Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Reservation in Arizona

8 Things to Know Before Booking a Trip to Havasu Falls

Considering a trip to Havasu Falls? It can be an amazing trip I think everyone would enjoy visiting at least once. While it is a 10 mile hike in the desert it is worth the effort. Not only are there 5 large waterfalls to visit, but the canyons, Havasu creek, the locals, reservation dogs, and more make it a memorable experience. The waterfalls are a part of the Havasupai reservation and Havasupai actually translates roughly to “The people of the blue-green waters.” The striking color of the water against the red rock of Arizona is part of what the area is so famous for.

Deciding if this is the trip for you

You’ve seen all the lovely waterfall photos and are thinking you’d love to see it in person! These falls are found in the Grand Canyon on the Havasupai Reservation. Visiting requires hiking into the canyon with reservations made in advance. Getting from the parking area to the campground involves backpacking or hiking down while a mule (you reserved ahead of time) carries your things. If you choose to you may be able to book a tour with some companies or get a helicopter ride (with Airwest Helicopters) on some days instead. Whatever your method of transportation for a trip to Havasu Falls there is still a good amount of hiking to be done while visiting.

A trip to Havasu Falls begins with hiking into the village (with or without your gear on your back) for 8 miles from where you park your car on top of the canyon to the Tourism Office. It is then another 2 mile hike from there to Havasu Falls and the campground. If you take the helicopter it lands at the village; if you have mules bring your gear it will be dropped off at the campground entrance.

Havasu creek is the name of the water that creates these 5 major waterfalls and runs into the Colorado River further down. The campground runs along Havasu creek and hanging out at the campsites is just as beautiful as the waterfalls.  Hiking to the each waterfall (which I believe is a must!) can add many miles walked to a day. On our trip to Havasu Falls we easily did 12-18 miles each day. From the campground it is a 1 mile hike to Mooney Falls and a 3 mile hike to Beaver Falls, Fifty Foot Falls and New Navajo Falls are along the hike from Havasu Falls to the Village.

First sight of water on the trail from Havasupai hilltop to Havasu Falls campground
Group photo before back packing from Havasupai Hill Top to the Havasu Falls campground

Booking campsites opens February 1!

So, you’ve decided that a trip to Havasu falls backpacking through the desert to see these waterfalls is worth it, and I believe it is! Then it’s time to look into booking a campsite. The Havasupai Tribe Tourism Office books visitors in lodging or for camping from February 1st through November 30th. A reservation is required to visit, no day hiking is allowed!

Lodging begins booking June 1 the year before your reservation, while the campground begins booking February 1 at 8:00 am the year of and popular dates sell out quickly. In the past you had to call to get reservations and hope to get through (it took us 40-60 hours constantly calling to make reservations!). Today there is a website for booking that you need to have an account on, it receives high volume and can be difficult to get through. They have asked not to receive calls to keep phone lines open for emergencies so I believe you have to use the website and email support@havasupaireservations.com with questions to book your trip to Havasu Falls.

As of October 2018 a trip to Havasu Falls can only be exactly a 4 days / 3 night reservation, you can extend it only if you make multiple back to back reservations (if the space is available) and it can’t be shortened. Current costs per person are: 1 night = $140.56, 2 nights = $171.12, 3 nights = $201.67. Weekends, Holidays, and Spring Break dates have an additional $18.34 per night charge. These prices have increased since my 2017 visit. The reservation cannot be transferred or refunded once booked so be sure the name listed on the booking will make it on the trip.

Blue water on the trail to Beaver Falls in the Havasupai Reservation

Deciding how long to visit

Depending on what you want to be able to do when you visit will determine how long you might like to staywhile on your trip to Havasu Falls. Our group visited for 4 days and 3 nights and I wish I stayed longer! Here’s an idea of what you can do with 4 days.

