Ready for a hiking adventure like no other? Grab your backpack and get ready to be wowed by the magic of Havasupai. Hidden deep in the Grand Canyon lies a land of otherworldly, turquoise waterfalls flowing over travertine limestone into inviting pools that beg you to take a dip.
This ultimate guide has everything you need to know to plan your epic journey, from scoring permits and packing smart to camping under the stars by aquamarine waters. Let’s hit the breathtaking Havasupai trail!
A Mystical Oasis Tucked Away in the Grand Canyon
Imagine towering, vibrant red-orange canyon walls covered in green foliage leading down to crystalline creeks and waterfalls so pristine they seem fantastical – that’s Havasupai.
This magical place belongs to the Havasupai tribe, people of the blue-green waters, who have called the Grand Canyon home for over 800 years.
Their village, Supai, is located on Havasu Creek deep inside the Grand Canyon and can only be reached by an 8 mile hike or helicopter, keeping it relatively untouched by modern society.
Visiting Havasupai feels like discovering a secret wonderland – complete with otherworldly landscapes and the warmest hospitality from the Native people who live there.
This guide will cover everything you need to know to visit Havasupai and see its jaw-dropping sights for yourself, from the famous photogenic waterfalls to hidden gems like lush meadows and natural pools perfect for swimming. Grab your permit and let’s hit the trail to Supai!
How to Score Coveted Permits to Havasupai Hike
Snagging highly coveted permits to visit Supai and see the surreal Havasupai waterfalls along Havasu Creek is the first step for your adventure. Here’s the scoop on the reservation process and dates:
The Havasupai tribe strictly controls visitor numbers to minimize the impact on their home and keep the area pristine. Only 300 day hike permits and 250 camping permits are issued daily. All permits must be reserved in advance – walk in permits are not allowed.
On February 1st promptly at 8AM Arizona time, log onto the Havasupai reservation website to try scoring permits. They sell out lightning fast, usually within a couple hours, so be ready to pounce!
If you miss out on permit release day, check back often as people cancel or transfer reservations daily. Newly opened permit dates are released at 8AM Arizona time each morning.
An Epic Havasupai Itinerary
With dazzling waterfalls, scenic trails perfect for hiking, and inviting swimming holes, Havasupai offers ton of incredible sights to explore. Here’s a flexible itinerary covering can’t miss spots and hidden gems over 3 days & 2 nights:
Day 1: Descend Into the Canyon & Discover Waterfalls
- Miles: 8 miles from Hilltop parking lot to Supai village check-in
- Sights: Historic Gardens, Navajo Falls, Fifty Foot Falls, little creek beaches
Start your journey by driving to the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead. Then descend into the canyon on the Havasupai trail, enjoying sights like the lush Historic Gardens filled with crops tended by tribe members.
Tours & Things to do hand-picked by our insiders
As the trail winds deeper into the canyon, keep an eye out for Navajo Falls, a smaller but lovely multi-tiered cascade, followed by the aptly named Fifty Foot Falls with a straight plunge into a swimming hole.
Pause to take a breath and cool off at the pebbly creek beaches along the trail before arriving in Supai to check in for your reservation. Spend the night camping by turquoise Havasu Falls right near the campground.
Day 2: Marvel at the Famous Waterfalls
- Miles: 13 miles out & back
- Sights: Havasu & Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls
Spend a full day exploring Havasupai’s claim to fame- the jaw-dropping gorgeous falls. Wake up to the sound of Havasu Falls right next to your campsite, then head downstream to see the powerful Mooney Falls, requiring crossing the creek and a bit of climbing.
Next make your way a little over 3 miles downstream to reach Beaver Falls, a dreamy multi-tiered cascade with turquoise pools perfect for swimming beneath each short drop. Spend a few hours blissfully playing in the falls before heading back to camp, stopping to admire Havasu Falls again on your way.
