We’ve traveled to all seven continents and over 70 countries together, and Havasu Falls in the southwest US state of Arizona is hands down one of our top 10 outdoor adventure travel experiences ever! Imagine a crystal clear teal-blue creek running through an arm of the Grand Canyon. There are towering orange cliffs on either side of you. Lush green palms, cacti, and shrubs line a trail that meanders along, and sometimes across, ribbons and terraces of waterfalls. That’s Havasupai.
We were lucky to be among the first to backpack to Havasu Falls upon its reopening in February 2023, after 3 years of closure! Thus, this guide to Havasu Falls and Havasupai has THE most accurate and up-to-date information based on real-life experience. A lot has changed at Havasupai over the last several years, very few have seen Havasu Falls in its current state. You will not find a more current guide to Havasu out there, we promise!
In this ultimate guide to Havasu Falls in 2023, we’ll share everything you need to know about the hike, what to pack, how you can still get permits for this year (YES, it is possible!), and so much more. Even if it’s your first time backpacking like it was for us, this guide will prepare you for an incredible once-in-a-lifetime Havasu Falls adventure you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life! And, because we believe documenting our travels allows us to cherish the experience forever, we even share our secrets on how you can take beautiful photos of the Havasupai waterfalls!
If you’re ready for the adventure of a lifetime, keep reading because it’s time to start planning your ultimate bucket list experience at Havasupai!
Table of Contents
Where is Havasu Falls?
Havasu Falls is located on the Havasupai Reservation in northern Arizona, near Supai, the most remote village in the United States. Nestled in an arm of the Grand Canyon, and west of the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park, Havasu Falls is actually only one waterfall of several that comprise the Havasupai waterfalls. Havasu Creek and its travertine terraced waterfalls are known for their bright blue-green color, a result of the calcium carbonate concentration in the water.
Havasu Falls or Havasupai Falls?
When we use Havasu Falls, we are referring to the specific waterfall itself. When referring to the entire area, we try to use Havasupai or Havasupai waterfalls. We might also refer to the campground as Havasu Falls campground or Havasupai campground. When we use the word Supai, we are referring to the village
Waterfalls at Havasupai
Although Havasu Falls gets most of the attention among the Havasupai waterfalls, there are actually FIVE waterfalls in Havasupai that you can visit. They are all within just a few miles of the campground but are not necessarily easy to get to. We’ll break down each of the waterfalls in Havasupai below:
Fifty Foot Falls
Fifty Foot Falls will be on your left on your way to Havasupai Campground. The views of it are all a bit obstructed by trees and shrubs from the trail, so it’s really hard to get a good view of these waterfalls – the widest of Havasupai’s waterfalls!
If I have one regret from our trip to Havasupai Falls, it’s not being able to find the trail down to the base of Fifty Foot Falls! Many of the blog posts written prior to recent landslides have information on how to get to the trail, but as of February 2023, the old trail is completely washed out. Whatever semi-trail we found was so overgrown it was impassable. We think as more people visit and explore Fifty Foot Falls, new trails will organically emerge, but alas, we couldn’t find a non-sketchy way to get down to the base of these waterfalls!
Navajo Falls is located just below Fifty Foot Falls, and like Fifty Foot Falls, there isn’t a good way (that we could find) to access them for a good view as of February 2023. In the past, these waterfalls have changed their course and flow after various flooding and landslide events. These waterfalls are all a powerful reminder of how alive the earth is!
As more people visit Havasupai in 2023 and beyond, we expect trails to be developed over time as shrubbery and leftovers from the floods get cleaned up. As of February 2023, this whole area is very wild and overgrown!
If you go to Havasupai and find a way to Fifty Foot Falls or Navajo Falls after February 2023, write us and let us know!
Havasu Falls is the most famous of the waterfalls at the Havasupai Reservation. Prior to various flooding events, the waterfall flowed as a single stream over the rusty canyon wall. Now, the 100-foot tall waterfall splits into two streams, creating twin bridal veil falls! The falls splash into a deep blue-colored pool of water and rock terraces. It looks like the literal definition of paradise.
Havasu Falls is really easy to view from above or below. The trail to the base of the falls and short and not too steep (especially in comparison to Mooney Falls – but more on that later below!). It’s also just a 5-minute walk from the campsite so we visited Havasu Falls a handful of times during our stay at the Havasupai Reservation campground!
Tip: Don’t miss the grotto to the right of the falls.
Mooney Falls is located just past the Havasu Campground. It is the tallest of the Havasupai waterfalls at nearly 200 feet tall. The waterfall is named after a miner named D.W. “James” Mooney who died in a nearby mining accident in the early 1900s. There is a viewing area and picnic table at the top of the falls. It’s an impressive view of Mooney Falls just from there!
This is one of the most impressive and voluminous waterfalls in Havasupai, so at the very least, we recommend walking to the overlook from above the falls, even if you don’t hike down!
