Havasupai Falls: Top 20 Things You Need to Know

The girls hanging out at Havasupai Falls

The girls hanging out at Havasu Falls

OVERVIEW: I just returned from a 4 night stay in Havasupai. Our group consisted of 13 avid hikers from Salt Lake City. We left SLC at 3PM MST on Wednesday and arrived at the Havasupai trail head at 12:45AM PST. We pulled up and parked along the canyon leading up to the trail head. Within 10 minutes we had pulled out our sleeping bags and pads and were ready to sleep for the next 4 hours.

When the sun started to come up around 5AM we packed up and were on the trail by 5:45. We had reserved mules to carry our larger packs and would make the 10 mile hike with a small day pack. The office opened at 5AM and the packs would be delivered to the campground by 5PM. (They arrived about 3PM)

We spent our 2nd day hiking to Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, and for some of us all of the way to the Colorado River. During our stay a small flash flood came through and turned our crystal clear water into a chocolate brown color that takes 48 hours to clear.

On our return Sunday morning our packs needed to be at the entrance of the campground by 7AM and would arrive at the trail head between 10 and noon. We departed the campground on Sunday morning at 7AM and arrived at the trail head by 11AM. The final 1.5 miles of the trail is a steep incline and is no fun during the heat of the day. To beat the heat you should try and leave camp before 6AM.

Our packs arrived by mule at the same time we finished hiking and we were on the road within 30 minutes. There was a small food truck with scones and Gatorade for purchase, but we were ready to get home. The nearest town is about an hour and a half away and though we planned to shower at a truck stop we didn’t see any showers until Vegas and by then we were used to the smell. =) We were back in Salt Lake City by 10:30PM MST on Sunday night. I felt like this was the perfect amount of time to spend in the area and a great way to see everything.

1) PERMITS: Permits are $35 per person. (as of 7/4/13). Permits become available in February for the upcoming year. A local advised me that the best time to visit is end of April first of May. Great weather and less people. You will pick up your permit at the Tourist Office in the Supai Village (8 miles from the trail head). You will wear your permit on your wrist during the entire stay and will be asked multiple times by security to verify you have a permit.

2) TRAIL HEAD: The tail head is called Hualapai Hilltop.  There is no water at the hilltop, however there is a bathroom. Everyone camps along the road on pads or in cars. Some hike down while it is still dark to avoid the heat.

3) MULES: Our group rented 3 mules which carry 4 x 30 lb packs each. The 13 of us split the cost which ended up being $57 pp round-trip. You drop off your packs beginning at 5AM at the trail head office. You pick up your pack before 5PM at the campground. You must return your pack to the entrance of the campground by 7AM the day of your departure and they will arrive at the trail head between 10am and noon. You will need a black sharpie to write your group name on the tags that are placed on all of the bags. My friend Scott also suggested putting a strip of duct tape on each pack with your group name since the packs are not covered when they are taken down by the mules and tags are known to fall off.

4) HELICOPTER: As of 7/8/2013, the cost is $85 per person each way. (includes 1 bag) The trail to the campground is down a beautiful canyon with plenty of coverage from the sun as long as you leave before 9AM. Some people choose to hike in and fly out. This is a great option. The only concern would be that you do not know when your flight will depart. You arrive at the Tourism Office located in the Supai Village by 10AM to put your name on a wait list. (Some arrive as early as 5AM to get in line) The locals are allowed on the plane first and then it goes by wait list. Though the flight is only 7-10 minutes there have been times that passengers do not arrive to the trail head until 3-5PM.

5) CAMPGROUND: Camping is $17 per person per night. The campground has Havasu Falls on one end and Mooney Falls on the other end with the creek running down the center. You will want to arrive at the campground as early as possible to get one of the best spots along the river however none of the campsites are bad. During the rainy season you will want to camp away from the canyon wall where rocks have been known to slip. You will also need to find sites that are considered “high ground” if there are any flash flood warnings.

6) THE LODGE: There is a lodge located in the village that would provide lodging if you are uncomfortable with camping. However, the village is 2 miles from the creek and the falls and this is not a good option if you are wanting great scenery. I would not recommend staying in Supai Village.

Click here to reserve your permit, the lodge, mules, helicopter and the campground. **NOTE** – Take any of your confirmation paperwork with you. We had a lot of mix ups on our trip and they didn’t have any of the correct info. However, they were nice and fixed everything easily.

7) WATERFALLS:

50 Foot Falls (1 mile from village)

50 Foot Falls (1 mile from village)

Little Navajo Falls: 1.25 miles from village

Little Navajo Falls: 1.25 miles from village

Havasu Falls: 2 miles from village and .15 miles ft from campground

Havasu Falls: 2 miles from village and .15 miles ft from campground

Mooney Falls (.15 miles from campground at opposite end)

Mooney Falls: .25 miles from campground

Beaver Falls - 3 miles from the campground

Beaver Falls – 3 miles from the campground

8) DRINKING WATER: You will need 2-3 liters to make it from the trail head to the Supai Village. (8 miles) In the village you will have access to water at the tourist office and inside the cafe. You will also have a fresh spring in the campground (2 miles). We never needed to filter water. I suggest bringing a bucket for transporting water from the spring to your site for meal time.

