December 4, 2020

Havasupai: Everything you need to know

Havasupai means people of the blue-green waters. It is these spectacular natural pools and waterfalls within Havasu Canyon that give the Havasupai tribe its name. A small isolated community of 200 people lives in Supai Village, halfway between the south rim of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River that carved it. The only access to Supai Village is by walking or flying. No roads have ever been built here.

Naturally, this beautiful and remote landscape attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Table of contents

Important things to know before visiting Havasupai

Here are a few points you must know before reading any further.

  • Havasupai is closed to tourism until further notice. Check updates here.
  • You must have a permit before visiting. Scroll down to the preparation section to learn about obtaining a permit. Reservations are required for anyone who enters the Havasupai Indian Reservation.
  • Flash flood hazards are real. Closure of the canyon due to flash flood hazard is possible at any time prior to or during your visit. A flash flood from the 2018-2019 season caused significant damage to some areas. As a result, those areas remain off-limits still today. Construction is on-going.
  • Trails into Supai close when the temperature exceeds 115F. It doesn’t happen often, but during June-August, it is not uncommon for temperatures to reach up to 115F. Early morning hiking is encouraged.
  • There is no cell phone coverage or WiFi in the canyon or at Hualapai Hilltop. There are credit card machines, but they are unreliable. Cash is better.
  • There are no medical facilities or emergency personnel in the canyon. Be careful and hike with a first aid kit. In the event of an injury, it may take many hours to get help. Your health insurance company may or may not cover your helicopter ride out of the canyon.
  • Prepare to hike at least 10 miles to your destination. It’s 8 miles to Supai Village. From there, it’s another 2 miles to the campground and the first set of waterfalls that make this place so famous. There’s much more after that.
  • Need backpacking gear? Rent it at Basecamp Outdoor Gear in Las Vegas. Use promo code DETOURON to get 10% off your rental.

Important rules and regulations

  • It is illegal to hike into the canyon and back in one day. Unless you have an emergency, if you hike down to Havasupai, you must stay there at least one night. Night hiking is NOT permitted. In any case, it is recommended to stay at least two nights in the canyon. In fact, when you purchase your permit, you must pay for a minimum of three nights, even if you plan to stay only two nights.
  • You must stay at either the campground or the lodge. Camping anywhere else in the canyon is illegal.
  • No alcohol. Havasupai is a completely dry reservation. No excuses. There is oftentimes a checkpoint near the parking lot. Tribal police may check your car and your luggage. They will confiscate any alcohol they find and turn you away.
  • Photography of Supai Village is strictly prohibited. Keep your cameras in your backpacks until you arrive at the waterfalls.
  • Other rules: No campfires, no drones, no drugs, no weapons, no rock climbing, no cliff jumping, no nudity.

Where is Havasupai located?

Havasupai is located in northern Arizona, on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It lies just outside the boundary and jurisdiction of Grand Canyon National Park. The Havasupai Tribe administers the 188,077-acre land. The reservation was established in 1880 and substantially enlarged in 1975.

The Havasupai Tribal Land includes Havasu Canyon, in which Supai Village and the famous Havasupai waterfalls are located. The canyon was carved by the Havasu River, a large tributary of the Colorado River. Supai Village sits just below the mouth of Havasu river. That’s about eight miles from the rim of the Grand Canyon at Hualapai Hilltop, and another eight miles from the Colorado River.

The small town of Peach Springs offers the nearest services to Havasupai. These include a hotel, gas, water, and a very limited selection of food. Peach Springs is located on Route 66 in Arizona, halfway between Seligman and Kingman. It is 60 miles south of Hualapai Hilltop, the trailhead to Havasupai.

NOTE: Aside for a port-a-potty, there are no other services at Hualapai Hilltop.

Getting to Hilltop

The closest international airports to Havasupai are in Las Vegas or Phoenix. It takes on average four hours to drive from Las Vegas to Hilltop. It is five hours from Phoenix.

From Las Vegas, drive to Kingman, AZ and get on I-40 East. Take exit 53, turn left, and follow Route 66 east for 54 miles. Turn left onto Indian Highway 18 and continue 60 miles north to the end of the road.

From Phoenix, drive to Ash Fork, AZ and get on I-40 West. Take exit 123 to Seligman. Follow Route 66 for 30 miles. Turn right onto Indian Highway 18 and continue 60 miles north to the end of the road.

Parking at Hilltop

Upon arrival at Hilltop, show a copy of your permit at the checkpoint and note your license plate number. In peak season, the checkpoint is manned 24/7. Members of the tribal police may search your car for illegal items such as drones and alcohol.

