Havasu Falls is heaven on earth, no pictures or words can describe this place (but I’ll still try through pictures and words).
It literally has the most incredible landscape and waterfalls situated at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in the USA. The water is the bluest water and the fact that it is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is indescribable. When the sun sets, the beauty continues with some of the brightest stars I have ever seen.
The Havasupai Tribe actually lives in the Grand Canyon and because the falls are on their land, they have the privilege of being the proud owners of these wonders and have done an incredible job preserving them throughout time.
In this guide I’ll share everything you need to know to plan the perfect trip to see Havasu Falls for yourself!
Havasu Falls Hiking Permits
The Havasupai Tribe does not allow day-through hiking to Havasu Falls. They no longer allow 1-2 nights camping permits either; you must buy a 3 night/4 day camping permit to hike to Havasu Falls.
To obtain camping permits, you must purchase them through the Havasupai tribe’s reservation website. Permits are between $300-$375USD depending on what days you go (weekends are more expensive). Only 300 permits are sold per day; permits go on sale every year on February 1st and they go FAST.
Tips To Get A Permit
Safari works better than Google Chrome. If you miss out on buying them on February 1, do not worry!
The tribe’s website also has a cancellation/transfer list. Because hikers have to buy their permits so far in advance, this online marketplace often has a plethora of permits available.
It’s price-controlled so people cannot elevate the price for profit. This Facebook group is also a good resource, as many people announce on here when they’ve posted available permits on the tribe’s website.
The best advice if you miss permits on the original launch date is to regularly check the tribe’s website and the reservation Facebook page for your desired dates.
How Long Is The Hike?
Havasu Falls is a 10-mile hike to the campsite and a 10-mile hike out of the canyon to the trailhead.
I thought the hike down there was hard…until I hiked out. It’s hard. Like one of the hardest hikes, I’ve ever done. And you’ll want to quit multiple times. But the falls are totally worth it!
It’s 8 miles to the Havasupai Tribe’s village where you can check-in, grab a well-rewarded snack, and take a break before finishing the final 2 miles.
On our “break” day, we hiked about 7 miles exploring other waterfalls, adding our mileage total to be about 27 miles; the pretty average for anyone doing this hike.
What Time Should You Start Hiking?
The earlier the better. The bottom of the canyon starts to get extremely warm throughout the day, so you will want to start your hike before the sun rises.
We started hiking at 6 am and got to the campsite by 10 am. The hike takes 4-6 hours depending on your fitness level.
Try to pack as little as possible. There are pack mules and helicopters that can take your bags down for you for a fee, but part of the reward is conquering this feat yourself, so I encourage you to carry your own baggage to the campsite!
In my opinion, if you cannot bring down your own stuff (with obvious exceptions), you shouldn’t be hiking to the falls or you should be packing lighter.
Here are the necessities:
- Tent/Hammock – We chose to sleep in our hammocks instead of bringing a tent to save on weight. Through the night that I saw a snake right next to our campsite right before I fell asleep, I was really wishing I had a protective tent, I really loved sleeping directly under the stars.
- Camera Gear – You will want to capture this incredible beauty. We brought a camera, a wide lens for the landscapes, a portrait lens for tighter shots, and a Go-Pro for some underwater footage (NOTE: Drones are prohibited but tripods are allowed).
- Hiking Shoes – Hiking boots with ankle supports are recommended, I had low tops and 27 miles later, my ankles wished I had brought boots
- Water Shoes – At the bottom of the rivers you will be hiking through, the canyon is rocky and slippery…bring chacos or another type of water shoe for your exploring. The last 2 miles from the tribe’s village to the campsite is mostly sand and it gets extremely hard to hike through this area in hiking shoes. Sandals will help immensely…thank me later!
- Outfits – Two fresh hiking outfits, it’s fine to re-wear clothes while you’re down at the falls, but you will want a fresh set to start your two big hiking days…especially socks.
- Bathing Suit
- Hat – It will be sunny; protect yourself and bring a hat.
- Food – While there are a couple of food options offered within the Grand Canyon, they are quite unreliable and the last thing you want to do is get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and not have any food. Bring electrolytes and dried fruit, but also bring snacks that you like! I was trying to be healthy and wished the entire time I was hiking that I had some more salty cheezits to munch on.
- Water – I brought half a gallon of water down with me and it was plenty through the first 10 miles, but you will definitely need to refill when you get to the campsite. I brought hydro flasks because I love me some cold water (I still had ice on my hike out!), but these heavy water bottles definitely add extra weight so keep that in mind when choosing yours. We were advised to bring filters, but we ended up not using them and were just fine.
- Rain Outfit
- First Aid Kit – It’s almost inevitable hiking this much without a single blister, so make sure to bring lots of bandaids!
- Bug Spray – I recommend bug bands! Less smell and lighter to carry.
- Blanket – My friend brought a blanket and I did not; I was extremely jealous of her blanket. Even though it did not seem like it was going to be that cold, the wind chill and night with only an eno to block the cold definitely makes you want to curl up.
- External Battery – You will most likely not have any phone service the entire time you are in the Grand Canyon, but it is still smart to bring a charger in case you forget to turn your phone on airplane mode and it ends up dying searching for service the entire time.
- Small Daypack
- Flashlight/headlamp – It’s best to hike out before the sun rises as it gets quite hot during the day, so you will need a flashlight or headlamp.
