Hello Gypsy Souls!
I am beyond excited to share this slice of heaven in Arizona with all of you. Havasupai Falls was my very first backpacking trip. I went with a group of girls from all over the world and am still close with a few of them. It was incredibly tough for my first backpacking trip but also incredibly rewarding, something I will never forget.
The Havasupai Falls are located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. It’s the most remote reservation in the United States. Everything they have is either brought in by trail horses or helicopter. The tribes is a sovereign Native American Nation whose name means blue-green water. They have their own set of rules, customs, laws, and way of life that as visitors it’s so important we show respect for.
I’m sure everyone has seen photos of the falls and I’m sure everyone had the same thought at first, that’s so photoshopped. Especially if you’ve ever been to Arizona. How can something that beautiful be sitting in the middle of the desert?! Y’all let me tell you, it’s real!! The photos are completely accurate. I’ve never seen anything like it. When you first walk up it almost feels like a dream, especially after what a long hike you just did getting there, but my goodness it is so worth it!
Whenever I am hiking there are a few basic things I want to know so I’m going to start with the bullet pointed basics and then you can keep scrolling if you want more insight into my personal experience.
Trailhead Name: Havasupai Falls Trailhead (located at the Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot Area)
How many miles is the hike one-way: 8 miles to Supai Village, 9.5 miles to Navajo Falls, 10 miles to Havasupai Falls & Campgrounds, 11 miles to Mooney Falls, 13 miles to Beaver Falls, 17 miles to The Colorado River.
Total elevation change? Descent into the canyon 2,500 feet
How long does Havasupai Falls take to hike? The hike to the campground should take roughly 5 to 7 hours depending on your speed. Out-and-back hikes are prohibited. You must be staying overnight and you must have a reservation. reservations are 3 nights/4 days.
Trail Popularity: Heavily trafficked! Passes sell out almost immediately after they are opened for sale in February for the season.
Is a permit required to hike Havasupai Falls? Yes. See below.
Is there water and/or restrooms along trail? No, bring at least two liters of water for the hike to the Supai Village. Once in the village there is a small store you can purchase water from however, remember how difficult it is to get things into the village – the prices reflect this. At the campground there is a spot to fill up your water, bring something to treat it though.
Is there cell phone reception on the trail or at the campground? No to both.
Dog friendly? No.
Yay! Now that that’s over, let’s jump into some more details!
For the first time this year all of the reservations are made on the Havasupai Falls website. The season is from February 2019 to February 2020. If you are trying to get a pass pay attention to the exact time they open. They will sell out almost immediately so you have to be on as soon as it opens.
The wonderful thing about the new online system is that opening day is not your only chance to score a pass anymore.
Life happens, especially when you are booking something a year in advance. New in 2019 you are able to transfer the entire reservation to someone else and have payment returned to your card less a 10% transfer fee. I just logged in and checked the transfer list and there are currently 3 campgrounds on different dates this year available for me to book that someone is trying to transfer or has cancelled.
After you place your reservation you have the option to purchase travel insurance. If your trip is more than a few months out I’d recommend getting this. Not only do possible life changes/events cause cancellation of your plans but, bad weather can also mean shutting down access to the falls for a time period due to flooding or rock slides. If this happens they will try to reschedule your reservation but its not always possible.
Also new this year is the reservation of pack mules. You used to just tell them if you wanted to have your backpack brought down by the mule at the top of the trail. That is no longer allowed. In the past there have been a lot of issues with the way the animals are cared for. In attempt to correct this there are fewer mules to care for. meaning fewer to carry your bag. I highly recommend having your bag carried by the mules round trip.
One mule can carry up to 4 bags. Maximum weight is 32 pounds per bag. Maximum size is 36″Lx19″Wx19″H. All bags must be soft on the outside and cannot have anything hanging off of them. Ice chests & coolers are NOT permitted.
If you are looking for a list of what to pack on your Havasupai Falls Camping Trip click here for my recent post on the Ultimate Havasupai Falls Packing List!
The Supai hilltop is roughly 100 miles from the nearest gas station. The last station from Phoenix is in Silgman. Make sure you have at least 200 miles worth of gas in your tank leaving Silgman for the remainder of the drive.