NOTE: You will need to provide your license plate number at the permit office at the entrance to Supai Village.

There is plenty of parking here, but also plenty of parked cars. We recommend looking for an empty spot near the rim and trailhead. DO NOT PARK UNDER/NEXT TO THE ROCKY WALL. Rocks may fall at any time and damage your car.

You can sleep at Hilltop overnight before embarking on your hike down to Havasupai. Be aware that it is a very busy parking lot. Hikers come and go at almost all hours of the night. Consider sleeping in your car. Although there is a designated tent area, it is very small and uncomfortable.

There is a Port-a-Potty at Hilltop, but no drinking water. Make sure to keep at least 3 L of water for your hike into Havasupai.

Three ways to get to Havasupai

As previously mentioned, there are no roads that lead to Havasupai. You must be prepared to hike 10 miles in order to get there! Alternatives to hiking include riding a mule or flying in a helicopter. These options cannot be reserved. You should, therefore, prepare to hike, in case the alternatives are unavailable.

Ride a mule to Havasupai

Mules and horses in the Supai Reservation are a very controversial issue. Animal rights groups have had numerous altercations with the tribe about the treatment of their mules.

Should you want to ride a mule, inquire about it upon your arrival at Hilltop.

Far more common is to have a mule carry your things to the lodge or campground. You must reserve and pay for the mule when you get your permit. This option allows you to hike only with a day pack, which takes a big load off your back!

One pack mule can carry up to four bags. Each bag can weigh up to 32 lbs and can have maximum dimensions of 36″ long x 19″ wide x 19″ tall. All baggage must be soft-sided. We recommend using a large duffel bag to protect your backpack and other belongings from abrasion. You should also double-bag your items in ziplock bags and plastic trash bags to keep them from getting dusty.

Pack Mule Price: In 2019, the price per mule was $400 round-trip. Even if you choose to only use the mule one-way, you must still pay the round-trip fee. Note that this is a fee per mule, which can carry up to four bags. If you only have two bags, the reservation system will pair you with others, so you only pay your share.

Good to know: You can rent a duffel bag from Basecamp Outdoor Gear in Las Vegas. That way you don’t have to return home with a stinky dusty pack.

Pack Mule Process

Check in with your luggage at the small office at Hualapai Hilltop before 10 AM. The person in charge will put a tag on your bag and have you drop it outside. At this point, you’ll part from your bags and start hiking. It will seem very sketchy, as if you’re saying goodbye to your belongings forever. You’ll arrive at the campground/lodge hours before your luggage arrives. Be patient. It will magically arrive at the entrance to the campground/lodge sometime between 2-6 PM. There is no notification system, so you just have to keep checking back until the luggage is there.

It is the same process for going back up-canyon. Drop off your luggage at the same place you picked it up before 7 AM. It will arrive between 11 AM – 1 PM at Hilltop. Prepare for lots of waiting around in the sun.

Fly to Havasupai

Helicopter flights cannot be reserved. People board on a first-come first-served basis. Tribal members get priority boarding. This makes for very long wait times, sometimes up to 6 hours!

NOTE: Do NOT count on a flight in and out of Havasupai. Be prepared to hike in and out with all of your belongings on your back! Flight cancellations due to weather occur often.

Helicopter Schedule: Between March 15-October 15, helicopters only fly on Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday. Between October 16-March 14, helicopters only fly on Sundays and Fridays.

Helicopters make the 15-minute journey between Supai Village and Hualapai Hilltop on a non-stop basis starting at 10 AM (sometimes earlier) until the last person is out of the canyon, typically around 5 PM. This makes the village extremely noisy all day long.

Helicopter Price: In 2019, a one-way helicopter flight was $85. Airwest accepted cash or credit. If paying by card, there was an additional $10 fee per transaction.

Helicopter Process

If you’d like to take a helicopter in or out of the canyon, simply walk up to the helicopter table and request to be put on the waitlist. One person can sign up and pay for an entire group. To sign up, you must note the name and weight of each person in your party. Once on the list, stay nearby and listen for your name/s to be called.

Visitors line up to get their names on the flight waitlist as early as 6 AM, even though the helicopter office doesn’t open until 8-9 AM. There is no reason to do this! You will be waiting for hours regardless of your arrival time. Also, the list is mostly honorary. Your boarding position depends on your weight, your luggage weight, and the number of people in your party. For example, if your name is toward the end of the list, but you are only one person, then you might board an earlier flight that has space for only one more person.

Note that tribal members do not have to line up. They are prioritized over you. That means that even if your name is on the list, tribal members who showed up after you will board before you.

