The Grand Canyon may be one of the most recognized areas in the state of Arizona. the American Southwest, and it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world. While this hike is an epic experience, there’s another even more spectacular hike not far away worth your bucket list – the Havasupai Falls hike.
I enjoyed hiking to Havasupai Falls and found it to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I couldn’t wait to share my experience on how you can easily hike to Havasupai Falls too. This guide includes where to stay before and during the hike, what to expect on the hike, and most importantly, how to get the coveted permit.
Key Points to This Hike
- Length: 20-38 miles depending on interest points and if you hike to the Colorado River.
- Duration: 1-3 days
- Elevation Gain: 3,307 ft
- Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous. You’ll descend into the canyon at the beginning which means you must ascend on the way out.
- Scrambling Involved: Not really
- Best Time To Hike: May, June, and September are ideal
- Where to Park for This Hike: Hualapai Hilltop
- Is Havasu Falls Dog Friendly: Leave the dogs at home as it could get too hot.
- is Havasupai Falls kid-friendly? If your child is accustom to hiking long distances and in heat, they should be okay on this hike!
Why Should You Hike to Havasupai Falls?
The northern parts of Arizona feature some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery the state has to offer. Havasupai Falls are close to the Grand Canyon as the crow flies, though it’s a bit of a trek.
For the effort, you’ll be rewarded with some incredible views. The canyon lights up in a kaleidoscope of colors on the trek—colors that almost look like they are painted on a canvas and yet they are real.
Then, when you get to the falls, you’ll see stunning turquoise blue water spilling out of the bright red rock. It’s an oasis of sorts in this beautiful and barren landscape. If you want to embark on most beautiful hike in Arizona, this needs to be on your bucket list.
How to Get to Havasupai Falls
Havasu Canyon, where the Havasupai Falls are located, is in the remote northwestern part of Arizona. It’s a three-hour drive from Flagstaff, the nearest city. The capital city of Phoenix has an international airport and it’s the easiest place to go from if you’re not local. It’s a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Phoenix.
There are many fun things to do in Phoenix, and it’s worth taking a few days to explore the area. Summertime is really hot in Phoenix with temperatures ranging between 105° and 115°F on average. So, if you are traveling then, you may want to explore Sedona or Flagstaff instead.
This land belongs to the Havasupai Native American Indian tribe. The Havasupai, “people of the blue-green waters,” are the guardians of this ancient land. It’s considered sacred by the Tribe and you are only able to hike with their approval, so please be respectful of the land and its residents.
What are the Havasupai Falls?
The Havasupai, or Havasu Falls, are located in Havasu Canyon. As mentioned, this land belongs to the Havasupai Native American tribe. They are the guardians of the canyon, which is considered sacred.
Havasu Falls are one out of the five main waterfalls. It is a bright blue color that will take your breath away. The native tribe was first known as the Havasu Baaja, or “people of the blue-green waters.” Now they are known as the Havasupai Tribe.
When you visit, you do so with the Havasupai Tribe’s approval. This is why a permit is required to do this hike, as you are receiving permission from the tribe. Please respect the land and the people who live there when you visit.
This hike is considered moderate to difficult. You’ll navigate steep switchbacks in and out of the canyon. However, after those, the remainder of the hike is easy. It leads through a silty riverbed, hiking to the Supai Village, where the Havasupai people live. The hike is 8 miles from the trailhead to the village, then 2 more miles to the waterfalls.
The Havasupai Falls are actually a collection of waterfalls. The most striking falls are the two tallest, Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. The remainder are between the village and the Havasupai campground, or after it. They are equally as beautiful, though not as tall.
How to Get a Havasu Falls Permit
The Havasu Tribe requires that all visitors get a permit to enter their lands. This is a popular hike, and over 20,000 people do it every year. Securing a Havasupai permit isn’t easy, so you need to be prepared.
Havasu Falls permits are available starting on February 1st each year at 8 a.m. on the Havasupai Reservations website. They sell out quickly, so make sure you are prepared with dates and ready to book right when it opens.
As recently as a few years ago, people had to call to secure permits. So, while the website sometimes goes down due to such a high volume in a short time, it’s a huge upgrade from the phone call method. Can you imagine calling hundreds of times over a week or two to get through? Yikes!
You’ll start the process by completing a profile and it’s a good idea to do this in advance. Consider several date options as you may not get your first choice when you try to secure your permit.
A permit costs $100 a night from Monday through Thursday and $125 from Friday through Sunday. This cost is per person, not per group. So, if you go from Wednesday through Friday, each person will pay $325 USD.
You must pay for your reservation in full at the time the reservation is made. You can have up to 10 people on each reservation, but they must pay the permit cost per person. The person whose name the reservation is under must be present on the hike.
Make sure to take a photo or bring a printout of your campground reservation. You should also know your license plate number.
When is the Best Time to Visit Havasupai Falls?
Ultimately, you’ll go when you can find availability. When choosing your dates, it’s a good idea to consider the weather in this area. May, June, and September are popular as the weather is gorgeous and not scorching hot.
