We’ve done a lot on our cross-continental journey, but the Havasu Falls camping and hiking experience in Havasupai tops the list.
For four months we’ve been winding around the United States and Canada cramming in as much summer tourism as possible.
There were times we definitely were going too fast, but that’s because there’s just so much to see!
Every time we planned a new destination, there was one question we had to ask ourselves before heading out:
“How does this fit in with our Havasupai reservations?”
You see, four months before we hit the road–and even before we had started shopping for our truck and camper–we had booked our permits to visit the Havasupai Indian Reservation tucked away deep in the Grand Canyon.
I mean, you’d make this a priority, wouldn’t you?
From the moment we secured our reservations, we started reading up on the Havasupai experience:
- When is the best time to visit Havasupai?
- What’s the 10-mile hike to Havasu Falls like?
- What time should we arrive at the trailhead?
- What should we bring for a three-night backpacking trip?
- Is water available at the campground?
- What services are available in the nearby town?
- What the heck should we eat?!
- Is there cell service?
- What kind of southwestern wildlife should we watch out for?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There are a lot of good resources out there for Havasu Falls camping, the town of Supai, Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, and Havasupai in general, but every website I visited invariably missed something.
My goal here: Create a complete guide to visiting Havasupai.
Nay, create The ULTIMATE Guide To Havasupai & Havasu Falls Camping.
Think I missed something? I hope not! But if so, please comment below.
The Havasupai Tribe and the town of Supai, Arizona
Havasu Falls lies just beyond the town of Supai, Arizona inside the Havasupai Indian Reservation.
Like many groups, the Havasupai Tribe get their name from their home. “Havasu” means “blue-green water” and “pai” means “people.” Combined, the name Havasupai literally means “people of the blue-green water.”
Take a look at any of the many, many photos in this guide and you’ll immediately understand why.
The 5 major waterfalls of Havasupai and the Havasu Creek
Before we get on with the guide, let’s start with the reason you’re probably psyched to visit Havasupai: the waterfalls.
There are five major waterfalls along a four-mile stretch of the Havasu Creek. The first four are within 1.5 miles of each other before a 2.5-mile trek to the fifth and final waterfall.
They’re listed below in the order in which you’ll see them, but I’ve also included a Nomadlyweds Rank so you know which was our favorite.
Fifty Foot Falls
Nomadlyweds Rank: 4th
The first waterfall you’ll come across around Mile 9 of your hike, Fifty Foot Falls is a welcomed sight. While your head may tell you just to continue on to the campground to claim your spot, your heart (and your feet) will tell you its time to take a dip in the cool blue water above the falls.
Nomadlyweds Rank: 5th
Navajo Falls is awesome in its own right, but unfortunately it ranks fifth in our eyes for two reasons:
- It loses out on the distinction of being the first waterfall you see after 3+ hours of hiking
- Havasu Falls is just a little further
Nomadlyweds Rank: 2nd
The namesake isn’t number one?! No, that honor belongs to our next waterfall. But that doesn’t mean Havasu Falls is disappointing. To the contrary, it somehow lives up to the insane hype it’s generated by being shared on Instagram as much as any waterfall I’ve ever seen.
Nomadlyweds Rank: 1st
The real showstopper in our opinion, Mooney Falls is a spectacle to behold as hazy, blue-green water plunges nearly 200 feet (twice as high as Havasu Falls) into a basin that takes serious effort to get to.
Nomadlyweds Rank: 3rd
I went back and forth whether to rank Havasu Falls or Beaver Falls second on our Havasupai waterfall rankings, and Havasu Falls barely won out. The truth is Havasu Falls and Beaver Falls are nearly tied.
About 2.5 miles beyond Mooney Falls, you’ll need to dedicate a few hours to hiking down and back, but it’s completely worth it as you come across the terraced cascade of water that pours from level to level.
Why is the water so blue?
The impossibly blue-green water is easily the most incredible part of the entire Havasupai experience.
(Except the impressive tenacity of the local squirrel population.)
That blue-green color comes from the high concentration of lime dissolved in Havasu Creek.
Remember the step-by-step drop of Beaver Falls above? That’s made possible by this lime, which gets deposited in the form of travertine, a type of limestone.