Day 3: Swim, Relax, & Return
- Miles: 8 miles back to Hilltop
- Sights: Hidden pools & beaches along the creek
On your last full day, sleep in and spend the morning chilling by the falls and creek near your campsite. When you’re ready to pack up camp in the early afternoon, take your time on the hike out, keeping an eye out for hidden swimming spots like little pools and beaches tucked into the canyon walls lining the trail up to Hilltop.
When to Visit Havasupai for Best Experiences
The Havasupai waterfalls and trails are incredibly beautiful year-round – but some seasons offer better conditions than others for an epic adventure. Here’s a breakdown of weather, trail conditions, and key planning considerations by month:
March – April: Cooler spring weather ideal for hiking. Average high only 75F/24C. Waterfalls gush from winter snow melt. Trail still semi-muddy.
May: Wildflowers bloom & falls are full. Temperatures rising, up to 90F/32C avg high. Prepare to swim to stay cool!
June – August: Hottest temps of the year, up to 105F/40C & monsoon season begins. Flash flooding possible. Falls may slow by August.
September – October: Heat tapers off making weather nice. Average high 80F/27C. Leaf colors changing in fall. Great temperatures for swimming.
November: Daytime temperatures cool & leaves fall. Light snow possible on trails. Check forecast – cold for camping.
No matter when you visit, come prepared for both hot and cold weather. April – October tend to be the most popular due to ideal temperatures. Beat the crowds by booking March or November!
Transportation: Getting to Supai & the Trailhead
Reaching the remote trailhead to hike down to Supai village and the waterfalls requires advanced planning. Here are your transportation options and logistics:
Driving To Hualapai Hilltop Trailhead
Almost all hikers start at the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead, which sits about 8 miles from Supai along a rough dirt road deep in the western canyon. There is no public transportation, so you must drive yourself.
The trailhead is located 67 miles from Peach Springs, Arizona via Diamond Creek Road, the last 45 miles of which are rugged, dirt forest service roads with steep drop offs. High clearance SUVs are required, especially after rain or snow when conditions get muddy. Allow 2 hours for the drive.
Where To Stay Before/After The Hike
Since overnight parking isn’t allowed at the remote trailhead, most hikers stay in hotels nearby before/after their hike:
- Peach Springs: The closest town with basic motel lodging like Grand Canyon Caverns Inn. 1 hour 15 min drive to Hualapai Hilltop.
- Seligman & Kingman: Offer additional hotel options about 1.5 hours from the trailhead.
- Hualapai Lodge: Basic lodge and cabins, located only 1 mile from the trailhead. Try to book far in advance.
Getting To Supai Without Hiking
For those unable to hike, the only authorized alternative transportation into Supai is by helicopter or pack mule. Helicopters fly about 6 times a day, cost $85 per person each way. Pack mule trips transporting gear & luggage must be reserved well in advance and cost $400 round trip per mule.
How To Train For The Havasupai Falls Hike?
While the hike to Supai and the waterfalls is mostly downhill, it’s still quite long, covering over 8 miles just to the village and over 24 miles for the full out and back to the farthest point. It’s critical to train ahead of time for both endurance and managing the steep elevation changes on the way back out.
Elevation & Mileage
Here are the key stats on the hike:
- Roundtrip Miles: 10 miles Supai Falls, 13 miles Mooney Falls, 18 miles Beaver Falls
- Elevation change: -2,000 feet descent over 4-5 hours, +2,000 feet ascent over 6-8 hours
- Trail difficulty: Moderate, uneven terrain
With heavy packs, intense sun or heat exposure, and deceptively tiring elevation on the way out, preparation is key!
Ideal Training Goals
Aim to work up to comfortably hiking 15+ miles in a day over varied terrain wearing a 20 pound backpack. Getting these long training hikes in over similar elevation changes that you’ll encounter in Havasupai will perfectly prepare your body to handle the challenge.