  • DAY 1: Hike into Havasupai Village, check in, hike to the campground and set up, visit Havasu Falls
  • DAY 2: Hike to Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls
  • DAY 3: Visit the village, Havasu Falls, Fifty Foot Falls, and New Navajo Falls
  • DAY 4: Hike out of the canyon (or spend some time and hike out late but then you may have a long drive after!)

This is based on the itinerary I had when on a trip to Havasu Falls and wanting to see all the waterfalls. You can have a more relaxing stay near the campground or there are many other opportunities to hike as well, some of the more popular being hiking the Mesa Wall to Beaver Falls and hiking to the Colorado River (16 miles).

Viewing the Canyon around us on the trail from Havasupai Hilltop to Havasu Falls campground

Deciding when to visit

When you can visit on a trip to Havasu Falls will depend on availability and, of course, your schedule. You’ll want to take into consideration the potential weather as well. There are no refunds because of weather and during monsoon season there is intense rain. Flooding during the rain can wash out the campground area and turn the water a muddy color. If conditions are not safe you will not be permitted to camp during your reserved dates.

  • Monsoon (rainy) season in Arizona begin June 15, peak is from mid-July to mid-August, and ends on September 30.
  • Spring temperatures rise from a high of 78–95 nearing summer, lows rise from 54–70
  • Summer temperatures average a high of 100–105, lows from 75–80
  • In the fall temperatures drop from a high of 90–70 nearing winter, lows fall from 70–50

Eating breakfast in our campground at the Havasupai Reservation by Havasu Falls

What you’ll need to pack

There are a number of things that are important to bring on a trip to Havasu Falls and you could easily pack more than you need. At the end of the day the most comforting thing was knowing we were prepared but we paid for it in the weight of our bags. Remember to keep your trail snacks accessible and a map handy for the hike in (although I never actually needed the map). You’ll need less clothing than you think; you can wash clothing with a little bit of soap and water in a dry bag, hanging it to dry on some string. For food you will want to be sure to portion it all out for each meal and snack, you want to have enough but not weigh yourself down. It is nice to treat yourself to a favorite candy or brownie, and the calories will help with all the exercise you’re getting. Carrying heavy weight items like fresh fruit and veggies is not ideal so stick to foods that don’t take up so much space. (There are stores and food available in the village and sometimes at the campground entrance at high prices if you prefer)

For a short trip to Havasu Falls you don’t need much for toiletries and packing smaller sizes is best (there are no showers). Once you reach the campground you may want to tie up your food to keep rodents from getting to it so odor proof bags, a Ursack, or a rat bag can be useful along with some rope. To protect electronics it’s nice to have a dry bag when near the water. A light weight day pack can be useful to carry your things in when you hike from the campground and leave your backpacking bag behind. A note for those who don’t always read directions (like me, woops); microfiber quick dry towels often need to be washed before use or they can bleed ink on your clothing.

As a photographer I had extra weight from my lenses, camera, tripod, and even some fun dresses to take photos with but I suggest packing only what you truly need while on a trip to Havasu Falls for the lightest weight possible.

  • Map, cash, ID
  • Backpacking bag
  • 3L water bladder
  • Light weight backpacking tent (can share 2 person tent)
  • Sleeping bag and pad, pillow or pillow case (can stuff clothing into)
  • Backpacking stove, fuel, lighter, spork, collapsible measuring cup, and pot
  • MRE’s or other instant cook foods, trail mix, beef jerky, crackers & peanut butter, dried fruit, protein bars, light candy treats (that don’t melt)
  • Water filtration like a sawyer mini or tablets
  • Light weight day pack for hiking after you reach camp
  • First aid kit – keep it to the essentials like bandaids, wrap, disinfectant, pain killers, any prescriptions
  • Small dry shampoo, deodorant, comb, soap, sun screen, wet wipes, bug spray if you’d like (environemntally friendly brands and rinse far from the water to not create algae blooms)
  • Quick dry clothing, hiking boots, water shoes, bathing suit and small towel, hat, sunglasses
  • Cell phone, extra battery charges, camera, large memory card
  • Head light, other small lights
  • Dry bag, poncho, puffer jacket
  • Rope, multi-tool, duct tape, compass, whistle (not always used but can be handy)
  • Deck of cards, frisbee (for fun)
  • Optional: odor proof bags, Ursack, or rat bags

No drone use is permitted, no alcohol allowed.