9) WEATHER: My group visited over the 4th of July weekend. Weather was 100 degrees during the day and 80 degrees at night. We had flash flood warnings while we were there. One storm changed the water from blue to dark brown which takes about 48 hours to clear. These storms are more common in August. Campers were told to sleep on areas of the campground marked as high ground. We had a few small rain storms and a few short wind storms. Make sure to avoid areas with tall trees during wind storms and the canyon walls during rain storms.

10) MEDICAL: You will sign a waiver when you arrive at the tourist office that advises you that you will not have medical services while on the reservation. However, there is a small clinic in the village and security that can call for help in case of major emergencies. You should have a good first-aide kit amongst your group with items for blisters and bug bites. In case of an emergency, do not expect to be out of the campground in under 2-3 hours. We witnessed an emergency and were shocked at how long it took to get someone with a broken back to the hospital. Be careful.

11) SUPPLIES: Backpacking pack with removable day pack, backpacking hammock, small towel, jet boil, coffee cup, silverware, pocket knife, rope, garbage bags, playing cards and 3 liter bladder for each person.

12) FOOD: There is a small grocery store and cafe in the village. You can buy almost anything you need and the prices are reasonable even though everything in the village is flown in by helicopter. We stopped for a breakfast burrito on our way in and the cost was $8.50. Suggested items for your camp food would be: instant coffee, instant oatmeal, peanut butter and honey sandwich’s, granola bars, Gatorade packets, freeze dried meals for dinner, trail mix, fruit snacks and dried fruit. During our stay there was a small tent set-up at the campground entrance where a local woman was selling some amazing scones and bottles of water for $5.

13) ALCOHOL: No alcohol is allowed anywhere on reservation land. Federal officers can ask to check your pack at anytime and any alcohol will be dumped out and fines issued. Attempt to sneak it in at your own risk.

14) CLOTHING: 3 night stay = 2 pairs of shorts, two quick dry tank tops or t-shirts, 1 long sleeve quick dry shirt, 3 pairs of socks, swimming suit, 3 pairs of under wear, and a poncho or small compact rain jacket. Hiking shoes, flip flops, and water shoes are all worth bringing.

Just enjoying some of the many waterfalls

Just enjoying some of the many waterfalls

15) CREEK: Havasu Creek runs from Supai Village all the way to the Colorado River. The water is clear blue and gorgeous. You feel like your on a tropical jungle vacation as you hike from the campground to the Colorado River. The water stays at about 70 °F (21 °C) all year around. The creek is well known for its blue-green color and distinctive travertine formations. This is due to large amounts of calcium carbonate in the water that formed the limestone that lines the creek and reflects its color so strongly. Be careful with cameras and clean them regularly. A white film will cover everything and can ruin your equipment.

16) HIKING: A. The trail to the Havasupai campground takes about 4 hours to hike 10 miles. The trail is mainly downhill or flat. I would rate it a beginner trail while carrying a day-pack. If you start by 545 AM you will avoid the majority of the heat. On the return trip you will be going uphill and will have a 1.5 mile steep hike at the very end. To avoid the heat on this final stretch you should leave camp by 6AM.

B. When hiking from camp to Beaver Falls you have two options. 1) A trail that stays on high ground and has very few views of the creek but will get you to the falls quickly. 2) Head straight up the river from Mooney Falls. You will enjoy dozens of mini water falls along the way that are perfect for jumping off and the water is normally no higher than 3 ft, however the river can be slippery and difficult to navigate at certain points. The nice thing is that you can easily access the trail if you need it. *NOTE: Bring water shoes that are very comfortable. My friend suggests wearing socks with your water shoes to help avoid blisters.

C. The hike to the Colorado River is 7 miles from the campground. Head towards Mooney Falls and follow the trail all the way to the Colorado River. You will cross back and forth from one side of Havasu Creek to the other. The trail will end on one side and you will notice a cairn on the opposite side of the creek that will get you back on the trail. It is a very simple system and it would be difficult to lose your way.

Our Group

Our Group

17) BUGS: Mosquitoes and spiders are abundant and I highly recommend repellent.

18) TRASH: They tell you on the official website that you will need to pack out all of your own trash so be prepared to do so. However, they took our trash from us at the entrance to the campground when we dropped off our packs for the mules.

19) HOTEL vs. CAR CAMPING: Our group car camped at the trail head however my friend Scott suggests staying at the Peach Springs Best Western on Route 66. The cost to split a room is low and they allow you to shower on your way back for $10.

20) ENTERTAINMENT: Havasu Falls turns into an adult playground during the day and you will see as many as 70-80 people hanging out at the base of the falls. Our group brought along some float toys to lounge around in. You’ll feel like your at a Caribbean resort. (minus the Pina Colada’s) Card games are also a great source of entertainment at the campsite after a long day of hiking. Camp gets dark around 8:30PM in July.

Overall this was an amazing trip and should be on everyone’s bucket list!

