Havasupai is what many consider to be one of the America’s most beautiful treasures. Its turquoise blue waters flow through the campground and multiple waterfalls until it ultimately feeds the Colorado River. While most folks only see two to four waterfalls, there are actually six - Fifty-foot, Little Navajo, Hidden, Havasu, Mooney, and Beaver (in order from first to last). Check the map they provide you when you collect your permit and ask around. Hidden falls is not on the map they provide. The waterfalls are nothing short of spectacular, and if it’s not on your bucket list already, you better get moving!
The land is managed by its original owners, the Havasupai Tribe, with whom you will have to make camping reservations. Camp sites are first-come, first-serve and all reservations are for 4 days/3 nights. Click HERE for current rates and to make your camping reservation online. Once you've made your reservation, you can pick up your permit when you reach the tourist office in Supai Village on the first day of your trip. If you're hiking in, you'll see the tourist office on your left soon after entering the village. In terms of facilities, there are composting toilets at various locations in the campground that are normally stocked with toilet paper, but it's always a good idea to bring some just in case!
When to go:
December through February normally brings the coldest evening temperatures of the year, even dipping down into the high 20's. It will most likely be too cold to want to jump in the water during this time of year.
March through May will provide better waterfalls from snowmelt, longer days, and the hiking will be much more comfortable as the heat won't be as bad.
June means summer has arrived and temperatures can reach 120 degrees fahrenheit! The hike will be a pain, but the waterfalls will feel that much better. Make sure you bring enough water if you're hiking in or out.
July and August is monsoon season which means there's a higher risk of flash flooding. There aren't too many places there where you'll be able to avoid being swept away if a serious flash flood does occur. If you have reservations during these two months, check the weather for Supai, AZ and call their tourist office before you go.
September through November is still a good time to go, but the days will be shorter and it can be a bit cooler in the evenings.
Different ways to get to Havasupai:
Hike: This is a straight forward hike with few chances of getting lost. It's 10 miles with 2,800 feet in elevation loss/gain and it can be HOT. The first mile and a half will have the steepest descent of about 1,000 feet with the remaining 1,800 feet being a steady descent spread out over the remaining 8.5 miles. Once you get down into the canyon, a good portion of the hike will be in sand. Eight miles into the hike, you’ll arrive at the village and another two miles will bring you to the campground. Or, you can hire a mule to carry your heavy bags down to the campground and just carry a day pack with water and snacks. If you’d like to hire a mule to carry your bags, you’ll have to make the reservation on the same website where you made your camping reservations. Make sure you start your hike early or late to avoid the sun and carry at least 3L of water and enough snacks for the entire hike. Hiking out will obviously be tougher because you have to hike up that 2,800 feet you came down.
Helicopter: There can be a long wait for a helicopter ride - anywhere from one to six hours. Flights between Hualapai Hilltop (parking area) and Supai Village are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and tribal members have priority. This means that no matter when tribal members show up, regardless of how long you've been waiting, they get a ride first. From March 15th through October 15th, the helicopter operates on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. From October 16th through March 14th, the helicopter operates on Sundays and Fridays. Note that you will still need to carry your bags two miles from the village to the campground. Check-in time for the helicopter (to/from) is between 10am and 1pm. Even though tribal members get a ride first, you'll want to show up early to get to the top of the tourist list. The line for the helicopter that brings you to the village forms at the helipad that's just a few minutes walk from the trailhead. The line for the helicopter that brings you to the parking lot forms at the helipad near the basketball court in Supai Village. At 10am, they'll bring out a sign up sheet and you'll sign your name in the order of who lined up first. When they're getting ready to have you board the helicopter, they'll call your name or look for you (so don't go too far from the line) and have you pay. You can pay by cash or credit card.
Once you hike down past the village, the trail to all of the waterfalls is pretty much a straight shot with the exception of Fifty-foot, Hidden, and Mooney. Here are a few tips for each of them:
Fifty-foot: Little Navajo will be the first waterfall you'll see on your left on your way to the campground from the village. If you take the mini side trail next to it, back up a bit further (not more than 5 minutes), you'll reach Fifty-foot.
Hidden: This is a great spot for cliff jumping and can be found off a side trail on your left heading toward the campground from the village and will be past Little Navajo and the fence that you'll see.
Mooney: If you want to see this one, you'll have to be ok with heights, caves, chains, and wet ladders - because you'll need to deal with ALL of these to get down to Mooney. If you have any serious injuries or fear of heights, think twice about this one.
Colorado River: The side trail to the Colorado River can be easy to miss. To find it, stay up high on the trail to Beaver and keep an eye out for the trail to the Colorado on your right once you pass Beaver. You'll see some cairns (little stack of rocks) once you're on the hike to help guide you. Make sure to pay attention to these on your way down so you recognize them on your way back. This is a long 16 mile roundtrip hike, so make sure you start early in the day and bring at least 3L of water per person and enough food for everyone. You'll also need to keep an eye out for a few rattlesnakes that live along this route. They are normally spotted closer to the Colorado River side of the hike.
Below are the roundtrip trail distances to each waterfall (and the Colorado River) from the campground. Note that the campground itself is about a half-mile long.
(Between Supai and the campground)
Fifty-foot: 1 mile
Little Navajo: 0.8 mile
Hidden: 0.6 mile
(At the campground)
Havasu: beginning of campground
Mooney: end of campground
(After the campground)
Beaver: 4 miles
Colorado River: 16 miles
If you have a long drive ahead of you to get to the trailhead, you can drive there the night before you plan on going down, camp where you park (Hualapai Hilltop), and head down the next morning. The parking area has composting toilets.
When you reach town, don't forget to stop at the tourist office in Supai to pick up your permit. They normally give you a wristband to wear and a tag to hang on your tent. It would suck to add an additional 4 miles (roundtrip) to the 10 miles you just hiked because you forgot to pick up your permit.
Take your time to experience and explore each waterfall, complete the 16 mile (roundtrip) day hike to the Colorado River and enjoy the stars each night.
Water shoes are a must. There are plenty of rocks and logs under the water that you can't clearly see that could make your time that much less enjoyable and dangerous without water shoes. Chaco’s make some great water shoes that drain well and have good traction, perfect for hiking through the water and beyond. You’ll want to get a pair that has a mesh that completely surrounds the foot - they’re that much better at keeping little annoying stones out of your shoes.
If you forget a few supplies, don’t worry too much - there’s a small store in town that's fully stocked with plenty of junk food. Remember that it’s a two mile hike each way to the village where the store is located.
Squirrels and other friendly critters will chew through the strings you hang your pack on, your backpacks themselves, and even your tent for anything with a good scent. This includes your food trash. Lucky for you, the tribe has Home Depot buckets (w/lids) that you can borrow for free to help prevent the critters from getting into your food. They are located at the beginning of the campground near the Indian taco stand. Make sure to bring a trash bag to keep your trash and food separate (but all kept within the bucket).
Try the Indian tacos. They look simple, but boy does that combo of fried bread, ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and salsa, taste amazing after a full day of hiking to and splashing around the waterfalls. You can also buy the sweet version that has Nutella, powdered sugar, and honey. You can grab one in town at the cafeteria or at the taco stand located at the beginning of the campground. The stand at the campground only accepts cash. Keep in mind that the prices of cooked food here will be higher than you're used to, but the convenience is worth it.
There's one spring in the campground that provides fresh drinking water that doesn't need to be filtered. Bring a collapsible water jug, preferably one that can hold several gallons . This way, when you grab your water from the spring to take to your campsite, you'll only need to make one trip.
Pack out all of your trash - near the waterfall and at your campsite. Don’t be a filthy human being.