The Havasupai Falls Hike: Your Guide to the Ultimate US Bucket-List Hiking Experience

This guest post is brought to you by My Flying Leap, a travel blog thrilling readers with the best travel tips and inspiration to explore the world outside of your comfort zone. As a local Arizona expert, Sam is excited to share her experience on the amazing Havasupai Falls hike; one of the very best hikes in all of the United States!

Havasu Canyon

Not far from the famous Grand Canyon there is another canyon known for its breathtaking waterfalls, called Havasu Canyon. It’s not as well known as the Grand Canyon though it’s every bit as beautiful. Its most special features are the stunning aquamarine waterfalls.

This canyon is part of the Havasupai Native American Indian tribe. The Havasupai, meaning “people of the blue-green waters,” are the guardians of the canyon and this land is considered sacred by the Tribe. When you do this hike, you do so with their approval so be sure to be respectful of the residents and their land.

It’s a challenging hike and would be considered moderate-to-difficult for most. It is ten miles from the trailhead to the waterfalls and begins with a climb down switchbacks to the canyon floor. There, you hike through the silty riverbed to the Supai village. From the village, it’s an additional two miles to the campground where you will find Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. The stunning falls make the effort of the hike well worth the trip.

Why You Should Do the Havasupai Falls Hike

Turquoise falls spilling out of striking red rock. A canyon painted in a kaleidoscope of colours ranging from tan and rich dark brown, and amber to red that shifts to purples, pinks, and blues with the changing sun. If this sounds appealing, and it should, this is why you should do the Havasupai hike in Arizona.

The trailhead to the Havasupai hike is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Phoenix. There are a lot of fun things to do in Phoenix so it’s worth including at least a couple of days to explore the city.

Do I Need a Havasu Falls Permit to Do the Havasupai Falls Hike?

More than 20,000 people do this hike every year. In order to receive approval to hike on these Native American lands, you must secure a permit in advance of your trip.

Though it sounds easy, getting a spot is not.

Permits are available through the Havasupai Reservations website. They go on sale starting on February 1st at 8 a.m. and they sell out fast. It’s a good idea to fill out your profile in advance of the opening date and to have several date options ready. Given the high volume of people who go to the website, it is prone to going down so be patient and keep trying.

Remember, it is essential that you have a permit to complete the Havasupai falls hike.

Where You Should Stay for the Havasupai Hike

In addition to selecting dates, you also need to decide where you will stay when you purchase a hiking permit. The best place to stay, in my opinion, is in the Havasupai Campground right by the falls. It is a bit rustic, though, and the only services available are composting toilets and a small spout of drinkable water (supplied by a spring that comes out of a small metal pipe in a rock).

You are coming to enjoy the stunning nature in this area, so why not stay directly in it?

If you’re not a camping kind of person, your only other option is the Havasupai Lodge in the Supai Village. It’s a modest place that has the necessities along with a proper bed, of course.

The Night Before: Accommodation Before Your Havasupai Falls Hike

The trailhead, Hualapai Hilltop, is on the Havasupai Indian reservation and there is nothing but private homes around it. The closest town is Peach Springs, which is close to an hour-and-a-half away from the trailhead. It’s advisable to make sure you have everything you need before you leave Peach Springs.

The road to the trailhead, Indian Road 18, often has loose farm animals so it’s not a good idea to drive it after dark. Also, cell reception is patchy in the area and it’s very remote, so if your car breaks down, you likely won’t be seen for some time.

You can choose to stay in Peach Springs and there are a few hotels in the area. However, depending on the time of year you do the hike, it’s a good idea to get started early before the sun rises and it really heats up.  If you do choose to stay in Peach Springs, you’ll want to be up bright and early to begin your hike.

Alternatively, there is a large parking lot at the trailhead and I’d recommend sleeping there, either in your car or set up your tent towards the back of the lot. There are no facilities available though there are composting toilets.

You’re going to be completely off the grid for a few days, so it’s good practice!

The Hike Down

If you get an early start, you have the added bonus of watching the early sun light up the canyon. The colours as the sun shifts are absolutely amazing. You’ll hike down the switchbacks into the canyon for the first hour of the hike, and maybe a little more, depending on your pace. The bottom of the canyon is silty with a lot of loose rocks making it challenging to walk on.

There are some gorgeous rock formations to check out and some of the hike is shaded by the canyon walls. Be careful of the horses and donkeys running through the canyon! You will hear them often before you see them and they are running loose with someone following them.

Supai Village and the Final Push

Before you know it, you’ll be in the Supai village. It’s very small and has a small store, a restaurant, a school, homes, the lodge, and a few other buildings. Stop in the tourist office to check-in and get your wristband and tent tag. There is a water spigot where you can get drinkable water and it’s a good spot to take a break.

You only have around two miles left to get to the campground. You’ll get a nice tease with some smaller waterfalls on your way and they are worth checking out. New Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls are small but beautiful and you can explore the interesting rock formations around that area.

Then you’ll walk down a fairly steep incline and Havasu Falls will be on your right as you enter the campground. Take a moment to appreciate just how stunning it is (and get some pictures as this is a great viewing spot)!

The Havasu Falls and the Campground

Pick any open area in the campground to pitch your tent or to set up your hammock. The area is prone to flash flooding so if you are visiting in monsoon season (from June through August), it’s a good idea to take high ground away from the water. To the left side you’ll see some composting toilets and a little further back you will find the small spring with fresh water.

Go back to Havasu Falls once you set up camp and just bask in their beauty.  The water tends to be pretty cold and refreshing for most of the year and it feels great for soothing your sore legs. Go for a swim in the crystal blue waters of the Havasu Falls and be wowed by the power of the water falling almost 100 feet (30 meters). It is quite slippery on the rocks so it’s a good idea to wear water shoes. 

Side Trips from the Havasu Falls

Mooney Falls

Then explore Mooney Falls, around a half-mile from Havasu Falls. There are some great viewpoints above the falls. If you’re feeling daring, climb on down past the “Proceed at your own risk sign.” There are some narrow areas through the rock and then there are some ladders bolted into the rock wall and uneven toe holds carved into the rocks. This waterfall is breathtaking.

Beaver Falls

If you want to continue to explore, Beaver Falls is a couple of miles further. The path is very windy and not always well marked. You’ll cross the creek multiple times navigating a 2×4 and a slotted “bridge.” Beaver Falls is not as tall as Havasu and Mooney Falls but they are the striking blue-green colour and beautiful. A bonus of these falls is that they are much less crowded.

The Climb Back Up

Sadly, your time in this lush desert paradise comes to an end and it’s time to head back. As you might imagine, the climb up is much more challenging than the way down. It’s a good idea to get started as early as possible as it’ll be a couple of hours before you being the ascent. The switchbacks are gruelling and seem to go on forever as there’s no shade on the way up. But, take your time, make sure you are well hydrated and you’ll do great. Once you make it to the top, it’s time for a celebration!

The Havasupai hike is an incredible experience that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. Make sure to train for the hike, schedule as soon as the website opens to new reservations, and plan your packing carefully. Havasu Canyons with the stunning blue-green waterfalls is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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Guest Post:  Sam is a travel-obsessed animal lover with big plans to travel the world with her dog. When she’s not blogging about her travel adventures at My Flying Leap, you can find her volunteering with her pet-therapy cat and dog, on the top of a mountain, or enjoying a glass of bold red wine planning for her next trip.

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