Beaver Falls is a terraced waterfall about 2.5 miles past the campground. This waterfall is very unique in that, unlike the other Havasupai waterfalls, Beaver Falls descends widely and gradually over several steps. The terraces are actually the result of the accumulation of calcium carbonate in the water. This same mineral composition is what gives the water its bright blue color!
Havasupai Waterfalls Map
Below is a map of the named waterfalls in Havasupai along Havasu Creek. The trail follows the creek through the canyon from Supai Village all the way to the Confluence.
About the Havasupai Tribe
The Havasupai Tribe, also known as the Havasuw `Baaja, is a Native American tribe that has lived in the Grand Canyon region of Arizona for over 800 years. The name “Havasupai” means “people of the blue-green water,” which is a reference to the beautiful blue-green waterfalls that the tribe considers sacred.
In the 19th century, the Havasupai Tribe was forced onto a reservation by the US government.
Today, the Havasupai Tribe is a federally recognized sovereign nation with a tribal council that oversees the reservation. The tribe operates a tourism industry centered around their famous waterfalls, which attract visitors from around the world. The tribe also maintains a strong connection to their ancestral lands and is active in efforts to protect the environment and natural resources of the Grand Canyon region.
Havasupai Tribal Rules and Regulations
Please follow the Havasupai Tribe’s rules and regulations for visitors. These include no alcohol or other drugs, no drones, no watercraft (from kayaks to boats to pool floaties), no fishing, and a few other “nos”. Check out the full list, as well as important permit reminders, on the official Havasupai Reservations “Agreements” website.
Havasupai Campground Reservations and Permits
How much do Havasupai Campground Permits cost?
Reservations for the Havasupai Campground (which act as your permit to the Havasupai Reservation) must be made for a duration of 4 days/3 nights, regardless of how long you actually wish to stay. Thus, the price for every person camping at Havasupai is $395 per person in total.
How to get Havasupai Campground Reservations in 2023
Yes, you CAN get permits to Havasupai and Havasu Falls in 2023 – even if you don’t already have one!
It is true that the Havasupai Tribe is not issuing any new reservations for the Havasu Falls campground in 2023. All of the reservations for 2023 are the postponed 2020 reservations that had to be deferred until the campground reopened this year.
However, because these reservations are 3+ years old and many people aren’t available on those same dates anymore, a lot of people who had reservations for 2020 are forfeiting them in 2023! This means it’s actually easier than ever to get a permit off of the canceled reservations list!
This is how we got our permit just a little over a month before we went in February 2023!
To get a permit from the cancellations list:
Go to havasupaireservations.com and create an account.
Check the cancellations list DAILY at 8 am Arizona time.
If you’re lucky and your dates are flexible, you’ll see available reservations you can buy!
Havasupai Reservations at the Supai Lodge
The Supai Lodge is a good choice for those who may not have the necessary camping gear or prefer the convenience of a hotel. The Supai Lodge offers basic accommodations with simple amenities. However, it’s important to note that the Supai Lodge is often in high demand, and reservations can be difficult to obtain. To book a room at the lodge, you will need to call the Havasupai Tribe directly to make a reservation and inquire about availability.
Tips for Getting Permits
- Be prepared: Research the permit sale date and time ahead of time, gather all the necessary information and payment details and be ready to purchase as soon as the permits go on sale. Create your account at havasupaireservations.com in advance so you’re ready to book and don’t have to waste time creating an account while someone else might be snatching up your permit. Opening day has historically been on February 1 for all reservations in a given calendar year. They usually sell out within minutes, so you’ll want to make sure to check back on havasupaireservations.com regularly so you know when the opening day for 2024 will be (if not February 1 like in the past) and at what time.
- Consider weekday travel: Weekends tend to be more popular and sell out faster, so consider traveling to Havasupai on a weekday if possible.
- Be flexible: If your preferred dates are sold out, consider alternative dates.
- Try for cancellations: Keep an eye on the Havasupai website for any cancellations, which can happen frequently. If you see a cancellation, be prepared to book quickly. Check the Cancellations page daily at 8 am Arizona time.
- Be persistent: Even if the permits sell out quickly, keep trying. Sometimes people cancel or change their plans, freeing up spots for others. This is how we got our permits for February 2023!
Best Time of the Year to Go to Havasupai
If you’re planning a trip to Havasupai, you might be wondering what’s the best time to visit this breathtaking destination. We highly recommend scheduling your visit for spring or fall.
During these months, you can expect mild and comfortable temperatures that are perfect for hiking and exploring the great outdoors. You’ll enjoy the pleasant mid-70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (around 24-28 Celsius) during the day and cool down to the 50s to low 60s Fahrenheit (around 10-15 Celsius) at night. And, as an added bonus, the waterfalls and streams will be flowing at their fullest!
