Updated: Jun 19, 2019
Elizabeth Koehler | June 15th, 2018
Over the past few years, Havasu Falls, which is located in the Grand Canyon on the Havasupai Reservation, has blown up in popularity. And why wouldn’t it? Bright turquoise waters and awesome waterfalls fill the canyon, making this place a backpackers and photographers dream. But before you pack your bags, there’s a few things to know – because getting to Havasu is anything but easy! With the closest airports around 4 hours away, and another 10 mile hike just to get to your campsite, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have all the necessary equipment and your permit. But fear not – Havasu is great for first time backpackers. There's water sources, it’s easy to pack light, and the Supai village has various food, drinks, and other items to buy if you really need something.
Getting your permit
If you’re not a planner, you’re going to need to become one for this trip. Campground reservations are available from February 1st to November 30th, and go live at February 1st at 8 AM Arizona Time. (Pay attention to this - Arizona doesn't follow Daylight Savings Time!) Be ready to act fast, and have a few dates on hand – and two people trying for those dates if possible. 2017 was the first year reservations were available online (previously you’d have to call and wait for the busy tone to go away), but the system definitely isn’t perfect. Keep clicking on dates (they’ll disappear and reappear) until you get one, and don’t give up hope (we hope this is fixed in 2018!). You can also try calling, try the website at later dates (spots from people who have given up their reservations might appear) or you can join some of the various Facebook groups to try and buy permits. The site says they’re not transferable or refundable so be weary, but in 2018 plenty of people were selling permits and transferring the names for a fee. You can also only book for two people at a time, but call the office for group reservations. Click here to reserve!
*2018 edit. It's now necessary to pre register and make an account prior to making a reservation. Do it earlier than reservation to save time and stress! Click here to do so.
How to get there
The most popular way to get to Havasu is by flying into Las Vegas or Phoenix, then driving another 4 hours. There’s not a shuttle service, so you’ll need to rent a car. Don’t worry about renting something with 4WD, the roads are all paved to get there! Directions to the Trailhead are here.
On your way in, the closet places to eat are in Seligman, Arizona, off Route 66. There's a handful of kooky shops, cafes, and bars where you can get your last 'real meal' and a cold beer.
It’s recommended that you get as close to the trailhead as possible the night before. About an hour out is the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn, but a popular choice is to sleep in your car or tent right outside of the trailhead. It’s the best way to get an easy, fast start.
If you’re in the area and want to make a road trip out of it, you can definitely add on more National Parks and monuments – Zion, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Grand Staircase, Lake Powell, and so much more are in the surrounding areas! Check out our guide on National Parks here for more info.
The hike to Havasu isn’t for the faint of heart. Over two days, it’s easy to cover 30+ miles if you want to see all the waterfalls, and even more if you want to hike the extra 10 mile round trip to the Colorado River. We started our hike in at 3 AM to beat the heat, but hiked out in the middle of the day – which we wouldn’t recommend. Temperatures in the canyon in the summer can reach over 100 degrees, there’s no water, and the last 1.5 miles of steep switchbacks is grueling.
However, if you’re feeling luxurious, you can take a helicopter in and or out of Havasu. It costs $85 each way, and the flight is about 15 minutes. However, it’s first come first serve, and the tribe members are accommodated before backpackers. You can also choose just to fly out your bag for $20. Unfortunately there’s no schedule listed at this time, so if you’re interested in this, find someone in the village to tell you exactly where to be and at what time.
A good backpack: For backpacking, you’ll probably want a backpack from 50 to 70 liters. We recommend going to REI or a local camping store to find one that will fit your body type and height. This will definitely be larger than a typical traveling backpack.
A day pack: You won’t want to carry all your gear at all times, so strap on your day back to the back of your large backpack, or shove it inside. This is perfect to carry your water, snacks, hammock etc to waterfalls outside of camp.
Hiking boots: The canyon is rocky, and hiking boots will protect your ankles from rolling.
Water shoes: Especially if hiking to Beaver Falls, you’ll complete multiple river crossings. You don’t want to hike out in wet boots, and protecting your feet from sharp rocks is important!
