a maximum of up to 20 people per reservation. However, keep in mind that the larger your group is the harder it might be to get a permit for a specific weekend.
- The maximum number of nights that you can apply for within one reservation is 3 nights. However, you are able to try and apply to get multiple reservations back to back in order to extend the number of night you will stay. Don't forget that I mentioned above that the minimum amount of nights I'd recommend doing this hike would be 2 nights minimum. Anything less and you will really have to rush to see the falls, and its just such an amazing place to visit!
- You can add up to 2 "trip leader" names to your reservation details when you are submitting for a permit. At least ONE of you must be on the trip in order to be able to use the reservations. YOU MUST BRING YOUR PHOTO ID ON THE HIKE TO CONFIRM.
How much does it cost?
The following information comes from the official Havasupai Reservations Website:
- For 2018, the pricing is as follows (includes all tax and fees):
- One Person, 2 Days / 1 Night: $140.56
- One Person, 3 Days / 2 Nights: $171.12
- One Person, 4 Days / 3 Nights: $201.67
- Weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), Holiday weekday nights (February 19, May 28, July 4, September 3, October 8), and Spring Break weekday nights (March 5-8 and 19-22) are an additional $18.34 per night.
- You will pay for your reservation in full at the time the reservation is made, and the reservations are non refundable. So if you have a big group going on the hike, be sure to let your group members know to pay you up front.
- Be prepared to throw down some cash for this hike, but trust me, it is totally worth the cost! If there is ever a hike that you spend a bit of money to experience, this is definitely one of them!
Other Notes to Consider
- How can I guarantee that I get a permit!? My best advice is to team up. I mentioned above that it might be harder to get a permit for a larger group, but this could go both ways. I had some friends in 2018 who had a group of 8 people they wanted to grab permits for. All 8 of them woke up early on February 1st to grab permits and just had a mass group text going to let each other know if someone "got in" for the dates that they wanted (that way not all 8 of them were trying to get permits). One of them was able to get a reservation, so they were successful their 1st try.
- Last minute Reservations? It also appears that if you look at the reservation website "day of" that you might have some success grabbing last minute permits. I went through part of the reservation process for myself today and noticed that hiking in "day of" permits were suddenly available. This might not be the case for summer and weekend dates, but I'll try checking the system throughout this year to confirm. You could also try calling one of the campground reservation numbers above to ask about likelihood of getting "same day" permits.
- No day hiking is allowed!
- Also, please take note of some of the other rules on the Havasu Falls Trail. There is no drones allowed. There is no cliff jumping allowed, and there is no alcohol and drugs allowed. Plus, no littering, which I shouldn't have to even say here because you shouldn't go hiking if you intend to litter. That's just not cool.
Here is what the online reservation process looks like in 2018:
1) When you go to the reservation website, you will click "Make A Campground Reservation"
2) Then you will see a page (like photo below) where you select the number of people and days you want the reservation for. Remember there is a group limit of 20 people max and 3 nights max per reservation.
3) You will then be directed to another page (as seen below) which shows you the start dates available. This screenshot was taken after the February 1 deadline, so you will notice that there are not that many options left. However, there appears to be a "day of" reservation available. It appears that if your schedule is more flexible, you may be able to get reservations "day of" for your hike if that option is open to you. See notes above where I discuss further.
4) You will have a timed limit to make up your mind, select your dates, and press continue. The final page is still "timed", and you will need to enter your details and payment info before that time is up in order to secure your permits.
Below is a map of the hiking trail from Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot to Beaver Falls. If you click on the image below you will be taken to an interactive map that you can further explore.
You can download the GPX/KML file that is shown above with the link below.
Download the GPX File
Get access to my library of GPX files with tracks and waypoints for trails loaded onto the She Dreams of Alpine blog.
WHEN TO GO:
In my opinion, the best time to go would be in the spring or fall. However, you can technically visit from February to November. See the chart below for details on seasonal weather information.
The summer can get very hot, up to 115 degrees F. The trails into Supai are closed if the temperatures reach 115 degrees F or above, so please note this risk to your reservation in the summer months.
There is risk for heavy afternoon rains in the July and August months at Havasu Falls with the potential for flash floods. There have been several flash floods over the years, so definitely check the weather closer to the day of your hike to be on the safe side. Flash Floods have changed the landscape even at Havasu Falls, the original Navajo Falls was removed by a big flash flood back in 2008.
