We had the unique opportunity to visit what I believe to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited in my entire life in March of 2017… an area of land that has been owned and managed by the Havasupai American Indian tribe for the last 800 years known as Havasu Falls.
Prior to our visit Nick complained about the serious lack of information about Havasu Falls on the official Havasupai Tribe website as well as in various blog posts that he read so I promised him I would write an incredibly detailed (and hopefully helpful) post. Enjoy!
- 1 How to get a permit for Havasu Falls
- 2 Fees for Visiting Havasu Falls
- 3 Rules and Regulations
- 4 How to get to Havasu Falls
- 5 Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls
- 6 Hiking to Havasu Falls Without a Permit
- 7 Amenities
- 8 What to Pack for Havasu Falls
- 9 How Many Days Should I Camp at Havasu Falls?
- 10 Advice for Your First Time at Havasu Falls
Guide to Visiting Havasu Falls (Updated for 2018)
How to get a permit for Havasu Falls
Getting a reservation to visit and to camp in the Havasu Falls area is beyond challenging so an infinite amount of patience is required. Permits become available on February 1st and most of the permits for the upcoming 9-month season are booked up in the first week or so.
The reason the process is so frustrating is that you must call one of the 4 phone numbers for their office… over and over and over again. They don’t have a voicemail or call waiting (what year is it???) and so you get a busy signal every time you dial.
We never actually got through to anyone but by some stroke of luck, Nick read an article online that the tribe had quietly launched a new reservation website the day before. So he hopped online and grabbed up 3 nights of camping for midweek in March thinking it would be less busy. What we heard later was that the website crashed after a week because it wasn’t actually supposed to be launched until 2018 so it wasn’t ready to handle that amount of traffic just yet.
Update: As of 2018 there is a new website for online camp site reservations.
Rumor has it that they sell up to 300 permits per day in low season and 400 in the high season and weekends are obviously more popular than weekdays. We talked to one camper who had called just 2 weeks before and they had a a few dates available in March and only a few midweek 1-day permits during the month of April (and nothing during the summer months).
Hopefully the system improves in 2018 but be sure to mark February 1st on your calendar to either jump online or to start dialing!
Fees for Visiting Havasu Falls
Updated! 2018 Fees (these are all-in prices that include all permits, fees, and taxes for one person):
- One Person, 2 Days / 1 Night: $140.56
- One Person, 3 Days / 2 Nights: $171.11
- One Person, 4 Days / 3 Nights: $201.67
Also, the following nights carry an additional fee of $18.33 per person per night:
- Weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
- Holiday weekday nights (February 19, May 28, July 4, September 3, October 8)
- Spring Break weekday nights (March 5-8 and 19-22)
2017 Fees (not including taxes): Camping permit – $25 per person, per night Environmental fee – $10 per person Entrance fee – $50 per person All in all it cost us about $300 for 2 entrance fees and 3 nights of camping.
You can find up-to-date information on fees on the official Havasupai Tribe website.
Rules and Regulations
Honestly, we didn’t come across any outlandish rules other than “no alcohol”. What?!? Apparently they have an issue with alcoholism among the locals so they don’t want it anywhere near them. We heard a nasty rumor that they may come by your campsite in the evening hours to inspect your drink but we never encountered anyone and we were most certainly drinking our boxed wine every night (SHAME ON US!).
Also, you have to pack out all of your garbage and no campfires.
How to get to Havasu Falls
From the Havasupai parking area, it is approximately 8 miles to the village and then an additional 2 miles to Havasu Falls and to the start of the campground. There are several options for getting there; you can hike-in with all of your gear, you can hike-in and hire a horse to carry your gear for you, or you can take a helicopter ride.
Our original plan was to hike-in our gear but as we were gathering our belongings at 8:30am to start our hike we met a saint of a man who had paid the $120 to hire a horse but was only using 2 of the 4 allotted bag spots (the horses can carry up to 4 bags and/or 130 pounds). He offered us a deal we couldn’t refuse and we scrambled to throw stuff in smaller day hiking bags before taking off. The moral of that story is it’s worth talking to people when you arrive to see if you can strike the same deal!
