Absolutely Everything You Need to Know About Havasupai Falls from Scoring Permits to Things You Never Thought to Ask (Plus, Detailed Packing List)

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

Sequestered below the rim of the Grand Canyon, the magical land of Supai looks like a cross between Narnia, Avatar, and Jurassic Park that few are privileged enough to see. Home to the Havasupai Tribe, or the “People of the Blue-Green Water,” the area is 188,000 acres of pristine wilderness, wild landscapes, and waterfalls unlike anywhere else on Earth. That is if you can complete the daunting 11-mile desert trek to get there. To fully explore, you have to brave sketchy chain-link ladders, waist-deep water crossings, and steep cliff ascents, about 30 miles of hiking in total. It’s mentally challenging, physically demanding, a feat of endurance, and a dose of nature therapy all rolled in one.

Is it worth it? Hell yeah, as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. Many people just see a beautiful Instagram photo and have no idea what they’re signing up for. And while the photos look filtered, the water really is that insane turquoise color.

Since we got our permits way back in February and weren’t hiking until late September, I had plenty of time to prep. In fact, it’s the most prep I’ve ever done for any trip – domestic or international. Leading up to the hike, I spent months scouring the message boards for every tip, trick, and hack I could find about the daunting trek to food prep. But there is such a thing as overpreparing and I started psyching myself out with the difficulty of the Mooney Falls descent, the creepy crawlies that reside there (snakes, scorpions, and spiders, oh my), and the challenges of backpacking for three straight nights (it was my first time doing that 100% on my own, worrying about what we’d eat, how we’d cook, and all that jazz that goes into planning life around feeding time). If you’re keen on visiting or learning more about this magical place, here’s a giant brain dump of everything you need to know and more.

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

Let’s start at the beginning. What is Havasupai Falls or Havasu Falls?

The Havasupai Indian Reservation is a private section of land below the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona. It is home to the town of Supai (aka. “the Village”) where Native Americans have resided for over 1,000 years. Their main source of revenue is tourism to which they let intrepid travelers visit their protected land to experience the insane natural wonders (arguably the most gorgeous place in the U.S.) – with highly coveted and hard to come by permits. The area is fused with spring-fed streams, pools, and water features, the unearthly color the result of the limestone travertine in the cliffs.

There are five main waterfalls people seek out. Fifty Foot Falls (the first one you’ll encounter), Little Navajo Falls (at the base of Fifty Foot Falls), Havasupai Falls (the area’s namesake where Beyoncé filmed her music video for The Lion King), Mooney Falls (the tallest and most daunting, accessible only via chains and ladders through an old mining route), and Beaver Falls (the most “Instagrammable” for its cascading tiers and also the hardest to get to). Day hiking is not allowed and you have to commit to a three-night / four-day adventure when making a reservation. You can leave early, but if anything, you’ll want to stay longer with how insane it looks, how nice it is to be off the grid, and how much effort it takes to get there.

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

How to Get Havasupai Reservations

All campground reservations for the year are made through https://www.havasupaireservations.com/ at 8 am on February 1 (Arizona time). While seemingly more high-tech than years past, the website is still run by an Indian Tribe with a process that was soul-sucking, to say the least. No matter what time of year you go, campground access is limited to 350 people per day, sometimes even less depending on the season. After about 10,000-page refreshes (no exaggeration) and two hours, I finally got in the ballpark of my ideal dates for a group of six. On the day of, I logged into my account precisely at 7:50 am to stalk the Havasupai Falls reservation page, which has a countdown timer for when you can access the calendar. At exactly 8 am, a button appears to book campsites through February 2020. Note: the lodge has to be booked separately by calling on June 1 and hoping someone answers (equally as difficult).

To get campsite permits, it specifies you can only be logged onto one device and on one browser from each account although it did let me right-click to open the continue button in another window so I did have two screens going at once (shh). Within seconds, the booking site crashed with a gateway timeout and a variety of other error codes caused by what they claimed to be bot attacks. It was extremely stressful with many not knowing if their payments had gone through. It was so frustrating a GoFundMe Page was created to revamp the booking process.

