Planning a trip to Havasu Falls
Dreaming of hiking through the desert red rocks to a beautiful blue waterfall? You’re not the only one! One of my bucket list experiences was to hike and experience Havasu Falls! I was lucky enough to hike to this fall in September 2017 for my 25th birthday. I began planning to visit months in advance and wasn’t even sure if I would get to go. As it is not the easiest task to visit the falls, this post here will outline the steps to help you start planning a trip to Havasu Falls.
This beautiful fall is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Many flock to visit this waterfall every year, and with the hype the falls have gotten through social media, its popularity continues to grow. However, it is not as simple as showing up to the trailhead and making your way there. In order to get to Havasupai, where Havasu falls is located, you need a permit and are required to stay a minimum of three nights. Obtaining a permit itself can also be a bit of a headache.
If you’re looking to visit Havasu Falls, this post is perfect for you. I outline what you need to know about the falls and reservations, as well as the steps needed to visit. By following these steps, planning your Havasu Falls trip doesn’t need to be as complicated as it seems. Planning a Havasu Falls trip can happen easily with the proper planning!
UPDATE: Havasupai has extended its Temporary Tourism Suspension through June 2022
Ready to visit the Havasu Falls? Here is my outline for planning a trip!
Overview of Havasupai
Havasu Falls is in the Havasupai lands in Arizona and part of the Havasu Creek.
Havasupai is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but not part of the national park. To protect their land, the Havasupai tribe put a limit on the number of people that can visit.
Supai village is in the Havasupai Indian Reservation and has a small population. You can only access Supai by foot, horse, or helicopter. Supai is eight miles from the Hualapai Hilltop through the Hualapai Canyon. There is also about a 2,004-foot change in elevation as you descend.
The beautiful color that comes from the waterfall is the high calcium carbonate is what creates that blue-green color. While Havasu Falls is the widely known falls, there are three other main falls including: Navajo Falls, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls.
Havasu Falls is located about 1.8 miles from the Supai village.
Must Know before visiting Havasupai
It is not an easy task to visit Havasupai, where you must go to visit Havasu Falls. Below is list of things to know before visiting.
1. You need a permit to visit Havasupai. Permits open February 1st at 8:00 AM (Arizona time) and are a first come first serve basis. This will secure your campground reservation for the time you want to go.
2. You must stay a minimum of 3 nights/4 days in Havasupai. Meaning you cannot hike in and out in 1 day.
3. You can only reach Supai Village by foot, horse, or helicopter. (Helicopters are not a reliable transport option for getting to the village). More often or not then, the only way to reach is to make the 10-mile trek in and out.
4. The two places to stay are camping at the Havasupai Campgrounds or at the Havasupai Lodge. The campgrounds are about along Havasu Creek and allow up to 350 people per night (one thing to note is that there are no assigned sites, so you can set up where you want). You must make reservations in advance if you want to stay at the lodge, and it is in the Supai village which is 1.8 miles from Havasu Falls.
5. The campgrounds are open February 1 – November 30.
Before you start planning
Before you begin planning a Havasu Falls trip, it is important to see if this hike is one you can do.
The hike to Havasu Falls on the Havasupai trail is no easy task. It is 10 miles in each direction with the first mile heading downhill with a lot of switchbacks. While the downhill hike is not as strenuous, it makes the hike back out for the last mile quite difficult. Depending on the time of year you go, the heat can make the hike harder as the trail does not carry much shade.
While it is a bit difficult to quantify the level of this hike, many go with moderate. However, it is all based on your experience level. For me, the hardest part was handling the heat for the long trek.
Make sure to train in advance. While I found it a bit difficult as a beginner hiker, the views and experience made it worth it. It is important to prepare and be physically able to make the trek to Havasu Falls. Make sure you are capable of hiking at least 20 miles during your trip. If you are not fit enough to hike this trail, you will be too tired to enjoy the falls on arrival.
Plan Havasupai first, then everything after
Once you determine that this is a hike you can do and feel comfortable training for, the real planning for your Havasu Falls trip begins!
I knew I wanted to do Havasu Falls for my birthday trip, along with visiting Arizona overall. But, before beginning to plan anything else, I confirmed my Havasupai trip first.
Planning to visit Havasupai can take a year or so in advance. If you do not get a permit or are able to book a tour for that year, you will have to wait till next year to visit. Permits open at the beginning of the year and run out quick, and tour companies often get booked quickly.