Want a sciency answer? When water flowing underground through rock is high in carbon dioxide, it’ll become more acidic and dissolve said rock. Here, that rock is limestone. Once that water reaches the surface, the carbon dioxide off-gasses like a warm soda, which makes the water less acidic and incapable of holding onto so much dissolved limestone. The limestone precipitates out of solution and is deposited as travertine. For more information, click here.
There are other signs of this gradual build-up of rock over time, such as this natural shelter formed near Mooney Falls.
Havasupai Falls reservations, permits & fees
OK, let’s get down to brass tacks–Havasupai is amazing and you want to visit.
Unfortunately, you can’t just pack up your things and head out this weekend for an impromptu trip. Instead, you need to reserve your spot ahead of time.
Unlike many backcountry camping experiences, where you stroll up to a Park Ranger’s office on the day you arrive and grab a permit, the process of obtaining a permit to visit Havasupai is a little more…competitive.
Each year on a day in February, the reservation system opens up and all prospective visitors descend on the website en masse like a Black Friday shopping sale.
This past year, the website opened for reservations at 8:00 am MST on February 1. At 8:04 am we secured our first choice of dates. At 8:05 am the website crashed. By 10:00 am the entire year was sold out.
When I said it was competitive, I wasn’t kidding. Dawn posted a screenshot of the “Success!” screen to her personal Instagram account and got some comments from people who have been waiting for years to get a reservation.
Here’s a comprehensive Havasupai Reservation FAQ as you look to book for 2020.
When does the Havasupai reservation system open for 2020?
I haven’t seen an official announcement for 2020 yet, but this year the system opened up at 8:00 am MST on Friday, February 1, 2019. I would expect February 1, 2020 to be the date next year, but we’ll update this when it’s officially announced.
Where do I make reservations to visit Havasupai?
All reservations are processed through the official Havasupai Reservations website. Make sure you create your account a few days in advance so you aren’t scrambling to do that on the day-of. I’ve even read you can’t make an account once February 1 rolls around, so really don’t wait on this.
When the time comes to start choosing dates, make sure you’re already logged into your account with the screen open. There’s a countdown timer that will tick down until the system opens up, at which point you’ll be redirected automatically to the reservation page.
If the page doesn’t redirect immediately once the timer hits zero, don’t panic. Stay logged in and just wait on that page. Last year it took about 30 seconds for me to get redirected and I was one of the first to secure a reservation.
Can I make reservations over the phone?
No, reservations are only done through the online system.
How much does it cost?
Official 2020 costs haven’t been announced yet, but 2019 will serve as a good barometer. This year the costs differed depending on which day of the week you were visiting:
- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday: $100 / person / night
- Friday, Saturday, or Sunday: $125 / person / night
Note: All reservations are for four days and three nights. You can’t choose to come on a Friday and leave on Sunday. You need to book exactly three nights.
Of course, you could book three nights and leave after two, but you still have to pay for the full three nights.
Dawn and I booked Monday, September 9 until Thursday, September 12, so our cost was $100 / person / night x 2 people x 3 nights = $600.
What happens if the website crashes again?
Keep calm and refresh on. You may see that screen for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or longer. Just keep refreshing. Though I was able to secure our 2019 reservations in the first four minutes, I’m pretty sure the year didn’t sell out for two hours. Just keep at it.
What if my preferred dates are already sold out?
If your preferred dates are sold out, you have two choices:
- Try again next year
- Book any dates you can
There are pros and cons to each, obviously, so know what you’ll do ahead of time if this happens to you.
Personally, I’d go with option two. There are so many people clamoring for permits that you’ll easily be able to sell and/or trade your reservation with someone else.
Just make sure you have a half-dozen dates already written down and ordered by your preference. You do not want to be booking things on the fly if avoidable.
Note: Popular dates, like Labor Day weekend, book quickly. You can try to book those dates, but competition will be fierce. I’d rather try to book other dates while people fight over the super-popular ones, but that’s just me.
How do I trade, sell, or transfer my reservation to someone else?
First, for any fellow arbitragers our there, you can’t just buy up a bunch of dates and sell them later at a profit. You can transfer ownership of reservations to other parties, but it has to be done using the official transfer system.