Step by Step: How to Get Havasupai Reservations

  • First, you enter how many people you want permits for (1-12). A continue button will appear – sometimes clickable, sometimes not (“We’re experiencing unusually high search volumes, proceed by pressing the button when it becomes available”). Don’t wait — just keep refreshing the page.
  • If you’re lucky, a calendar will appear (sometimes letting you navigate past February, sometimes freezing right there and kick you back to the beginning).
  • Available dates are shown at random depending on who has what on hold. May seemed to go the fastest with February, July, August, and November the slowest.
  • You’re then given two minutes to check out (this is why you need to have your payment information saved). And hopefully, success and permits secured.

It sounds straightforward, but there were many error screens, many false hopes, many circles of death, and many people being kicked out of the system entirely being forced to relog-in after a series of repetitive “select all the street lamps, taxis, or storefront” captchas. I got to the calendar page about 5x before actually being able to choose dates and book a reservation. A few times, the site even reverted back to a 1987-looking version, very Black Mirror-esque. If you don’t have luck getting permits this way, you can always check their resale site throughout the year or book with a guided tour company on Google (although I personally haven’t experienced any to recommend).

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

What to Know About the Havasupai Falls Booking Process

Only one person’s name is listed on the permit, which is good for up to 12 people. You have to prepay for all those reservations so make sure your bank account is fully funded and your friends are ready to reimburse you ($300-375/pp). Whoever scores the permit must be there to check-in at the Village with a photo ID and print out of the confirmation or mobile screenshot of the email.

What Was Different About Getting Havasupai Reservations in 2019

  • Pricing: While prices seem to go up every year, it’s now $100 per person/night on weekdays and $125/night on weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
  • Reservations are now fully transferable via their official website so if you don’t get your first choice of dates you can try to trade or sell your spot.
  • Trips have to be booked for three nights/four days. Previously you had the option of going for 2-4 days.
  • Pack mules have to be reserved in advance via the website ($400 per mule for up to four bags). Add yourself to the waitlist as soon as you get your dates. You won’t be charged until you’re confirmed, which for us was about a month later (but can be up to a week prior to departure). Reservations are only available for round-trip service.

Tips for Scoring Havasupai Falls Reservations

  • Make sure you pre-register for the site so your payment information is saved. I saw MANY people trying to enter their credit card the day-of only to have the system time out in the middle of payment. It was unclear if they were actually booked as many had transactions for random amounts on their card but no confirmation or multiple charges on their card.
  • Waiting for the continue button to appear was futile. What finally worked was reloading every possible page. I went all the way back to the dashboard and navigated to the campsite page from there.
The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

When is the best time to go to Havasupai Falls?

As they say on the booking site, whenever you can get a permit. There are definitely months to shoot for but it’s more or less personal preference. February would be too cold to swim while hiking in July would be unbearably hot (the trails actually close if the temperatures reach 115 degrees F with no guarantee of rebooking or refunds so that’s a risk you have to be willing to take with a summer reservation).

I was aiming for late September/October around my birthday because I knew the temperatures would be milder in the fall. That didn’t take into account monsoon season (July-September) or tarantula mating season in October (yup, that’s a thing) so pick your poison. Spring would’ve been my second choice, but that’s also the most coveted and generally books up quickest.

Packing (Everything to Bring, Leave Home, and Think About Having for Hiking Havasupai Falls)

I highly recommend checking out (ahem: stalking) their official Facebook groups: Havasupai Falls, HavaDiscussion, Hava Hikers, along with the specific group for the month you’re going (they’re surprisingly organized) and offer important weather info and packing tips beyond typical camping stuff. I bookmarked this thread of what people wish they would’ve brought and this thread of things people wish they would’ve known before they went that’s worth a read.