Havasu Falls is located just outside the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. It can really vary on how long it takes you to drive there, but I've listed some estimates on the map below. Ultimately, to get to the trailhead you will be traveling to Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot. Whether you are coming from the east or the west, you will turn onto U.S. 66 highway in Arizona. Keep an eye out for for Indian Highway 18, and turn onto this road. You will then travel 63 miles (about an hour and 20 minutes) north to Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot.
Havasupai Campground Information
The campgrounds, while requiring permits, are a "first-come-first-serve" as far as picking a place to pitch your tent goes. The entire campground area is about a mile long and is sandwiched between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. Most of the campsites are located along Havasu Creek, and you can look for clearings and benches to pick out your site. The water spigot that you can use to fill up your water is located at the entrance of the campground, so it could be advantageous to camp there. However, it is also nice to walk a bit further down the way to get away from the crowds for a bit. We just filled up our water + an extra water drum and hiked further down the creek as we walked into the campground. Then we didn't have to hike back in the morning to fill up our water on day 2. There are 4 maintained bathrooms dispersed along the campground area. Please note, that there are no camp fires allowed. Most of the sites are excellent for camping with flat campground areas. There is also a ton of trees which allow a lot of unique hammock camping options!
Below is a picture of what our Campground area looked like at the Havasupai Campground. We set up camp on the opposite side of the Creek and further down from the entrance of the campground (there are plenty of little foot bridges that cross over the creek), and although not right by the water, we were still very close to it, and we were pretty close to a bathroom as well.
additional ways to enjoy havasuapi falls
If backpacking and camping aren’t your style, there are additional ways to enjoy Havasu Falls Trail that take out a bit of the hiking and “roughing it” aspects.
- Havasupai Lodge at Supai Village – If camping isn’t your style, there is a lodge at Supai Village that you can stay at. The lodge isn’t necessarily 5-star quality, but it does have showers and toilets and comfy beds to sleep on. You can find more information on the lodge here.
- Pack Mule – There are also options to ride pack mules or have pack mules carry your gear in and out of the canyon. You must make this reservation at least 1 week in advance of when your camping permits or lodge reservations are. There are many different options for using the pack mule and pricing is constantly changing, to get update prices and more details, check here.
- Helicopter – There is also a fancy helicopter options during certain times of the year that will fly you from The Hilltop in and out of the canyon and lands at Supai Village if that is more your style. This will knock out 20 miles of the overall hiking required to see the falls. You will still have to hike a bit to get to the falls, but it definitely cuts down on the mileage. For more information on the Helicopter rides into the canyon, you can read here.
- Guided Trips – There are also some guided trips to Havasu Falls. If you were unable to get a permit yourself but really want to go on this hike, this could also be an option for you. Companies like Arizona Outback Adventures provide some 3 day and 4 day trip options to visit the falls.
What to Bring on Your Havasu Falls Trail Hike
If you plan on backpacking the Havasu Falls Trail Hike there are some essential items that you should bring with you on your hike. Check out our Essential Havasu Falls Backpacking Packing List for a full list of the gear we recommend bringing on your backpacking and camping trip at Havasu Falls. Here is a high level list of what we recommend, but check out our full post for more details on why we love that gear!
*Please note that some of the below links and in this post are affiliate links.
- Tent or Hammock
- Sleeping Bag & Sleeping Pad
- Water Bottle and CamelBak
- Water filter
- Camping Stove
- Water proof phone case
- Food and Snacks
- Treking Poles
- Sunscreen & Lipbalm
- Bug Spray
- First Aid Kit
- Optional Pool Floaty
- Small Packable Towel
- Clothing based on time of year you will be hiking: For details on clothing, hiking boots, and socks we recommend, I suggest reading our Essential Hiking Gear List.
You can also download the packing checklist below:
Havasu Falls Trail Packing List
Download the Havasu Falls Trail Hike Packing list for easy reference when packing for your trip.
photography at havasu falls
Probably one of the coolest parts about hiking the Havasu Falls Trail is the opportunities there are for amazing photography. Similar to White Sands National Monument, the Havasu Falls Trail is a photographers dream! Here are a few tips from Michael, the primary photographer for the She Dreams of Alpine Blog, for getting the best photos at Havasupai:
- Learn how take long exposure shots. Be familiar with your camera. Depending on what type of camera you have, you might have access to superior features such as long exposure shots. Long exposure shots will give you the effect of something moving in the image, such as water flow, and give you the opportunity for night photography which it allows you to capture images in low light.