July and August are during the monsoon season. The canyon has higher rainfall at this time, and it may get flash floods. You can still hike at this time though you need to be careful. You’ll see warnings in the campground to set up camp on higher ground away from Havasu Creek and you’ll want to follow that guidance.
But the reservation system is so competitive that in all likelihood you will take any dates you can get. Note that summers can get very hot, and the trails into Supai close if temperatures reach 115 degrees F or above, with no guarantee of a rebooking.
Havasupai Falls Camping
The most popular place to stay during your hike is the Havasupai Falls Campground. It’s where Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls are located, so it’s an incredibly beautiful area.
Facilities are very limited in the campground. You’ll see a row of compost toilets, and there is a fresh-water spigot fed by a spring that spills out of a rock. And that’s it! There are lots of trees, great for hanging your food and hammocks.
The only other option is to stay in the lodge in the Supai Village. It’s a modest place with limited amenities, but a good option if you prefer a proper bed. The main falls in the campground are a 2-mile hike from the village.
Havasupai Falls Packing List
The Havasupai Falls hike is not a day trip as it’s not allowed by the tribe. Permit reservations are for a minimum of three nights. You can stay longer if you choose, and leave earlier. However, you will still pay for a three-night minimum.
The Supai village does have a small store where you can get supplies if needed, though it’s limited. At a minimum, you should pack:
- A tent or hammock to sleep in.
- Clothes and footwear—hiking shoes are a must, and you might want to bring water shoes to wear to the falls as the rocks are quite slick.
- Bathing suit.
- Plenty of water for the hike. You can fill up in the Supai village at a spigot next to the check-in office and in the campground. Be sure to bring an easily refillable bottle or water bag.
- Food, including a backpacking stove to do any cooking.
- A hiking hat and hiking sunglasses are essential in the heat.
- It never hurts to have a Garmin In-Reach. It can save your life in an emergency and you really shouldn’t be doing multi-day hikes without one.
You’ll want to consider what clothing you need depending on the weather. In the winter, warm layers are a must as it can get very cold in the canyon. The summers are hot humid and the spring and fall temperatures vary.
Some people also bring inflatable pool floats to use in the water, which can double as a sleeping pad. They are not required but take little room in your pack and can make for a fun experience at the falls. See our ultimate guide of what to wear hiking.
Getting to the Havasupai Trailhead
The area in and around Havasu Canyon is very remote and off the grid so you won’t get cell service in the canyon. There are no street lights on the dirt road, Indian Road 18, that you’ll take from the nearest town, Peach Springs, to the trailhead. Cell phone service is really patchy here as well so don’t count on having it.
It takes an hour-and-a-half from Peach Springs to the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead. You can stay in Peach Springs at a hotel the night before you hike. However, I don’t recommend it. Peach Springs is 66 miles from Hualapai Hilltop and is the last stop for gas, water, and food. From Peach Springs, you’ll sometimes see farm animals walking around between the scattered homes. Without street lights, it can be tough to see them, so it’s a good idea to stay at the trailhead.
There is a large parking lot near the trailhead and the only facilities are some composting toilets and a handful of port-o-pots. You can set up a tent towards the back of the parking lot or sleep in your car the day before the hike if you wish. Think of it as great practice!
The Havasupai Falls Hike
It’s a good idea to get started really early before the canyon heats up, plan for before sunrise. Your reward for your early rise is the beauty of the canyon. The sun lights it up in stunning shades of indigo, pinks, and rust. There’s no better time to be hiking than in the early morning.
The switchbacks are steep when entering the canyon though they’re easy to navigate. Be careful of the horses and donkeys, which often run loose in the canyon. And be especially careful on the switchbacks as you’ll have limited room.
Depending on your speed, it takes around an hour to get to the canyon floor. Take your time to enjoy the views.
The Havasu Canyon Floor
The canyon’s floor is very silty, and there are a lot of loose rocks, making it a little challenging to walk on. You’ll find a lot of interesting rock formations to check out here though.
Keep the horses and donkeys in mind, as you will likely hear them before you see them. They do try to steer clear of you, but run in a group. Move over to the side when you hear them coming.
Depending on the time of year and when you leave, you may get a good bit of shade in this area from the canyon walls. This is the long stretch of the hike so pace yourself.
Once you start hearing running water, you’re nearing the Supai Village. You’ll start seeing pops of turquoise blue as you see Havasu Creek meander through the area.
The Supai Village is small and very modest. It has a small store, a school, a lodge, a restaurant, community buildings, and private homes. Please be respectful and don’t take pictures of the buildings or people in the village, but feel free to look around.
Your first stop will be to check-in at the tourist office. They will give you a tent tag and a wristband that you must wear during your entire visit. There is a spigot of drinkable water near the office that you can use to fill up your water.
You’ll also see a helicopter pad that’s used by the tribe. Hikers are allowed to fly if there’s space (locals are prioritized). However, I don’t recommend missing the opportunity to hike this trail unless you must. The helicopter is also used for medical emergencies as well.