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking
The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

Things I Noticed Repeatedly that Are Worth Highlighting and Must-Pack Items

  • Hammock (in the warmer months people don’t even bring tents, they just sleep under the stars. Don’t forget the bug net, though.)
  • Headlamp (You’re starting the hike in the dark). I also highly recommend inflatable solar lanterns to have around camp.
  • Cheap gloves for the climb to Mooney (the chains/ladder down to the falls are hella sketchy. (See thread)
  • Water shoes + neoprene socks (SCUBA material) for the hike to Beaver (there are many water crossings)
  • Either athletic shoes or hiking boots – whichever you’re more comfortable in. You want to consider lightness vs. ankle support. Here’s an example of the three kinds of terrain you’ll encounter.
  • Something for blisters (Moleskin and/or Leukotape). I made a basic first aid kit like this one.
  • Scarf or bandana for dust from mules
  • Biodegradable toilet paper (most is provided but just in case)
  • Biodegradable wet wipes (aka. your cowboy shower)
  • An MSR or Jetboil stove, cook kit, and fuel (there are many half-empty fuel canisters left at the Ranger Station but certain stoves are only compatible with certain gas canisters so you should bring at least one just in case — buy this once you land, you can’t fly with propane).
  • Lightweight waterproof day pack for trips to the falls
  • Something for water filtration (there is drinking water in the Village and a freshwater spring at the campground but all other water needs to be treated/filtered)
  • A bear canister and/or rat sack, carabiners, and fishing line to hang your food, trash, and toiletries. This is the big one. The squirrels and raccoons are vicious and eat through everything (including tents, backpacks, and Camelbacks, which is the fastest way to ruin a trip). They’re some weird Hunger Games hybrids that are used to having free reign of the camp and completely unafraid of humans. They have paint buckets at the Ranger Station that are first-come, first serve but many lids are missing. You need a way to secure your food as best as you can whether that’s in a sealed bucket or strung up. (See thread)
  • Cash. $50-200 is suggested for fry bread (like gold), the helicopter, and the village grocery, which is open sporadically.
  • Food/Snacks: tortillas, tuna, jerky, crackers, oatmeal, protein bars, fruit, ramen, PBJ, pop tarts, mac and cheese, Mountain House dehydrated meals, GU energy chews, etc.
The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

Other Basic Camping Gear/Clothing You’ll Need at Havasupai Falls

  • TRAVEL INSURANCE (with a trip like this don’t skimp on medical evacs just in case)
  • Backpack (get fitted at REI for size then you can cost compare online. Try to keep everything under 30-35 lbs if you’re carrying your own pack. We brought a 60L pack for our gear and a 45L bag for our clothes. Recommended Brand: Deuter)
  • Lightweight tent (Recommended Brand: Marmot or Big Agnes)
  • Sleeping bag (Recommended Brand: The North Face)
  • Sleeping pad (Recommended Brand: Therm-a-Rest)
  • Bathing suit (I also had awesome swim pants from Prana)
  • Long pants (recommended even in summer as your legs will get scraped and scratched)
  • Shorts
  • Rain jacket
  • Puffy jacket (in the colder months)
  • Merino wool hiking socks (Recommended Brand: Darn Tough)
  • Long underwear for nighttime
  • 2-3 tank tops or breathable athletic shirts (consider where your backpack straps will rub)
  • A book
  • Small camp games like cards
  • Portable phone charger
  • Hydration bladder (Recommended Brand: Osprey or CamelBak)
  • Dry shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen
  • Trash bags (pack it out)
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Waterproof Cell Phone Case or Dry Bag
The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

Things You Definitely Don’t Need

  • Speakers – not allowed
  • Alcohol – not allowed
  • Drones – not allowed
  • Firewood, cookstoves, coolers, or large propane tanks – not allowed
  • Pets – not allowed
  • Pool floaties – sadly, no longer allowed
  • Shampoo, shower gel, makeup, or excessive toiletries
  • A ton of clothes or a towel as the sun dries everything out fast

Things You Might Consider Bringing to Havasupai Falls (Nice to Have but Not Necessary)

  • Collapsible Camp Chairs (most sites have picnic tables but others say they were very happy to have lightweight folding chairs)
  • Trekking Poles (personal preference, I found them helpful)
  • Gators (to keep the sand and rocks out of your shoes)
  • Bug Spray (I’ve heard mixed reviews; it really depends on the time of year you’re going and how prone you are to getting bit). They love me so I treated all my clothes and gear with Permethrin before I left and had no problems.
  • Inflatable travel pillow
  • GoPro (a head mount is best for ladder descents) and camera equipment (make sure to account for dust on your lenses)
  • Collapsible water jug (very helpful for having water to boil at camp)
  • Injinji sock liners (these are highly recommended to prevent blisters)
  • Small cooling towel
  • Headphones
The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

Getting to Havasupai Falls

It’s a 5-hour drive from Phoenix or 4 from Vegas, which includes a 1-hour time change (despite being in Arizona the reservation is actually in a weird little sliver of MST) so it’s personal preference where you fly into (check Skyscanner to see which city has cheaper flights).

