Last October, I finally got to visit the most magical place on Earth: Havasu Falls in Arizona. I was sold on going from the moment I saw a video of turquoise blue waterfalls plummeting deep down in the Grand Canyon. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life, and I want to share with you everything I know on how to plan a visit here. The journey wasn’t easy but it was WORTH IT. There is a lot involved in paying this beautiful oasis a visit, and I have to admit it was one of the hardest vacations I have ever planned. I believe it is a once in a lifetime trip and if you’re thinking about going here, DO IT. You will not regret it, I promise! Make sure you subscribe to my blog below for a detailed packing list I will be sending out in the next month.
Where is Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls is located in the Havasu Canyon, home to the Havasupai Indian Tribe whose name is translated to “people of the blue green water.” There is some confusion on how to get there. Havasu is its own location, it’s not considered the North Rim or the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. You will need to purchase permits from the Havasupai Tribe that lives and owns the land in this part of the Grand Canyon. There are 5 waterfalls in the Havasu Canyon: Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, Fifty Foot Falls, & Navajo Falls. Havasu Falls is the most popular waterfall within the canyon, but the other four are equally as beautiful and unique. There is also the option to hike to Confluence, where the Colorado River meets Havasu Creek!
February 1st is the day permits go on sale, 8 AM Arizona time. Make sure you don’t miss it! That’s 7 AM Pacific time & 10 AM Eastern time. My first tip to you is to go on their website and register for an account login PRIOR to February 1st. This will ensure all of your information is in the system and you’ll have a better chance at scoring permits for the dates you want. Permits sell out FAST within minutes so you must do this in order to get through checkout fast enough. Make sure you input the credit card you will be using for all charges when registering so it is on file for when you checkout.
One person (trip leader) will want to buy permits for your entire group and you can only use one credit or debit card on your reservation. Campground reservations are priced per person and you can include up to 12 people in total per camping reservation. Make sure you list alternative trip leaders in your account setup because of the trip leader can’t make it to Havasupai, the reservation name can be transferred to another alternative trip leader listed free of charge. Just keep in mind that once a reservation has been made, you can’t make changes to that list so make sure you have it right before you reserve.
You cannot make a camping reservation over the phone. The only way to make a camping reservation is on havasupaireservations.com.
It took me two hours on the website to finally get permits. My advice to you is don’t give up. Obsessively keep going in and starting over when the website crashes for your dates, because it will probably do so again this year like it did to me last year. I must have tried 15 times in those two hours before I finally scored permits! They weren’t the dates I wanted but close enough. If you are impatient, you should have someone else try to get the permits in your group because patience is key.
Camping or Lodge
There are two options for visiting Havasu Canyon: Camping or Lodge. The online reservation system that opens up February 1st is for making a camping reservation. You can only make a lodge reservation over the phone. You have a much better chance of getting a camping reservation than staying at the lodge.
The website has not yet been updated for pricing for 2020, but in 2019 the prices for camping were $100 per person per weekday night and $125 per person per weekend night (Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights). This includes all taxes and fees. You MUST buy a 3 night stay, no more or no less. This means that a 3 Night / 4 Day stay will be a total of between $300 and $375 per person (depending upon how many weekend nights are included). Prices are subject to change according to the Havasupai website.
Lodge Reservations become available on June 1st. The cost for the lodge last year was $440 per room per night and rooms can accommodate up to 4 people. A $110 entrance/environmental fee is charged per person in addition to this, but all of these prices are subject to change this year. There are only 24 rooms available and they tend to book up really
Can anyone in your group check-in at Havasupai
No. There is only on trip leader per reservation and a reservation is only valid if the trip leader is present at the Tourist Check-in Office in the Village of Supai (on the way to the campground) with photo ID. If that person is not present, then the reservation will not be honored. Essentially you will be screwed out of proceeding to the campground and will have to turn around. This is why its important to list alternative trip leaders in your reservation, and I believe you can list them in your account before you go on to buy permits. Everybody in your party should have their state ID or passport with them and I also recommend bringing your medical card if you have one.
