A Guide To Backpacking Havasupai Falls

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Updated for changes in 2019!

In November of 2016 I completed a trip that was high on my bucket, a backpacking adventure to Havasupai Falls. Havasupai Falls is one of those backpacking trips that will stick with you long after you’ve returned home. The shimmering turquoise waters, the powerful pounding of waterfalls, and a journey deep into the wondrous Grand Canyon makes for journey like few on earth. In a previous post, I put together my 20 favorite photos from my trip to Havasupai Falls.

The problem with Havasupai Falls is that it can seem like a bucket list mirage to many. The permits are virtually impossible to come by, which can make planning for this trip very difficult. In this guide, I will clearly lay out a ‘start to finish’ guide for those wishing to backpack to Havasupai Falls.

A Guide To Backpacking Havasupai Falls

I. Obtaining The Ever Elusive Havasupai Falls Permit

The most difficult part about planning a Havasupai Falls trip is obtaining a permit. Much like the John Muir Trail, the number of aspiring visitors far outnumbers the quantity of available permits. For 2019, permits for Havasupai open on February 1st 2019 8:00 AM, and are sure to disappear quickly. When permits are available, you can book online or by phone. If no permits are available, you can check back and call in periodically to see if anyone has cancelled. Be flexible!! Permits are very hard to come by, so don’t be picky. Take the dates that are available.

Booking Permits Online

The ability to book permits online was new for 2017 via sunrise reservations. The online process has switched over to https://www.havasupaireservations.com/ for 2018 so make sure to visit the right site this year. Once (if) you get a permit, you’ll be able to select a campsite on your selected dates on a first come first served basis.

Reservations used to be tied to one person. For 2018, you can add a second person that is authorized to use the permit should the primary holder not show up. Reservations are non-refundable and non-transferrable.

Booking Permits By Phone Is No Longer Allowed!

Reservation Cost And Pricing

The price of reservations has gone up quite a bit for 2019. You will see the per-person breakdown below. This includes all necessary permits, fees, and taxes.

ALL campground reservations are 3 Nights / 4 Days.

$100 per person per weekday night
$125 per person per weekend night (Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights)

These prices include all necessary permits, fees, and taxes.

This means that a 3 Night / 4 Day stay will be a total of between $300 and $375 per person (depending upon how many weekend nights are included).

Havasupai Reservation Policies For 2019

  • All reservations are 100% non-refundable and non-transferable.
  • Reservation Amendment Fee: $100.00 (altering any reservations)
  • Packing fee: $120.00 + 10% tax= $132.00 (per animal, one-way)
  • 2-Mile Pack Fee: $85.00 + 10% tax = $93.50 (per animal, one-way)
  • $1000 fines for cliff jumping, littering, drugs/alcohol, flying drones

It has been brought to my attention that the Havasupai horses are not treated well and poorly cared for. For this reason, I strongly suggest you do not use the packing services.

Seasonal Considerations And Best Times To Hike

Be mindful of the seasons and the time of year you’ll be visiting Havasupai. In the warmer months you’ll be able to enjoy the water, but you’ll have to deal with a scorching hot hike and the prevalence of bugs. In the cooler months, you won’t be able to enjoy the water, but you will have very pleasant hiking conditions. Flooding is a major risk on this hike, make sure to follow the weather reports!

Day Hiking Without A Permit

There are signs at Hualapai Hilltop that state no day hiking is allowed. It’s easy to see why, as most people are not capable of hiking 20 miles with all of the uphill coming in the second half of the hike. As someone that has hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim and Rim to Rim to Rim, I can attest to the level of difficulty. Unless you’re in tip top shape and have completed something like this before, do not try to hike this in one day!

II. Getting To Havasupai Falls via Hualapai Hilltop

  • In order to hike to Havasupai Falls, you have to first drive to the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop. Getting to Hualapai Hilltop is a long drive regardless of where you’re coming from.
  • If you’re driving from west of Arizona, head east on HWY 40 towards Kingman AZ and take Route 66 towards Peach Springs. East of Peach Springs you’ll see Indian Road 18. Take this until the road terminates at Hualapai Hilltop.Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear
  • If you’re coming from the east, head west on HWY 40 past Flagstaff until you reach Seligman. From Seligman, join Route 66 and follow the instructions above.Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear
  • Click here for directions on Google Maps

III. Gear and Food Considerations

One of the most important parts of planning a backpacking trip to Havasupai Falls is making sure you pack the right gear. The importance of planning and packing is amplified if you intend on bringing your children along with you. In this gear guide, I’ll provide a comprehensive gear list for backpackers that will include information on packs, clothing, footwear, shelter, sleeping, electronics, and food. I’ll also include a designated section for those planning to bring a child along.

