Your Guide to Havasu Falls

Hiking to the stunning blue waterfalls in Arizona’s Havasu Canyon is on a lot of people’s bucket list. Tens of thousands of visitors each year make the trek to see this natural wonder, set against the rocky backdrop of the Grand Canyon. Havasu Falls might be the most famous of these falls, but there are other equally beautiful waterfalls formed by Havasu Creek as it makes its way to the Colorado River, and together they create an oasis that’s nothing short of paradise.

For over 1,000 years, the Havasupai Tribe has lived on this land, and they graciously allow visitors to experience firsthand the majesty of the falls. The tribe’s reservation is adjacent to and west of Grand Canyon National Park but is not part of the park. The falls are within walking distance of Supai, the tribe’s village eight miles below the south rim of Hualapai Canyon. People often refer to Supai, population 208, as the most remote community in the U.S. not only because of its distance from any other towns, but because there are no roads to the village. Getting there isn’t easy; it requires an eight-mile hike, a horse ride, or a helicopter flight.

A few years ago, we made the trek to the falls, and our only regret is that we didn’t stay longer. This article is designed to give you all the information you’ll need to decide if visiting Havasu Falls is for you, and if so, how to start planning your trip. We’ve formatted this post as a Q&A to make it easier to scan and find the information you’re looking for.

Where is Havasu Falls?
Havasu Falls is two miles north of the village of Supai on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The reservation is south of the Colorado River and just west of Grand Canyon National Park. See the accompanying map of northern Arizona.

When is the best time of the year to go?
Spring and fall. The campground and lodge are closed in December and January, and summer can be brutally hot with temperatures above 100 degrees. The area is a popular Spring Break destination, but the campground and lodge typically sell out every month they’re open, so there isn’t much of a lull in the crowds. During the monsoon season (June, July, and August), Havasu Creek can and does flood. We planned a trip to see the falls years ago in August and learned the day before we were scheduled to start our hike that the entire village had been evacuated due to flooding.

How many nights should I stay?
It’s nearly impossible to spend one night at the campground or lodge and see the falls properly. It typically takes most of the day to hike to the village and then down to the campground or if you’re staying at the lodge, to get checked into your room. That only leaves a little bit of time to see the falls on the day you hike in. You’ll want another full day to explore the area. Two nights, in our opinion, is the minimum stay required to see the falls. Three nights is the maximum the tribe allows you to stay.

What’s the weather like?
Monthly temperature and precipitation data for the village of Supai.

What are my overnight accommodation options?
You have two options: camp or stay at the lodge.

Do I need a reservation in advance?
Yes. You need a permit to visit the falls. The only way to get a permit is to make a reservation for either the campground or the lodge; the tribe does not allow day hiking to the falls. Both the campground and the lodge sell out far in advance. In 2018, the tribe stated on their website that they would not refill cancelled camping reservations. (They do however refill cancelled lodge reservations, so catching a cancellation at the lodge is a possibility—that’s how we got our reservation.)

How do I get a camping reservation?
The reservation process for dates in 2019 begins on February 1, 2019. For 2018 there was an online option to book camp reservations AND a phone number to call to book camp reservations. The tribe’s website does not say if they will have an online option for booking 2019 reservations. The best way to stay informed about the 2019 reservation process is to sign up for the tribe’s email list. They will send you information about how to book a 2019 reservation when it’s available. Follow this link to sign up for their email list. Whether by phone or online, campsites and lodge rooms go quickly.

What is the campground like?
The campground is just downstream from Havasu Falls, about two miles from the village. There are no assigned campsites. Campers claim sites on a first come, first served basis. The campground is spread over about a mile of land adjacent to Havasu Creek. They have compost toilets and a source for potable water. Fires are not allowed.

How much does it cost to camp?
The 2018 price including all permits, fees, and taxes:One person, 2 day/1 night $140.56One person, 3 days/2 nights $171.12One person, 4 days/3nights $201.67There was also an additional $18.34 per night for weekends, holidays and spring break dates in 2018. Check their website for updates regarding future prices.

How do I get a lodge reservation?
Reservations for lodge rooms can only be obtained by calling (928) 448-2111. The lodge began taking reservations for dates in 2019 on June 1, 2018. The tribe’s website does not say when they will begin taking lodge reservations for dates beyond 2019. Check their website for updates.

What are the lodge rooms like?
The lodge rooms are no-frills, motel-type rooms with two beds, a bathroom, and a window air conditioner. The maximum occupancy is four persons per room. Do not expect a high level of comfort and customer service. When we visited the falls, we stayed at the lodge and were grateful to have a roof over our heads and slept soundly after our long day of hiking.

How much do the rooms at the lodge cost?
The 2018 price was $175 per night plus an additional $90 per person entrance fee. All fees are taxed an additional 10%. Check their website for updates regarding future prices.