ALL visitors (even if they are not a Trip Leader) must have an account created on HavasupaiReservations.com PRIOR to arrival so that they have confirmed their understanding of, and agreement with, Havasupai Rules and Laws. On their website it says ALL visitors must have proof of their account (a printout or screenshot of their Account Information Page), proof of their Campground Reservation (a printout or screenshot of the Campground Reservation that they are visiting under), and their photo ID available at all times while on Havasupai lands. I also reccommend that everyone brings their medical insurance cards & travel insurance papers if purchased.
Pack Mules: Should you reserve one
When you make your reservation online, you will notice that there’s an option to add a pack mule for $400 total. I remember it saying “become waitlisted for a pack mule.” I didn’t realize there would be an option for this so I added it to our reservation thinking I’d be notified whether or not we would be able to add that to our reservation later. A few months down the road my credit card was instantly charged for this pack mule. So what did we sign up for? A mule to carry up to 4 of our bags with a maximum weight of 32 pounds per bag. The maximum baggage size had to be 36 inches long, 19 inches wide, 19 inches tall. It also had to be a soft duffel without wheels. We threw our duffels into large laundry bags for added protection from dirt and the mule. You drop your bags off at the start of the trailhead and they are transported 10 miles to the campground.
There has been a lot of controversy over these mules which I didn’t realize when I added one to our reservation. Many animal rights advocates advise people against using them because has been reported that they were mistreated in the past. The Havasupai Tribe took these claims to heart and have significantly changed the way they operate their mule transport and tightened the rules on weight in order to prevent any claims of abuse.
All of the pack mules we saw on the trail seemed very well attended to and happy. We didn’t witness any animal abuse and the tribe relies heavily on these mules to transport everything from mail to packaged goods to their village. We kept our bags way under the weight limit and only put our tents and sleeping bags in the duffels. My honest opinion is don’t add a pack mule to your reservation. Save yourself the $400 and backpack everything into camp. There are many services out there to rent everything from backpacks to lightweight tents & sleeping bags which I will discuss further into this post. You will feel way more accomplished bringing everything without the use of a mule and it’ll force you to pack less of things that are unnecessary.
Best time to visit Havasu Falls
One of the biggest decisions of your trip will be what time of year to go. I would say the best time to visit Havasu Falls is either early spring or late autumn. After speaking to locals, I was told that October is the absolute perfect time to visit Arizona because the weather is just right. In my opinion, late May or early October would be best. If you decide to go in the summer, it will still be enjoyable and the best swimming weather however you will want to start your hike in and out SUPER early to avoid the heat.
July, August, and September fall under monsoon season, and that brings unpredictable rainstorms. I avoided making reservations for these months for this reason. It is quite scary and dangerous to be stuck in the Canyon if a monsoon was to strike and I didn’t want to take that chance. Its also SUPER hot in Arizona those months. You really need to start your hike as early as possible to beat the heat.
You should be very flexible on when to visit the falls because reservations go QUICK. We ended up with reservations for late October even though I wanted beginning. Even though it was late October, I still spent my days in shorts and my bathing suit swimming in the falls. The weather stays roughly 70 degrees year round, so you don’t have to worry about the falls freezing over any time of the year.
Hotels to stay in before and after your hike
Our first two days we stayed in Vegas and turned it into a mini vacation. We had many options for cheap hotel rooms, and I was able to get us comped rooms at the Luxor Casino playing the MyVegas slot app for weeks on my phone (free to play). You can win comped rooms for certain dates! We left Vegas and had reservations at the Hualapai Lodge the night before our hike, which is the closest hotel to the trailhead. It’s located about 70 miles from the start of the trail. We really liked our hotel room, it was simple but very clean. The food at the restaurant hotel was very good as well. Grand Caverns Canyon Inn is another hotel close to the start of the trail. I recommend booking hotel rooms at one of these two hotels for the night before your hike and possibly the night after depending on your flight. We only stayed the night before, but we were all exhausted driving 4 hours back to Vegas after our hike. It would have been nice to just sleep and relax at that hotel. Make sure you book a room as soon as you know your dates for Havasupai so you don’t run the risk of them selling out.