- Quick-dry Towel
- Toiletries – Do not bathe in the water. The tribe does an incredible job preserving the water, so respect their home and do your part by not contaminating their water with your chemicals.
Where Do You Stay The Night Before The Hike?
You will want to get an early start to your hike, so I recommend staying at the Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, AZ the night before. Let me just say now, you’re not paying for the quality of the place…you’re paying for the location.
The cheapest rooms are $110/night for a mediocre hotel, but it’s the closest hotel to the Havasupai trailhead, making it totally worth the money. The hotel has a little store that has a lot of camping items you can snag if you forgot anything. Make sure to get a good night’s sleep; you will need it for tomorrow’s hike!
The Hualapai Hilltop trailhead is an hour and a half from Peach Springs, AZ. Any maps applications should be able to locate the trailhead, but download directions ahead of time, as service is quite finicky.
Some trailhead tips include:
- SO IMPORTANT: Make sure to fill up with gas before turning onto the road for the trailhead! You need at least 120 miles in your gas tank because that road is 60 miles with no gas station, and you’ll need 60 miles to get back to the main road.
- Be alert. You will most likely be driving to the trailhead before the sun rises; there are large animals on the road such as moose, cows, deer, etc. that will easily total your car if you are not careful.
- Park anywhere along the trailhead, but be mindful of parking against the mountain as rocks often fall, damaging cars.
- Take a photo of your license plate or make note of the number because you will need it at check-in in the village.
- There is no water at the trailhead, so come prepared.
Is Food Available To Purchase?
There is a local restaurant in the village, but it is 2 miles from the campsite so is a sandwich really worth a 4-mile trek? If they happen to be open on your hike in or out, however, I recommend stopping and treating yourself.
There is also a food hut stationed at the campsite that serves tacos, burgers, and ice-cold Gatorade. They have super random hours whenever they feel like working the hut, but if you’re lucky, they will be open at least some of the time you are down there.
The hut is cash only and tacos are like $12 so make sure to bring a lot of cash. We were planning on saving money and not buying anything from the hut, but after working our bodies so hard, there’s nothing more that you want than some freshly grilled food and an ice-cold drink of electrolytes.
If you are wanting to cook yourself, keep in mind that open-flame fires are prohibited, but backpacking stoves are allowed. Keep your food locked up at all times or little critters will steal it quicker than you can say, Havasu Falls.
Can You Find Fresh Water?
There is drinking water available both in the village and the campground. The campground has a spout sourced from a fresh spring.
We were advised to bring filters, but we ended up not using them and we were just fine. All of the people we met were drinking straight from the spring as well, but if you have an easily upset stomach, bring some filter tablets or a filtered water bottle.
Are There Bathrooms?
Yes, there are bathrooms if you need them, but they are on the edge of the campsite and a trek to get to. The toilets are pretty clean and well-stocked, but I would bring a bit of toilet paper just in case.
What Are The Sleeping Arrangements?
There are two options for sleeping the days you’re at the bottom of the Grand Canyon: the Havasupai Lodge or the Havasupai campgrounds.
The lodge is situated 2 miles away from the waterfalls, within the tribe’s village, but pretty difficult to get reservations for, as it’s small and often fills up quickly. The cost of a room is $550/night and can accommodate up to four people with hot showers, electricity, and a comfortable place to rest your head.
The campground itself allows camping anywhere within the grounds, first come, first serve. I personally recommend camping because it’s an incredible experience, but know yourself and what suits your travel style best.
Tip: the further back into the campground you hike, the emptier/more camp options are available.
Are There Other Waterfalls Besides Havasu?
The Havasupai reservation has multiple beautiful waterfalls worth hiking too; Havasu Falls is just the most popular.
Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls are on the reservation as well and are highly recommended – the adventure down to these falls is super fun as you cling tightly to wet chains and rickety ladders to descend the side of a mountain.
The last option is the confluence to the Colorado River – something I was unable to conquer in my time down there, as it’s an extra 16-mile round trip, but something I will for sure be doing next time.
Most people do not make it to the confluence, but a group we met at the campgrounds was able to do it and said it’s incredibly untouched and a must-see if one has the time and energy.
Is There Cell Service?
Most likely you will not have any cell service the majority of the time you are in the Grand Canyon.
Put away the phone and enjoy the disconnect from the world for a few days. All the chaos of life will still be there when you head back to reality.
If there is a need for cell service, however, you can usually get a little service more towards the village; the lodge also has wifi.
- There are mules and helicopters that can bring down your bags if necessary, but, with certain exceptions, if you can’t hike it in yourself, you probably don’t need it. It’s cheaper, a better workout, and much more rewarding to hike with all of your belongings! Please think twice before using the mules.
- As hiking courtesy goes, hikers hiking out have the right of way; it’s a difficult hike and the momentum and encouragement to keep moving depletes the more times you have to stop or move over for a refreshed hiker that is on their way down to the falls.
- Please leave no trace, as anything you leave behind has the potential to cause harm to the wildlife and beauty; so do your part to preserve this wonder for as long as possible.
- Havasupai is a sovereign Native American nation, meaning it has its own laws, rules, and customs apart from the United States. Please be respectful of the people and their wishes (this also means no alcohol or drugs), as violating the laws of the land can result in punishment from both the Tribal Court and US law enforcement.
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Havasu Falls, USA. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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