Some people stay at a hotel the night before, the closest being 1-2 hours from the trailhead in Peach Springs or Flagstaff, but many others save money by carnapping in the parking lot until it’s go time, which is what we did (there are bathrooms there). It’s recommended to start hiking at 4-5 am to make it to the village by 7 right when they open so it didn’t seem worth getting a hotel for just a few hours, but others would argue that a good night’s sleep is vital. Either way, leave early to get to the campground early to secure a good spot and beat the heat.

When driving up, you’ll want to leave whichever city you fly into by 11-12 am, earlier if you don’t want to drive in the dark. The road is paved all the way to the parking lot, but be super careful because livestock/animals are rampant at night and hard to see (there are many photos of folks totaling their cars on black cows). Put “Hualapai Hilltop” in the GPS and follow these driving directions. You will need a photo of your license plate and a print out of the confirmation or a screenshot on your phone to show security. They are there all night and pretty throughout – we had to open and allow them to go through all our bags.

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

Things I Couldn’t Find Answers to on the Havasupai Falls Hiking Forum

How to Meetup with Friends – Where’s the best place to convene with people who are driving separately with lackluster cell service? How easily will we find each other in the village / on the hikes if they’re much faster than me? I was surprised by how decent the WiFi was in the parking lot and even into the canyon. As long as you give your friends a set time to meet to begin the trek (we said the bag drop at 4 am), you’ll have no problem finding each other. Even if you go at different paces, you have to reconvene at the Village to get your wristbands (where there is also WiFi). Make a general plan of where you want your campsite to be (we said between the first and second bathrooms along the river). There aren’t many people at any given time so as long as you have a basic idea of where to meet, you’ll have no problem sticking together.

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

The Havasupai Falls Hike

Here is the trail map to follow. It’s not the hardest hike I’ve ever done (Machu Picchu takes the cake), but it is one of the longest. The beginning and the end are the most challenging because the beginning is a series of switchbacks and it’s all sand near the campground. Initially, you’re hiking down into the canyon so it’s much easier on the way there than coming back up (remember: it is part of the Grand Canyon).

There’s not a whole lot of altitude gain (less than 2500 feet), but don’t discount the difficulty due to factors like heat (avoid the midday sun) and bag weight. Definitely train — I had surgery exactly nine weeks prior to the hike and started building up my stamina adding one additional mile every week until I was at the 10 it would take to get to camp. Ultimately, I found the hike quite enjoyable as you pass through a number of different landscapes and terrain. From towering boulders and red rocks to verdant forest, the time passes quickly as there’s always something new to look at.

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking
The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

Havasupai Falls Waterfall Hikes and the Recommended Order to See Them

DAY 1: As you’re hiking in, Fifty Foot Falls and Navajo Falls are about a mile past the Village before you get to the campground. It’s easy to hit them on the way in or go back and see on day three. Havasu Falls is down the hill about a half to three-quarters of a mile past Navajo Falls. It’s by far the closest and easiest to get to from camp, which can be done after you drop off your stuff, set up shop, and are ready to chill for the day.

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

DAY 2: Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls. Mooney is at the far end of camp, which is the tallest and most impressive waterfall but requires crawling through dark tunnels and a 150-foot descent down sketchy ladders and metal chains in a single-file line. I was sure I was going to cry and die since I hate heights and have no upper arm strength, but I shocked even myself by thinking the climb was the most exciting part of the trip (what an adrenaline rush). I didn’t feel unsafe at any point – just go slow, maintain three points of contact with the wall, and wear gloves (it’s slippery from the mist). There’s a rope swing and a few picnic tables to chill at when you make it down.