Your backpack can weigh a maximum of 40 lbs. You may be required to pay an extra fee for additional items.

Good to know: Take cash to Havasupai and keep it in a waterproof bag. We recommend a minimum of $200 per person. That’s a round-trip helicopter flight plus one meal at the Havasupai Cafe or Fry Bread stand.

Hike to Havasupai

Hiking is by far the most popular option to get to Havasupai. It’s also the most reliable option. In cool weather, the hike is quite enjoyable. In the summer heat, however, this is a difficult desert hike. Make sure you are fit and carry enough water to stay well hydrated. There is little to no shade on the trail between Hilltop and the village. Water sources are non-existent.

NOTE: To return up-canyon, start your hike as early as 4 AM in the summer months. Ensure at least 3L of water for your hike up. The final mile up the hill is the toughest as it gains 1000 ft of elevation.

One-way hiking distances and elevation changes

Hualapai Hilltop to Supai Village is 8 miles (13 km) / 2000 ft (610 m) elevation change (1000 ft in the first mile)
Supai Village to the Campground is 2 miles (3 km) / 450 ft (140 m) elevation change
Campground to Mooney Falls is 0.5-mile (800 m) / 200 ft (60 m) elevation change
Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls is 2 miles (3 km) / 300 ft (90 m) elevation change
Beaver Falls to the Colorado River is another 5 miles (8 km) / 300 ft (90 m) elevation change

Map of Havasupai
Trail map of Havasupai

Trail description

Pack mule trains follow the same path as hikers between Hilltop, Supai Village, and the Campground. The trail is therefore wide, well-maintained, and often smelly.

NOTE: Mules have the right of way. When they approach, step to the inside of the trail and let them pass.

Hiking from Hualapai Hilltop to Supai Village

From the trailhead at Hilltop, for the first mile, follow switchbacks down 1000 ft into Havasu Canyon. There the trail becomes more gradual as it follows the dry river bed. Continue following this wash for the next 7 miles into Supai Village.

Check in at the permit office in the village, buy ice cream at the store, and relax for a few minutes. Once ready, continue the last two miles downhill to the campground.

Hiking from Supai Village to Fifty-Foot and Navajo Falls

Just past the village, you’ll see the first sets of waterfalls, Fifty-Foot Falls and Navajo Falls. They are the least dramatic of the falls, but you’ll be happy to see them. Fifty-Foot Falls is the first set of waterfalls you’ll come by on your hike to Havasupai. Look for a small spur trail to the left about 0.5-mile past Supai Village. The main trail to the campground veers to the right, while a short unmarked path leads left to the waterfall. Most hikers skip this little side trail, so you’ll likely have this waterfall to yourself. It is not very impressive, but it is a quiet place to sit down and have a snack.

Soon after Fifty-Foot Falls, back on the main trail to the campground, you’ll pass by Little or New Navajo Falls. This is a mini-version of Beaver Falls. It is easily recognizable by its small terraces. There is a short unmarked path leading closer to the waterfall. The name of this waterfall keeps changing, as the waterfall itself seems to change its nature with each flash flood that passes through.

Terraced waterfalls
Navajo Falls at Havasupai
Hiking from Fifty-Foot and Navajo Falls to Havasu Falls

Continue another mile or so downhill from Navajo Falls toward the campground. Soon you’ll hear the roar of Havasu Falls. This is the reason you hiked all the way down here!

You can’t miss this 150-ft tall waterfall when the trail finally flattens, close to the entrance to the campground. Its water gushes down into a beautiful milky blue pool. In peak season, there will be many people swimming in the chilly water, sunbathing nearby, or snapping photos from every possible angle.

Words can’t do this waterfall justice. You just need to see it for yourself.

Waterfall into blue pool
Havasu Falls

A few hundred feet past Havasu Falls, pass through the campground gate and start looking for a spot to pitch your tent.

If time and energy allow, that afternoon, continue hiking down to Mooney Falls. Knowing the way will save you time the next day to continue hiking to Beaver Falls.

Hiking from Havasupai Campground to Mooney Falls

Similar to Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls drops about 200 ft into a milky blue pool. Though the waterfall is a bit taller, the pool it creates is smaller and less photogenic. The main drive to get here is the adventurous hike to the base of the waterfall.

The hike to Mooney Falls is not obvious at first. Soon after exiting the campground area, you’ll arrive at a steep dropoff and start scratching your head about how to get down. Hint: Look for steep steps, chains, and tunnels. This is a really cool and surprising part of the trail. Please be patient and courteous with those who are less experienced with this kind of hiking.

NOTE: This portion of the hike may be challenging for those with fear of heights. Take your time and remember to breathe.