Now, we know some of you might be thinking, “But what about summer?” Sure, summer can be a great time for a lot of things, but let’s be real – hiking in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) isn’t the most pleasant experience, especially if you’re camping. Plus, summer can bring monsoon season, which can result in heavy rain and flash floods.
So, if you’re looking to experience Havasupai at its best, we suggest planning your visit for spring or fall. Just make sure to check for updates on trail conditions and be prepared for any weather changes that may occur.
What to Pack for Havasu Falls: A Comprehensive List
If you’re planning a backpacking trip to Havasu Falls, it’s important to bring the right gear and equipment to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here’s a detailed list of what to pack for Havasupai:
Tip: Get a jump start on buying the gear you need for your Havasupai backpacking trip by adding the items on our Amazon Backpacking Gear List to your cart!
- Backpacks with water reservoirs: A backpack with a water reservoir will make it easier to stay hydrated on the trail without having to stop to access your water bottle.
- Ultralight 2-person tent: An ultralight tent is a good choice for Havasupai because it will be easy to carry and set up at the campsite.
- Dry bag to keep our camera dry while hiking around Havasupai’s waterfalls.
- Sleeping bags: Make sure to choose a sleeping bag that’s rated for the temperature range you expect to encounter on your trip.
- Air pads: An air pad will provide extra insulation and cushioning to help you sleep comfortably.
- Inflatable pillows: A small inflatable pillow will help you get a better night’s sleep.
- Camping stove: A camping stove is essential for cooking meals on the trail.
- Gas canister: Make sure to bring enough fuel for your stove.
- Backpacking meals: Choose lightweight, easy-to-prepare backpacking meals that are high in protein and calories.
- Water purification tabs: Water sources in Havasupai may not be safe to drink, so make sure to bring water purification tabs to treat any water you collect.
- Electrolyte powder: Electrolyte powder will help you stay hydrated and replace lost electrolytes.
- PB&Js, trail mix, energy bars
- Mesh squirrel- and bear-proof food sack: Aka a rat sack. Make sure to store your food in a bear-proof container or a mesh sack to prevent wildlife from getting to it. Don’t forget a bungee cord or rope to hang it up!
- Mugs: Mugs will come in handy for hot drinks or soups.
- Camping dishware: All you really need is a bowl and a spork!
💡For Light and Power:
- Headlamps: A headlamp is essential for hands-free lighting on the trail and in camp.
- Solar-powered lantern: A solar-powered lantern will provide ambient light in camp and can be recharged during the day.
- Charging brick and cords: Bring a charging brick and cords to keep your electronics charged.
- Warm jackets/coats: Bring warm jackets or coats, as temperatures can drop at night.
- Cold weather wool layers: Wool layers are a great choice for cold weather because they’re warm, breathable, and moisture-wicking.
- Hiking pants/leggings: Choose lightweight, quick-drying pants or leggings for hiking.
- Swimsuits: Bring a swimsuit to cool off in the waterfalls and pools.
- Hiking boots: Sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support will help prevent injuries on rocky terrain.
- Water shoes: Water shoes are essential for wading through the creek and walking on slippery rocks.
- Wool socks: Choose wool socks for their moisture-wicking and insulation properties. We recommend wearing wool socks with water shoes on the hike to Beaver Falls as a practical, warm, and blister-free hiking option.
- Hats: Bring a hat to protect your face and head from the sun.
- Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from the sun’s glare and harmful UV rays.
- Underwear/bras: Bring enough underwear and bras for the length of your trip.
- Grippy gloves: These will help you grip the chains and ladder on the hike to the base of Mooney Falls.
- Masks (required indoors on the reservation): Masks are required indoors on the Havasupai reservation.
- Biodegradable wipes: These are essential for staying clean on the trail while minimizing your impact on the environment.
- Eco-friendly soap: Look for soap that is safe to use in natural water sources and biodegradable.
- Toothbrush/paste: Keeping your teeth clean is important, even while backpacking.
- Sunscreen: Protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays with a high SPF sunscreen
- Deodorant: Stay fresh on the trail with a natural deodorant.
⛑️ For Safety:
- InReach Satellite SOS device: This is a must-have item for any backpacking trip. The InReach device allows you to send an SOS message in case of an emergency and can help rescuers locate you quickly.
- First Aid Kit: Accidents can happen, so make sure to bring a well-stocked first aid kit that includes essentials such as bandages, gauze, antiseptic, and pain relievers.
📸 For Fun:
- Hammocks: Relax and take in the beautiful scenery with a lightweight hammock
- Books: Bring a good book or two to read while relaxing at camp.
- Deck of cards: A classic camping accessory, a deck of cards can provide hours of entertainment.
- Camera: Capture all the memories of your trip with a high-quality camera such as the Sony a7iii.
- Lenses: Bring a variety of lenses to capture different types of shots, such as wide-angle or telephoto lenses.
- Tripod: A sturdy tripod can help you get the perfect shot, especially in low-light conditions.