Some ways to train:
- Hiking trails with elevation for hours wearing a weighted day pack
- Climbing tall staircases like stadiums for endurance while wearing weight
- High incline treadmill hikes wearing ankle/wrist weights
Stick to training goals in the 1-3 months leading up to your hike dates for best conditioning without overtraining or risking injury. Listen your body, recover properly, and you’ll totally rock the gorgeous Havasupai trails!
Packing List for Havasupai’s Climate & Camping
Havasupai’s remote desert location and the basic campsites along the creek mean you must pack very strategically. Follow this comprehensive packing list of essential clothing, gear, and food to thrive on the trails and while camping:
Pack versatile, lightweight layers and proper footwear to stay comfortable in both Havasupai’s hot summer-like sun and potential cold nights.
- Hiking clothes: Shorts, light pants, breathable shirts
- Hiking boots & water sandals
- Sock liners & wool hiking socks
- Swimsuits- for both lounging and hiking water crossings
- Puffy jacket
- Warm hat
- Base layers & long underwear
- Buff/bandana- sun protection
You’ll need proper shelter, sleep system, and basic amenities for campground living:
- Backpacking tent
- Sleeping pads – for both insulation and padding
- Sleeping bags or quilts
- Headlamps – critical for nighttime visibility
- Portable power bank & cords
- Dry bags- keep valuables like phone protected
- Towel- microfiber backpacking style
- Portable water filter
- Biodegradable soap
Backpacking & Safety Essentials
- Day pack – to carry gear during hikes
- Hiking backpack – 60L capacity ideal
- Trekking poles
- Paracord & carabiners
- First aid kit
- Multi-tool knife
- Water containers & hydration bladder – 3L capacity
- Water purification tablets
- Sunscreen & chapstick
- Map, permit confirmation & ID
Food & Snacks
You must pack in all your own food. Bring calorie-dense snacks that don’t spoil easily. Some favorites:
- Breakfasts: Oatmeal, granola, powdered milk, coffee
- Lunches: Tuna packets, nut butters, tortillas, jerky
- Dinners: Backpacking meal bags, instant rice sides, dehydrated meals
- Snacks: Trail mix, protein/granola bars, dried fruit
- Spices & condiments
- Electrolyte tablets for water
With the right essential gear, clothing, and nutritious food, you’ll be primed for success on the trail to Supai and the otherwordly gorgeous Havasupai falls!
Where to Camp in Havasupai?
All overnight hikers to Havasupai stay at the designated campground located along the creek between gorgeous Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. Here’s what to know about scoring a great campsite:
- The campground stretches over 1 mile long – first come, first served for sites
- Space out from other groups when possible for more privacy
- Camp near the toilet areas tends to fill up fastest
- Picnic tables are limited – establish your spot quick to claim one
- The end of the campground is closest to Mooney Falls
- No campfires allowed, only portable stoves
Ideally, arrive to the campground early afternoon to have your pick of sites. Hang out by your claimed spot while you wait to officially set up at 5PM when camping is permitted.
There’s no wilderness camping allowed in side canyons – staying right in the main Havasupai campground along the creek puts you closest to the prime waterfalls and attractions anyways. Just practice low-impact principles and store food properly per regulations to minimize impact.
Photographing Havasupai’s Incredible Beauty
From the vibrant canyon walls to the magical blue-green waters, Havasupai seems straight out of a fairytale – and you’ll no doubt want to document the magic! Here are tips to nail epic photography:
Pack Properly: Bring cameras, lenses, batteries galore, memory cards, filters, tripods securely in dry bags and camera cases. Clean gear after shooting in fine dusty conditions.
Play With Perspective: Havasupai invites experimentation – shoot from ledges above, down low including foreground elements, behind falls to highlight mist, and peering up through trees.
Focus On Layers: Frame shots to include multiple depths like tiers of waterfalls, vibrant canyon walls contrasting with greenery, looking up from pools through falling water.