The helicopter ride is offered for $85/person but in speaking with a lady who took that option, it sounds like you are only allowed one bag per person and are charged an additional cost per pound for bags weighing more than the allotted amount. We also heard that you have to get to the helicopter line early or you’ll end up waiting for hours. Locals get priority and apparently Thursday is payday so they all go to town to cash their checks.
As we were hiking out we saw loads of people waiting in line to get out and it didn’t look fun. We also saw a few people riding horses out of the canyon when we were hiking in but I didn’t meet anyone who did it and I have no idea what the cost would be. They all looked miserable (but probably not nearly as miserable as we did when we had to hike out).
From the parking lot, there is a 1.5-ish mile descent into the canyon via switchbacks. This is super fun and easy on the way there and sooooo miserable on the way out. Especially while carrying a 30-pound pack (why didn’t a saintly man offer us a killer horse deal on the way out?). The rest of the hike is through the canyon wash so it is fairly flat the entire way.
Once you get through the town you begin to see some epic waterfalls and swimming holes. It is very tempting to say “oh let’s go on to Havasu Falls and come back later”. Trust me, you won’t.
It’s so worth the stop, both on the way there and on your way back out. Once you’re at Havasu Falls it’s pretty unlikely you’ll want to head back to town (unless you need food or are staying at the lodge).
It is BEAUTIFUL and sunny at the top of Little Navajo Falls (Havasu Falls only got sun from about 11am-2pm while we were there and we figured that Mooney Falls never got any sunshine) so it is definitely worth the stop to soak in the rays.
It seems most people choose to start their hike out of the canyon on their last day early in the morning (around 5am) before the heat of the day. We actually opted to enjoy our morning coffee in our hammock and then stop for a swim at the top of Little Navajo Falls for another few hours and then start our hike out at around 3:30pm.
It was great; it was cool in the canyon and we hardly ran into anyone along our journey. However, as I mentioned before, that 1.5 miles of switchbacks was torture. But that’s going to suck no matter what time you leave. Case and point…
Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls
This is where I was confused at first. I was under the impression that these were completely separate trails and that each was it’s own day hike. That is incorrect. You actually have to hike through Mooney to get to Beaver Falls so most people do both in one day (if you do, you should definitely leave early in the am to get ample time at each).
The campsites are all between Havasu and Mooney (in fact, there were several people camped at the very top of Mooney) and the two falls are less than a mile from each other. And Beaver Falls is about another 2.3 miles one-way from Mooney.
But be forewarned, the hike down to Mooney Falls is not for the faint of heart. You must climb down a sheer cliff wall using ladders and chains for most of the way. And it’s muddy and slippery from the waterfall mist.
BUT once you get to the bottom you’ll know that it was all worth it. And it’s not as crazy as it feels at the time; there are chains to hold on to and hundreds of people (and children) do it everyday. Plus you can’t possibly have gone through all of this work to get to Havasu Falls and NOT see this part of the canyon.
The hike from Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls is fairly flat and easy enough. There are 3 river crossings which we did barefoot (most people we saw had some type of awful, ugly water shoes which were probably actually incredibly convenient) and some ladders and such but nothing crazy. And it is SO WORTH THE TRIP!!!
Hiking to Havasu Falls Without a Permit
The Havasupai tribe forbid day hiking and you’ll need a reservation for the campsite or the lodge to stay the night. Thinking of sneaking in? We were checked 4 times during our 4 days at the falls. The first was in the parking lot. A lady sitting in her car has a list of the names of all registered campers. Second, we were asked for our name by a random man on a horse during our hike to the village. He wrote it on a tiny pad of paper. Not sure exactly how he confirmed our reservation or what he would have done if he found out we didn’t have one.
We then checked-in at the Tourist Office in the village. This was the only place that we were asked for ID and only Nick was asked to provide photo ID because he was our “party leader” (you chose who is the party leader when you make the reservation). We were then each given a wristband and a tag to attach to the outside of our tent.
Lastly we came across a man waiting at the top of Beaver Falls who checked our wristbands and asked for our names. We chatted with him for a bit and I asked him about catching people sneaking in. He said a fair amount of people take a boat in from the Colorado River and then hike up the canyon which is about 4-ish miles to Beaver Falls.