- 360 camera: Capture stunning 360-degree photos and videos with a GoPro Max or Insta360.
Leave No Trace at Havasupai
“Leave No Trace” is a set of principles and practices designed to minimize the impact of human activities on the natural environment. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has identified seven core principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare. The backpacking trip to Havasupai is not for the faint of heart. Make sure you are physically equipped for the hike and have the appropriate camping equipment for a safe stay!
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly. Pack out all of your trash when you leave Havasupai. Otherwise, it will accumulate at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
- Leave what you find. Do not take anything with you out of the canyon, such as fossils or rocks along the trails.
- Minimize campfire impact (and note that campfires are not allowed at Havasu Campground)
- Respect wildlife. There are animals at Havasu Campground who have been accustomed to being fed by visitors and will break into tents to steal food. Feeding the animals perpetuates the problem, and is bad for the natural diet of the animal, so please don’t feed them!
- Be considerate of other visitors. Don’t be loud when others are sleeping, be courteous when passing others on the trail, and leave your campsite ready for the next visitor.
The goal of Leave No Trace is to promote responsible outdoor recreation and preserve the natural beauty and ecological health of outdoor spaces. By following these principles, individuals, and groups can reduce their impact on the environment and ensure that future generations can enjoy these spaces as well.
Check-In Process for Havasupai
You must check in the day before or the morning of your Havasupai reservation. To check-in for your Havasupai Campground reservation and obtain your permit and wristband, you need to visit Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, Arizona. This is about an hour from the actual trailhead.
We checked in on the day before our reservation and it was very a simple process. When you get to Grand Canyon Caverns, follow the sign for Havasupai Check-In. Then, whoever is the trip leader (in our case, it was me) will need to show their ID to the person behind the counter. You will fill out and sign a brief form indicating you understand the rules and receive a paper map, carbon copy of your permit/signature, and wristbands colored by date for the number of people on your reservation. All wristbands will display the name of the Trip Leader and the number of people on the reservation.
Getting to the Hualapai Hilltop
From Peach Springs, it’s a long, desolate drive to Hualapai Hilltop Trailhead. Be sure to fill up on gas, including enough to get back to town after your hike, before leaving Peach Springs.
A few miles from the trailhead, you will come to a checkpoint at the official start of the Havasupai Reservation. Here you will be asked to show your paperwork and put on your wristbands. Then, continue down the dirt road until it ends at the obvious parking area. There is signage for where visitors should park versus locals.
Parking at Hualapai Hilltop
The parking lot is large enough for everyone to have a spot. Note that parking at the trailhead the nights before or after your trip is NOT permitted. In the past, it used to be, but no longer. This is to ensure there is space for everyone who has reservations on their reservation dates.
In the parking lot, we were checked once again for our permits and wristbands. There are clean toilets at the trailhead, and you won’t have another one for 8 miles when you get to the Supai village, so we recommend you use it!
Getting to Havasu Falls Campground
From Hualapai Hilltop you have a few options for getting to the Havasupai Campground. The most popular option is to hike in. This requires that you carry all of your own gear along a moderately difficult 10-mile hike. A more luxurious option is to take the helicopter, which you will need to arrange onsite at the helipad when you arrive. Otherwise, you can also hire a pack mule in advance from the tribe (to take you and/or your bags), though those concerned with animal welfare and labor may want to make this a human-powered activity!
Hiking Trail Description from Hualapai Hilltop to Havasupai Campground
Most visitors to Havasupai hike the 10 miles from Hualapai Hilltop to Havasupai Campground and this is what we recommend to get the full Havasupai experience!
Descent to Canyon Floor
The 10-mile journey with a steep descent via switchbacks down to the floor of a dry river bed. The loose rocks on the switchbacks make it slow-going on the way down. Especially carrying a heavier-than-usual pack since this was our first backpacking trip, I was careful with my steps to make sure I had good footing so as not to slip on the loose gravel.
Be sure to look up from your feet every now and then to take in the beautiful Grand Canyon views around you. Before you know it, you’ll be well below the rim looking up at where you came from!
Follow the canyon
Once you get to the bottom of the switchbacks, the Havasupai trail levels out and is fairly flat. The terrain is rocky and at times gravelly, but it is not very difficult. Follow the canyon for several miles to Supai. This part of the trail started to feel long to us. It is very scenic, but after a while of seeing similar views, we just felt ready to get to the waterfalls!
As you near the village around mile 7, you might spot some of the wild horses that roam the area. We saw a few just as we neared the first sign for Fry Bread and right after the cactus forest, about a mile before we got to the village.
As you near the village, you will cross Havasu Creek for the first time over a wooden red bridge. You’ll also get your first glimpses of the beautiful blue color.
At mile 8, you will arrive at the Supai Village, considered the most remote village in the continental United States and the only place in the United States where mail is still delivered by mule! It has a small population of around 200 people, and most residents are members of the Havasupai Tribe. The village has a school, a post office, a general store, a cafe, and a few other businesses that cater to visitors. There is a cafe serving basic hot food options, which can be a refreshing alternative to dehydrated packages of backpacker fare.