Should I hire a guide?
You can certainly do this trip without the help of a guide. However, if you use a guide, they will take care of many of the details for you such as securing permits, bringing food, and setting up and taking down camp. They also can serve as your guide to seeing the falls, sharing with you information about the area. Guided trips cost more, but you get more in return. In the end, it’s a personal preference.

Havasu Creek – The water really is that color.

How do I get to the village?
From the hilltop, you have three options to get to the village: hike, horse, or helicopter. If you are taking a guided trip, be sure to check with the guide company as to how you’ll be getting to the village before you commit. And also make sure they will make all of the necessary arrangements on your behalf.

Hiking – The trail to the village is eight miles. (From the village it’s another mile and a half to Havasu Falls.) The trail starts at an elevation of 5,200 feet and drops about 2,000 feet in elevation from the hilltop to the village, with the first mile of the trail dropping about 1,000 feet. There is very little vegetation or shade along the trail between the hilltop and the village, and there is no water. The trail is mostly sand and rock, with stairs at the steepest sections.

During warmer months, it’s a good idea to start hiking early in the day to avoid the heat. Always bring plenty of water with you on the trail. Some hikers begin before sun up and use flashlights or headlamps to light their way. Use extreme caution when hiking in the dark.

The trail you’ll be hiking on is also used by trains of horses and mules to carry loads to and from the village. It’s common for them to be moving quickly along the trail. Do not assume they will see you; watch and listen for pack animals on the trail and always yield to them; they have the right of way.

Always have a copy of your reservation receipt with you when hiking to the village. At times, there are checkpoints along the trail to verify that everyone has a reservation. Once you reach the village, one of the first buildings you’ll come to is the Tourism Office. Check in there before going further into the village. If your reservation is in good order, you’ll be given a tag that you must display on you or your pack while you’re on the trail and in the campground.

Hiking the trail down to the village will give you a good idea about how difficult the hike back to the hilltop will be. From the village to the hilltop, the trail has an elevation gain of 2,000 feet. The first seven miles of the trail from the village is a gradual incline, but the final mile to the hilltop is steep and gains 1,000 feet in elevation.

Distances from the hilltop:
Supai village – 8 miles
Havasu Falls – 9.5 miles
Havasu Campground – 10 miles
Mooney Falls – 10.5 miles
Beaver Falls – 13 miles
Colorado River – 18 miles

Riding a Horse – Some people opt to ride a horse from the hilltop to the village. To reserve a horse call the Tourism Office at (928) 448-2180 or (928) 448-2237. The tribe’s website states there is a maximum bodyweight of 250 lbs. when riding a horse, plus a maximum ten-pound daypack. See the website for all the details.

Taking a Helicopter – Airwest Helicopters provides helicopter rides to and from the village. Check out this website for details or contact them at (623) 516-2790. When we wrote this article, the website stated that the cost was $85 per person each way, and they don’t take reservations. They ask that you meet at the helicopter pad at the hilltop before 10:00 am on the day you wish to travel, and they will let you know if there is availability that day. Generally, they fly back and forth from the hilltop to the village until everyone is accommodated, or until it gets dark. The service is run on a first come, first served basis. We’ve heard that tribe members get first priority, but you’ll have to confirm that with Airwest.

When we visited Havasu Falls in mid-March a few years ago, the helicopters weren’t flying; a sign at the landing pad said the pilots were taking the week off for Spring Break. It’s always worth your time to call ahead for the latest information.

How do I get to the trailhead?
The parking area where the trail begins is also referred to as the Hualapai Hilltop. To reach the trailhead, follow Historic Route 66 between Peach Springs and Seligman, Arizona, turning north on Route Indian 18 a few miles east of Peach Springs. Drive 63 miles north to reach the parking area of the trailhead.

Where should I stay the night before?
Peach Springs, Arizona is the closest town to the trailhead that has hotel rooms. When we visited the falls, we spent the night in Kingman, Arizona and drove to the trailhead the morning we hiked to the village. The drive from Kingman to the trailhead took us two and a half hours. Distances from nearby cities to the trailhead: Peach Springs – 68 miles, Seligman – 90 miles, Kingman – 118 miles, Flagstaff – 166 miles.

A pack mule heading to the hilltop.

Can I arrange to have my camping gear taken to the campsite for me?
You can hire a pack mule to carry up to four bags totaling 130 lbs. of gear from the campground (or lodge) to the hilltop, or hilltop to campground (or lodge). Bags cannot exceed 36 inches long by 19 inches wide. The cost is $132 each way. For more information, call the Tourism Office at (928) 448-2180 or (928) 448-2237, or follow this link to their website.

How do I get to the campground from the village?
There is a trail from the village to the campground. The start of the trail is not difficult to find, and there are maps of the area available at the Tourism Office. The campground is adjacent to the trail just beyond Havasu Falls, about two miles from the village of Supai.