The entire cliff gets sprayed with mist from Mooney Falls, keeping it nice and slick. Watch your step and hold on to the rock or the chains at all times!

Ladders, caves, tunnels in cliff face
Havasupai ladders to Mooney Falls – Can you find the trail, the ladders, and the tunnels?

Be aware that this is also the way back up. On most afternoons in peak season, there will be long lines of visitors trying to get back to the campground after visiting Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls. Prepare to wait for your turn and be patient!

Hiking from Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls and beyond

Another 2 miles downstream of Mooney Falls you’ll find Beaver Falls. A beautiful terraced set of waterfalls with paradisical swimming holes will be waiting to indulge you.

The toughest part about the hike to Beaver Falls is finding the path of least resistance. Many people begin the trek to Beaver Falls and quickly turn around when the going gets rough. From Mooney Falls, many trails branch off on both sides of the stream. All trails lead to the same place. If you make it, you’ll most likely have the place to yourself.

There are a few steep sections on the way, sometimes directly in the stream. Be careful, take it slow, and you’ll soon be rewarded with some flat and easy sections. There is no official way down, and there is no easy way down. You can’t go wrong as long as you follow the stream. You’ll be crossing the stream frequently, sometimes walking/swimming directly in it. There are some old ropes and ladders to help you navigate some parts of the path.

This place seems a little too good to be true. Just remember that you cannot stay here forever. You must hike back up to the campground before the end of the day!

Only brave souls continue to the Colorado River from there. Once again, there is no official trail. The only way to get there, and it isn’t easy, is to follow the stream for 5 miles.

Supai Village

Upon arrival at Supai Village, all visitors must check in at the entrance station. The building is hard to miss, directly on the trail into the village. Each person in your party will receive a wristband to wear for the entirety of the visit. If camping, you’ll also receive a tag to display on each of your tents. A ranger walks through the campground every day to check the tent tags.

Remember that Havasupai tribe members live in Supai Village. When you enter their land, you are entering their home. Please be respectful.

Amenities in Supai Village

Supai Village has a diner and a small convenience store. Both establishments are open limited hours, usually around lunch time. The selection of good is quite small and pricey, but it is a great relief to see familiar items so far into the wilderness. There is also often a fry bread stand near Havasu Falls, at the entrance to the campground. The stand is usually open around lunch time. When open, it is very popular and the fry bread goes quick.

Staying overnight in Supai Village

There are two options for your overnight stay at Havasupai: The Lodge or the Campground.

Havasupai Lodge

There are 24 hotel rooms at the lodge in Supai Village. The rooms are spacious, comfortable, and clean. All rooms have two queen beds and a private bathroom. Towels and sheets are provided. Up to four people are allowed in a room. Rooms lack modern amenities such as fridge, coffee maker, phone, or TV. There’s a nice grassy courtyard to relax in. The cafe and general store are a short walk away.

Lodge room price: In 2020, a room at the Lodge cost $440 per night. In addition, you’ll automatically be charged $110 per person entrance/environmental fee (that’s the permit) and $100 deposit per room per night. If you’d like a mule to carry your things to the lodge, you must request and pay for it when making your room reservations.

There are two big downsides to staying at the lodge: Helicopter noise and distance from the waterfalls. As mentioned earlier, Supai Village is two miles away from Mooney Falls, and more elevation change. Only on Wednesdays will you get to experience the serenity of the canyon without helicopters hovering about.

Havasupai Campground

Havasupai Campground serves up to 350 people per night. It sits in the 1 mile stretch between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. The Havasu River runs right through the campground. Campsites are scattered on both sides of the stream. There are several footbridges to get across the stream.

Good to know: The campground is nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) long. It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk from one extremity of the campground to the other.

A few feet past the campground entrance look to your left along the rock wall. Tucked behind one of the campsites is Fern Spring, a fresh-water spring that is the only place in the campground to refill water. Water literally comes out of the rock. It is safe to drink, though most people choose to SteriPen the water.

Sites cannot be reserved in advance. When you arrive, take the first open site you find. The closer you get to Mooney Falls, the more open sites you’ll find, but the farther you’ll get from Fern Spring. If you brought a water filter, just take water directly from the river next to your campsite.

Campsite price: In 2020, staying at the campground cost $100 per person per weekday night (Monday-Thursday) and $125 per person per weekend night (Friday-Sunday). These prices included all necessary permits, fees, and taxes. You must reserve and pay for exactly three nights, even if you’re only planning to stay two nights.

