A Girl’s Guide to Hiking and Camping at Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls is one of several amazing waterfalls located on the Havasupai Reservation in Northern Arizona. And it is arguably one of the most beautiful and remote places in the entire United States. The reservation is located deep in the heart of the Grand Canyon, 10 miles from the nearest road. It is accessible either by foot or by helicopter ride. And in order to visit you’ll be required to camp for a minimum of one night which means you’ll have to carry everything you’ll need with you on your back.

Sound exhilarating? I thought so too. And it turned out to be one of my favorite destinations in all of my world travels to date. But it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park, so to speak. I stayed in the Havasu Falls campground for 4 days/3 nights and by the time I left I was filthy, exhausted, and was craving a giant, juicy cheeseburger. I also would have preferred to be more prepared as I overpacked in all the wrong ways.

So I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help all of you lady Havasu Falls hikers so you can be completely prepared and so you won’t carry more than you need on your epic adventure!

A Girl's Guide to Havasu Falls, Arizona

Securing a Permit for Havasu Falls

The process of obtaining a permit for Havasu Falls requires some planning and persistence. There are a set number of campsites and the tribe allows around 300 visitors each day for 10 months out of the year. The permits for the entire season (February 1 – November 30) become available on February 1st of every year and generally sell out within the first 2 weeks.

Your best bet is to visit the reservation website as early in the day as possible on February 1st and try to be flexible on the dates you plan to visit, just in case your first choice has already been taken.

A Few Tips

  • Make sure you have a confirmed count of how many others will be joining you. It’s very difficult to make changes once you’ve confirmed your purchase.
  • It is not possible to add people or extra nights to existing reservations for 2018.
  • Weekends and holidays are popular dates so if you are open to visiting on a weekday you’ll have a better shot.
  • Off-season months are less popular because the weather is cooler so swimming isn’t as ideal. We went in March and, while it was definitely too cold to swim in the shade (i.e. below Mooney Falls and below Havasu Falls after 2:00pm), it was nice that there were fewer people and it wasn’t unbearably hot for the hike in and out of the canyon.

You may be asking yourself “do I really need a permit? Can’t I just hike in for the day?” No, unfortunately you can’t. Not just because it’s a 10-mile one-way hike to get there, but also because the ONLY way to visit Havasu Falls is to camp with a permit. There are several permit checkpoints and if you don’t have one, you’ll be sent packing.

Girl's Guide to Havasu Falls: Little Navajo Falls

2018 Camping and Permit Fees for Havasu Falls

  • 2 days/1 night: $140.56 per person
  • 3 days/2 nights: $171.11 per person
  • 4 days/3 nights: $201.67 per person

If you book your permits for the following dates you’ll be required to pay an additional $18.33 per person per night due to their popularity:

  • Weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday)
  • Holidays (February 19th, May 28th, July 4th, September 3rd, and October 8th)
  • Spring Break (March 5th-8th and 19th-22nd)

Find more information on fees on the Havasupai Tribe website.

Camping Rules

  • No alcohol
  • No drones
  • No campfires
  • No weapons
  • No drugs

Safety at Havasu Falls

I traveled to Havasu Falls with my husband so solo female travelers may have a different experience. However, I never felt unsafe in any way during my 4-day trip and I felt totally comfortable leaving my valuables zipped in my tent while I was out exploring for the day.

The squirrels are the most likely to raid your camp while you’re away but if have any concerns, invest in a small combination lock to lock your tent zippers together. And if you’re planning on hiking alone, it’s always smart to keep a whistle on you, just in case.

What to Pack for Havasu Falls

I’ve written a comprehensive packing list for Havasu Falls that applies to both men and women but have included a few items here that are specifically for women.

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Complete 2018 Packing List for Havasu Falls

Large Backpack

I love Osprey brand packs because they are comfortable, breathable, adjustable, and can take a beating. At 5’4” tall and 120 pounds, I’m a small girl and I have a hard time carrying all that weight on my shoulders. This pack has a padded hip belt to put the pressure on your middle rather than on your shoulders. I pull those as tight as they can go and ensure that no weight is actually on my shoulders by sticking a finger between the strap and my shoulder.

Also, try to keep your pack to under 30 pounds. Put everything you’ll be bringing in your pack a few days before your trip and try walking around with it on. If you struggle in your house, you’ll most certainly struggle on the trail.

Check out my comprehensive post about how to select the right backpack here!

She-Wee

While there are plenty of toilets around the Havasu Falls campground, there are not any along the trail from the parking lot or on the way to Beaver Falls. If the idea of squatting behind a bush fills you with fear, invest in a female portable urination device so no one will know what you’re up to.

Diva Cup

While there are a few garbage cans around the Havasu Falls campground, visitors are strongly encouraged to pack out everything that they pack in. Plus, even though pads and tampons may seem light, you’ll want to cut any and all additional unnecessary weight from your already heavy pack. Opt for a Diva Cup if you think your period will coincide with your trip.