Need help finding a trade partner? There are two great Havasupai-related groups on Facebook. One is the official Havasupai page where you can ask questions about your upcoming trip. The other is the trading and cancellations page where you can look for trade partners.
To actually buy or sell reservations, just log into your account on HavasupaiReservations.com and there will be a button for cancellations and transfers.
I’m writing this in early-October and there are still 2019 dates available for purchase at face value.
However, those selling their existing reservations will incur a 10% transfer fee, which works out to about $30-$38 per person depending on which dates you’ve reserved.
Do I really have to carry in four days of supplies?
Yes, sort of, and no.
Let me explain.
Yes. If you want the real Havasupai ExperienceTM then you need to pack in all of your gear and supplies to last four days.
Sort of. There’s both a grocery store and a cafe in the town of Supai, which is a two-mile walk back from the campground. There’s also a pop-up food stand that sells frybread, hotdogs, and Indian tacos for a reasonable price.
No. You don’t need to carry anything. You don’t even have to hike in or out. You can reserve pack mules to carry your gear and provisions. You can also take a helicopter from the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead to the town of Supai and back. You’ll still need to walk the two miles to and from the campground.
Tell me more about these pack mules and helicopters…
Pack mules can be reserved one week before your visit at a cost of $400 round-trip per mule. Each mule can carry up to four bags with a maximum weight of 32 lbs per bag. Bags can’t exceed 36″ x 19″ x 19″.
Once reserved, you need to drop your bags off at the trailhead by 7:00 am MST on the first day of your trip or risk incurring a $300 fee on top of the already-lofty $400 price.
Animal Welfare Note: Unless you have medical or physical limitations preventing you from carrying your own gear, I really encourage you to carry everything in yourself. There are stories of poor treatment of these animals, and while I’m sure you can find examples of bad things happening in everyday things, I still firmly believe that carrying your own stuff in and out is best for the welfare of these animals and is a logical extension of Leave No Trace principles. Plus, it’s just part of the experience!
As for the helicopters, these are done on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no helicopter reservations. It costs $85 each way with flights beginning at 10:00 am MST and going until 1:00 pm MST or until everyone has been served, whichever comes first. The flight is 15 minutes one way, and you’re allowed to bring a carry-on bag.
Helicopter Note: These helicopters not only serve the tourists visiting Havasu Falls but also the local population. Being a first-come, first-served service, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to fly out so make sure to get there early on the day you’re scheduled to leave. The service runs from the town of Supai about two miles away from the campground.
Getting to the Havasupai Trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop
The trailhead for this hike begins at Hualapai Hilltop at the end of Indian Road 18, which is right off the Historic Route 66 near Peach Springs, Arizona.
The GPS coordinates for the trailhead are 35.8580299, -113.0082494.
Hiking to Supai & Havasu Falls
This hike is something else. Here’s some stuff we learned from research ahead of the time with a few bits sprinkled in that we wish we’d known beforehand!
When to start your hike
During the hotter months, a lot of people will arrive at the trailhead at 4:00 am MST (some even earlier) equipped with LED headlamps to guide their way through the dark. In my personal opinion, this is overkill unless it’s a mega-hot day.
With the exception of the very beginning of the hike, when you’re descending down about a dozen switchbacks in full view of the Arizona sky, you’re mostly hiking through a narrow canyon with high walls. This means there’s plenty of shade to be found unless you’re hiking in the middle of the day with the sun overhead.
I get the desire to do as much of the hike in cooler morning temperatures, but I don’t get wanting to do it in the dark. The hike only takes 4-6 hours, depending on your fitness level. You could leave at 6:00 am and arrive at the campground by 10:00 am.
Prepare for a car inspection
A few miles before the trailhead parking lot is a check-in station where rangers will make sure you aren’t carrying anything on the list of prohibited items, which includes alcohol, illicit drugs including marijuana, and weapons.
They’ll even search the inside of your car. I have a habit of buying carry-out beer at breweries and leaving it in the back of my car, so I was pretty nervous when they asked me to step out so they could take a look inside. Thankfully I had already enjoyed everything!
