Over the last few years, photos of the breathtaking Havasu Falls tumbling over red rock cliffs and ending in a Gatorade-blue pool have been popping up all over social media feeds for good reason. These incredible falls and their sister falls, Navajo, Mooney and Beaver, are one of the Southwest’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders. The falls don’t technically lie within Grand Canyon National Park’s boundaries. They are located on the Havasupai (meaning people of the blue-green waters) Reservation and are not accessible by road.
A trip to Havasu Falls isn’t for the casual visitor. Not only is it a long and steep 10-mile hike to the falls, but you need to secure in advance a very competitive lodging reservation, which serves as a permit. Day hikes are not allowed. The challenges you’ll face in actually getting to the falls, however, are well worth it when you get to drop your pack and swim in those incredible waters.
Visitors to Havasu Falls spend their time swimming, hiking to the area’s other waterfalls and attractions and soaking in the stunning views. While you’ll be surrounded by incredible natural beauty, you definitely won’t feel a sense of solitude while hiking to and staying on the Havasupai Reservation. There are accommodations for several hundred people inside the canyon, and it’s so popular that every space is full throughout the season. As long as you don’t mind enjoying the scenery with other hikers, this spot is still well worth it.
Read on to find answers to all the questions you might have about hiking to Havasu Falls.
Is Havasu Falls Open to the Public?
The Havasupai Reservation is re-opening to tourism on February 1, 2023 after several years of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check www.havasupaireservations.com for the most up-to-date details.
A campground or lodge reservation is required to access Havasu Falls at all times.
How Long is the Trail to Havasu Falls?
The trail to Havasu Falls is 10 miles one way, or 20 miles roundtrip. However, you’ll want to account for some extra mileage to hike to the other beautiful waterfalls in this canyon and to get to your campsite, which may be past Havasu Falls.
From the parking lot, descend 1,200 feet in the first mile as you tackle steep switchbacks through beautiful red sandstone. Once you’ve descended the switchbacks, you’ll hit the flatter ground of a dry streambed. Follow the trail as it gradually descends over another 7 miles to the small village of Supai. Just before you encounter the village, you’ll come to a junction where a sign points you to Supai. The desert around you transforms into a lush oasis as you hike along Havasu Creek and then arrive at Supai. You’ll need to check in at the Tourism Office and show your reservations to get mandatory wristbands for everyone in your group.
From Supai, continue on another two miles to the campground. You’ll catch your first view of Havasu Falls, making the last 10 miles evaporate from your mind as you take in the turquoise waters. There’s one more steep descent to the campground.
How Difficult is the Hike to Havasu Falls?
The difficulty of the hike to Havasu Falls depends on your abilities. Seasoned hikers might not find it too strenuous, but if you don’t have any backpacking experience, you’ll likely find the hike pretty grueling. Train for your trip by going on hikes or hitting the gym with a loaded backpack to ensure you’re feeling fit and ready to tackle the trek.
From the trailhead, you’ll descend 2,500 feet to the campground over 10 miles of hiking. That means 2,500 feet of climbing on the way back up at the end of the trip, too. While that distance and elevation might not seem overly difficult for experienced hikers, wearing a loaded backpack and hiking through the shade-less and extremely dry terrain can make it feel much more intense.
To have the best possible experience, avoid planning trips in the height of the summer where midday temperatures can easily top 100-degrees. Start your hike in and your hike out as early as possible to avoid the heat of the day. The trail is closed overnight, so 4 a.m. is the earliest you could conceivably start hiking.
The trail starts at more than 5,000 feet above sea level so drinking plenty of water is key to avoiding dehydration and altitude and heat sickness. There are no water sources along the trail, so you’ll need to bring enough for the entire hike. The Hualapai Tribe recommends a gallon of water per person for each leg of the hike. A gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds, so take this into account as you’re packing your backpack.
Alcohol is strictly prohibited on the reservation (no, really, you can end up in jail for a year if you ignore this law) so use that extra weight that might have been taken up with an après beverage for the large amounts of water you’ll need to haul. Proper sun protection like a hat with a brim, lightweight long sleeve layers, sunglasses and sunscreen are also important to help keep you comfortable while hiking in the desert.
The steep switchback sections can be pretty gnarly on the knees, but trekking poles can help take some of the load off your joints and help you keep your balance on steep sections.
When is the Best Time to Visit Havasu Falls?
The hiking season for Havasu Falls is February through November.
In the summer months of June through September, the heat can get merciless in the canyon. Daily highs often top 100-degrees F and nightly lows don’t drop below 70-degrees. While these temperatures can be doable at the bottom of the canyon where you can cool off in the creek or seek shade, the temperatures along the trail up and down are relentless. If you do plan a summer trip, start your hikes in and out very early in the day. Flash floods can occur in the summer months when monsoon rains drop large amounts of water on the hard desert floor in a short amount of time. Even if there isn’t rain on the reservation, flash flooding can still occur from nearby storms. Always check the weather forecast before starting out and if you hear or see flood waters approaching, get to high ground immediately.
The best time to plan a trip to Havasu Falls, in our opinion, are the spring and fall months. The air temperatures are cooler, with highs in the seventies and eighties and lows rarely dipping below freezing at night.