Enhance With Filters & Effects: Consider using neutral density, polarized filters to allow slower shutter speeds emphasizing motion or cut glare from water. Experiment even more with long exposures, light painting at night!
Time It Right: Early morning or late afternoon light angles create impactful beams filtering through trees and accentuating colors vibrantly. Avoid harsh midday light.
With a bit of photographic creativity, you’ll besure to totally dazzle your Instagram feed with legendary captures of Havasupai!
Chief Havasu’s Legacy: History of The Havasupai People
Visiting the breathtaking Havasupai waterfalls offers the chance to connect with the incredible history and culture of the Havasupai Tribe and their centuries-long struggles living in the Grand Canyon.
The Havasupai Tribe are the “Havasooa” meaning “people of the blue-green waters”, named after the vibrant creek running through their ancestral homeland. Their mythology recounts their people emerging from the Grand Canyon after the great flood.
For over 850 years the Havasupai Tribe has farmed the canyon home they called Havsuw’ Baaja, meaning “the place of the blue-green waters”. Originally hunter-gatherers, the discovery of fertile canyon land spurred a migration from plateaus down into Havasu Canyon in the 1300s where the tribe embraced agriculture.
The arrival of Europeans began a painful epoch starting in the mid-1800s when the Havasupai lost vast portions of their homeland to American expansion, dwindling their territory from almost 4 million acres down to a mere 518. Yet their agricultural prowess allowed the tribe to continue thriving along the creek.
The relentless violations took tragic turns in the next decades, with forced assimilation attempts including forcibly removing Havasupai children to boarding schools against their families wills in an ethnocide campaign to eradicate native culture. Many children died in these schools far from home.
Yet the Havasupai Tribe demonstrated incredible resilience even in the face of relentless persecution. In 1975, additional parts of their ancestral land holdings were finally returned. Today, tourism sustains their economy and shares the beauty of Havsuw Baaja’s waterfalls while respecting tribal sovereignty and customs.
Visiting the waterfalls comes with a solemn responsibility to honor this complex living history, supporting the Havasupai’s determined autonomy within their greatly-reduced but still profoundly sacred homeland.
Havasupai’s Legendary Waterfalls from Top to Bottom
Part of the magic of Havasupai is exploring a new breathtaking waterfall around each canyon bend. Every twist and turn of turquoise Havasu Creek gifts another postcard-worthy scene. Here’s an overview from highest elevation to lowest of the must-see waterfalls and swimming holes:
Fifty-Foot Falls may be smaller than some others, but this lovely multi-tiered waterfall has a beautiful swimming hole at its base ringed by fun rocks to jump from. It comes just after Navajo Falls along the trail to Supai.
Havasu Falls steals your breath as soon as you enter the campground, with its gorgeous 100 foot straight drop from a limestone cliff into an inviting pool perfect for swimming. Its heavenly blue-green waters tumble over travertine rock, forming magical cascades.
The falls sit just beside the campground, with the main swimming hole at its base drawing sun-bathers lounging on rocks and friends tossing beach balls between dips in its temperate waters nearly year-round. Its beauty even spurred a legend about a woman who cried while leaving these waters so powerfully they turned blue.
According to the official Havasupai website, the falls were named the most beautiful waterfall in America in 2013 – and their photogenic majesty is the quintessential image of Havasupai’s wonders. Their inviting nature makes them a favorite gathering spot in the mornings and evenings after the sun loses its intensity.
Just under a mile from the campground sits the tallest waterfall in Havasupai, mighty Mooney Falls plunging almost 200 feet vertically into a dramatic rocky cove bursting with greenery contrasting the desolate canyonscape.
Reaching the base involves traversing slippery rock slopes, climbing two ladders, squeezing through two tunnels behind the churning waters, and carefully gripping chains bolted into the last steep drop down towards its mists.