Tip: If you are interested in taking the helicopter out of the canyon on your departure day, make note of the location of the helipad as you walk through the village. This is where you will check in and add your name to the list of people wishing to take the helicopter on the morning of your departure. It’s first come first served and the list opens at 9:30 that day. As of February 2023, helicopters run on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Village to Campground
You will hike another 2 miles past Supai village to get to your campsite, but while you may be feeling tired at this point, the excitement of what’s about to come will push you through these final few miles!
As you leave Supai village, you will follow Havasu Creek into a wooded area. The trail goes through the woods before circling above and around Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls. Note that the views of these waterfalls are somewhat obstructed by debris as of February 2023, but should eventually be cleared away.
Soon, you will get to a food cart where you get a hot dog or fry bread. This is also where the mules pick up/drop off backpacks if you hired one.
From here, you cross a semi-sketchy wooden plank across a rushing part of the creek. This bridge looks temporary as a result of recent flood damage, so it may be improved when you visit!
Here’s where things start getting even more magical, as the roar of Havasu Falls ahead of you becomes louder and louder as you near it.
My first view of Havasu Falls completely caught me by surprise out of the corner of my eye when we reached the crest of a hill nearly 2 miles past the Supai village. In my peripheral vision on my right was my initial glimpse of the rushing white water of Havasu Falls! As we descended the hill more of the falls came into view below us on our right. I was so struck by its beauty that I cried. I was so grateful to be there! Tim and I shared a hug, with our bulky packs and all, before continuing our way to camp.
Once you’ve gathered your composure and are ready to proceed to camp, it’s an easy, gently downhill walk to camp. You can’t miss it. There may be someone checking wristbands and permits at the gate.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to camp. Now, pick a spot and get settled in!
The Havasu Falls Campground allows camping anywhere within a one-mile area along Havasu Creek. Composting toilets and drinking water from Fern Spring are available. Gas canister stoves are allowed, but fires and amplified music are not. Respect quiet hours and use red headlamps at night. Bringing young children is not recommended. Critters may try to get to the food, so keep it in odor-proof bags in a bear canister or mesh food bag hanging outside of your tent. We hung our food bag on a bungee cord strapped between two trees.
Where to Camp at Havasupai Campground
There are no designated or assigned camping sites at Havasu Falls, as it is a “camp wherever you want” campground running for roughly one mile on both sides of Havasu Creek. You are welcome to set up camp anywhere within the Campground area that is safe and respectful of the land and your fellow campers.
We camped between the first and second bathrooms along the creek. We had plenty of space to set up our tent and hammocks, and even a picnic table for our meals and cooking!
Water at Havasupai Campground
You can get drinking water from a freshwater spring in the Campground area at Havasupai. However, all other water sources should be treated or filtered before use to be safe. We used water purification tabs for our water from the Fern Spring just to be safe as well, but most people do not!
Bathrooms at Havasupai Campground
The bathrooms at Havasupai are composting toilets located throughout the campground area. They are simple structures with a toilet seat over a pit and are cleaned regularly by the tribal staff. While they may not be the most luxurious facilities, they are functional and serve their purpose. It’s important to remember to bring your own toilet paper and practice Leave No Trace principles when using the bathroom facilities.
Cooking and Campfires at Havasupai Campground
The use of gas canister backpacking stoves is allowed, but other types of open flames or fires are not permitted. The Havasupai tribe temporarily allowed campfires in February of 2023 in order to facilitate the clean-up of debris after recent floods. Most of the time, campfires are banned because of the risk of wildfires, as the area is a desert environment with limited water resources. It’s important to follow these rules to help protect the fragile ecosystem and ensure the safety of all visitors.
Havasupai Hiking Trails and Distances
From the Havasupai Campground, there are three popular destinations to hike to further north of Havasu Falls. These destinations are Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, and the Confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River. We describe each of these destinations in detail below, and also created this helpful table to easily view the distances between the destinations. They are all located along the same “trail” (which is simply the Havasu Creek itself), so it’s really just a matter of how far into the canyon you want to go (keeping in mind you have to come back the way you came!).
|Destination||Distance from Hualapai Hilltop||Elevation Change (Hualapai Hilltop)||Estimated Time (Hualapai Hilltop)||Distance from Havasu Falls Campground||Elevation Change (Havasu Falls Campground)||Estimated Time (Havasu Falls Campground)|
|Supai Village||8 miles||-2,004 ft||3-5 hours||2 miles||-200 ft||45-60 minutes|
|Havasu Falls and Campground||10 miles||-2,524 ft||4-6 hours||0 miles||0 ft||0 hours|
|Mooney Falls||11 miles||-2,740 ft||5-7 hours||1 mile||-600 ft||1-2 hours|
|Beaver Falls||12 miles||-2,852 ft||6-8 hours||2 miles||-800 ft||2-3 hours|
|The Confluence||16 miles||-3,620 ft||8-12 hours||6 miles||-1,800 ft||4-6 hours|
To get down to the base of Mooney Falls, 200 feet below the campground, you have to hike down a very sketchy vertical rock wall with chains and ladders. Everything is super slippery because of the spray from the waterfall so it’s incredibly important that you have grippy gloves and footwear to assist you in the descent.