There are no fees for parking at the hilltop & there is plenty of parking available for everyone. There are parking areas reserved for the Havasupai Tribe though so don’t park anywhere that says “No Parking.”
The hike from the hilltop to the campground is 10 miles one-way. Get on the trail as early as you can especially in the summer so you can try to beat some of the canyon heat.
Bring electrolytes to put in your water while hiking and snacks for the trail, REI has a great selection of both. This was a savior for me. I stopped for lunch half way through too.
I can’t stress enough..wear comfortable shoes that are broken-in and you have experience hiking in. My first time wearing the hiking boots I had were on this hike. Bad idea, such a bad idea. I had the worst blisters by the time I stopped for lunch and besides some first aid items I had no other options but to suffer through the pain.
My biggest piece of advice is pace yourself and don’t be in a rush. Enjoy the trail just as much as the destination. It is not a difficult hike its just long.
Note: ALWAYS move out of the way for the pack mules and always move against the canyon wall. Do not stand to the cliff side when the pack mules are passing.
When you reach the Supai Village you will need to check in at the office which is usually open 6:00am to 6:00pm. There is only one name on the reservation with the number of additional guests in the campground listed. That person MUST be present at the Supai Village check in office WITH ID and a copy of the reservation in order to get in. How awful would it be to hike 8 miles and not be able to get in?!
You also need to know the license plate number of the vehicle you left at the hilltop when you check in. Once you check in you will get a wristband for everyone in your group. You can’t pass the village without a wristband. The campground is 2 miles past the village. Navajo Falls is in between the village and campground and is a great place to stop if you have time.
The campground is camp wherever you like and is over a mile long between Havasupai Falls and Mooney Falls on both sides of the creek. If you decide to cross the creek to camp keep in mind that if it rains the creek will likely flood and cover the bridges. It won’t be safe to cross back to the other side until the water has gone down.
Summer monsoon or rainy season is Mid-June to Late-September. If you do get caught in a rain storm get to the highest ground available and wait until it clears or help arrives. There are no public health facilities or trained emergency personnel in the village. In the event of an injury or emergency it may take hours to get treatment. There is a helicopter that lands at the Supai Village and can be used for evacuation if necessary.
I don’t say this to scare you at all. In most cases I think the storms pass quickly. There was a storm while I was there. I was on the opposite side of the creek. It flooded for a while and the water turned from its vibrant blue to mud. Just as quickly as it happened though the water went back down and back to its beautiful blue color. I think it’s important to be prepared, know your surroundings, and be smart when you’re hiking and exploring the falls but don’t let it make you fearful.
Restrooms: There are four maintained compost restrooms throughout the campsite
Water: there is a water spigot located at the entrance to the campground to fill up at. I’d recommend always treating the water just in case.
Food: Campfires are not permitted at anytime in the campground during the season. You are able to bring gas canisters, and backpacking cook tops. You will need to pack in all of your meals for your trip. If you have never backpacked before this can get heavy so do some planning beforehand and manage your bags weight. You also need to keep all of your food in animal proof containers and off the ground while in the campground.
Rules: There are many rules on what is prohibited in the camp sites. Click here to view all the prohibited items before your trip.
Trash: There are no trash receptacles! Remember how difficult it is to get stuff in – it is just as difficult to get it out. You MUST pack out everything you pack in. Please live your trip with the motto “leave no trace.” I can’t stress enough keeping this gem in pristine condition so it can be cherished by future generations.
I know that was SO much information and it can be overwhelming if it’s your first backpacking trip but, I think the most important thing to remember is to have fun and soak it all in! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a part of the world that looks virtually untouched because everyone that has gone and the tribe have done an amazing job taking care of it and preserving its special beauty.
I hope you come back with a new perspective on our amazing planet and the amazing people that make it their life to love and take care of it. I hope you come back with a thousand photos and a million unforgettable memories.
If you are going soon and have questions please reach out! If you went recently and have fun stories and photos please share them, I would love to hear about your adventure!
Happy Trails My Friends!