Overall, the security guys were super nice, though. They even took our picture by the entry sign!
No photos allowed on the trail until you reach Supai
There’s a sign at the trailhead that reads “No photography beyond this point,” so my apologies for not having any pictures of the first eight miles of the hike.
You’re also prohibited from taking pictures in the town of Supai, though you can start documenting everything once you’re beyond the town’s borders and heading towards the campground.
The trail starts with switchbacks and a rapid descent into the canyon
It’s a pretty incredible feeling to hike into something called the Grand Canyon. I mean, that sounds pretty massive.
And, indeed, it is!
The entire 10-mile hike from the trailhead to the campground descends over 2,000 feet, but most of that happens in the first mile as the trail cuts back on itself about a dozen times. It’s great on the way in, but you know that in a mere three days you’ll have to climb out the same way with 30-plus more miles on your sore, tired legs.
The decline during miles 2-10 is much slower and steadier
Once the switchbacks are done, you’ll begin a slow and steady descent into the depths of the canyon. The trail is pretty easy to follow as hikers, mules, and horses have been carving the way for years.
(And in the case of the mules and horses, leaving you plenty of fresh droppings to follow along the way.)
There are only one or two places where you could conceivably get a little turned around, which is yet another reason why I don’t advise hiking in the dark.
Watch out for mountain lions
But the best reason not to hike in the dark is the mountain lions. About five miles into our hike, Dawn and I sat down to have a drink of water. Across the trail, a mere 20 feet away, was a cluster of bushes where we distinctly heard the slow and heavy plodding of a large animal. We quickly finished up and readied our hiking poles for self-defense.
I was pretty sure it was a mountain lion, and that was all but confirmed when we ran into a couple near Mooney Falls the next day. They told us they actually saw a mountain lion on the hike in.
Stop at the check-in station across from the helipad in Supai
All visitors must register in Supai before proceeding to the campground.
Remember, this is a small town with a slower pace of life. When we arrived at the check-in station, a sign on the door read “Left at 2:30, be back in 15 minutes.” It was 3:30 and the sign was still there. We waited until someone returned, finished the process, and headed to the campground.
Wait, you got there at 3:30? Yup. Due to work/scheduling reasons, we actually spent the previous night at the Lake Mead Recreation Area in Boulder City, Nevada, meaning we had a four-hour drive ahead of us on the morning of our arrival in Supai. We didn’t start our hike until 11:00 am and felt the full force of the midday sun in 95°F Arizona heat.
Once beyond Supai, you can begin taking photos
Get your camera ready, because you’re going to want to take pictures of everything. Here are some shots of the final leg of our hike into the campground.
Choosing a campsite at the Havasupai campground
Two miles beyond the town of Supai and about a quarter-mile beyond Havasu Falls is the campground.
There are a few points of note in that picture above:
- Bathrooms are to the right with solar panels on the top.
- Horse/mule stables, where bags are dropped off, are to the left.
- The Ranger Station is to the far-left off-screen.
The entire campground runs for about one mile along Havasu Creek, and campsites are easily marked by picnic tables and obvious clearings.
Ultimately, any campsite in Havasupai is an awesome campsite, but some are better than others. Here are some considerations when choosing where you want to set up camp.
Fern Spring, the only source of drinking water in the campground, is located near the entrance
You can’t pack in all the water you’ll need for three more days, but thankfully there’s a freshwater spring for everyone to use.
Fern Spring is just beyond the entrance to the campground, and it’s the only source of safe drinking water in the area. If you choose to camp further into the one-mile-long campground, you’ll just have to walk back further for freshwater.
Many people brought collapsible drinking cubes so they didn’t have to walk back and forth as much.
Mosquitoes are unbearable in the morning before the sun comes up
The one thing I forgot to bring–because I always forget something–was bug spray.
At first, I didn’t think that would be an issue; there are surprisingly few biting insects here. Well, the mornings are a different story.
The mosquitoes are unbearable before the sun comes up. My legs were destroyed every morning as I prepared my campsite coffee. It makes sense. There’s plenty of standing water with the creek and spring nearby.
If you absolutely hate mosquitoes, consider looking for a campsite that gets more direct morning sun away from standing or slow-moving water.