On our way to hike down to the base of Mooney Falls, we passed two men who looked fairly outdoorsy and athletic. We asked them how the hike was and they said it was so sketchy that they didn’t make it all the way down. Tim and I decided after that to give it a try and to check in with each other repeatedly to make sure we both felt comfortable proceeding down the cliff.
After passing several warning signs (Descend at own risk!), we entered a rock tunnel and began to descend toward Mooney Falls. The cave portal ends where the chains and ladders portion of the descent begins.
I have to admit this was one of the scariest descents of my life. It was not hard, per se, but you just knew with every step and every handhold that if you messed up it could be fatal. Thankfully, the metal grips and steps are very sturdy. I felt like I could rely on the infrastructure built into the wall to help hikers descend (and ascend). The chains are very strong and not difficult to hold on to with grippy gloves.
At the bottom of Mooney Falls, you will definitely get wet from the spray! It’s an incredible and powerful site to behold. We loved running around in the spray, taking photos, and laughing with new friends we’d made on the trail.
The hike to Beaver Falls is a true highlight of the overall Havasupai experience! These are the terraced step-like waterfalls about 2.5 miles from Havasupai campground.
To get to Beaver Falls, you will need to first hike to the bottom of Mooney Falls and then hike across the creek several times over the course of about 2 miles. The creek crossings are not especially obvious to find, but in general, if you reach what appears to be the end of a trail, it probably is. Look across the creek and if you see a trail pick up on the other side, that’s where you should go!
Downloading the map on AllTrails in advance is helpful though not 100% accurate for knowing where to cross. Long story short, expect to have to wade around a little bit to find exactly where to cross but don’t overthink it. Remember that you’re hiking in a canyon, and so there is literally just one direction to go in. Just keep following the creek!
After about a mile, you will reach a portion of the trail known as “The Jungle”. This area is absolutely COVERED in a dense network of thick vines.
This is also where we spotted some big horn sheep, so be on the lookout! Our friends saw two adolescent males play-fighting, and caught them ramming horns on video!
When you reach the ladders, you are getting close to your destination of Beaver Falls.
There will be a few ladders and wooden footbridges leading you to a viewpoint with a picnic table.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can hike down to the creek level and walk out into the terraces! The terraces are wide and the water is usually slow enough to safely stand in your own little pool in Beaver Falls. Just use caution of course, since the water current can be strong and the ground slippery with algae!
Confluence of Havasu Creek and Colorado River
If you have good endurance and are up for a long, challenging, and wet hike, you can follow Havasu Creek approximately 8 miles from camp, past Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls, all the way to where the crystal blue waters of Havasu Creek meet up with the silty brown currents of the mighty Colorado River.
We opted not to do this hike when we visited Havasupai. Those who’ve done it seem to rave about it, but to us, after doing a lot of research, we decided it didn’t look worth the time and effort for us. Definitely consider it though, especially if you want a challenge!
We doubt you’ll regret doing it, but you might regret not!
If you feel overwhelmed by everything you want to make sure you see and do at Havasupai, do not worry! We have the perfect itinerary tailored to the maximum amount of time you can stay on the 4-day/3-night campground permit. And, if you want to only stay 2 of the 3 nights at the campground (which is what we did), it’s easy to do that too and still see the best of Havasupai!
Day 0: Check in for your Havasupai Campground reservation in Peach Springs
The day before your reservation date for Havasupai, you should plan to go to Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, Arizona to check in for your permit and get your wristbands. You can also check in the day of your reservation, but because of how remote the trailhead is and how lengthy the hike to camp is, we recommend doing this the day prior. Note that the earliest you can check in is the day prior to your reservation.
While in Peach Springs, you should also fill up on gas. The road to the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead is very remote and you will need enough gas to get you there and back again.
Get a good night’s sleep in Peach Springs. There are not many hotel options, so book early to get the best rooms!
Day 1: Hike to Havasu Falls Campground
Plan to depart Peach Springs no later than 7 or 8 am in order to be on the trail by 9 am. It is about an hour-long drive from Peach Springs to the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead.
Park at the trailhead, grab your gear, and hit the trail! There is a bathroom at the trailhead, and we recommend using it. Your next toilet is 8 miles away in the Supai Village.
After the village, check out the views of Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls on your way to the campground. From the village, it’s only 2 more miles to camp. Resist the urge to hike down to Havasu Falls on your way to camp. It will be more rewarding when you are finally free of all your gear. Plus, you want to set up your campsite first, just to make sure you don’t have to set up in the dark and identify any potential issues with enough time and daylight to resolve them.