Hanging out at our campsite with the tribe's dogs on the Havasupai Reservation before heading to Mooney Falls

Getting to the trailhead/parking area

Depending on where you are coming from you will most likely fly into Phoenix or Las Vegas for your trip to Havasu Falls. If you’re lucky maybe you can get a flight into the smaller Flagstaff airport. From there you will have to drive. If you put Havasupai Trailhead into your GPS (on google maps) it will get you to the parking area. It is at the end of Indian Road 18 off Route 66. One option during your trip is to also visit the Grand Canyon, it is a bit over a 3.5 hour drive from one to the other (the southern rim, not northern). Don’t forget to fill your gas tanks! There is no gas on Indian Road 18, if you do forget, you may be able to find someone in the parking lot selling it occasionally (we had a friend have to do this).

To get the most of your trip to Havasu Falls it is best to spend the night before your reservation begins sleeping in your car in the parking area. It can be cold at night, so bundle up. Getting up early the next morning to hike in first thing will give you the most time for your visit and avoid some of the hottest sun. Once you get to the village you need to check in at the tourism office it’s hours are not listed online, however, they are not open at all times and do take breaks so you’ll have to be sure to catch them.

Planning hike in and out

Wake up in the parking area to begin your trip to Havasu Falls from your car early in the morning, 5:00–6:00 am I’d suggest, or earlier if its summer, and get ready to begin your hike. It is cooler in the morning which is why it’s best to start dressed in layers. Take your last chance to use a bathroom by the trailhead. Then the hike begins with about 1 mile of switchbacks heading into the canyon floor where it seems to level out for most of the next 7 miles. Following this trail back out when you leave you realize it’s really all slightly uphill on the way back, even the areas you may have thought were flat. It’s a long hike and everyone should take care to take the breaks they need and drink plenty of water. You’ll pass other hikers and mule trains with luggage going in and out along the way.

When you first see Havasu creek and the famous blue-green water you’ll know you’re getting close to the village. In the village there are several places to stop and rest that sell frozen Gatorades, food, and other supplies. Be sure to pick up anything you’re missing while you are here. There are small signs to guide you to the tourism office where you need to check in. Afterwards you can continue on your trip to Havasu Falls by following the trail down past the first two waterfalls New Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls. You can decide to stop now and visit or continue on past Havasu Falls to the campground entrance and find your spot. I would recommend not taking the first campsite you see but wandering around (maybe without your bag ;)) to find one you love.

While you are there

You made it! Now you have a limited amount of time and so much to see. Decide what kind of experience you want and have fun. For my friends and I we wanted to explore and see all 5 major waterfalls, we saw other families hang out at the two major waterfalls closest to the camp all day, and some other groups pick the less popular waterfalls, New Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls, to spend an entire day at. Whatever your preference it will be an amazing trip to Havasu Falls.

If you plan on swimming, I have to say the water was colder than I expected, although we did visit in mid-May. If you get sick of the food you brought the locals sell some freshly made food at the campground entrance until theres none left or you can find more food for purchase in the village 2 miles from the campground. The camp dogs are most often in the village, at Havasu falls, and in the campground, with a little encouragement the dogs adopt campers to stay and visit with during their trip to Havasu Falls.

The campgrounds is 1 mile long with Havasu Falls at one end and Mooney Falls at the other down a bunch of sketchy stairs, metal chains, and ladders. The trails for Beaver Falls begin from Mooney and the hike is 3 miles one way. Rangers will turn you back after a certain time to make sure everyone is back to the campground before dark. New Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls are along the trail between Havasu Falls and the village.