Bathrooms are located in two places: the entrance and about a half-mile past the entrance
You’re never too far from a bathroom as there are two locations in the campground. They’re your typical vault toilets, and there’s plenty of toilet paper provided.
To camp right next to (or over) the creek, go about a half-mile beyond the entrance
As you walk through the entrance into the campground, you’ll see a lot of open, dry ground on which to camp. If you go about a quarter-mile into the campground, things begin to change rapidly.
Here, the creek weaves through the canyon floor with campsites scattered on both shores and some even on islands. Plenty of campers more confident in their hammocking skills than us even chose to sleep suspended over the water.
We set up camp in a dry clearing near the spring
We wanted two things in a campsite:
- Close to Fern Spring
So, we chose to set up camp near the entrance. This had the bonus benefit of being close to Havasu Falls, which ended up being our bathing/laundry site.
Havasupai backpacking & camping gear
Complete but minimalist–that’s what you’re looking for with your pack list. Here’s what we recommend bringing.
A good backpack is essential on a hike like this.
When we hit the road on June 1, 2019, we had a checklist of must-buy outdoors gear, and Item Number 1 on that list was a pair of rugged outdoor backpacks. We went with Osprey.
Here are some features you should consider when hiking Havasupai:
- Exterior straps to attach a tent, sleeping pad, etc.
- Good weight distribution for your back
- High-denier material for durability
- Water bladder if that’s your thing
After backpacks, the next most important item on our list was a great pair of hiking boots. I bought these Merrell hiking boots at Bass Pro Shops, and Dawn has a pair of Merrells as well.
Honestly, we’d never used hiking poles before this trip, but we decided to buy a low-cost pair at Walmart just to try them out.
These are immensely helpful when climbing up or down across uneven, rocky terrain. That’s exactly what the Grand Canyon is like.
I saw some hiking poles selling for $150-$200 at REI. I’m not sure what features they have to justify that cost, but we bought the ones shown above at Walmart for $25 and they served us fine.
You don’t need to bring four days worth of water, but you do need to bring enough for a 4-6 hour, 10-mile hike. A half-gallon per person should be enough, especially if you hike around dawn when it’s much cooler.
Once you’re at the campground, you may find a collapsible water cube helpful. Because we camped right next to Fern Spring, we were good with our Hydroflasks, but we saw a lot of people who camped further away lugging these things around.
We don’t do a ton of traditional tent camping, instead opting to park our RV in the desert or wherever looks like a good home for the night.
As such, we didn’t want to spend $200-$400 for a high-quality tent. This two-person tent from Walmart cost $40 and was pretty lightweight.
Of course, you could also skip the tent entirely and just sleep under the stars or in a hammock.
We debuted our ENO DoubleNest hammock in Havasupai, and just wow. This thing is so comfortable, and it supports up to 400 lbs!
We rigged it between two trees behind our tent and lounged periodically throughout the day, but a lot of people slept in their hammocks.
Honestly, it looked pretty awesome, and the ENO DoubleNest is big enough for you to lay slightly diagonally on your sleeping pad to keep your back mostly straight.
We didn’t need one because we slept in our tent, but the hammock campers and sleeping-bag-under-the-stars crowd needed them.
Sleeping bag and/or light blanket
No sleeping bags for us. We checked the weather report and nightly lows were supposed to be around 55°F. Why carry the extra bulk and weight of two sleeping bags when a simple blanket will do?
For like $15 we picked up this Ozark Trail blanket from Walmart that was made from dirt- and water-resistant polyester and was incredibly lightweight.
Despite having camped out dozens of times in my life, I’ve never used a sleeping pad.
Usually, I just sleep right on the hard ground and wake up hating myself.
This time our bagless sleeping system called for a pair of inexpensive sleeping pads, a regular ol’ bedsheet, and the aforementioned packable blanket.
I needed to don a long-sleeve shirt one night, but overall we slept like babies in Havasupai.
Some kind of pillow
Even a wadded up pair of sweatpants will do, but we brought these inflatable pillows by Klymit.
Each pillow is about as large as a small wallet and weighs just 2.25 oz. When inflated, the pillow has an X shape stitched into it so that your head can rest comfortably in the middle without rolling off to the side.