Clothes – varied per season: You won’t need a lot. Underwear, shorts, and dry wicking shirts. Wear t-shirts instead of tank tops to prevent your backpack digging into your shoulders.
Bathing suits: Because water, duh. Some of our favorites include Watercolors by Kenny Flowers (use code TRAVELOGUE for 15% off) and BOLD swim, where all of their bikinis are made from sustainably sourced materials! (20% off with code TRAVELOGUE)
Camping stove and propane tank: No open fires are allowed.
Water tablets (just in case)
Headlamp: Necessary if hiking in or out at night, and for around your campsite.
Life straw: A life straw is a necessity for day hikes. If you run out of water, you can dip it into the river and it will filter out impurities. Don’t drink water out of the river, only the drinking well at camp!
Eno: To sleep, sit, or nap in.
Random toiletries: Wipes are your best friend when camping.
Lightweight towel: Like a yoga towel - don't bring one from your bathroom, they're too bulky!
Band aids/ first aid kit
Sleeping bag: Only if you’re going in the colder months.
Sleeping pad: Because the ground is hard.
Paracord: To lift up your pack off the ground to keep it clean from critters.
Cooking utensils: You’ll want a pot or pan to boil water or cook food, and bowls / silverware to eat it!
Dry sack: To protect your electronics during river crossings.
Trash bags: Pack out what you pack in!! Don’t leave ANY trash at your campsite.
Various electronics: Your camera, portable charger, etc.
Floatie: Because why not?
Navajo/Fifty Foot: These are the first glimpses of the blue waterfalls you’ll see! It means you’re getting close to camp. Many people skip visiting these waterfalls because they’re tired, but you can swim and explore these just like the others.
Havasu Falls: The beautiful and original. Great for swimming, and has side trails for exploring.
Mooney Falls: Extremely powerful and huge, to get the proper view of Mooney you’ll have to scramble through tunnels and climb down ladders to get here! Trust us, it’s worth it.
Beaver Falls: The map says it’s only 2 extra miles to Beaver, but it’s more like 3-4. You can keep hiking to the Colorado River from here.
If going in the summer, sleep in a hammock. It’s still HOT at night! A hammock is nice and breezy and is even lighter to take than a tent.
Stop at the local convenient store on your way in or out. They have cold / frozen drinks, and snacks. It’s overpriced but worth it to support the local tribe, and cool off.
Bring cash! At the top of the campsite, you can buy Frye bread (tastes kind of like a funnel cake) with a bunch of different toppings! Be aware - they will sell out, so go early.
Bring a small floatie! Not only will you have fun pictures to take, it’s super relaxing.
Hike in or out at night or early morning. Hiking out in the middle of the day with all of your stuff for 10 miles can be grueling. Make sure to pack a headlamp if you decide to do this, and don’t hike at night during flooding season (July and August). We started our hike at 3 AM to get in and got there by 6:30 to have an awesome campsite.
Don’t stop at the first campsites you see! Keep walking to get even better ones that are right on the water.
Grab a bucket when you get into camp – this will prevent animals from getting into your food.
Beat the crowds – wake up early! If you want to enjoy the solitude, wake up around 6 or 7 AM and head straight to Mooney or Havasu Falls. Eat breakfast at a picnic table, take photos without people in them, and soak it all in.
Bring a wide brimmed hat – not just a baseball hat. You’ll thank yourself when hiking and you have your own little ring of shade.
Take your hammock on your day hike to Beaver falls! There’s plenty of stop offs and little pools where you can hang it up and take a nap.
Regardless of how broken in your shoes are, you’re going to get blisters. Bring band aids or blister shields!
Leave snacks and a change of clothes in your car. You’re going to want to take off your sweaty shirt and eat something before the 4 hour drive to civilization.
If you’re packing in MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), make sure you look at the sodium content. Some of them are PACKED with salt and that won’t make you feel great. Look for brands with natural ingredients and less preservatives – it’s worth the extra 5 dollars.