The hike from Mooney to Beaver was especially unique. Although the waterfalls are the big draw for a trip to Havasu Falls the hikes themselves are otherworldly. You cross the creek 3 times on the way to Beaver Falls, you end up above it at times, cross through a sudden field of green in the red rock canyon, and climb short ladders. There are tons of places to grab a picnic table and just relax. I wish I had more time to spend on this trail and at Beaver Falls. At the falls you could walk around and swim in all the tiers of the falls.

These are the main trails and most popular on a trip to Havasu Falls, there are several others including hiking on the Mesa Wall to Beaver Falls where you’ll have to be careful getting off the trail as it requires you climb down a rope. You can’t jump into the water from the rope, it isn’t deep enough! (A ranger shared a story about someone who did this before and had to wait overnight in a storm before it was safe for a helicopter to fly into the canyon to get them to a hospital.) The Arizona river is also a 16 mile hike if you’re into some serious hiking.

Havasu offers so much and is such a unique place, please carry in carry out <3 and keep it beautiful.

Antelope Canyon slot canyon walls in Arizona

Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Bryce Canyon in a Day

On Saturday we woke up in Zion National Park and packed up our campsite to head to Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Bryce Canyon National Park. We had a tight schedule to keep and lots of driving to do. Antelope Canyon is back in Arizona and there is a time change so we planned accordingly and get to leave a little later.

Antelope Canyon

To visit Antelope Canyon you have to schedule a tour ahead of time, especially if you want one of the prime times. Antelope Canyon is made up of two parts upper Antelope Canyon and lower. Upper is where you may get to see the famous light beams. Most website will forewarn you it is a very popular tourist destination, crowded, and you will be moved through fairly quickly by your guides. We used Adventurous Antelope Canyon tours, getting a good guide has less to do with the company per say than it does with luck and we got lucky. Our guide was not there to rush us, even when pushed to by others, they all help set camera settings but he also showed us his favorite angles for photos and took our pictures for us. Lower Antelope Canyon is said to be less crowded, as are many of the other slot canyons in the area, if that is the experience you are look for go to a different canyon. That said Antelope Canyon is as beautiful as the famous photos we’ve all seen.

A side note, I did NOT do one of the photography tours. They do not allow guests who do not have professional cameras and I was visiting with my fiance. Those on the photography tour were given more time and the area was cleared to help them get the shots but once they set up the guides counted down from 30 I believe or lower and they only had those seconds to shoot before moving on.

We did briefly catch a light beam on the way out. The guides take you through slowly on the way through and let you take photos, on the way out you are supposed to experience the canyon without taking photos, which also helps move you out of the way of others. These are the only photos I got where you can kid of see the light beam, the photographers were stopped in this area and shooting.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell are very close to Antelope Canyon so we did the short hike to Horseshoe Bend afterwards before deciding to drive to Bryce Canyon (back in Utah and with a time change again).

Horseshoe Bend is a very crowded location and out in the hot sun, they warn you to bring water and you should! It is such a strange formation and way for the water to have moved we took some time exploring here but not too long since we had more driving and a time change ahead of us.

Along the way we saw a small dinosaur museum off the highway and decided to stop. It was full of an assortment of dinosaur foot prints from Utah, some fossils, native artifacts, and a rock collection.

Fossilized animal
Dinosaur food prints

We made it to Bryce Canyon around 4:30 pm and checked out Sunrise point and then Sunset point. We tried the short hike Navajo loop there only to find half of it was closed from rock fall and have to turn around.

These strange sandstone formations are called the hoodoos, they were created by and are changed each year from the spires freezing and then thawing. Melting snow gets into the cracks in the spires and freezes at night, when water freezes it expands which enlarges then cracks making them wider.

After this we headed back towards California with San Diego as our next destination. In California we did much more relaxing and visiting friends but I will have a few more photos!

The Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Just to note, I would never recommend spending so little time at all these locations and so much time traveling in one day but sometimes a road trip calls for it! I can’t wait to get back and get to spend more time in this part of the country.

Campground dog sleeping outside or tent all night at the Havasupai Reservation

Backpacking out of Havasupai

Saying goodbye is never easy. We found the experience no different when leaving the campground at Havasupai. We rose early to pack our things and begin backpacking out of the canyon before temperatures rose. I found Kumkuat (the honorary name we had given one of the dogs who live here) sleeping outside our tent where he had apparently been all night. Not enjoying our packing he kept trying to distract me lying on top of the tent as I broken it down trying to get me to pet him. He visited everyone while they packed trying to distract them until as we were finishing up he left.

Not eager to leave but concerned about backpacking in the full heat of the sun we set out by 6:30am for the village. The two miles to the village uphill in full sunlight with the packs weighing us down was not an auspicious start to our journey, even though it was cooler this time. We stopped for a short rest on the trail and one last viewing of Havasu Falls, here we were greeted by four sleepy dogs who had chosen the path way as their bed. They took a liking to Alexis became his companions, following him as far as the village. Before we continued on a mule train passed us along the way heading down to pick up their load.

Our last sighting of the Havasupai falls and cascades along the way was a sad and it felt like a final goodbye. As we left this otherworldly place and headed on we knew more adventures were ahead of us but that what we left behind would be sorely missed.

We all struggled through the first two miles of the hike at different paces. Meeting up again at the same village area where we had checked in. A few of our group had stopped to inquire about having mules carry the bags out, but they require 24 hour notice. The general store had frozen Gatorades, other drinks, snacks, and ice cream so we all grabbed a cold treat and continued our trek.

The rest of our journey was a struggle for most of us. Carrying our heavy packs back up out of the canyon. What is easy to forget with the excitement of the journey to Havasu Falls is how the entire path there is either slightly or significantly down hill, and more often than not involved walking on sand or little stones which makes for challenging footing. Leaving as well as having to hike uphill this time had our spirits down a bit. We often split up all moving at our own paces and stopping frequently.

When we started the final ascent, 1.5 miles uphill with switch backs, at this point in midday sun, despite it all we were relieved to be able to see the finish line. We passed frequent travelers and mule trails on this part of the trail.

After our long hike out of the canyon we grabbed snacks from a woman selling chips, candy, drinks, and hot dogs at the top then began the drive to Las Vegas, NV. Vegas was just a stop in our journey to rent a hotel, shower, and eat some real food. Then we would continue on to Zion National Park in Utah.

Lower Navajo Falls on the Havasupai Reservation

A Day at Havasu Falls, Fifty Foot Falls, and New Navajo Falls

For our last full day at the Havasupai Reservation we decided not to plan out our day but let it take us where it would. There are many other trails in the area but we wanted more time to enjoy our stay without rushing to try to see everything. In the morning Rachel, Myle, and I set out to explore the two falls we had seen while hiking into the campground.

First we had breakfast with the group at our campsite. The Havasu Creek ran on both sides of our site and we had beautiful views. A small wooden plank lead us across the Creek on one side and on the other we had a picnic table in the water.

Fifty Foot Falls

Then we hiked up, a bit later than was ideal given the sun and heat, toward the first falls we had seen on our hike in, passing Havasu Falls along the way. In many photos you can see the stunning travertine formations all along Havasu Creek.

A major storm a few years ago changed the waterfalls. Two old waterfalls dried and two new waterfalls were made. This includes Fifty Foot Falls and New Navajo Falls (the first you pass on your way down or last you pass on your way out).

New Navajo Falls

After spending a chunk of time photographing and enjoying Fifty Foot Falls we moved on to New Navajo Falls. These falls appear split in two, the middle doesn’t have any water flowing over the travertine formations any longer.

Here I decided to experiment with a quick conceptual photo. We ended up timing our visit to this falls with a group who was watching their friend propose at the same location. My friend Myle was kind enough to model for me and then I also jumped in a took a few with myself as the model.