It’s not the Ritz, but these were surprisingly functional and comfortable, especially for back sleepers. I flip around on all my sides when sleeping and needed a little extra height on the pillow when sleeping on my side, but I also have pretty broad shoulders.
Portable camping stove and fuel
We picked up a small camping stove system by Olicamp, which consists of a screw-on attachment that you affix to the top of an isobutane-propane canister, like the one shown below.
We got the 8 oz canister, and it was more than enough for us to make coffee for two each morning, plus a hot, freeze-dried meal at night.
Pro Tip: The Ranger Station near the campground entrance has hundreds of these stacked in milk crates, presumably from campers who neglected to pack them out, so you don’t even need to bring the fuel portion.
Figure out what you want to cook and plan accordingly.
Us? All we planned on making was coffee and freeze-dried meals, which just require boiling water. This 20 oz stainless steel pot thing was perfect for our needs. It even came with those two green plastic cups, which were the ideal size for a morning cup of coffee.
Most other campers had some sort of frying pan, but we didn’t need that.
Also pictured: our multi-spice kit! We added black pepper to just about everything, and this little jar had that plus salt, curry, cayenne, and a couple of other spices.
Unless you want to eat with your hands–which is an option!–you’ll need some utensils. We picked up two of these portable silverware kits and they served us great.
We also needed a means of cutting things for a few items on our shopping list. The knife included in the silverware kit has an edge, but I wanted something a little easier, so we brought that hand-held chopper in lieu of a cutting knife and cutting surface.
There are no campfires allowed in Havasupai, but you’ll need a way to light up that camping stove. Matches will be fine, but I prefer the striker-style firestarters like the one shown in the image below.
Whether it’s for everyday, practical use or survival, I don’t go anywhere without paracord. It’s virtually weightless but has so many uses.
This is the Grand Canyon, after all.
Something we didn’t bring and regretted every morning. There weren’t a lot of bugs in Havasupai, but the morning mosquitoes were ruthless. Long sleeves and pants will protect you, too, but you don’t want these guys ruining your day first thing in the morning.
We brought a lightweight LED flashlight to illuminate the way to the bathrooms in the middle of the night, and I used it every night.
If you plan on hiking in the dark, consider an LED headlamp as well.
First aid kit
You don’t need one until you need one. We bought this first aid kit of Amazon for like $20.
I picked up a few fun blisters and dipped into our first aid kit on a couple of occasions.
Once the 10-mile hike to the Havasu Falls campground is complete, you’ll spend three-ish days exploring the entire area. That means a five-mile roundtrip hike to Beaver Falls, and the more ambitious among us may keep going a few miles further to the confluence of the Havasu Creek and the Colorado River.
You won’t want to carry your big backpack on these shorter trips, but you’ll definitely want something for your water, sunscreen, camera, spare socks, etc.
This daypack from No Boundaries was perfect.
It only weighs a few ounces, and we didn’t have to carry everything in our hands. That’s especially helpful when descending the harrowing staircase to the base of Mooney Falls.
To make the most of the limited space in my backpack, I actually packed all of our food in this daypack and then put the whole food-filled daypack in my Osprey backpack like it was a Thanksgiving turducken.
Like paracord, I don’t go anywhere without a few carabiners. My backpack only had one included strapping system for our tent, so I bought a couple of straps to wrap around our sleeping pads and then used the carabiners to attach them to my backpack.
If you’ve googled Havasu Falls before, you may have come across stories of the Havasupai squirrels. They’re legendary.
Look, your campsite isn’t your territory. It’s theirs, and they own the whole campground. Any bag left on the ground will be torn into in minutes. I’m not kidding. Literally minutes. And if they find anything, you’ll never get peace from them again.
Most campsites have a cord strung between two trees for you to hang your gear. These carabiners were instrumental in keeping our stuff squirrel-free.
Trash bags and Ziploc bags
This is a pack-it-in, pack-it-out, Leave No Trace campground. A few trash bags make that much easier, and Ziploc bags always come in handy when storing partially-eaten food.