I asked about what the penalty is for those folks and he said that they are either asked to turn back, or to stay on the Grand Canyon side (which is right below Beaver Falls), or they are just required to pay the entrance fee of ~$75. Nothing too serious. He seemed friendly and talkative and certainly not out to get anyone.
There are disgusting, horrifying port-o-potties at the trailhead parking lot as well as 3 decent compost toilets. There are no toilets along the canyon trail.
We did not take a look at the Havasupai Lodge but we heard from a woman who was staying there that they were super basic – no microwave, no refrigerator, and no tv (why would you need a tv in paradise?). But she said there were a few hibachis for cooking. If you choose to stay at the lodge, be aware that it is located in the village which is 2 miles from Havasu Falls.
So that adds an additional 4 miles roundtrip to any adventure you choose for the day. Beaver Falls becomes a 9 mile round-trip trek as opposed to the 5 miles that we walked from the campground.
There are 2 restaurants in the village, 2 grocery stores, and 1 post office. We ate at the restaurant that was just outside of the village on our way out, we had the Supai Cheeseburger and the Grande Nachos. Both were awesome. They also sell fry bread, hot dogs, and tacos at the entrance to the campground.
The campsites are first come, first served which I was rather concerned about on our hike in. I figured we would be late and be stuck by the stinky bathrooms. Turns out there is plenty of room for everyone, so no reason to fret. We chose a spot across the river so we had to cross a pretty sketchy bridge at least twice daily but it was worth it to avoid being right next to the trail.
The campsite was really large and we put some inconspicuous gear on the picnic table one campsite over to look like people were considering camping there so we not only had amazing views but also plenty of privacy (again, shame on us!).
We did hear that during peak season, people are so packed in that they have to pitch their tent in the middle of the trail. But really, who cares? You don’t need to hang out there when you’re surrounded by so much beauty.
We purchased a 4-gallon collapsible water container prior to the hike because we were a bit worried about how convenient the one natural spring would be to our campsite. Turns out it is super conveniently located and only a short walk from every campsite (maybe a 15 minute walk, max). So we probably didn’t actually need it but it was pretty convenient for washing dishes and for making our morning coffee.
The compost toilets in the campground are actually really nice and not at all stinky. They are conveniently located and well stocked with toilet paper (no need to bring your own).
What to Pack for Havasu Falls
For the most part, we prepared for this hike exactly the way we prepare for every multi-day trek; backpacking tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 sleeping pads, 2 inflatable pillows, lightweight cookware, onions, peppers, carrots, 3 pasta-ish meals… you get the point.
We were also sure to bring twine to hang our food and garbage from a tree as we’d heard that the squirrels there are tiny terrors. And as it turns out, the rumors are true. We had our garbage rummaged through and our poor neighbors had a backpack chewed through. You can find our complete guide to packing for Havasu Falls here.
How Many Days Should I Camp at Havasu Falls?
Honestly, no matter how many days you stay at Havasu Falls it will never feel like enough. You can make it as relaxing or adventurous as you want. We chose to spend 3 nights there and we made the most of every day. We arrived to the trailhead really early and started our hike in around 8:30am, arrived by 12:00pm, spent the afternoon swimming above Little Navajo Falls, and the evening enjoying Havasu Falls.
We were up on day 2 at 7:00am to get an early start hiking out to Beaver Falls. We stopped a lot along the way for photos and then had the falls all to ourselves for an hour or so before the crowd arrived.
Day 3 we made our coffee by Havasu Falls and then locked down an ideal picnic table and lounged in our giant cherry floaty for most of the afternoon.
Day 4 we were back to the swimming holes around Little Navajo Falls and then had lunch in the village and started our trek back around 3:30pm.
It was a nice mix of strenuous activity and relaxation and was absolutely the perfect vacation.
Advice for Your First Time at Havasu Falls
We would most definitely advise you to find some folks to split a horse with to pack your bags out on your last day. It is exhausting and torturous. We would also probably hire a horse to pack your bags in and bring WAY more fun floaties and beer (but keep it hidden!) and bathing suits. And instead of 4 days, we would stay for a full week, or two, or three. Or never return to real life…
Got questions? Want more info? We’re happy to share everything we got! Hit us up in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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