My Comprehensive Havasupai Falls Gear List

Click here to see my packing list for Havasupai Falls

IV. Hiking To Supai From Hualapai Hilltop

Before visitors can catch a glimpse of the falls at Havasupai, an 8 mile hike to the town of Supai is required just to check in and pick up a reserved permit. From Supai, the trail continues for another two miles past Navajo, Havasu, Mooney Falls, and the designated camping area. You’ll descend 2000 feet from Hualapai Hilltop down into the Canyon to Supai. You’ll then descend another 400 feet to Mooney Falls.

Make sure to check out my detailed post on how to hike from Hualapai Hilltop to Supai Village. In this post I’ll provide all of the tools you need to complete this hike, including data, photos, GPX, a trail guide, and details on picking up your permit from the Supai Visitor Center. I’ll also include information on eating at the Supai Grill.

Trail Distances

  • 8 mi from Hualapi Hilltop to Supai
  • 2 mi from Supai to the campground
  • .5 mi from the campground to Mooney Falls
  • 8 miles from Mooney Falls to the Colorado River
Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear
Hualapai Hilltop
Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear
Heading To Supai

If you’re not feeling up to hiking, you can book a helicopter ride on a Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, if the weather permits. The ticket price varies, and allocation is based on a first come first served basis. Tribe members take priority. You can also hire a pack mule for $121 each way with a 10% tax. For mules going INTO Supai, you must make the pack mule reservations at least one week in advance through the camping office by calling (928) 448-2121. For pack mules going OUT OF Supai, you only need to book one day before. The limit for each mule is 4 bags and 130 lbs.

V. Exploring Havasupai Falls And Camping At The Havasu Falls Campground

Once you’ve completed your hike to Supai Village from Hualapai Hilltop, you can continue on towards the falls and the Havasu Campsite. On this hike you see Navajo Falls, Havasu Falls, and Mooney Falls. You’ll also walk past the numerous campsite options. Make sure to read my post on this section of the hike for GPX tracks, hiking data, a detailed trail report, and lots of photos.

Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear
Havasu Falls
Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear
Havasu Falls pt II

Make sure you bring proper footwear if you plan on hiking down to the base of Mooney Falls. The trail down is treacherous and not for those with a fear of heights. I cover this section of the hike in detail in a separate post.

Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear
Mooney Falls
Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear
Mooney Falls Hike

Once you’ve explored and visited the falls, make your way back to your campsite for an evening by the water. The campsite has potable water available for backpackers, with toilets close by as well. I cover this more in a dedicated post. 

Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear
Havasupai Falls Guide Havasu Mooney Navajo Supai Permits Gear

VI. Returning to Hualapai Hilltop By Foot Or By Air

Once you’ve reached the end of your Havasupai Falls visit, you’ll hike out the on the same route that you arrived. The difficult part here, is that the hike out is all uphill. Get your hiking legs ready!

If you’re not feeling up to hiking, you can book a helicopter ride on a Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, if the weather permits. The ticket price varies, and allocation is based on a first come first served basis. Tribe members take priority. You can also hire a pack mule for $121 each way with a 10% tax. For mules going INTO Supai, you must make the pack mule reservations at least one week in advance through the camping office by calling (928) 448-2121. For pack mules going OUT OF Supai, you only need to book one day before. The limit for each mule is 4 bags and 130 lbs.

VII. Supai Lodge

Another option for those wanting to see Havasupai Falls is to stay at the Supai Lodge.

  • The lodge can be reached at (928) 448-2111.
  • The lodge has 24 rooms with double beds.
  • Each room costs $145 for up to 4 people, and the standard 10% tax is assessed.
  • You must cancel reservations two weeks in advance for a full refund.
  • A $40 deposit per room, per night is required.
  • There is an entrance fee of $50 per person

VIII. Resources

A Guide To Backpacking Havasupai Falls


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49 thoughts on “A Guide To Backpacking Havasupai Falls”

  1. We did Havasupai in September of last year…. I thought Iceland had the best waterfalls…..not too sure anymore… These falls were amazing! Had such a wonderful time. Would like to get back in the next year or so.

  2. Thanks for such a thorough guide. Hope to get back there some day. Still one of my all time favourites. I recently returned from Laos where I visited falls that reminded me a bit of Havasupai. Post to come eventually.

  3. Hi..very detailed writing. We (hubby and me) are planning to visit the falls in may. Our’s is a 2 day plan. Day 1 – reach the hilltop and begin an early hike (8 am).estimated time to reach the campground is (6 hours) 2 pm. 5 hours of hike down hill and 1 hour break. Relax at the lodge or by the falls and cover havasu and Mooney falls on day 1
    Day 2 – start hike to beaver falls at 7 am and spend 2 to 3 hours in Beaver and Navajo falls and begin hike back by 10 am. Estimating to reach hill top by 7 pm (9 hours as it is uphill )
    Please let me know
    1. if you think this is a realistic plan?
    2. If we need to dedicate more time anywhere (be it hiking or spending time at the falls)
    3. We will be staying at the lodge. Do let us know what our one day hike back pack must include.

