You may have seen pictures of the impossibly blue Havasu Falls and wondered if they were edited to make them look better than they are in reality. Having done the Havasupai hike in early 2019, I can tell you that the falls are even more beautiful in real life than they are on Instagram posts. And the Havasupai hike that leads you to these beautiful falls inside the Grand Canyon is from start to finish one of the most amazing hikes you will ever do.
Related: It’s a good idea to do some practice hikes before you take on an epic hike like Havasupai. Check out our post about the Prairie Mountain Hike in the Canadian Rockies.
This is no walk in the park. The Havasupai hike is challenging and good gear will help you be successful. Wear layers and bring plenty of water – especially in the hotter months. You’ll also need good hiking boots, a sturdy tent, and a good backpack. Hiking poles will really help with the 2000-foot descent. Our favorite hiking poles are inexpensive, sturdy, lightweight, and collapsible. They clip onto our pack and have adapters for snow and shock absorption.
What You See on the Havasupai Hike
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” It might be bold to disagree with one of the greatest writers in history, but the Havasupai hike is about both the destination and the journey. Hiking from the rim of the Grand Canyon deep into its base is a challenging adventure with great rewards. The journey takes you through a stunning landscape shaped by natural erosion. You see fascinating geology, colorful rock formations and interesting plant life. You’ll pass through the indigenous village of Supai, see Fifty Foot Falls and Navajo Falls before you reach the focal point of your journey, stunningly beautiful Havasu Falls. If Havasu Falls was all you saw on the trip, it would be worth it, but there are two more magnificent waterfalls beyond Havasu.
Can You do the Hike in a Day?
Day hiking is prohibited on the Havasupai trail. Permits for the Havasupai hike are for a 3-night campground stay. Even if day hiking was allowed, you wouldn’t be able to see everything in a single day. You’ll want to check out Navajo Falls, Lesser Navajo Falls, Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls and maybe even hike to Beaver Falls and the confluence of the Colorado River. You’ll also want some downtime to relax, swim and take photographs. Note: Havasu Falls is located in the traditional lands of the Havasupai tribe, also known as “people of the blue green water.”
Related: It’s a good idea to train for a challenging hike like Havasupai. Check out our post entitled Prairie Mountain – Hike a Mountain Before Lunch!
How Long will the Hike Take?
It is 10 miles from the trailhead to the campground. It takes 4-7 hours to do the Havasupai hike – depending on your fitness level and how many photo stops you take. You will descend 2,000 feet from the canyon rim and most of that will happen in the first mile of the hike, which has a series of steep switchbacks. Be sure you pack enough water, because there is no water until you reach the village of Supai at 8 miles into the hike. Start early and plan to arrive in the village to pick up your camping permit before 3 pm.
What it Costs to Hike Havasupai
Havasu Falls is on the traditional lands of the Havasupai tribe and they provide the permits and set the rates. In 2019, the permit for the Havasupai hike cost $300 – $375 per person. This fee includes three nights of camping at the campground next to the falls. Camping rates are $100 per night on weekdays and $125 per night on weekends. All permits are for 3 nights/4 days. Steep fines apply if you try to visit without a permit. Those who enter tribal lands are subject to tribal law. Note: If you are indigenous and you show your identification card with your band number, the Havasupai people will refund the fees.
How to Get a Permit for the Havasupai Hike
There are a limited number of Havasupai hike permits and they are highly sought after. You cannot reserve by phone. The Havasupai tribe has implemented an online booking system with reservations opening in early February. In 2018, all permits were sold out within 24 hours. To get our permits for 2019, we were on the website the moment it opened. It took about 90 minutes of refreshing the screen and waiting to secure permits for our group.
Mules and Helicopter Transport Make the Havasupai Hike Easier
If you’ve never backpacked before, you should consider hiring a mule to carry your gear. The cost in 2019 was $400 return and you have to book it in advance. A mule can carry up to four backpacks. We carried our packs in and hired a mule to carry them out for us. The cost for the one-way mule trip was $250. On certain days of the week, you can catch a helicopter out of the canyon. The helicopter will carry one person and their pack for $85. Taking the helicopter into the canyon might also be an option, but in doing so, you miss the amazing experience of hiking inside the Grand Canyon.
Where to Stay the Night before the Havasupai Hike
We stayed at the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs, Arizona the night before the Havasupai hike. The lodge is fairly new, clean, reasonably priced and has rooms that can sleep up to four people. A good continental breakfast is included. The drive from the lodge to the Havasupai trailhead takes about 90-minutes.
Minimize the Hazards of the Hike
The Havasupai hike is very challenging and you need to be physically fit to do it. The hike to the campground is 10 miles and there is a 2000-foot descent from the canyon rim. In the winter months, there is snow at the top and the descent to the canyon floor can be slippery. Ice cleats can help in winter. Hiking poles are useful year round. High temperatures in summer can lead to heat exhaustion and dehydration. Be sure to carry extra water and try to avoid hiking in the hottest hours of day in summer. Year-round you need to watch out for mule teams that could knock you off the path. Always move towards the wall of the canyon and not towards the edge of the trail when a mule train runs past. Advance training, good gear and proper preparation will help you do the Havasupai hike safely.
It’s Worth It
You need to be prepared to have a successful trip, because the Havasupai hike is worth every bit of research and preparation you put into it. You will love it – no matter what time of year you go.