Havasu Falls and the Sweat Lodge

On the way back towards the campsite we found the guys hanging out by Havasu Falls. We took a quick group photo but were missing Rachel. She had wandered off by herself towards the village and ended up metting back up with us at Havasu Falls. She had been invited to a spiritual ceremony by one of the locals. We all decided to check it out and headed back up towards the Reservation.

Here Roland Manakaja explained a bit about the reservation and the sweat lodge ceremony to us. They invited us each in groups to sit in the sweat lodge for 10-20 minutes; they don’t keep track of time. During this time you are supposed to sweat out all sickness, they sing healing songs in their native tongue. They only sing four refrains, too many is considered asking too much. They also told stories and explained their stories of coming to this location, being invited by god to kill the first buffalo and how to use it well, loosing the animal tongues, and such. They ended by singing more songs of harvest and the sun and moon. Traditionally they would repeat this experience four days in a row, they now usually do it four times in a row the same day. We all took a turn once, thanked them, and headed back to camp for dinner.

Group photo at the Grand Canyon South Rim at Trail View Overlook

A Short Visit to the Grand Canyon

I will have many upcoming blog posts and photos from a long trip I took during the month of May with my boyfriend Alexis (fiance now, but more on that later) and other friends as well. The trip included visiting four states (CA, AZ, NV, UT), three national parks (Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon), even more canyons (Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend), and natural reserves (Torrey Pines), as well as several major cities (Las Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Diego). Here I’m just starting at the beginning — planning the trip and the first official day.

For over a year Alexis and I had been planning a trip focused around visiting Havasu Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the Grand Canyon. Visiting Havasu Falls and the other falls on the Havasupai reservation requires much advanced planning and luck. There is no day hiking allowed, the campground has about 300 reservation spots and is very popular. You have to hike 10 miles in the desert into the canyon. You either carry your gear or hire a horse/mule to carry your things. Knowing all this we began preparing for our trip long before we booked it.

Reservations become available for the year starting on February 1st. That day we, along with many others, began the long process of calling the Native American reservation trying to reserve spots for the dates we wanted. Being flooded with so many calls at once while living in the middle of an isolated canyon you get the dial tone almost every time you call. After several of us spending days calling non-stop , almost giving up and beginning to plan a different trip, we became some of the lucky ones who got through and secured our group spots for the dates we wanted! Excited to actually be able to go on the trip we had dreamed (and already booked flights for!) we began planning in earnest. There is so much to see in that area I packed in as much as I could pretty close together.

Saturday May 13th, half of our group headed out together from LA to drive to the Grand Canyon South Rim. Seeing as Havasuapi is so close to the Grand Canyon I didn’t want to miss it… even if we had limited time. We finally made it to the Grand Canyon late in the afternoon 3-3:30 pm. We started at the visitor center and made a plan with the help of the rangers. We first walked up to the Overlook point just behind the visitor center, Mather Point. We had arrived so we were all eager to actually see the Grand Canyon!

We then took the blue line shuttle bus to the red line shuttle bus. Several points along the red line bus are known for being good for viewing sunset. Since we had arrived so late that seemed an ideal part to visit. We got off at each stop and only ended up doing the first four. We started at Trail View Overlook.

We took some fun group photos (missing a few who wandered off or showed up later) while exclaiming over winding switch backs you can see going into the garden trail down in the Canyon. Given more time we would have enjoyed hiking more of the Grand Canyon. Give our time constraints we made sure to hit both Maricopa Point Overlook and Powell Point Overlook before we ended at Hopi Point for sunset.

The breath of the Grand Canyon is spectacular to see, but we didn’t have much time or a chance to hike. I don’t think we had the full experience but I’m glad we stopped to see it. I would recommend trying to set aside more time to see the Grand Canyon depending on the experience you want.

The lighting on the canyon walls as the sunset created a radiant foggy glow.