    • It’s hard for me to say without knowing your level of fitness and backpacking experience. Your first day sounds very reasonable. I don’t think you’ll have any problem fitting everything in on day one.

      Day two would be questionable unless you have peak fitness. The hike from the lodge to Beaver Falls is about 8 miles round trip. After hiking 8 miles in the morning, you would have to hike back up to Hilltop. Your arrival time at Hilltop (7pm) would be reasonable given you are in great shape and have proper hiking conditioning. Without knowing your conditioning, I can’t really answer your first question. As for question 2, I think your plan will allow you to see everything without being too rushed. For question #3, you can view my gear post (https://trailtopeak.com/2017/02/05/my-comprehensive-havasupai-falls-gear-list/). Since you’ll be staying at the lodge, you can travel very light. You won’t need a tent, sleeping bag, etc. If you plan on eating at the Supai Restaurant, you’ll only need to pack snacks. You can see my standard hiking gear list here: https://trailtopeak.com/2016/10/12/whats-in-my-hiking-bag-a-look-at-my-current-hiking-gear-list/

  4. Thanks for the reply. Can I include beaver falls trek too on day 1? Assuming the down hill trek may not be super tiring and if we reach the campground at 2pm and also assuming that there will be daylight till 7pm. Can we cover havasu falls, Mooney falls and beaver falls in 5 hours?

    My husband is fit and I wouldn’t consider too fit. It took me 30 min to hike up a hill with an elevation of 1686 ft and 1.1 mile distance.

    We also don’t hike or trek regularly as our work schedule doesn’t allow us to.

    • Hello Rashmi, I can’t really answer that question for you. You’d be looking at around 14 miles on you first day if you hiked to Beaver Falls. Once you factor in meals, lodge check in, enjoying the falls, etc, you’re going to be cutting it pretty close for time. If I were you, I would play it by ear. Hike down to Mooney Falls on day 1, and then see how much time and energy you have left. If you’re tired and it’s late, head back to the lodge. If it’s early and you energy, continue on.


  6. Kimberly, YES I AM WITH YOU ON THIS! If the tribe is abusing the mules, I wouldn’t wanna pay for my permits. But that seems impossible to do. I’ve been wanting to visit these falls for awhile now, I didn’t realize it would be so expensive. I understand the indian reservation wants to protect its land and its beauty, they have all right too. Unfortunately, they probably don’t have high standards on animal rights and abusing their mule. Is there a head Chief or councilmen to bring these concerns up to? I can’t imagine what hell those poor mules go through in the Arizona heat.

    And thank you Drew Robinson/ Trail To Peak, for creating this amazing guide. I really wanted to visit this year but I will now be planning a several day trip for next Spring. Also are the trails big enough for ATV’s or 3 wheelers? The hike is the beauty of taking this trip (and being the obvious cerulean waterfalls) but out of curiosity is that an option?

  7. Hi. I was only able to grab a one day permit back when the website worked… Figured, better than nothing. Is there any way we can extend our stay another night once we get there?

    • Hello, Maria. As far as I know, that is not possible unless someone were to cancel on the day you need. You might want to try the Lodge. They could have availability.

  8. Wow! Thank you for the detailed yet to-the-point information! Would you say that one would need at least 2 nights in Supai before hiking back out? Day 1: hike down, explore some falls, sleep. Day 2: explore more falls, sleep. Day 3: hike out.

    • It really depends on the person, their level of fitness, and the weather on that day. The hike out is a beast, and can be made very difficult on hot days. I would suggest starting very early, even on cooler days. For this reason, your 3 day itinerary works well for most.

  9. Drew Robinson – PLEASE refrain from suggesting or informing travelers to use the pack animals to carry their gear. It is well known that certain individuals of the Havasupai Tribe using those horses, mules and donkeys STARVE, ABUSE AND NEGLECT THEM. WHEN THEY HAVE WORN OUT THOSE POOR SOULS, THEY DISCARD THEM LIKE TRASH (PUSHING THEM OFF A CLIFF, SETTING LIVE ANIMALS ON FIRE! FOR EXAMPLE). Any animals that appear to be in moderately good condition are newly arrived and they are being seen prior to their tragic fate. These atrocities have been witnessed by many travelers, including as recently as September, 2017. You have a lot of influence. Please employ your moral compass to at least not suggest further harm to those animals.