Once at the campground, set up your tent at any available site you wish! Once you have your camp situated, put on your swimsuit and head down to Havasu Falls to play in the beautiful teal waters!
Day 2: Hike to Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls
After a filling breakfast, pack a daypack for a 6-mile round-trip hike to Beaver Falls. You’ll start by hiking across the campground to Mooney Falls. Check out the view of Mooney Falls from above before putting on your grippy gloves to climb down to the base via chains and ladders. This is the sketchiest part of the entire Havasupai Trail, so take it slow and steady, and trust your gut if it doesn’t feel safe to you.
Spend as much time as you want at Mooney Falls, then continue to fall the creek all the way to Beaver Falls. Aim to leave Beaver Falls at least 2 hours prior to sunset so you don’t have to worry about climbing back up Mooney Falls in the dark!
Day 3: Hike to the Confluence or Lounge at Camp
If you are up for an all-day adventure, the hike to the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River from Havasupai Campground is approximately 8 miles one way. The trail is considered to be challenging due to the steep inclines and rocky terrain, and it typically takes hikers between 4-6 hours to reach the confluence from the campground. The trail passes several scenic spots along the way, including Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls.
We recommend hiking to the Confluence on a different day than the day you hike to Beaver Falls. Even though you are repeating the hike to Beaver Falls as part of the hike to the confluence, we just think it’s too much to try to stop and appreciate Beaver Falls and Mooney Falls if you are trying to get all the way to the confluence and back.
Otherwise, if you don’t want to hike to the confluence (we didn’t), you can just lounge around at camp or by Havasu Falls. We recommend tying up a hammock and relaxing by the creek, or spending more time at Havasu Falls!
Day 4: Departure from Havasupai
On the day of your departure from Havasupai, you can take the helicopter out of Supai village for $100 per person. You sign up the morning you want to fly, and passengers are taken on a first-come-first-serve basis, with locals given priority. We waited about 2 hours for our turn. We feel like the helicopter is worth it. Not only does it save you a ton of time and a steep climb out of the canyon, you also get the thrill of flying out of the Grand Canyon! It’s a bucket list moment in and of itself!
Otherwise, you can hike back to Hualapai Hilltop along the same trail you took in.
Once reunited with your car, you must leave the Havasupai Reservation. You cannot camp in your car, van or RV in the parking area before OR after your camping reservation.
From here you can drive to Phoenix or Las Vegas to fly out, or stay another night in Peach Springs to avoid a long drive on the same day as a long hike. Since we were able to take the helicopter out, we decided to drive back to Phoenix that same day!
Tips for Photographing Havasupai Waterfalls
Havasupai is one of the most photogenic destinations in the world. With its pristine blue-green waters, towering waterfalls, and stunning red rock formations, it’s no wonder that photographers from around the globe flock to this remote corner of the Grand Canyon to capture its natural beauty.
Photographing Havasupai is truly an opportunity to capture some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world!
Below we share the most important tips for photographing Havasupai, including some rules you should be aware of, plus the best photo spots and camera gear you’ll want to get for your trip to Havasu.
Havasupai Photography Tips for Getting the Perfect Shot
- The first thing to quickly get out of the way is that drones are not allowed on the Havasupai Reservation. That means no drone photography or videography!
- The second thing to know is that the Havasupai tribe asks visitors to not photograph or take videos of any Havasupai people, the horses, or of the village. Please respect this!
- Now for the fun stuff! This creative tip is to use a slow shutter speed. We love that silky smooth effect on long-exposure waterfall photos. Experiment with different shutter speeds to find the right balance between the speed of the water and the amount of blur you want.
- Use a polarizing filter: A polarizing filter can help reduce glare and reflections on the water, making the colors and textures more vivid. This is especially helpful on bright sunny days. A polarizing filter can darken your photo’s exposure, giving you an expanded ability to slow down your shutter speed without overexposing your image.
- Use a tripod: A stable platform is essential for getting sharp photos of moving water. A tripod can help you keep your camera steady and prevent blurring caused by camera shake.
- Use a wide-angle lens: A wide-angle lens can help capture the grandeur of the Havasupai waterfalls and its surroundings. This is how we are able to capture the entire 200 feet of height of Mooney Falls and the width of Beaver Falls!
- Consider the lighting: The time of day and weather conditions can have a big impact on the way waterfalls look in photos. Overcast days can provide soft, even lighting, while the early morning or late afternoon light can add warmth and depth to your images.
- Bring a lens cloth: Waterfalls can generate a lot of mist and spray, which can quickly accumulate on your lens. Make sure to bring a lens cloth or microfiber towel to clean your lens between shots. We used ours quite a few times at Mooney Falls in particular!