How to get to the Havasupai Trailhead
The Havasu Falls trailhead is located at Hualapai Hilltop. Click here for detailed directions depending on which airport you’re coming from. You have two options of getting here: Fly into Las Vegas or fly into Phoenix. If you fly into Vegas, you will be 4 hours away from the trailhead as opposed to 5 hours from Phoenix. We chose to fly into Vegas because it was closer and we wanted to do some exploring in Vegas.
If you’re coming in from Las Vegas, take 93 South towards Kingman, Arizona and then head east on Route 66. After about 57 miles, you will turn left on Indian Road 18. After driving for approximately 60 miles, you will reach the end of the road. Before this, you will be stopped at a checkpoint where you must have confirmation of your reservation along with an ID or passport. Your car will be searched for any items strictly prohibited from Havasupai. That includes alcohol, drugs & drones. For a full list of items prohibited, check HavasupaiReservations.com.
Once you get to the trailhead, you will see a large parking lot with bathrooms at the start of the trail. There is also a place to camp just below the bathrooms, but there is no water at the trailhead. Keep this in mind because you will not be able to fill your hydration bags with water at the trailhead. Plan to do this before back at your hotel or at a convenience store on your way to the trailhead. Peach Springs, Arizona is the nearest town to the trailhead with things like gas, food, and water.
What time should you start your hike
The 8 mile section of trail between the Hilltop Trailhead and the Village of Supai is closed each night between sunset and 4:00 a.m. Our goal was to be at the trailhead by 6am to start our hike, so we left the hotel at 4:45 AM. The drive from the Hualapai Lodge to the parking lot for Hualapai Hilltop is an hour and 15 minutes. We ended up starting at 7am because of check in and having our car searched before being allowed to drive to the parking lot for the trailhead. I reccomend getting up as early as possible and getting to your lodge closest to the trailhead as early as you can the night before. Get some rest, you are going to need the energy for your 10 mile hike in. Make sure you don’t bring any alcohol in your car and no drones allowed. Your car will be searched and alcohol will be confiscated if found.
How hard is the hike
The hike to Havasupai campground is 20 miles (32 km) roundtrip from the Hilltop Trailhead in/down to the Campground entrance and then back out/up to the Hilltop Trailhead. As per the Havasupai Reservations website, it’s described as a rocky and sandy desert trail with a total roundtrip elevation change of nearly one mile. That is TWO Empire State Buildings (meaning it is like climbing down the Empire State Building from the top to the bottom TWICE in a row – and then doing the same thing back up).
For us, the hike to the campground was relatively easy just very LONG. We had hiking sticks and plenty of water in our hydration packs, and most of us conditioned and ran at the gym to build endurance. When you first start your hike, you are walking downhill the entire time. That first section of the hike is the hardest when you’re hiking BACK from your trip. It is a STEEP incline with switchbacks when you’re coming back. As much as you don’t want to leave the campground early your final day, you absolutely should leave AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. Buy your souveniers at the Village shop when you first hike into Havasupai so you don’t get sucked in there when you’re leaving like we did. It started getting hot on our hike back right as we were approaching the switchbacks, which was pretty brutal on us. It wouldn’t have been as bad if the sun wasn’t out in full force.
Can you get there by helicopter
There is Helicopter travel provided by Airwest Helicopters, but it is weather dependent and runs on a scheudule only on certain days. Cost for a helicopter ride into the canyon is $85 per person each way. Each person is allowed 1 carry-on bag. Any additional luggage is charged by the weight. Children 2 years and younger fly free. You cannot make reservations for the helicopter prior to your visit. The way to try and get in by helicopter is to show up at the Hualapai Hilltop and sign in before 10am. The Native Americans receive priority boarding, so you may be waiting in line for hours before possibly being put on a helicopter. Tourists are boarded on a first come, first served basis & it takes about 15 minutes to fly from Havasupai Hilltop to the Supai village. You will still need to hike 2+ miles from the village in order to see any of the waterfalls. For more information, call Airwest Helicopters (623) 516- 2790.