You have to go through Mooney to get to Beaver Falls (3 miles further), which is the most photographed and the hardest waterfall to get to. You’ll want to leave camp by 9 am to arrive by noon so you have most of the day to relax and not have to worry about climbing back up the ladders in the dark. Without a real trail, there are a million ways to get there (just follow the river) and we ended up coming back a completely different route than we went (even stumbling across a secret waterfall on the way back). There are 2-4 river crossings depending where you end up (some waist-deep for us shorties) so dress accordingly and pack water shoes. There’s supposedly an iconic palm tree (yes, in the desert) that signals you’re on the right track, but we never found it. The route to Beaver has several more ladders and is quite the endurance workout so make sure you’re up for it.

DAY 3: Some people hike to the Confluence (where the Colorado River and Havasu Creek meet), but that’s 9 miles further (three past Beaver and the same route) so if you’re ambitious feel free. I used it as a free day to rest my legs, indulge in fry bread, and relax at Havasupai Falls. There are a few other waterfalls to explore, but those are the main ones.

DAY 4: Head out in the early morning by 6-7 am (which is when you have to drop your stuff off for the mules and recommended to avoid doing the switchbacks in the heat). You’ll be back to the parking lot by noonish.

What to Pack in Your Day Pack

Since the mules were bringing most of our stuff, we still needed to pack water/snacks, a tent or hammock to hold our spot at the campground, and a bathing suit/water shoes for waterfall chasing.

Havasupai Falls Helicopter, Mules, Lodge, and Other Life Hacks

There are various ways to customize the trip to Havasupai Falls and make your experience more enjoyable. Here are a few of the need to knows and things to consider.

Pack Mules: Mules can be rented to carry your bags which certainly makes the hike easier. It costs $400 round-trip (or $400 one-way for emergencies) and must be reserved when you make your campground reservation. Each mule can carry up to 4 bags with a maximum weight of 32 pounds per bag with a maximum size of 36 inches long by 19 inches wide and 19 inches tall. All baggage must be soft-sided with nothing hanging. Some put their backpacks into a duffel for extra protection or wrap them in plastic or a garbage bag to protect from dust. We got two mules between the six of us, which ended up being perfect so we could pack our food separately. Bags can be dropped off as early as you want as long as they’re properly labeled with the below info (write this on a piece of duct tape, cardstock, or luggage tag). The ranger actually was there at 4 am (bless his heart) so you can knock on the door to get a tag or with questions.

  • INFO FOR BAGS:
  • Your ID #
  • Name of Person on Reservation
  • IN to Campground Date
  • OUT to Trailhead Date
  • All bags need to have the name of the person who reserved the mules – not your name.

The drop-off is at Hilltop Ranger Station by 10 am, which is right at the trailhead in the parking lot. Expect bags to arrive at the camp entrance by 3 pm. On the way back, bags need to be to the Campground Ranger Station by 7 am, which will make it to the top roughly around noon (the earliest you can expect to drive home if you’re using the mules).

The Havasupai Falls Helicopter: The helicopter is $85 one way, which is a steal for a scenic flight over the Grand Canyon. They take credit cards if the machine is working (but I wouldn’t risk it), with a $10 surcharge. I got extremely lucky and was able to catch the heli on a Wednesday, one of their off-days since they were doing a construction project in the village which made the 11-mile hike back a four-hour wait and four-minute ride (and that’s with almost no line since no one knew it was running). The 2019 schedule is as follows (operated by Air West):

Had I known the helicopter doesn’t even run every day while making reservations, I definitely would have scheduled the trip differently. If you are keen on taking the helicopter (most take it out not in and Sundays are the busiest with village errands), know that it can’t be reserved in advance, it’s just first-come, first serve, and you may end up waiting all day. The villagers and workers have priority and it doesn’t run in inclement weather (even wind).

People start lining up at dawn but the man with the list doesn’t show up until 8 or 9 am. At that point, it’s supposed to be on the honor system but it turned into the Hunger Games pretty quickly as in the first people in line were not the first people out. But as long as you’re on the list and they take your payment, you’ll get out at some point. Ultimately it depends on the number of people you’re with akin to the number of seats on the chopper and the weight limit (there were four seats when I was there so groups of fours and twos got to go first, sorry solo folks).

Horse Rentals: I’ve heard rumors you can rent horses to ride instead of hiking (and saw way more horses than mules), but keep in mind these are not guided trail rides. As in, you have to know how to ride a horse without any help. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t trust myself trying to navigate a wild animal in unfamiliar terrain. Yes, horses exist, but they’re more reserved for emergencies, villagers carrying gear, and rangers for search and rescue. I wouldn’t count on them as a viable option and saw no pricing or information on how to get one.