  10. Havasupai is a beautiful place, but it has a dark secret, and that is the horrific, long term systemic abuse the pack animals at Havasupai have been enduring. Many people are not used to being around livestock and do not know the signs of this type of abuse –look at the hoofs, mouth etc. as most of the open sores and easier to spot signs of abuse is covered by the saddle, blankets and etc. I was raised on a ranch and our family owned two pack stations as well as running cattle so I know how these animals should be and not be treated, and as any real stockman would tell you this type of ongoing abuse is a shame to humanity and a disgrace to God.
    The last time I talked to my source (about 10 weeks ago) there were about 20 head of stock in desperate need of long term care and getting none.
    I am sure that most people like me shudder at the torture that these animals endure with their only relief death and that is why I am asking you to do a little research, I am providing you with some sources below, before you travel there and to pass this info on. People have the power to do real good or real harm, by informing other people on these types of situations, often the negative publicity and loss of income will often help correct the situation itself. While some recent improvements have been made through much work by many groups this is an ongoing situation and has been for 50 years. They have hired a public relations firm rather than putting that money into the animals
    SAVE – Susan Ash (208) 659-2331
    George Knapp channel 8 Las Vegas (702) 792-8888
    Bureau of Indian Affairs (928) 448-2892 (onsite office)
    ABC 15.com 4-15-2016 Leland Joe arrested by Federal authorities for 4 counts of animal cruelty
    AZ Daily Sun
    Humane Society
    AZ. Channel 12 new – former trail guide

  11. Hi Drew,

    Thank you for your guide and very detailed report. We leave for Havasupai next week and have secured 2 nights in the campgrounds. The information you provided is very helpful and resourceful!! Thank you so much!

  12. Hi! Thanks for a great post!
    Is it possible to
    Day 1: drive from Vegas to Hualapai Hilltop. Hike to Supai Village
    Stay overnight at the lodge
    Day 2: hike from Supai Village to Beaver falls and back to Supai Village
    Stay overnight at the lodge
    Day 3: Hike back from Supai Village to Hualapai Hilltop

    I am also asking because I read that “day-hiking” is not permitted unless you stay at the campground.

    • Anything is possible given the requisite fitness. I’ve hiked from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in one day, and no how difficult such hikes are. That was 24 miles with 7000+ feet of gain. Because of that, I would not advice trying to do it all in one day.

      Your three day plan sounds like a good one though!

  13. I came across your beautiful blog while I was researching the abuse of the pack horses by the Havasupai wranglers. I found extensive information and even contacted several individuals that have rescued horses with exposed bones. I don’t believe everything I read on the internet, so I wanted real evidence. Can you help the horses by bringing awareness with your blog? Much of the abuse is hidden under blankets and packed goods and often the horses are not given food or water or medical attention. The helicopter is a much better choice.

  14. Thanks for this…great info! When getting your permit do you have to pay for each person at that time? We have a few in our party who are trying to figure out if they can make the trip or not? So at the time of buying the permit, do I need to know how many people I have in my party? Thanks~!

  15. Thank you for this detailed blog! We went 3 years ago and this year we got passes in March for 3 nights. Our 10 and 12 year old will get to join us. I am looking forward to your post on hiking this with kids. Thanks

    • Hey Christopher. Very nice video. I usually delete links like this, but your video is worth sharing. How did you get the overhead footage of Mooney Falls? Drones are banned throughout Havasu Canyon. Did you get permission or flout the rules?

  16. Hi Drew, I appreciate the post and article. My girlfriend and I have a 2 day 1 night trip coming up in one month. I was wondering if you know if it is possible to spend the night at the Hualapai Trailhead the night before beginning the hike? Due to our short trip we would like to get down to the falls as early as possible. So spending the night in our car at the trailhead would be ideal. Thanks

    • As far as I know this is allowed. Many people have done it and continue to do it. I’ve done some searching and haven’t found any info saying it’s against any rules. Enjoy!

  17. I was one of the 17 people trapped in the campground overnight at Havasu Falls. When myself and several others had posted what really had happened and that many of us were left without any help from the tribe our posts were deleted and blocked. A post from Abbie S. Fink, which stated that the tribe was informed by the National Weather Service in Phoenix of a flash flood warning at 6:30 but no one had warned the campers in the campground. After our posts were deleted and blocked Abbie S. Fink’s post had deleted that fact.
    The spin that is being put out there about the response and actions taken doesn’t let people know of the imminent danger we were facing. I am concerned now that the tribal council is altering what really happened no emergency protocols will be put in place to protect the lives of future campers.

  18. I have a question about reservations. I am going with a group of people scattered about the US. Can one person make the reservation on February 1 for our entire group or does each individual need to try to get a reservation for the time frame we all hope to go? We are hoping for a 2-3 night stay at the campground for a group of 8 people. Thanks for any insight you can give.


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