How do I get to the falls from the village?
The same trail that leads from the village to the campground will also take you to the falls. About a half of a mile from the village there is a side trail to the left (west) that leads to a series of falls called the Navajo Falls. Continuing north along the creek you’ll come to the top of Havasu Falls, about 1.5 miles from the village.

Mooney Falls

Mooney FallsThe trail takes you past the top of Havasu Falls first, then winds down to the bottom of the falls where you can swim, relax and take photos of this magnificent site. Continuing north on the trail, you’ll walk past the campground and after you’ve hiked a mile past Havasu Falls, you’ll arrive at the top of Mooney Falls.

The trail to the bottom of Mooney Falls can be treacherous if the trail is crowded—as it often is. Hikers have to descend through a tunnel cut into the side of the canyon, and continue down with the help of chains and ladders attached to the rock walls. Another 1.5 miles north of Mooney Falls is Beaver Falls and the northern boundary of the Havasupai Reservation.

Can I hike all the way to the Colorado River?
Yes, but at considerable risk. Once you hike north (downstream) from Beaver Falls, you are no longer on the Havasupai Indian Reservation; you’re in Grand Canyon National Park. The Colorado River is five miles north of Beaver Falls and the trail to the river is not maintained or easy to follow, with at least ten creek crossings along the way.

Can I swim in Havasu Creek?
Yes. Swimming is allowed. Diving and jumping into the creek is not allowed. There are submerged rocks beneath the water that are difficult or impossible to see, and occasional floods can change the location of submerged obstacles. That said, when we were there we saw several people jump off cliffs into the water. Regardless, it’s not safe to jump or dive into the creek.

Where can I get water?
There is a faucet for drinking water in the village close to the Tourism Office where you can fill water containers. There is also potable water by the campground at Fern Spring. The water coming from the spring is tested regularly.

Is the creek water safe to drink?
No. There is potable water available at the campground and in the village. If you must drink out of the creek, you should filter and/or treat the water before drinking it.

Do I need to bring my own food?
You don’t have to, but it’s a good idea to bring at least some of the food you’ll need for your stay. There are two ways to buy food in the village: the café and the local store. We ate at the café and the food was good, but they usually close for the day at 5:00 pm. (The tribe’s website states that the café’s hours may vary.) The food selection at the store was limited, but if you had to, you could rely on the store to get the food you need for your stay.

Do I need to pack out my trash?
You should. There are a few trash cans in the village, but all the trash collected must be airlifted out of the canyon at the tribe’s expense. If you pack it in, you should pack it out.

Are there medical facilities in the village?
The tribe’s website states: There are no public health facilities in the village. In the event of an injury, it may take many hours to get treatment or be transported out of the canyon. Trained emergency rescue teams are not available in the village. In case of an emergency, helicopter transportation is necessary, and the financial cost will be high and family members will not be taken with the patient but will need to find their own way out of the canyon. The cost of evacuation is solely responsible of the injured party.

Is there Wi-Fi?
There is public access to Wi-Fi in the village and the lobby of the lodge. When we visited, the signal was intermittent.

Can I bring my dog?
It doesn’t say on the tribe’s website if pets are allowed in the village or campground, but in our opinion this is not a good place for your dog for a few reasons: It’s a pack-it-in-pack-it-out environment, therefore you’d have to carry your dog’s waste with you, you’d have to bring extra food and water, and you’d probably spend more time protecting your pet from the free-roaming village dogs than seeing the falls. Pets are explicitly not allowed in the Lodge.

Are there other specific rules I should know before I go?
Yes, the tribe’s website is clear on what’s not allowed: no alcohol, no drugs, no drones, no weapons, no rock climbing, no jumping or diving, no nudity, (appropriate clothing requested)

Where can I get more information?
The tribal website: http://theofficialhavasupaitribe.com
Camping reservations website: https://www.havasupaireservations.com
Lodge reservations phone number: (928) 448-2111
National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/havasupai.htm
Questions? Call (928) 448-2180 or (928) 448-2237 or (928) 448-2141 or (928) 448-2121

One Reply to “Your Guide to Havasu Falls”

  1. My husband, his 13 year old daughter and I hiked into the campground in 2003. From your article I see that things have sure changed at the village since then. It was not nearly as expensive and we couldn’t get any responses in trying to make reservations then. We went with no reservations in July. It was a long hike carrying 50 and 75 pounds on our backs leaving at 4 am. We didn’t know there was water at the campground and carried in all food and water, and a small tent. We had shin splints the next day and after two nights rode horses out. It was a wonderful adventure that we will always cherish. The falls were beautiful as was the hike. Your info was very true for us other than reservations and costs. Not for the faint of heart but for true adventurers.

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