Last I checked, the schedule for the helicopter was as follows:
March 15 to October 15:
- Sunday: 10 am to 1pm*
- Monday: 10 am to 1pm*
- Thursday: 10 am to 1pm*
- Friday: 10 am to 1pm*
October 16 to March 14:
- Sunday: 10 am to 1pm*
- Friday: 10 am to 1pm*
As we were leaving Havasupai, we spoke to a few people waiting for the helicopter who said they’ve been waiting for at least 5 hours and still haven’t gotten on one. Be prepared to patiently wait for a helicopter if you choose to leave the canyon this way. I would also recommend having your carry-on be a backpack that you can hike out with even if you plan on taking the helicopter, just in case you can’t get on one.
Should you bring money to Havasupai
I say yes. Make sure you take cash with you to Havasupai in addition to credit/debit cards. The convenience store accepts cards, but if the electric was to go out you want to be prepared with cash on you. I brought enough money to cover a helicopter ride as well which is $85, just in case I had to leave the Canyon for whatever reason quickly. The natives sell yummy Indian bread and sodas at little stands throughout the reservation that you can only purchase with cash. The Indian bread was so delicious!! The stands aren’t always open but most days you are able to buy some. I personally brought $300 cash with me on this trip. You can bring more or less depending on your circumstances.
Do you need a rental car for the trip
I say yes you will need a car to drive yourself to the trailhead. There is no bus transportation to the Hualapai Hilltop Trailhead and the drive from Vegas or Phoenix will take 4-5 hours. We kept everything we didn’t bring on our hike in our trunk and had no issues. There were no break-ins that we heard of at the parking lot and there is an office there that is open every morning with bathrooms. The parking lot seems to be very safe, you are even allowed to camp there before you start your hike. I’m not sure whether you’d have to arrive after midnight though the day your reservation starts in order to be able to do this. Something to keep in mind. One place to check for car rentals is www.carrentals.com. This is what I use whenever I travel.
Can you cancel your Havasupai Reservation
Reservations are paid in full at the time of purchase and are non-refundable. You can’t change the dates on your reservation either. There is one way to transfer your permits if you are unable to go for whatever reason, but the only way to do so is through the Official Transfer System at HavasupaiReservations.com. When you first register for an account, make sure you add all of the people in your party to the reservation as alternate trip leaders. It helps with the transfer process if your original trip leader doesn’t end up going.
Are there bathrooms at the campground
There are two
Is there water at the campground
Should you purchase travel insurance
I say yes. I bought my travel insurance from Travel Guard & because I have Insurance coverage already I only purchased the option that gave me security evacuation coverage. The reason I got this was because god forbid anything happens in the Canyon, there is only one way out and thats by helicopter. This was the exact coverage recommended to me through another forum I found, and if you don’t already have medical insurance you may want to see what other coverage options you may need. If you do have insurance, call them and check your Emergency evacuation coverage.
Do you keep the same campsite all 4 days
There is no designated camping spot per group, so you are free to camp whenever and move if you’d like. When you first arrive to the campsite, you may notice that a lot of the prime spots are taken. You can set up camp whenever, and then when certain people leave the following day you can snag a different camp spot. Once you set up camp, plan on staying in one spot. This will be your home base after every hike. We noticed that the further we walked down the campground, the better the camping spots got. We planned on moving our spot after day one but decided against it after how much work it took to set up our canpsite.
Regulations for Havasupai:
Be respectful and follow the rules when visiting Havasupai. There is:
- NO cliff jumping allowed
- NO rock climbing
- NO alcohol/drugs/smoking
- NO littering
- NO drones
- NO nudity or inappropriate clothing
- NO photos allowed in the village or of the Natives
- NO harsh chemicals allowed in the water (soaps, shampoo
- NO pets allowed
- NO feeding animals on the reservation
- NO taking rocks as souveniers from the Grand Canyon
Everything you pack in, you MUST pack out. We were disgusted by the amount of trash we saw people leave behind. If you have leftover food, you can ask other campers if they’d like to have some. People were happy to get our leftover food and fuel canisters. Respect nature and keep it clean! The Havasupai tribe asks that you learn and practice Leave No Trace Principles before your trip (lnt.org/learn/7-principles)
For a detailed packing list for Havasupai, subscribe to my blog mailing list below with your name and e-mail address. I will send out a packing list by the end of February. There is a lot of items you will need to pack for this trip and I’m writing a detailed list with links included!