If you’re like me, you’ve seen tons of amazing pictures of Havasu Falls then wanted to hike it immediately! I love hiking and being outdoors so when we started planning our road trip to the Grand Canyon and Arizona, I was determined to make this part of the trip. Hiking Havasu Falls in 2018 is a serious feat to take on!
It can honestly be a logistical nightmare so be prepared to hear me out on this one. If you want to know more about hiking Havasu Falls, check out my post about things you need to know about Havasu Falls that I’ll be writing soon.
Know that this hike is on Supai land and controlled by the Havasupai tribe of Native Americans. There is some disorganization associated with signing up and getting to this hike. I started trying to get permits to hike to Havasu Falls in 2018 starting 4 months before my trip and found it to be almost impossible. The rules changed three times in those 4 months and we had a really hard time figuring out how to actually get there. I’ll give details though about how to currently get permits to do this awesome hike.
Getting a Permit
First off… if you’re planning to hike it this year, you’ll have to book a tour or get really lucky online if someone cancels their permit. Here is why…
They opened sales for the permits for this year on February 1st after debuting a new website. I got on my computer at around 12 pm on February 1st, 4 hours after they started giving permits. The ENTIRE YEAR was sold out. There was space for one person in February and that was it! I was shocked! I met some hikers while we were there who said that it sold out in less than 15 seconds. She said she had pulled up her computer, tablet, and phone with the website to click right at eight. I felt silly at that point for even trying at 12 pm that day.
So, what do you do since permits are sold out?! If you plan on getting permits for this year, there are a few tour companies that offer spaces that include a permit. Sobia saved the day here and found us a tour group that offered overnight trips for $400 a person. We used BG Wild and had the BEST guide ever! Kayla was amazing and definitely a super helpful guide. The perks of staying with a tour group were that we had camp stoves (no fires allowed in the Havasu Campground), comfy blow up couches, hammocks, people to watch over our campsite, and someone to help answer all our questions – thanks Kayla! We still had to hike and explore on our own though the entire time. The tour was more of a space for those who didn’t get permits right at 8 am when they went on sale for us.
PS on the price thing… It’s still $140 for your hiking permit for one day, plus $40 to camp or $120 for the lodge. So you’re paying high fees anyway, it’s just basically something you have to spend quite a bit on to do.
If you want to wait and get a permit for next year, check the tribal website for the latest information for next year. Like I said, rules changed 3 times in the four month period where we tried to plan our trip, so rules may change again.
Getting to the Trail Head
Getting to the trail head is an adventure itself. The closest city is Flagstaff which is still 3 hours away. By the time we went to look for any options closer, there was literally nothing available. I looked in all the little towns closer, but there was nothing. Book way far in advance if you want to find lodging closer. Again, we were looking 4 months in advance and it was still impossible to find anything. So when I say in advance, I mean in advance! We ended up having to get up at 6 am and got there by 9 to start our hike. This meant less time at the falls which was a bummer. Get up early no matter what for more time at the falls!
The actual trail head was clearly marked through our tour company. Google does not give accurate directions! We originally Googled it thinking it’d be fairly accurate at least. It was not – it was a whole hour off of where the actual trail head is. To get to the reservation, you will need to exit onto Historic Route 66 to Route Indian 18. You will travel 63 miles north to Hualapai Hilltop. It’s pretty much the only road you can take and you’ll see lots of cars at the top where you need to park.
Hiking the Canyon Trial
The hike itself is a lot of work. You have to carry all of your stuff in and out with you (more on that later) so be prepared to have to do that. There is no day hiking here so you will have food and things to carry. Tons of signs tell you this and you are expected to show proof of reservations if asked. It took us about 3 hours each way to hike with lots of stops for pictures, readjusting our packs, and snacking. The hike is probably one of the most beautiful I’ve ever done, right along with the Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu.
Take your time to enjoy this hike and leave really early so you don’t feel too rushed to get there in time. The hardest part of the hike is the switchbacks at the very beginning/end as well as the hike from Supai Village to the campsites. The part from the village is difficult because it is very soft sand, plus you thought you were done but really you’ve got 2 more miles to go in the sand and it’s rough!
You have to have a wrist band to enter the campsite and go past the village. While no one stopped us to ask to see our wrist bands, they were brightly colored and locals were everywhere supporting the village. We talked to several while there and I do not recommend trying to do the hike illegally. It is not the kind of place you want to try to break the law. There’s no run away possible and you will stand out as a visitor! Plus, this is one of the ways the tribe is able to support and keep the lands maintained/not overrun with tourists. Let’s all conserve our earth and not overrun beautiful places – wait and get a permit.