One cannot make a last-minute decision while already in Arizona to make a visit to the Havasu Falls. You will need a permit and a reservation that you obtain in the beginning of the year. On top of that, it is a 10-mile hike in, requires 3-night minimum stay, and a 10-mile hike out. There is a helicopter that can take you 8 miles which also requires planning, but it is not as reliable. In addition, the Havasupai Indian Reservation is about 3 hours from Flagstaff, AZ. Make sure to plan!
Because of the difficulty and prep time required to visit the falls, it is important once you decide that you want to go, to confirm your Havasupai trip first. I’ll go over how to book permits, reservation, tour guides, etc. in the next sections.
If you want to plan other sites to see in Arizona for before or after your Havasu Falls trip, be sure to check my post Top Sites in Arizona in 1 Week.
Most Important - Havasupai Permit Process!
If you choose to hike to Havasu Falls on your own, you must obtain a permit for the Havasupai campground.
The Havasupai Tribal Council releases its permits on February 1st at 8:00 AM Arizona time every year. You can apply to purchase a permit is through the Official Havasupai Reservation Website or via phone. The permits will have your campground reservation dates (which will be a minimum of 3-nights/4-days).
Create your account on the website before the February 1st date and have all your information ready to go so that you can book your reservations as soon as the permits release. It is important to be ready to book as soon as 8:00 AM on February 1st to try and secure a spot.
It is sometimes difficult to reach anyone through the phone, I recommend going through the website for an easier process.
The website also shows a list of campground cancellations that updates every day at 8:00 AM (Arizona time). You can then purchase a cancelled reservation. There is also a section to reserve a pack mule after getting a campground reservation.
Be patient when it comes to getting a permit. There is a chance you might not get one for that year. Permits sell out early and quickly, however do not give up hope! If you’re not able to go on the first try, keep trying for the next year if it is a dream to hike to Havasu Falls.
When I went to book in 2017, you could only purchase a permit via phone. I was unable to obtain a permit, however I did get lucky to book a tour guide that takes you to Havasu Falls. In the next section I go over booking through a tour guide.
Another options is using a Tour Guide Company
If you are unable to get a permit for the Havasupai Campground Reservation, all is not lost. I was able to book a tour guide which will take you to Havasu Falls.
Like the permits, tour guides also fill up quickly, but if you are not able to obtain a permit and are willing to spend a little more money, tour guides are also an option.
As I was not an experienced hiker or camper, using a tour guide made the process and actual hike easier. In addition to obtaining our permits and reservations for us, they brought all the camping gear in via horses. This allowed us to carry only our personal items while hiking to the campsite.
We used this guided hiking tour company here. I really enjoyed this tour company and would recommend them!
Taking a helicopter in?
I’ve included this helicopter option because it is a way to get to Havasupai. However, it is not the most reliable option and can come with risks.
One can take the helicopter from the Hualapai Hilltop, located in the main parking area.
The helicopter works on a first come, first served basis. They begin at 10:00 AM and lines will usually begin to form. There is no guarantee that you will get on the helicopter once you reach the Hualapai Hilltop, possibility losing all the time waited.
If you do get a helicopter ride, the ride will take you into Supai. From Supai it is still a two-mile hike to the Havasu Falls.
As with getting a helicopter into Supai, the helicopter coming out of Supai is not a guarantee. This can leave you stuck in Supai with limited lodging if you are unable to stay at the campground.
On our visit we ran into a couple that had stayed at least two days waiting to get a helicopter out of Supai. They chose not to hike out as they were an elderly couple and did not want to handle the hard trek out. However, they were stuck staying at the only lodging in Supai while they had to try every day to get a ride out.
Prepping for your trip
The “hard” part is done once you have your booking for your Havasupai permit or tour guide! It’s now time to start prepping for your trip!
As I mentioned before, it is important before booking to make sure you are physically able to handle to the hike. Once you book everything, it is still important to train to prep for your hike.
This trek overall is 20 miles roundtrip. You’ll need to be able to hike 10 miles into Havasupai the desert sun. In addition, if you are carrying your gear in, you will have to hike those 10 miles with all your gear. The first mile is downhill with a lot of switchbacks, but the rest of the hike is relatively flat. On your way out, it is the same 10 miles out with all your gear.
The last mile out was the hardest for me as it was the hottest part of the day going uphill with lots of switchbacks.
In addition to being physically able to hike, you’ll need to make sure you have all the proper gear to visit the falls.
By booking through a tour guide, we did not have to carry everything as the tour company carried the tents and food via a horse. We still needed to carry in our personal items. However, if you come on your own and don’t have a mule reservation, you’ll have to carry all your own stuff.
I’m working on a packing guide for this trip and will update it here soon for all the essentials you will need for your trip!