Tucked away in a small south west-ish part of the Grand Canyon is a magical place that feels photoshopped is Havasupai. Although it is part h the Grand Canyon, it’s not part of the Grand Canyon National Park. Havasupai sits on the the Havasupai Indian Reservation and is located directly East of Las Vegas and directly South of Kanab, Utah.
Havasupia is translated to people of the blue green waters, they weren’t kidding around when they decided to name the place blue green waters – the waters are blue green, for real. When you first see the waters you might think you’re in Banff, Canada or Glacier National Park looking at glacier runoff, but the stark contrast of the red desert rock, the cactus, and towering cliffs all around you remind you that, no you are not in Banff, you are far from it, you are in the Grand Canyon. Havasupai is one of those places where words, nor pictures can come close to doing this place justice. So if you have a list, put Havasupai on it, and put it near the top. If you don’t have a list, Havasupai would be a great reason to start one.
There are many companies who offer full-service guided trips of Havsupia, or you can even book your stay at the Havasupai Lodge, but this write up is to walk you through how to do your own self-guided camping trip, which is what we hear at highly Gear Obsession recommend.
Getting a Permit:
Havasupai is operated by the Havasupai Indian Tribe and you need a permit to be able to do it. Permits become available every year on February 1st. The only way to get a permit is by phone and they typically sell out for the entire year within a month or two and permits and dates are given on a first-come first-serve basis. Contact the Havasupai Tourism Office at (928) 448-1212, you are most likely to get an answer between 9:00 am and Noon Arizona time. You can get up to 20 permits per group.
Best time to go
Havasupai is the Grand Canyon, which is in the desert of Arizona, and just like anywhere in Arizona, IT IS HOT. So if possible, avoid going June through August. We recommend going in April through May, or in September through October.
Average Temperatures at Havasupai by Month:
Packing & Preparation:
You’ll be camping and backpacking in (unless you chose to descend by helicopter instead). So you’ll want your typical backpacking gear: Backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, headlamp, basic first aid kit, and food and water for the hike in and out.
A few other things to bring:
The Hike in:
It’s a 10 mile hike to Havasu falls and the campground. You start out at Hualapai and immediately begin descending on switchbacks to the canyon floor. Once you reach the floor you simply follow the canyon and dry river bed to Suapi City which is 8 miles away. At Supai, you’ll check in at the tourist office to pay for your fees due and get a wristband. From Supai you’ll hike 2 more miles to the campground.
Once you arrive to the campground, quickly find a good campsite and set up camp. There are definitely better camp spots than others. If you can’t find a good one your first night, a lot campsites will open up the next morning as people begin their hike out and you can re-locate to theirs if you wish.
There is a spring at the campground you can get drinking water out of. There are also toilets stocked with toilet paper. There are no garbage cans so you must pack out all of your trash.
Don’t leave your food or any bags laying on the ground or tables at night. There are literally herds of raccoons roaming the camp and they’ll get into your bags at any cost and devour your food and tear up your goods. You can hang your bags from a tree branch or on rope or put them in a tent and that should do the trick.
Fifty Foot Falls
New Navajo Falls is the first waterfall as you descend from Supai to the campground. You may see it on your hike into the campground, but we’d recommend going to camp first, getting set up and then coming back up later when you have more time to enjoy it.
Fifty Foot Falls is just down the river from New Navajo Falls. It is a great place to jump in and swim around. We jumped off the the far side of the falls where a log sticks out over the falls, although it is discouraged by the Rangers because it’s not the best spot for jumping. A Ranger saw us jumping and told us about “Hidden Falls” which turned out to be much better for jumping.
Hidden Falls is between Fifty Foot Falls and Havasu Falls. You don’t see it unless you’re looking for it and there is no signage for it either. The trail to is not well beaten, and the trial actually ends before you can see the falls. Once the trail ends you have to trudge up the river a couple hundred feet to where you can see the falls. The river comes off a fall and creates a deep pool water that is safe for jumping. There are various heights on the cliff you can jump from anywhere from 15 feet on up to about 35 feet. We jumped for each height and never touched the bottom of the river.
If you can’t find Hidden Falls, ask a ranger or a tour guide. There are a lot of guided tour groups and they are easy to identify at the campground because they have a bunch of identical tents set up and large coolers of food. Any tour guide will know about hidden falls and can direct you to the trail head.
You can’t miss Havasu Falls if you tried to. As you descend into camp you walk right by it. It is gorgeous and for good reason the namesake of the Havasupai. Havasu Falls is another good area to swim. See if you’re a strong enough swimmer to swim up to or under the actual falls. My money says you can’t quite get there.
Mooney Falls is about a quarter mile down from the end of the campground and is the tallest fall in the Havasupai. You will descend through the carved out canyon wall on ladders and hanging on to chains a couple hundred feet to get to the bottom. The climb down is not technical but it’s a bit precarious, so don’t slip.
Beaver Falls is the last and final fall at Havasupai. It is the shortest fall of the 5, but in it’s own way is the most beautiful. Beaver Falls is a series of cascades on top of each other about 50 yards long. It is about a 3.5 miles down from Mooney Falls. The hike itself is worth doing as it provides beautiful views of the green canyon floor contrasted with the deep red canyon walls.
The Colorado River:
If you want to keep hiking, you can hike another 5 miles down from Beaver Falls to where the Suapi river meets the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
The Hike Out
Most people wake up early on the day of the hike and get an early start on the trail. This is especially recommended if you are there in June, July, or August. The last part of the hike you ascend about 2,000 feet to get back out of the canyon and to the parking lot. A lot of the hike is covered in shade in the morning, but the switchbacks are not. If you get an early start you can be at the switchbacks before the sun is high and the temperatures are flaring. If you wait too long to begin your hike out, you will be in the sun for the majority of the 10 miles.