Things to note about Havasupai Campground

  • Campfires are not allowed.
  • Most sites have picnic tables, but not all.
  • Four pit toilet buildings are scattered throughout the campground. They are surprisingly well-kept.
  • Bring a bear box or rat sack to keep squirrels and raccoons out of your food.
  • Though rare, you may see snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas. Get in the habit of shaking out your shoes before putting them on your feet.

Preparations for visiting Havasupai

The first thing you must do before you even begin to prepare for a visit to Havasupai is to obtain a permit to go there.

NOTE: Campground and lodge reservations can only be made online. Campground reservations open each year on February 1 at 8 AM Mountain Time. Lodge reservations open each year on June 1 at 8 AM Mountain Time. Both sell out in minutes.

Once you have a permit, you can take more time reading about Havasupai’s location, how to get there, and what to pack.

If you’re planning to hike in and carry all of your camping gear yourself, consider working out and getting in shape in the weeks prior to your adventure. It is especially important to get your feet used to spend hours and hours in your hiking shoes.

The permit system

Before the reservation system opens up for the year, go to the Havasupai Campground or the Havasupai Lodge Reservations Website. Though similar, it is a separate system for the lodge and the campground. Create an account for the accommodation type you’d like to book. For the campground, do this before February 1! For the lodge, do this before June 1! Creating an account involves confirming your email address, filling in your personal details, agreeing to the Havasupai rules and regulations, and saving your credit card information in the system. This will save you valuable time when applying for a permit.

Clear your calendar of any obligations on February 1 or June 1 between 7:55 AM and noon Mountain Time. Prepare to sit in front of the computer screen, click buttons, and scream. You will be kicked off numerous times, and at different stages of the process, due to overload on the system. Sign back in and restart the process.

Log in to your account at 7:55 AM Mountain Time (reservations open at 8 AM). Have a few different dates to aim for. Try to book and keep trying until you succeed or until all dates have been reserved.

Good to know: March to September dates tend to sell out by 8:30 AM. The rest of the dates sell out by 11 AM. You may get lucky with November-February dates.

FAQs about Havasupai

What if the Havasupai permits are sold out?

Keep trying throughout the year, as space may open up. The permit system does not allow for cancellations or refunds, but it does allow patrons to sell back their permits to others via the Havasupai permit online platform. The dates, duration, and number of people in the party must remain the same in order to make the exchange.
Alternatively, you can request the exact dates you’d like and the system will automatically book and charge you if those dates become available.

How much does it cost to visit Havasupai

In 2019, staying at the Havasupai Campground cost $100 per person per weekday night (Monday-Thursday) and $125 per person per weekend night (Friday-Sunday). These prices included all necessary permits, fees, and taxes. All patrons were charged for a minimum of three nights, regardless of trip duration. Visiting Havasupai, therefore, cost a minimum of $300 per person.

Can I show up to Havasupai without a permit?

Please don’t. The permit system was put in place to limit excess crowding in the canyon and to protect the Havasupai people and the environment. Please respect it all! The tribe has the right to turn you away or fine you if you show up without a permit.

When is the best time to visit Havasupai?

March to mid-May and November are the best months for hiking in and out of Havasupai. These months are best for those who want to sit around camp and relax. There are no bugs and less crowds. However, the water is very cold. Hiking to Beaver Falls requires dry pants, canyon shoes, and neoprene socks. In addition, remember that days are very short. Therefore, pack headlamps with extra batteries and extra warm layers.
Mid-May and June and September-October are the best months to hike to Beaver Falls. The hike is mostly shaded and the river is refreshing. Days are longer.
July and August are more liable for closures due to high heat and flash flood potential. This is monsoon season, which is humid, with more bugs.
December 1-end of February is cold. Nights can reach freezing temperatures. Hiking in and near the water to Beaver Falls is cold. The upside is that you’re likely to have the canyon to yourself.

What should I pack for Havasupai?

Here’s a checklist to go over before heading into Havasupai. You’ll need your personal items, backpacking gear, and cooking gear for at least three days. Rent camping gear specific for Havasupai from Basecamp Outdoor Gear in Las Vegas.
Renting gear allows you to try out a product before committing to buying it. It is especially handy if you don’t anticipate ever using the product again. Basecamp Outdoor Gear in Las Vegas offers a complete Havasupai Package. If you don’t need the full package, you can rent individual items. Use promo code DETOURON to get 10% off your rental!
The friendly and knowledgeable folks at Basecamp Outdoor Gear have been to Havasupai a few times. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. If you need to rent a backpack, they have a wide array of volumes and sizes to fit your needs.

Do you have any more questions? Get in touch with us and we’ll answer as best we can. Happy trails!

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