Once you’re at the village, you have two miles left to get to the campground. But first, you’ll see Fifty Foot Falls and New Navajo Falls. They’re a lot smaller than Havasu and Mooney Falls, which you’ll see in the campground. However, they’re the same beautiful aquamarine blue color and worth visiting.
There’s one last fairly steep descent before you get to the campground. As you climb down, look to your right to see the amazing Havasu Falls. It’s truly spectacular. Havasu Falls is almost 100 feet high, spilling out of red rocks. Take a moment to appreciate it; there’s a great viewing spot on the climb down to take pictures.
Once you get to the campground, choose an open spot to set up camp. If you go during monsoon season (you’ll see signs posted to remind you), choose a camp away from the water on higher ground.
The toilets are straight ahead and left, not far from the falls. The water spigot is also on the left of the falls (where most of the camps are), a short distance back from the toilets. Set up camp and get ready to explore this beautiful area! Go swimming in the crisp water of Havasu Falls and appreciate how high and powerful these falls are. The water seems to almost glow, and it’s an incredible experience.
Once you’ve explored the area, head to Mooney Falls, a bit further back in the campground. It’s around half a mile from Havasu Falls, and you’ll see some incredible views from above.
The climb down to Mooney Falls is for the brave at heart. If you’re feeling adventurous, climb down the red rock wall past the “Proceed at your own risk” sign. You’ll first climb through some narrow areas in the rocks. Then, you’ll go down ladders bolted into the wall with an area of uneven toe holds carved into the rock. For your efforts, this waterfall is breathtaking.
A couple of miles beyond Mooney Falls is Beaver Falls. Not as many people go this far, so the area is much less crowded. The falls are much smaller than Mooney and Havasu Falls, but it’s equally beautiful.
You’ll cross Havasu Creek several times, and the path are winding and not always well marked. This route takes you over a 2×4 plank and a slotted “bridge,” so your spirit of adventure doesn’t end with the climb down to Mooney Falls.
Colorado River Confluence Extension
If you have an extra day, you could consider hiking to the Colorado River confluence, a part of this hike that few get to see. However, you must be prepared to tackle this hike as it’s about 6 miles from the campground one way. It’s also an additional 1000 ft of elevation gain, which isn’t too bad, but if you’re not prepared for the extra things could take a turn for the worse. Here’s the full Alltrails route.
Hiking Out of Havasu Canyon
All good things eventually end, and so will your time in this brilliant oasis. It’s a good idea again to leave early as there’s little shade when you’re climbing the switchbacks. Make sure you bring plenty of water and fill up at the Supai Village. You don’t need to check out. Just follow the trail you came in on.
Once you reach the top, enjoy the beautiful views and share with anyone just starting this adventure how amazing it truly is. You’ll likely find some locals with food carts if you’re interested in a snack.
The Havasupai Falls hike is an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s not easy to get to, so it’s a little off the typical tourist track in Arizona. The permit system keeps overtourism at bay. It’s one of the most stunningly beautiful places you’ll ever see and worth visiting.
Ideal Havasupai Falls Itinerary
- Day 1 – Hike to Havasupai Falls Campground – 10 miles
- It will take 8 miles to reach Supai Lodge from the Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot. Here you can check in or stay at the Supai Lodge if you wish. You’ll need to arrive by 6 pm, so plan your time accordingly.
- It’s two more miles to the Havasupai Falls Campground. You’ll pass Fifty Foot Falls, New Navajo Falls, and the famous Havasu Falls on the way in.
- Stay at Havasupai Falls Campground
- Day 2 – Havasupai Falls Campground to Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls
- Hike the short .5 miles to Mooney Falls
- From Mooney Falls, hike two more miles to Beaver Falls.
- Head back to camp to enjoy time at Havasu Falls
- Day 3 (Option) – Hike from Havasupai Falls to the Colorado River Confluence – 11 miles
- This must be pre-planned as you’ll need to adjust your campsite night reservations to allow for the extra day.
- Day 4 (or Day 3 if skipping Colorado River Confluence) – Havasupai Falls Campground to Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot – 10 miles
- I hope you saved your energy for this day as you’ll have to gain elevation to hike out of the canyon.
My Last Notes and Tips
- The hike to Havasupai Falls must be planned out in advance
- Hikers should be prepared to hike for the full day in the sun with little shade.
- At a bare minimum it is 10 miles to reach the falls one way, and more if you extend to different points.
- You need a permit to visit Havasu Falls
- You have to stay overnight at Havasu Falls. No day hiking is allowed.
- You must pay for a three-night permit, even if you only intend to hike for less time. There are plenty of ways to fill your time for three days.
- Be prepared to carry all your food and supplies in and trash back out.
Havasupai Hike Map
Plan For Your Trip
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About the Author
Sam is a travel-obsessed animal lover on a quest to create a life of travel with her dog. The Phoenix area has been her home for the last 15 years. She loves learning new things, snuggling a dog, architecture, hiking, and bold red wine. Join her in creating a life to dream about! Connect with her on Facebook!