The Supai Village: After hiking 8 miles at the crack of dawn, the Village appears like an oasis. It was much more developed than I was expecting with WiFi, homes with toys and yards, security cameras, Dish network, a café (which may or may not be operational), post office (send yourself a postcard with the mule train stamp), school (the kids at recess are adorable), police on ATVs (yes, they do random checks), tourist office where you check-in, helipad, and a few grocery stores that are open sporadically. Photos aren’t allowed so be respectful.

The Havasupai Lodge: The Lodge is also in the Village and has a completely different reservation system. It’s pretty basic, barebones accommodation (think: two-three star), but if you don’t want to camp, it’s there. Instead of a website, you just have to call 928-448-2111 or 928-448-2201 on June 1 at 8 am and hope someone answers, which is when you can book all dates for the following year. The 2020 rates are as follows: $440 per room per night, which accommodates up to four people on two beds. A $110 entrance/environmental fee is charged per person along with $100 deposit per room per night.

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking
The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

The Havasupai Campground: The camp is one of the most gorgeous you’ll ever sleep at so even if you’re not a big camper, it’s worth checking out. About a mile in length, the sites are sandwiched between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. There are three composting bathrooms at the beginning, middle, and end, the one at the entrance larger and more well-kept (I was honestly shocked how non-smelly and well-stocked with toilet paper it was).

The best spot to set up is personal preference but you’ll want to consider which waterfall you want to be closer to (whether your first or second day will be the longer hike) and how close you want to be to the entrance. The entrance is where the nicer toilets are, where the drinkable water is, and where the mules drop off bags (there are wheelbarrows to use) vs. the more remote spots. Don’t just take the first site you see – there are tons of gorgeous spots lining the river, some even on your own little island with bridges, swimming holes, and waterfalls. We set up between the first and second potties along the water, which was a good compromise for ambiance and convenience.

Fry Bread: The fry bread stand is at the top of Havasupai Falls, not far from camp. Prices range from $10-15 depending on what you order (Indian tacos are the top seller, which is essentially a large taco atop a doughy pita), but don’t discount the plain fry bread (which you can top with any of their sweet toppings like Nutella, peanut butter, honey, and powdered sugar).

They are open sporadically (ie. no set schedule – refer to hilarious photo), run out of things quickly, and often don’t feel like making more so if you get one, consider yourself lucky. Despite saying they open by 12:30 pm, the first time we saw them wasn’t until 1:40 pm and 2:30 pm the next day. We actually ended up stalking the stand for three hours, which sounds crazy but was totally worth it when you haven’t had a real meal in days. Frozen Gatorades are also a refreshing and highly coveted treat you can score there.

See the sneaky squirrel trying to get into that person’s bag?

The War on Critters: By far the most challenging part of the trip was trying to prep for the relentless animals. Squirrels during the day and raccoons (trash pandas) at night, they work together and travel in packs, their only mission to get your food. You can pre-plan as much as possible, but honestly, it’s mostly luck who’s stuff they decide to ravage. Even in a hanging metal Rat Sack, they managed to poke a hole in a Ramen cup and rip open a bag of Animal Crackers, which we barely noticed they got to (if you think they’ll make a huge mess and scatter everything everywhere, they’re much sneakier than that). Thankfully, those were the only casualties, but some of our neighbors weren’t so lucky. Bring extra food and a few different ways to store it so they don’t get everything.

Meals: We wanted to prepare group dinners like we normally would for a kumbaya camping trip, but with only a few Jet Boils to work with, it was too challenging to cook for that many people. We ended up mostly doing our own thing for food, generally protein bars and tortillas for breakfast, tuna and crackers for lunch, and dehydrated Mountain House meals (chicken and rice was the fan-favorite), rice and couscous, or mac and cheese, and Ramen for dinner. The biggest life hack I saw on the message boards was to bring Cholula and Sriracha packets for seasoning (you can snag them from most fast food joints on the way up or even steal a bunch of Taco Bell sauce to flavor your food).