Travel Razor

This is completely unnecessary unless you are like me and don’t like to be hairy in a swimsuit. I’d opt for a travel-size razor only because I try to cut weight any and every way possible. Or, better yet, just get a wax right before you leave!

Biodegradable Wipes

After hiking 10 miles to your campsite you probably won’t be feeling so fresh and so clean. Bring some biodegradable, compostable wipes to freshen up daily. Don’t forget to pack a few ziplock bags to pack out your used wipes (even though they’re technically compostable, only single-ply toilet paper should be left in the compost toilets).

Fun Swimsuit

It would be tragic to put in all of the time and effort to get to Havasu Falls and not get some epic photos! Bring a few hilarious swimsuits since they can pack down small and won’t add a ton of weight to your pack.

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Pool Floaty

This will definitely be the heaviest and most pointless addition to your already heavy pack. However, how many times are you going to spend a few nights camping and swimming at one of the most beautiful places in the US? Just pick a floaty that isn’t too cumbersome or difficult to inflate but that will photograph well from above.

The Hike to Havasu Falls

Length: 8 miles to the Supai village and an additional 2 miles to Havasu Falls
Duration: 4-6 hours depending on your fitness level

What Time to Leave

The earlier, the better. Not only does the parking lot fill up with cars, but you’ll also find the hike to be far more enjoyable if you’re not doing it in the heat of the day. And lastly, the reservation check-in office in Supai Village isn’t known for their speediness so if there are a lot of people ahead of you, you’ll probably be waiting in line for a while.

What to Expect

You’ll park your car in the Havasupai parking area (located here – about 67.5 miles Northeast of Peach Springs, AZ) to begin your hike to the falls. There are a few porta-potties and compost toilets here but none along the trail so plan accordingly. Immediately you’ll begin your descent into the canyon on a path that zig zags for about a mile and a half to the bottom. As you’re hiking, remember that you’ll need to climb back up this same trail when you depart.

If you have trouble with your knees or hips, you may want to consider investing in hiking poles. They’ll take some of the pressure off of your legs and they’ll help to keep you balanced.

Once you reach the bottom of the canyon, the hike is fairly flat for the remainder of your journey. There are no toilets along the way nor is there any water. Plan on bringing at least a gallon of water per person for the hike.

If You’re Not an Avid Hiker

If hiking for 10 miles with a heavy pack doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t fret, you have a few other options:

  • You can hire a mule to carry your backpack. Mules can carry a maximum of 4 bags and/or 130 lbs. You’ll need to reserve at least one week before your trip on the Havasupai website.
  • You can also book a helicopter ride from the Hualapai Hilltop to the Supai Village. The flight takes about 10 minutes and they are offered on a first come, first served basis. They don’t run every day and flights are dependent on weather conditions. Contact Airwest Helicopters for more information.

If you choose either of these choices, you should keep a few things in mind. There is quite a bit of debate as to the treatment of the pack animals by the Havasupai Tribe. We didn’t see anything out of the ordinary during our visit but many others have. If this is a concern for you, you should definitely do your homework prior to selecting this option.

Also, if you choose to take a helicopter, the earlier you arrive to the helipad, the better. They do work on a first come, first served basis but members of the Havasupai Tribe get priority over visitors. So the wait can be incredibly long, especially when you are looking to leave. There are also weight restrictions on your baggage.

Stops Along the Way

Your first stop will be in the Supai Village to check-in. You’ll need to show ID if you made the reservation (but I’d recommend that you bring some form of identification regardless) and you’ll receive your bracelets and permit for your tent or hammock.

A Girl's Guide to Havasu Falls: Little Navajo Falls

The area at the top of Little Navajo Falls was one of my favorite spots to swim. Mainly because we visited Havasu in March so it was too cold to swim in the shade and this area gets full sun. Whereas the base of Havasu Falls would be completely shaded by 2:00pm and Mooney Falls was shaded all day. We stopped here on our hike in, and our hike out. It’s also far less crowded than the falls.

Camping at Havasu Falls

Campsites are on a first come, first serve basis and cannot be reserved in advance. If you’ve paid to have the mules deliver your bags, they will likely arrive quite a bit later than you so you’ll want to put some of your belongings on the picnic table of the site of your choice to save it.

A Girl's Guide to Havasu Falls: Camping

Don’t pay too much mind to where you are camped, you won’t spend very much time there anyway. But here are a few things to consider when you are choosing a spot:

  • Proximity to the one fresh water source
  • Proximity to the compost toilets (be close, but not TOO close)
  • Privacy. You’ll have to cross one (or more) dodgy looking bridges to get to the other side of the river but those sites are generally less popular so you can have more space.
  • Trees, in case you brought a hammock. Regardless you’ll need to hang your food and trash.

Toilets

There are several clean compost toilets conveniently located throughout the campground. They are generally stocked with single-ply toilet paper and have garbage cans outside (although you should plan on packing out all of your trash).