You want as little as possible but enough to cover all of your basic needs. Here’s what we each brought:
- 2 polyester shirts
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 2 pairs of underwear
- 2 pairs of nylon cross-training socks
- 1 pair of cushiony wool hiking socks
- 1 long-sleeve shirt
- 1 bathing suit
Pants are optional, pending weather. We washed our clothes in the creek below Havasu Falls on the second day using the organic body soap we bought (below).
Oh, and hats to protect us from the sun.
If you choose to hike beyond Mooney Falls–and you absolutely should–then prepare to cross the water at least three times over the next 2.5 miles.
Neither Dawn nor I brought any water shoes, and we dealt with it in different ways. Dawn kept her hiking boots on and waded right in the creek each time. I elected to take my shoes off and cross with my socks on.
Water shoes would have been much easier.
We brought a bar of Dr. Bronner’s All-Organic Soap and washed up a few times in the creek. As mentioned above, we also used it to wash our clothes. When not in use, we stored it in a Ziploc bag.
Portable power pack
Maybe you want to unplug completely and look forward to your phone draining its last bits of juice. We liked having the option to recharge our phones as needed for taking pictures, tracking our hikes on the MapMyRun app, or listening to audiobooks as we fell asleep.
Our Anker 10000 mAh power bank kept Dawn’s phone charged the whole time. I just let mine die.
Look, the entire Havasupai region is amazing, and you’ll spend hours each day exploring everything it has to offer. But 5:00 pm will roll around eventually and then you’ll want something else to do.
For some, laying in the hammock and contemplating the meaning of life is entertaining enough. I don’t know how to just “relax.”
When I say entertainment I’m not talking about a whole chess set here–even a book will do–but make sure you have something. We were plenty exhausted, but I fell asleep on the second day at 5:30 pm in part because there was nothing better to do.
Let’s talk about food: What to eat at Havasu Falls
You actually have a few options when it comes to eating in Havasupai.
Pack your own
We packed enough food for four days and ate almost everything.
Here’s our list:
- 3 Mountain House freeze-dried meals: chicken teriyaki, beef stroganoff, and mac n cheese
- 12 oz of trail mix
- 6 Nature Valley granola bars (not the gross hard ones)
- 2 premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- 1 box of Triscuits
- 8 oz block of sharp cheddar cheese (it melted a little but was still good)
- 8 oz stick of salami
- 12 tbsp of ground coffee beans
- 4 bags of Quaker instant oatmeal
- 1 can of condensed Campbell’s soup
- 1 red pepper
- 1 onion
- 1 can of diced pineapple in juice
Those last three were used exclusively to beef up the freeze-dried meals, which are notorious for having a mushy mouthfeel. The pineapple was a great way to elevate the chicken teriyaki, and chopped pepper and onion kicked both the beef stroganoff and mac n cheese up a few notches.
Grocery store & cafe in Supai
The town of Supai has two food options for hungry hikers.
First, there’s a grocery store next to the Post Office that has all of the essentials, including sandwiches.
Yes, sandwiches are an essential.
The prices aren’t ridiculous, though they’re obviously elevated. The grocery store accepts major credit cards as well with a $10 minimum.
Second, there’s a cafe near the entrance to the town, which is about a half-mile from the grocery store as you’re hiking away from the campground. We didn’t eat here, but I think I recall them serving breakfast from 8:00 am until 12:00 pm plus tacos from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm. The cafe is open every day except Monday. I’m not sure if they take cards.
Havasu Falls frybread
If you don’t want to walk two miles back to Supai, you can stop at the frybread stand that pops up a quarter-mile up the hill beyond Havasu Falls (away from the campground). It opens when they feel like it, but generally, you can get some grub from 12:00 pm until 6:00 pm.
What’s frybread? Honestly, it’s like fried dough, but a little less fluffy. You can order a plain frybread for $8 and add toppings like peanut butter, Nutella, honey, cinnamon, jelly, etc. You can also order frybread topped with beef and/or beans, which they call an Indian taco, for $12. I ordered a couple of these and pounded them. There are a few other menu items, but they all come on frybread.
The frybread stand is cash only.
Want a souvenir? The grocery store in town sells t-shirts, but they only had XL in stock when we visited.