- Be respectful and stay safe! When photographing waterfalls, it’s important to be respectful of the environment and other visitors. Stay on designated trails and obey any posted signs or regulations. It would be fairly easy to make a wrong step near the edge of the waterfalls. The rock is not always as strong as it looks so be careful and stay on solid surfaces and away from edges. NEVER walk and look at your phone or camera at the same. Always look where you’re going friends!
Photography Ideas for Havasupai Waterfalls
- Havasu Falls: Take a photo from the top of the falls looking down, and from the bottom of the falls looking up.
- Mooney Falls: Take a photo from the top of the falls looking down, and from the bottom of the falls looking up.
- Beaver Falls: This secluded spot is a bit of a trek to get to, but it’s worth it. Take photos from different angles to capture the beauty of the cascading falls and the natural pools.
- The turquoise water: The water in Havasupai is a stunning shade of blue-green. Take photos of the water from different angles and perspectives to capture its beauty.
- The canyon walls: The towering canyon walls make for a dramatic backdrop in your photos. Take photos from different vantage points to show the scale and beauty of the canyon.
- The stars: Havasupai is a great place for astrophotography. Head out at night and capture the stars above the canyon walls or above the waterfalls for a truly magical shot.
Best Camera Gear for Havasupai Waterfalls
- Camera: Bring a high-quality camera that will help you capture the vibrant colors and stunning landscapes of Havasupai. A mirrorless or DSLR camera with a full-frame sensor is ideal, but even a smartphone with a good camera can take great photos.
- Lenses: Bring a variety of lenses to capture different types of shots, such as wide-angle lenses for landscapes.
- Tripod: A sturdy tripod will help you stabilize your camera for long exposures and low-light photography.
- ND Filters: Neutral density filters can help you achieve long exposures in bright daylight, which is particularly useful when photographing waterfalls.
- Polarizing Filter: A polarizing filter can help you cut down on glare and enhance the colors in your photos.
- Extra Batteries and Memory Cards: Make sure to bring extra batteries and memory cards so you don’t miss any photo opportunities.
- Waterproof Camera Bag or Dry Bag: A waterproof camera bag will keep your gear dry during any water crossings or unexpected rain showers.
- Headlamp or Flashlight: A headlamp or flashlight can be helpful for night photography or early morning hikes to capture the sunrise.
- Cleaning Kit: A cleaning kit with a microfiber cloth, lens cleaning solution, and blower can help keep your gear clean and free of dust and debris.
FAQs about Havasu
Here are some frequently asked questions and topics about visiting Havasu Falls and the Havasupai Reservation.
What are the COVID-19 Protocols on the Havasupai Reservation?
At this time, the Havasupai Tribe is not requiring proof of vaccination or a negative covid test from visitors. Masks are required in all indoor spaces on reservation land. You should pack a mask and plan to wear it in the village cafe, for example. According to the tribe’s website, they can change these rules at any time. Just to be safe, we chose to bring copies of our covid vaccination cards. Be sure to check the official website in advance of your trip to review current guidelines!
Can I make a hike to Havasu Falls as a day trip?
Nope! You can not hike to Havasu Falls as a day trip. The Havasupai Tribe requires all visitors to have a reservation for the campground or the lodge to stay overnight.
Why is Havasupai’s water so blue?
The mineral composition of the water, specifically the calcium carbonate, is what causes the water in Havasu Creek and waterfalls to be the unique teal blue it’s known for.
How cold is the water in Havasu Creek and Falls?
Allegedly, the water at Havasupai remains a steady 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. But, it felt a lot colder than that to us in February 2023 so take this with a grain of salt!
Can I swim in Havasupai?
Yes! And you should. Although they say the water stays 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, we are quite skeptical as it felt much colder to us! Since we visited in February 2023, it was pretty chilly all around but that didn’t stop us from stripping into our swimsuits and taking a plunge!
Are there guided tours to Havasupai?
Although guided tours previously took place in Havasupai, the Havasupai tribe no longer authorizes tour companies to operate on the reservation. Thus, the only way to coordinate your visit to Havasupai is with the tribe directly via a campground or lodge reservation.
Are pets allowed in Havasupai?
No, according to the Havasupai website, dogs and other pets are not allowed to join you on your trip to Havasupai.
Other things to do in Arizona Before and After your trip
Check out Sedona, Arizona for amazing hiking!
Try to get a permit for The Wave!
Visit White Pocket to feel like you’re on another planet!
Final Thoughts on Havasupai Waterfalls
In conclusion, backpacking and hiking in Havasupai is a one-of-a-kind experience that should be on every adventurer’s bucket list. The stunning natural beauty of Havasu Falls and the surrounding landscapes is awe-inspiring and will leave you feeling rejuvenated and connected to nature. While the journey may be challenging, the reward of witnessing the turquoise waters cascading over the red rocks is truly unforgettable. So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and head out to Havasupai for an unforgettable adventure that will stay with you for a lifetime. Happy trails!