While intense, the adventuresome journey opens up magical swimming holes tucked into bedrock and cavernous spaces behind the thundering waters. The profound power emanating from Mooney makes it many visitor’s favorite Havasupai waterfall.
According to Havasupai legend, Mooney Falls was named after gold prospector D.W. James, who ventured into the Grand Canyon in the late 1800s hoping to strike it rich. Locals started calling him “Mooney” after a barrel brand, and his legacy remains attached to the tallest falls after plunging over the edge to his death while trying to descend by rope to explore behind the raging waters.
Today two bronze plaques bolted into the canyon walls near the falls tell this piece of history. Visitors can honor Mooney’s adventurous spirit by safely accessing the mystical emerald pools and hidden caves tucked behind the mighty cascade he lost his life pursuing up close using the modern ladders and chains without needing ropes of their own.
Just downstream from Mooney Falls sits another classic Havasupai waterfall – the stunning multi-tiered Beaver Falls formed by Havasu Creek plunging over travertine ledges into a sequence of sapphire pools perfect for swimming.
The hike to Beaver Falls stretches almost 4 miles beyond Mooney. Along the way, the trail repeatedly crosses Havasu Creek over bridges and through shallow fords, passing striking sights like hidden beaches tucked into alcoves along the scenic streambed route.
Upon reaching Beaver Falls, the payoff is immense – a fairy tale scene of blue-green pools shining under the desert sun, each one linked by short cascades spilling from one refreshing swimming hole to the next. Trees and vines surround the falls, casting perfect shade spots to relax in between dips.
The creek often carves spectacular natural waterslides down angled rocks from one pool to the next – perfect for an adrenaline rush sliding down into inviting turquoise waters awaiting in Beaver Falls’ gorgeously landscaped oasis.
If visitors follow Havasu Creek all the way downstream for almost 7 more miles beyond Beaver Falls, they’ll reach the Colorado River at its confluence, a powerful moment when two major waterways converge in the heart of the Grand Canyon. While extremely remote, getting to gaze at this junction floating on inner tubes offers one of the most epic adventures in Havasupai for those up for the long journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much water will I need to bring with me?
You should plan to carry a minimum of 2-3 liters of water per person while hiking in, more if visiting in hotter months. Once at the campground, you can refill water bottles at the natural spring.
Are there any rules while in the campground or when hiking?
Yes, there are rules against things like littering, wandering away from marked trails, having campfires, and more. Check posted signs upon arrival and practice Leave No Trace ethics.
Can anyone do the Mooney Falls climb?
The climb down to the base of Mooney Falls involves steep, slippery rocks, clinging to chains, and squeezing through tight tunnels. Reasonable fitness along with good balance, grip strength, and no fear of heights or tight spaces is recommended to safely traverse it. Take your time and listen to your comfort level.
What is the process to check in to hike to Supai?
You must check in in person at the village tourist office to have permits validated before heading to camp. Bring a printed copy of your permit confirmation and photo ID. You’ll receive wristbands and other important info.
How much does it cost for a mule to haul my pack?
Mule service to haul gear in and out costs $400 round trip per mule. One mule can carry up to 4 bags at 32lbs each. Reservations required well in advance.
How many miles can I expect to hike while I’m there?
Plan to hike 8 miles down to Supai village, then between 2-8 more miles between waterfalls and attractions around the campground for 10-16 miles minimum. Longer hikes available too.
How long is the Havasupai Falls hike
The Havasupai Falls hike is approximately 10 miles in length from the Hualapai trailhead to Havasu Falls, with the trail being mostly downhill. It typically takes an average hiker 4 to 6 hours to complete the hike, depending on hiking experience and other factors.
The total round trip distance, including the hike to Beaver Falls and back, is roughly 25 miles. The hike involves rocky and sandy terrain with very little shade, and the return hike is all uphill, making it quite challenging. It’s recommended to start the hike as early as possible in the morning to avoid the heat.