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

Havasupai Falls Waterfall Photo Tips

All the dreamy waterfall photos you see were shot in long exposure which adds a motion blur – which many people don’t realize you can do right on an iPhone with a model 6s or higher. To do it, turn on the LIVE functionality (personally, I always leave LIVE on so you can choose which keyframe you want and it’s like taking 20 photos in one) and snap a photo. Open the picture in the photos app and swipe up. You should see four choices: the live video, loop, bounce, or long exposure. Select long exposure and voila, the sharp, crisp water becomes flowy and smooth. Don’t like it? Switch right back. Use this technique for landscapes without people as their faces will become all ghost-like and blurry. Long Exposure also zooms in quite a bit so make sure you are standing far enough back and have a wide enough angle to capture the scene. You’ll also want to consider lighting in the canyon as early mornings and golden hour (around sunset) generally produce the best results.

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking

To capture people, my favorite style of photography is “little people, big world,” which really showcases the perspective and immensity of the area. Instead of taking a close-up, perfectly framed, posed shot, get as far away from your subject as possible, making them just a tiny part of the scene. Snap away as they move around, interacting with the environment. Try different angles, shooting up, down, and anything to add visual interest. The more pictures you take, the more options you’ll have. While you don’t necessarily want to bring excess props on a hike of this magnitude (RIP long dresses, floppy hats, and umbrellas), you can still consider what color of clothing will pop in contrast to the water. And have fun! It’s hard to take a bad photo here.

5,000+ words later, I think that about covers it. Anything else you still need or want to know?

Like It? Pin It!

The ultimate guide to the Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona from complete packing list to camping, backpacking, lodge, and photography info. Tips and pictures for how to score a permit, where in the campground to sleep, photo tips, waterfall inspiration, and useful info about the helicopter, food and clothes to bring, and the trail. #pics #havasupai #havasu #waterfalls #arizona #grandcanyon  #waterfall #hiking
Havasupai Falls Packing List -- everything you need for the hike, camping, lodge, food, helicopter, campground, and photography tips and tricks for hiking and backpacking in Arizona. How to get a permit to Havasu Falls, the map, clothes to bring, and photoshoot ideas. One of the best waterfall trips in the USA in the Grand Canyon. #america #waterfalls #havasupai #havasu #hiking #backpacking #packinglist #camping

Sharing is Caring:
  • 502
    Shares

8 Comments

  1. What an awesome guide! I haven’t seen one like this before! Sooo good to know what it’s really like as I’d love to hike in the Grand Canyon ar some point!

  2. It looks so stunning.. I had no idea it was in the Grand Canyon! It’s so good that they limit the number of people per day, I think it’s very important for conservation purposes. The hike looks amazing, would love to do it one day, thanks for all the info!

  3. Hi Lo,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It has been so fun to read it and compare it to the times that I went there in the seventies and eighties. Yes, forty years ago. So many things were different. No internet reservations, no internet groups to share tips, no water shoes, no cell phones…and the list goes on. On one of our hikes we actually took canned bacon. I’m not sure they even have that anymore. A few things that seem to be the same:
    – The gorgeous falls – although they’ve changed due to flooding over the years.
    – The precarious climb down Mooney Falls
    – The tenacious squirrels
    – The delicious fry bread – although we had to hike all the way to the village to get it.
    – The fact that its an experience of a lifetime that takes a lot of planning, but is worth every minute.

    One difference in our hike down. We would always try to book it on the night of a full moon. To avoid the heat, we would start hiking in the early evening [5pm or so] and go as long as we could by the light of the moon, into the night, then just pull out our sleeping bags and sleep on the trail until dawn, then hike the rest of the way to the village in the morning. For the hike out, we would go to the base of the switchbacks in the evening, sleep at the base, then get up in the morning and hike the switchbacks while it was still cool. I’m not even sure they’d let you do that now.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing such detailed info and letting me stroll or hike down memory lane.
    Great post!

    1. OMG I love this (and wish canned bacon still existed!). Sleeping on the trail is definitely a no no but I love hearing about how it used to be — pre-all the regulations.

  4. What a wonderful post! The level of detail in the difficulty and what is needed is perfect. I would love to take that hike but I know that physically I couldn’t do it so I’ll have to dream and stare at the stunning photos.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.