Fresh Water

We’ve heard from a lot of people that they brought a water filter. And you can of course, if you feel so inclined. But there is a continuously flowing spigot in the campground where you can fill up on fresh water. It’s not more than a 15 minute walk from any campsite but it may be a good idea to invest in a foldable water container so that you’ll always have fresh water at your campsite for drinking, cooking, and doing dishes.

Food Storage

The squirrels at Havasu Falls will do anything and everything in their power to get your food. We hung both our food and our trash with twine from a tree and the little suckers managed to rip our trash bag open somehow and scatter it all over our camp. And they chewed a hole through our neighbors backpack and ate his prepackaged meals (which is the WORST when you’ve planned your meals perfectly).

Do NOT keep any food in your tent or your backpack. Be sure you keep your food in a sturdy bag and bring twine to hang it from a tree. A mesh Ratsack is a good option for food storage that is guaranteed to keep them out:

Tent? Or Hammock?

We actually brought both. We packed a 3-person backpacking tent (it’s really only big enough for 2), inflatable sleeping pads, lightweight sleeping bags, inflatable pillows, and an ENO Doublenest Hammock that we used for lounging around camp. And we were oh-so comfortable which is super important when your body is aching from hiking all day, every day.

A Girl's Guide to Havasu Falls: ENO DoubleNest Hammock

Granted, if you just brought a hammock, your pack would be significantly lighter. And if you travel from May until September you may be able to get away with not even using a sleeping bag. However I would caution you to try sleeping in your hammock in your yard at home prior to departing to Havasu Falls. It is incredibly uncomfortable to sleep with your feet and head elevated. Plus unless you are used to sleeping all night on your back, it may be difficult to get used to this position.

What to Pack

Check out our entire camping gear packing list here.

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Complete 2018 Packing List for Havasu Falls

The Hike to Mooney and Beaver Falls

The hike to Beaver Falls, Havasu Canyon, Arizona by Wandering Wheatleys

Length to Mooney: Depending on where you are camped, the hike to Mooney Falls is less than a mile
Length to Beaver: ~2.5 miles from the base of Mooney Falls
Duration: Plan on spending a full day hiking out to Beaver Falls, swimming for a bit, and then hiking back

What to Expect: Mooney Falls

A Girl's Guide to Havasu Falls: Mooney Falls

The Havasu Falls campsite sits along the river at the top of Mooney Falls. You can view the falls from several viewpoints up top (and a few adventurous campers even camp at the very top of the falls, although you’re technically not supposed to). The path to get to the bottom is treacherous and probably not great for anyone who is afraid of heights. In fact it was named for a man who died from a fall while the pathway was being constructed.

Leave early in the morning! The entire walk to Beaver Falls is beautiful and you’ll be tempted many times along the way to stop for photos or for a swim. It would be a pity to feel rushed to get back before dark.

You’ll need to scramble down a few ladders while hanging onto chains that have been anchored into the rock wall. What makes it especially scary is that it becomes increasingly muddy and slippery due to the spray from the waterfall. I would advise you to wear regular shoes with traction over flip flops and if the chains make you nervous you can invest in some traction gloves like these:

What to Expect: Beaver Falls

Beaver Falls, Havasu Canyon, Arizona by Wandering Wheatleys

From the base of Mooney Falls, it’s another 2.5-ish miles to Beaver Falls. I would highly recommend doing both in one day so you only need to do the treacherous hike to Mooney once during your stay. Unless it doesn’t bother you in which case you can do them separately and spend more time lounging below Mooney.

The hike from Mooney to Beaver is fairly flat but will feel much farther than 2.5 miles. There are several water crossings (we did them barefoot but you should probably consider investing in water shoes) and some scrambling up and down ladders near the end. Stop along the way for photos or to have a swim.

Beaver Falls, Havasu Canyon, Arizona by Wandering Wheatleys

There are also several nice viewpoints from up above. Beaver Falls also gets full afternoon sun so it’s the perfect spot to spend your afternoon swimming.

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The Best Water Shoes for Havasu Falls

What to Bring

Petzl Tikkina Headlamp

The Hike Back to the Parking Lot

A common question that people ask is what time to leave to hike back to the parking lot. Most people recommend that you leave early in the day to avoid hiking in the heat of the day (since there is very little shade along the way). However, I would argue that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you should spend every possible moment enjoying it!

Make yourself a hearty breakfast and some strong coffee, pack up, and leave your campsite around 11:00am. Stop at Little Navajo Falls to enjoy an afternoon soak. And on your way out of the Supai village, stop at the restaurant in town for nachos to fuel your upcoming hike. If you hit the trail by 3:00pm you’ll find that much of the trail is shaded. And by the time you arrive to the intense switchbacks the air will be cool, the sun will be setting, and you’ll have had an amazing last day.

As long as you have a headlamp or flashlight, don’t worry if you end up on the trail after dark. Take your time, don’t rush, and enjoy this amazing adventure!

Northern Arizona is full of other great adventures. Here are a few other resources we love for exploring this beautiful part of America!



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A Girl's Guide to Hiking and Camping at Havasu Falls

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