Near the frybread stand is a souvenir stand that sells a ton of patches, magnets, stickers, clothing items, and other goodies. It’s cash only. Dawn bought a patch for $10.
She’s been collecting these patches at all major points on the trip and sewing them onto a jean jacket. It’s starting to fill out!
Weather & best time to visit Havasu Falls
Honestly, there’s no bad time of the year to visit Havasupai, but some times are better than others. For the most part, you have two considerations:
This image shows both of those by month.
Temperature is obvious–it gets hot in Arizona during the summer. We avoided those months, instead choosing mid-September for its modest highs and not-too-cold nightly lows.
Precipitation is less obvious and usually isn’t an issue, but it’s something to be aware of.
Monsoon season in Arizona stretches from June through September, during which dangerous flash floods can strike at any time. The following comes from the University of Arizona’s Geological Survey page:
Arizona’s monsoon season, with its predilection for sudden, torrential and localized rainfall, coupled with a landscape incised by thousands of washes and gullies, is ripe for dangerous flash floods.Arizona Geological Survey
My brother lives in Phoenix and got caught in one of these flash floods last year. He was driving home from work when a downpour came out of nowhere. Only 100 feet from his driveway, the flooding quickly halted his car in its tracks. He had to have it towed and it took three weeks before he got it back. These floods are no joke.
Expert Havasupai tips from the Nomadlyweds
Let’s wrap up this monster guide to Havasupai–I told you it was The ULTIMATE Guide, didn’t I?–with some tips based on our experience.
Most of these have been covered somewhere in this winding, 7,000-word article, but I’ll consolidate them all here.
Reservation and permit tips
- Make your account days before and be logged in a few minutes before the scheduled launch time.
- Know exactly which dates you want. Pick a half-dozen and order them.
- Holiday weekends will fill super fast.
- If the system crashes, just keep refreshing.
- Give yourself upwards of two hours in case the system keeps crashing.
- Start your 10-mile hike by 10:00 am MST but the crack of dawn is better. Many people hike at night but I don’t think it’s worth it.
- Be prepared for a car inspection, so no alcohol, illicit drugs, or weapons.
- Bring at least one half-gallon of water per person for the hike.
- Pack light! Ask yourself if you really need each and every item, and be honest.
- Bring hiking poles.
- Bring a first aid kit or at least enough bandages for your blisters.
- Hard cheeses and meats like salami will keep for a few days.
- Try to arrive at the campground by 9:00 am MST for your choice of campsite.
- Camp near Fern Spring unless you have a collapsible water cube.
- Bring carabiners to hang your bags and gear out of the reach of squirrels.
- Grab a plastic bucket near the Ranger Station to store your food and trash out of the reach of the squirrels.
- Either suspend the bucket over a branch or find a big rock to put over the lid.
- Never leave a backpack unattended on the ground, especially if it has food.
- Bring a few fresh vegetables to perk up any freeze-dried meals you eat.
- Bring a small daypack and water shoes.
- Trek to Beaver Falls, about 2.5 miles beyond Mooney Falls. There are three water crossings and a few ladders to climb.
- Beyond Beaver Falls is the confluence of the Havasu Creek and the Colorado River. We didn’t visit but on the map, it looks like a good distance further.
- Photography is not allowed past the trailhead until you get beyond Supai.
- Drones are not allowed.
- Due to high canyon walls, there’s a limited window to get a photo of Havasu Falls in full sun. It’s around noon. In September, that chance disappeared by 1:00 pm each afternoon.
- Learn how to take long exposure shots for that smooth water effect. I used shutter speeds from 0.8 seconds to 2 seconds.
- Bring a small tripod if possible.
- Wide-angle lenses work well with the immense size of both the canyon and the larger waterfalls.
Other miscellaneous Havasupai tips
- There’s 3G cell service in Supai but no service anywhere else.
- There’s no medical care in town. For anything serious, it could be a good wait.
- You must have your permit on hand, either printed out or on your phone.
- If you’re planning to helicopter out, get to the station in Supai by 7:00 am.
And that should do it! Have a question I didn’t address or think something above is inaccurate? Comment below to let us know. Otherwise, enjoy your Havasu Falls hiking and camping experience!