- Bring a tripod. Bringing a tripod will help you keep your camera steady for long exposure shots and will help keep your camera out of the water. We sometimes took photos while standing in the water, which helped frame the waterfalls better. Our favorite tripod is the Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod.
- If taking night photography bring a bright light. If this is something you are interested in, bring a light that is brighter than your headlamp, such as a bright bike light or some sort of LED flashlight. You will use these extra lights to help expose the night shot or bring out a particular subject within the photo.
- Consider bringing a wide angle lens. It can be nice to have a wide angle lens with you on this hike to capture the magnitude of the different waterfalls.
- Bring an easy to carry and protective case for your camera equipment. It is a wet environment and a steep hike at times, so it is good to bring an easily portable camera bag that you be hands-free with.
- Consider bringing a waterproof camera such as a GoPro. If you are wanting to get more in the water with your camera, but not worry about getting wet, a GoPro HERO4 Silver with water housing is a great option.
- Consider wearing bright colored clothing or swimsuits for photos. The primary colors at Havasu Falls are bright blue and red from the rocks, so consider wearing colors that will stand out against these two primary colors such as yellow. Just something to consider if you are framing your photo around a particular subject.
- Be Patient, wait for the perfect shot. Unless you are skilled at photoshop, consider waiting just a little while or waking up earlier than others to take photos of the falls without a ton of other people in the photos. Havasu Falls trail is a very popular hike and there will be a lot of crowds visiting the falls the same time that you are.
- Potentially bring props. If you want to get really unique and have a little fun with your photos and time at Havasu Falls, consider bringing a fun pool floaty to take photos in.
- Only bringing a phone to take photos? Thats ok, these days you can still take great photos even if you only have your phone. Many newer phones even have long exposure features and water-resistant features such as the Iphone 8. However, we still recommend bringing waterproof casing for your phone for your hike just to be on the safe side.
For details about what camera equipment we recommend for outdoor photography check out our post on Essential Equipment for Outdoor Adventure Photography.
Backpacking Havasu Falls TRIP REPORT
When hiking Havasu Falls Trail, you will come across 5 total waterfalls. The first set of waterfalls is Fifty Foot Falls and Navajo Falls, located shortly after Suapi Village. Then as you keep hiking toward the campground you will reach Havasu Falls. About a half a mile from the campground is Mooney Falls, and the last set of falls, Beaver Falls, is 2 miles past Mooney. See the map below for a visual of the location for each of the 5 waterfalls.
Some blogs I read before I went on the trip said that the hike down and up was "strenuous", but in my opinion, I would rate this hike as fairly easy. It might be strenuous if you have little to no backpacking experience, but if you are an avid hiker, you will find this a fairly mellow hike. Our backpacks were around 30 lbs/person. The hike in took us about 4 and a half hours from the trailhead to the campground. We spent a lot of time looking around and taking it easy on the way in. The hike out from the campground back to the trailhead also took us about 4 and a half hours, but we were booking it a little since we had to drive back home that same day.
We started our descent on a Friday afternoon into the dusty Arizona desert canyon toward Supai Village. You get the majority of your descent, about 1800 feet, in approximately the first 2 miles. The descent is easy, and the trail was easy to follow.
We descended for 8 miles through the beautiful Arizona canyons until we reached Supai Village. Back when I did this hike, you had to pay for your permits at Supai Village on the first day of your hike. Now the permitting system is a little different and you pay in advance (see permitting section above), but you still have to check in to the village so they can confirm your reservations. At the village check in they gave us all a set of orange wristbands that we were to wear the remainder of the weekend.
After grabbing our wristbands at the village, we continued onward on our hike until we reached the first two set of waterfalls, Fifty Foot Falls and Navajo Falls. We were already mesmerized. We spent a lot of time exploring the falls here, taking photos, playing in the water, and just in general just enjoying the beauty of life in the moment. Havasu is good for that. You sort of lose yourself in its beauty.