The months of February and November may be the easiest to get permits for since they are often the coldest. While snow at Havasu Falls is pretty much unheard of, temperatures will likely drop below freezing at night and hover in the fifties and sixties during the day. You probably won’t want to swim in these temperatures and since campfires aren’t allowed, you’ll want to pack plenty of warm layers and a warm sleeping bag so you don’t get chilled.
How Do I Get a Permit to Hike to Havasu Falls?
The answer is with a little bit of preparation and a ton of luck. Day hikes are not permitted to Havasu Falls, so to reach this otherworldly landscape, you need to either make a camping reservation or a reservation at the lodge in the village of Supai, two miles from Havasu Falls. Don’t even think about attempting to visit without a reservation. You may need to show either your camping or lodge reservation to drive to the trailhead.
Prior to 2020, camping reservations would become available on Feb. 1 at 8 a.m. MST for the following season and reservations for the lodge would become available on June 1 at www.havasupaireservations.com. New reservations are not available in 2023, but those who had cancelled permits 2020-22 due to COVID-19 can reschedule their trips to visit in 2023. Reservations for new permits are expected to open by the 2024 season.
It seems like everyone and their brother has Havasu Falls at the top of their bucket list, and if demand for permits are any indication, that’s true. Historically, reservations are extremely popular and often sell out as soon as they become available. For your best chances of scoring a coveted reservation, create an account on www.havasupaireservations.com before the reservation window opens and add in all your personal and payment information so you’re ready on the big day. Be ready to reserve right when reservations open and be prepared to be flexible on your trip dates.
If you weren’t able to make a reservation, keep an eye on www.havasupaireservations.com for the list of cancellations, which gets updated at 8 a.m. MST each day. If you see a reservation that works for you, you can book right away.
Be sure to specify a Potential Alternate Trip Leader in case you aren’t able to go on the trip. Reservations can’t be transferred, so the rest of your group will be out of luck unless you specify an alternate to take your place as the trip leader.
Where to Stay at Havasu Falls
There are two types of reservations for staying on the Havasupai Reservation: camping or staying at the Supai Lodge
The campground is located 10 miles from the trailhead and spans a mile along Havasu Creek between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. You won’t be making reservations for an assigned campsite, just for the dates of your trip. Once you arrive, you can set up camp anywhere in the designated camping area.
All campground reservations are for three nights and four days. This gives you plenty of time to explore the canyon as well as rest up for your return hike, which is all uphill. Composting toilets and drinking water is available at the campground. Campfires and flames of any kind other than gas-powered cooking stoves are prohibited.
The other option is to make a reservation at the Supai Lodge, located in the small village of Supai. Supai is two miles from Havasu Falls and is where the Tourist Office and Museum is located, along with the lodge, store and café. You can reserve four-person rooms (two queens) at the lodge. Accommodations are basic, but each room does have showers with hot water, air-conditioning and heat.
The Supai Café is usually open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., though the hours may vary. It serves burgers, fries and Indian Tacos, which are tacos made with fry bread. The Supai Store sells drinks, ice cream, travel-sized toiletries and canned goods. Because of the remote location, inventory may be limited and prices will be expensive. Bring your own supplies and don’t count on purchasing food or necessities at the store.
In the past, some guided tour companies were able to obtain permits to guide clients to Havasu Falls, but in 2019, the tribe suspended commercial use permits for the foreseeable future.
The tribe also offers pack mule reservations to shuttle your gear from the trailhead down into the canyon. However, in 2017 and 2018 there were allegations and at least five charges and three convictions of animal abuse, according to the Arizona Daily Sun, related to handling of the mules serving Havasu Falls visitors. We suggest steering clear of the pack mules and instead experiencing the sense of satisfaction you’ll get when you make it to Havasu Falls with all your gear on your own back.
How Much Does it Cost to Go to Havasu Falls?
Camping reservations for Havasu Falls all include three nights and four days of lodging. They are $395 per person.
Rates at the Lodge are for four people and include three nights and four days of lodging. Each reservation costs $1,980.
How Do I Get to Havasu Falls and Havasu Creek?
The only way to get to Havasu Falls and the beautiful Havasu Creek is to hike 10 miles with your gear either in a backpack, or carried by a pack mule.
The closest major towns to the Havasupai Trailhead are Kingman and Williams, Arizona. It’s a great idea to stay in one of these towns the night before your hike so you can get an early start on the trail in the morning before the heat of the day.
From Kingman, take Historic Route 66 east just past the town of Peach Springs. Take a left on Indian Road 18 and continue 60 miles to the end of the road at the Hualapai Hilltop Parking Area. From Williams, take I-40 west to Route 66 and then Route 66 west to Indian Road 18. The turnoff will be on your right from this direction. Indian Road 18 is paved the entire way so any vehicle will get you there without problem. Both routes take approximately two hours and 15 minutes.
There are no gas stations or services along Indian Road 18 and there are no gas stations in Peach Springs. Fill your tank up before leaving Williams or Kingman to ensure you don’t get stranded on the side of the road.
From the parking lot, the trailhead is very easy to spot.