~Amy McNeill
@amyatravelguru

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38 thoughts on “Havasupai Falls: Top 20 Things You Need to Know

  1. Thanks, Amy! Going back to Supai for the first time in 22 years (after going 6 consecutive years back then). Thanks for reminding me of all the stuff I used to know and had sort of forgotten– like bringing a raft! I appreciate the detailed post! –Tim

  2. Hiya, 😄 I’m a first time havasupai hiker and I’m a bit scared to hike due to flash floods. I’ve seen some pretty crazy videos of floods and I would. It want to go through that. Did you experience ve anything? Also, does anyone warn you when to leave the campground in case of a flood?

    • We had a flash flood while we were there and they did a good job about warning people to leave areas before anything struck. One came through while we were sleeping and the security woke everyone up and had them get to higher ground. My camp was on higher ground so I didn’t get woken up and didn’t even know it had happened until the next day when the water turned brown for the next 48-72 hours.

  3. I’ve gone the first weekend in October for the past six years. I’m going again next week. It gets cold in the evening. I usually bring a sweatshirt and sweatpants and sleep in a sleeping bag. It’s perfect weather during the day usually in the 70’s. I also bring warm clothes for sleeping in my car the night before I hike, Temperatures at the top of the canyon are comparable to Flagstaff. Have a great trip!

  4. Thanks for this! I’m planning a trip for my 30th in the beginning of July. People have been warning me of monsoons and flash floods so it scared me a bit, but after reading your post, I think we’ll be just fine 🙂

    • I do not remember bugs being an issue. I did get some sand bugs on my toes by dragging my feet in the dirt while swinging from my hammock but I don’t remember bugs attacking me while sleeping at all. Hope that helps.

  5. Just wanted to say that this is one of the most detailed and helpful trip reports that I have been able to find regarding a backpacking trip to the falls. I will be leading a Boy Scout Troop (32 people) to the falls at the beginning of April and really appreciate this information to help plan the trip. Thanks!

  6. Hey Amy,

    Great post!! I am planning to go to Havasu for the first time in some weeks. I have sorted out all the information except for restrooms. Do they have regular restrooms?

    Thanks,
    Chai

  7. This is a great trip report, Amy. I am planning a trip to the falls this June with my girlfriend and this report answers all the questions I was struggling with. Thanks.

  8. Okay, camp sites are booked and I am really sad to have just found out about this place! I wanted to go during my cross country trip! Are you allowed to camp around the area if you have a permit?? Do you have to camp on a campsite? I’d love to visit it! I just don’t know if I could do it all in a day

  9. Hey AMY, I’m trying to go for the first time. How did someone break their back, cliff jumping? I want to do that there, do you have to watch out for it being shallow? Hit me back I want to you some questions

      • For sure any advice on what to watch out for or what you brought for food or did you drunk straight from the stream?

        Sent from my iPhone

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      • Ok so it’s not too bad. My Cali friends are coming and there all surfers so they shouldn’t have s problem just wondering how hot it’s going to be. I just red rock canyon I’m hoping it won’t be like 100 degrees. Oh yah, how long in advance do you have to make a reservation to get approved?

        Sent from my iPhone

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      • There is enough water and shade that heat was not an issue until we hiked the last mile on our way out of the canyon. Straight up for a mile with no shade. Most people leave as early as possible to avoid the mid-day heat. Most of the permits are sold out by March. You’ll want to reserve a pass ASAP if you want this summer. You can’t get near the falls without a permit. Good luck!

    • I have no idea how they would have gotten away with camping there. It’s patrolled constantly and I’m not sure how they even got up there. The photo is gorgeous though. Thank you for sharing!!

  10. Amy, we are going on the 13th of July for 5 days and you said bring Mosquito repellent because Mosquitoes and spiders are abundant yet on one of the questions asked above about mosquito netting you said you don’t remember bugs being an issue? Just a little confused are there mosquitoes at night around the camps?

    • To be honest I don’t remember it being a huge problem except at night when I was eaten by the little sand bugs when I was draping my legs over the hammock. However, if it was stated in the original post I would go with that since it was written immediatly after my trip. =)

  11. If you take the helicopter, you (and your bag) will be dropped off in Supai. The campground is a rough 2 mile walk, so consider putting your bag/backpack on a mule which is delivered to the campground. Also, when riding a horse out, realize that they run most of the way – the saddles and stirrups are not the best — so if you are not in shape, take a helicopter out. I fell off the horse and had severe injuries.

  12. Could anyone tell if it would be suitable for jumping from the cliff during November/December? I mean swimming. Also, what is the depth of the Huvasu falls?

    • I never jumped, but had people in my group jump and they felt safe. Not sure of the exact depth. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it because your 8-10 hours into a canyon and medical services are VERY LIMITED. When we were there a windstorm came through camp and knocked a tree branch down on top of campers and killed one person and injured others. The rescue services took a long time and it was very difficult to get the injured out of the canyon.

  13. We are going next May and cannot wait! I just booked the lodge the other day but I forgot to ask about permits. Do permits automatically come with booking, I notice you pay once you get there, but I just wanted to make sure!

    • I did not stay at the lodge so I am not sure it includes permits. You are not required to have a permit to get to the lodge so it might not include them. The actual falls are 2 miles further than the lodge.

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