Eventually we continued on to the campground area, but before you reach the campgrounds, you reach the third waterfall, Havasu Falls, 100 feet of pure beauty. We wanted to play in these waterfalls before it got dark, but we decided to find a campground first.
There are tons of campground options, so don't think you have to pick the first one you see. The options go on and on (about a mile) along the Havasu Creek. Since we had come later in the day, we had to choose a site that was slightly further from the water, but it was still a pretty good location.
After unpacking, we put on our swimsuits and headed back up to Havasu Falls to play around in the water a bit and take some photos.
I'm not going to lie, since we did our hike at the beginning of March, the water was really cold. You get used to it after a while, and I am still glad we decided to do the hike in the Spring because I will choose a cool day hiking over a hot day hiking everytime.
Our goal on Saturday (day 2) was to explore the rest of the waterfalls, swim around, and just enjoy Havasu Trail. So that's exactly what we did. We woke up around 8am and got ready for our day. We lef tthe majority of our gear back at the campground and packed lighter bags for day hiking.
Our first set of new waterfalls on Saturday was probably the most epic of all the waterfals. Mooney Falls, a 190 feet drop.
Getting to the bottom of Mooney was a fun little challenge. It wasn't really very difficult, but if you are afraid of heights and exposure, it could seem a bit spicy. You should definitely take your time going down the trail to get to the bottom of Mooney Falls, be deliberate and attentive to each step and hold onto the chains that are provided for you. I was a little skeptical of some of the chain in the rock, but maybe that is the rock climber in me... always wary of choss and loose bolts. Again, just be smart and take your time. I thought it ended up being pretty fun and exciting. The reward of getting all the way to Beaver Falls is so worth it!
You could spend a ton of time at Mooney, but we wanted to keep moving and get to Beaver. So after we took some photos and stared in awe for a bit, we continued on to the final set of waterfalls.
Getting to Beaver Falls involved easy hiking and some wading through the water. Water shoes could be nice here, but we did not find them necessary. We just took off our boots and socks and waded on into the water, but if that isn’t your kind of thing, bring some water shoes.
Beaver Falls was probably one of my favorite set of falls, mostly because it looked so inviting, like, “Come swim in me!” kind of inviting.
And we did swim. And we jumped off rocks into the icy cold water, then did it again, and some of us a third time. In fact, there were loads of people jumping off one of the rocks and into the water. It was really entertaining to watch everyone's hesitation and against their better judgment jumping in anyways. We walked around shivering our bums off but still having a good time of it.
It was an honest to god good time, with great people. I could re-live in that Havsu Falls Trail moment over and over. A lot of trips that I go on incorporate more “type-2” kinds of fun in the trips (like brutal uphill hiking or high altitude headaches), where you really only start to appreciate the fun of it all after the trip is over, but honestly, Havasu Falls Trail was entirely “type 1” fun. I really loved every second of it.
We eventually hiked back out and went back to camp on the same trail we hiked in on. Some of the boys went back to Havasu Falls that night to take some night time photography.
On our third day we woke up at 5am to hike out. It took us way less time (about 4 and a half hours again) than we had planned to reach the top, and we were all stuffing our faces with Chipotle before we realized that it was all over.
Honestly, if it weren't for these photos we took on our trip, I might doubt that I even ever came here. So when you go on your Havasu Trail hike, be sure to cherish all the moments. This place is one of a kind, and who knows what regulations will be like in the future when there is more and more overcrowding. Definitely do your best to be respectful of this place and the trail. Whatever you pack in, pack it back out. Don’t make a mess of this place, use the designated bathrooms at the campground. Leave no trace. Make it so that others have the chance to come visit this place for as long as it is possible.
So if I haven't convinced you to get some permits and go backpacking here, then I don't know what I'm doing with my life. The photos alone can speak for themselves honestly. Make it happen, that’s all I’m saying.
Please, let me know if you go there and what you thought!
Most of the photos above are Michael’s photos, our primary photographer here at the blog. You can find him @jeanmichaelauffant on Instagram and also you can find more information about working with us for future projects on our Work With Us page. However, I would like to also note that a couple of the photos in this post belong to our friend Peter Carey who was one of the hikers in our group. You can check out Peter’s work on his Instagram @perteracarey. He is an amazing photographer!
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