Can You Swim in Havasu Creek?
Cooling off in the waters of Havasu Creek and enjoying the beautiful pools at the base of the various waterfalls is one of the main attractions of the Havasupai Reservation. Water temperatures remain approximately 70 degrees F year-round, but the air temperature can make swimming feel pretty cold in the early spring and late fall.
Bring water shoes or sandals with good tread, like Tevas, to protect your feet as you scramble over sandstone to explore the creek. Packing a swimsuit is a good idea, but if your swimsuit doesn’t have great coverage, you may also want to bring a pair of quick drying or board shorts and a quick drying t-shirt or rash guard to protect your skin on rough surfaces as you explore.
Cliff jumping is not allowed in any of the pools under the waterfalls as the pools are fairly shallow and jumping can be extremely dangerous. There are no lifeguards at any of the waterfalls, swimming holes or the creek so swim at your own risk and keep a close eye on small children. Pool floats, kayaks, stand up paddleboards and pretty much anything else you might play with in a body of water are not allowed either.
Day Hikes from Havasu Falls Campground
Note: Flooding in October 2022 destroyed several bridges and trails and changed some of the waterfalls on the Havasupai Reservation. Once you have obtained a permit, check with the Havasupai Reservation for the most up-to-date information on trails.
Navajo Falls is the first waterfall you’ll encounter after the village of Supai. It’s 1.5 miles from the village, or half a mile from the campground.
In 2008, a flash flood changed the flow of Navajo Falls, creating two waterfalls where there was once only one. The Lower Falls plunges 30 feet and ends in a nice swimming hole that’s often less crowded than the other waterfalls.
Havasu Falls is located 2 miles from Supai right at the beginning of the camping area. This stunning 100-foot-tall waterfall ending in a turquoise pool would look like it belongs in a tropical rainforest if it wasn’t for the vibrant red rock it was cascading over.
While more powerful than Navajo Falls, Havasu is still mellow enough that you can swim behind the cascading waters and enjoy the approximately five-foot-deep pool at its base.
Mooney Falls is located another mile past Havasu Falls. It’s the most dangerous of all the waterfalls as the trail leading down to it is narrow, steep and often slippery. You’ll have to descend a cliff face using chains and ladders to reach the bottom of the falls.
The falls tumble 200 feet down into an approximately 15-foot-deep pool. Mooney Falls may feel colder than the others since it’s often shaded, so dress accordingly. Crowding can occur on the route down to the falls, so plan your hike to explore it early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds on the narrow trail.
Beaver Falls is located 3 miles from Havasu Falls, making it a long, 6-mile roundtrip hike from your campsite, but the incredible view is worth it.
Unlike the other waterfalls that plummet long distances, Beaver Falls is a set of cascades that tumble down Havasu Creek through exceptionally beautiful turquoise pools.
You’ll have to climb down to Mooney Falls and then continue along the trail hugging the western canyon wall. As you leave the Mooney Falls area, you’ll see more ladders leading up into the cliffs. Don’t climb them out of respect for the Havasupai, as they lead to a historic burial site.
You’ll encounter at least three creek crossings as you head to Beaver Falls, so be sure to bring along your sandals or water shoes. When you encounter a seemingly out-of-place date palm tree, you can either cross the creek again and journey up the creek itself to the upper falls, or you can take a sharp right and follow a trail on higher ground to a section of ladders that will lead you to the lower falls.
Past Beaver Falls, it’s possible to leave the Hualapai Reservation and hike to the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River, but this 16-plus-mile, roundtrip hike from the campground is not recommended as the route is unmarked and it’s outside of the reservation meaning there’s no rangers to help you if you get into trouble.
How to Respect the Land and Havasupai Tribe
With more than 300 people staying on the Havasupai Reservation each night, it’s important to do your part when visiting to respect both the incredible natural wonders of the canyon and the tribe whose homelands you’re staying on.
The first way to do this is by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Every item you bring in with you from granola bar wrappers to toilet paper needs to be packed out and disposed of properly when you get back to your car. Use the toilets in the campground when at all possible and don’t urinate or defecate near or in Havasu Creek as it contaminates the waters for everyone else.
Familiarize yourself with how to camp on durable surfaces. Because all camping on the reservation is choose-your-own-site, it’s important to choose a place to pitch your tent that will minimize your impacts. The same goes for exploring the various waterfalls and creeks. Stay on the main trails and avoid following or making your own desire-paths as this can really impact fragile plant growth.
Store all your food and scented items in a bear canister. While there aren’t any bears in the canyon, there’s plenty of small critters that will get into your food and toiletries if you don’t store them properly.
The second way to respect the land you’re visiting is by adhering to all the Havasupai Tribe’s rules and policies. These include no alcohol or drugs of any kind, not playing music or being loud or disrespectful and not flying drones. You aren’t allowed to photograph Havasupai people or Havasupai property, including the buildings in Supai. Remember, you’re visiting someone’s home. Treat your time at Havasu Falls like you would a visit to a relative’s house. Be respectful of your hosts and their home.
Familiarize yourself with the history and the culture of the Havasupai people before visiting to ensure you can be the best guest possible.