When you first see the village, all you will see is horse stables. Keep going! There is a little store there but it has no bathrooms or spots to sit inside. Once you get to the rest of the village you will reach the office for check in. You need to go there to get your wrist band. After getting your wrist band, there is a little store with snacks and drinks, a cafe (lots of fried food, open daily, serves breakfast and lunch), and a clinic. You’ll find other things there for the people who live in the village like a school, church, and lots of homes. We ate a few times in the village and found the food to be really filling for a hike. They take cash and cards there.
The campsites are basically camp wherever you want within the fence. We saw people with hammocks over the river, tents right next to it, and people off in more secluded spots. You can go wherever which is really neat. There was plenty of space for people, kept clean, and we didn’t feel like there were too many people around. There are bathrooms with composting toilettes and fresh spring water at the campsite. We found it to be totally fine for a camping area. The ground is generally pretty soft for dirt because it is sandy and we just scraped away a few rocks and had really solid ground for our tent.
Helicopters and Mules
This was one thing that felt so confusing when I read about it online so hopefully I’m able to help a little bit…
Helicopter: There is a helicopter that you can take in and out of Supai Village. It is $85 each way and run by a company that serves the locals as well called run by Airwest. Locals are there running the list throughout the day for Airwest. Airwest does not take reservations in advance and they do not have much helpful information on their website. There is a phone number to call but they again don’t take reservations and have a set schedule. An additional charge of $75 a bag applies for any bag larger than something that fits on your lap.
It only runs Thursday – Monday and will take all locals first. We were told it starts running at 10 and ends at 4 but it started before that and went on beyond 4 pm the days we were there. Tourists names are put on a list and taken on a first come first serve basis after all locals have been given a ride. While we were there people were waiting for the helicopter for long periods of time. Sobia ended up hurting her arm and had to helicopter out so I’ve got first hand experience on this one. She waited from about noon until 3:15 to get on a helicopter. We were told that while it is not guaranteed to get a helicopter flight, it’s typical for them to get through everyone’s name on the list that day.
Mules: Mules are much easier to order. Once you are down in the village, you can order a mule at the main office for $132 that holds up to 4 bags. You must order it the day before you leave. This means that 4 people can split one and then you don’t have to carry your bags up the horrible, awful switchbacks (Which I almost died on even without my pack… I’m being a bit dramatic but come on!). It was totally worth it and really easy. They give you colored tags to put on your bag and you tie the tag on your bag. You leave it at the front of the campsites where there are lots of mules waiting by 8 am on the morning of your departure. Then when you’re hike is over, your bags are waiting at the top! There are weight limits for the bags so be careful with this too.
Now for the most important part and the whole reason you put yourself through all the trouble – the incredible blue green waters and beautiful views of waterfalls in Havasupai!
There are four waterfalls that are less than 10 minutes from the campsites which makes them easy to see. There is also Beaver Falls which is a 4 mile hike further from the campsite. If you want to see it, you definitely need to stay another day.
This is the most famous and most iconic of the waterfalls you can see. It takes you by surprise too as you come down into the campground. It’s right along the hike and it is breath taking. You come around a corner and bam! There it is. So beautiful and easy to get to. It’s really easy for swimming and you can walk all around the water fall with just a short walk. Since it’s the most accessible, it gets pretty crowded compared to the others so be prepared.
Mooney Falls is the tallest of all the waterfalls and has an incredible view at the bottom and top. The small pools after this waterfall are what people love to swim around in the most at this waterfall.
While Mooney Falls is really close to the campground, it’s not as easy to get to! You have to hike down a set of stairs and ladders to get to the bottom. It is definitely more difficult with rocks around your head, slippery stairs and ladders, and pretty high up. There’s a spot carved through the rock then you see the stairs. You hold on to the stairs and ladders with metal chairs while on slippery rocks and feeling like you’re going to fall to your death a little bit, but of course it ends up being fine. The climb up is way easier because you don’t have to look down the whole time.
Both Fifty Footer and Little Navajo are smaller and l thought they were really fun to see as well. Both are on a trail before you get to the campsites. You can see them from the trail as you are hiking from the village or back from the campsite. There are lots of little pools between the two waterfalls that are beautiful and calming to look at.
Fifty Footer has a huge pool that is great for swimming. You can actually swim under this waterfall and hang out behind the falls which is so cool! We didn’t have time to do this but our guide Kayla said it was lots of fun. While we were there, there was a lot of greenery around Fifty Footer and it was a little tricky to see from the rocks.
Little Navajo used to be an almost complete circle but after a land slide a few years ago, the look of the falls has changed. You also used to be able to jump off the rocks and into the falls. Now there is a fence surrounding it. It’s still very beautiful though and easy to get to if you’re already at Fifty Footer. We took a quick look at this one before hiking back to the village.
Now that you’ve got some information, go hike! Have more questions? Leave them in the comments below. I’m happy to help!