Hike | Havasupai 101: A Beginner's Guide | Grand Canyon
From beginning to end, the Havasupai experience is just as amazing as they say it is.
Securing a Permit
February 1st rolled around and I woke up a tad later than I expected since I had been working all night long the night before. Around 8:45 AM, I logged onto theofficialhavasupaitribe.com unsure if I was going to be able to find a date for us to make the trek down to one of the world’s most beautiful places.
Bummed to find out that the only full month left was February, I decided that now was better than never and I selected the date of February 10th-11th. Two days and one night were secured after I fervorously clicked on the submit button a hundred or so times.
And voila! Here’s what my permit looked like: Boy was I lucky that this year was the first year the tribe decided to use online reservations because I secured our spot for the weekend fairly easily compared to some who have spent hours waiting on a permit.
HAVASUPAI PSA: Be sure to print out your reservation sheet (I made two copies in case we lost one!) and write your license plate number on the reservation sheet, too! You’ll need your driver’s license as well when you reach the check-in office at the village.
As a beginner hiker (I’ve only been in Arizona for 2 months and have never, EVER hiked more than 6 or 7 miles round trip), I realized that I didn’t have much time to get up to speed in terms of hiking and camping gear.
5 Days Out from Havasu Falls
I bought my first tent (thank you REI Garage Sale!), sleeping bag, sleeping pad, headlamp, and many more items to suit up for our trip down into Havasupai.
In the week or less time I had to prepare myself, I tried many MRE food items, bought endless snacks, and learned how to camp in my backyard.
All of this might sound silly to some, but I wanted to be sure that I had everything I needed in order to make my first camping trip the best one. Practice makes perfect and let me tell you, you don’t want you first time rolling up a sleeping pad to be the morning you pack up to leave because you’ll be there for quite some time.
My Havasupai Packing List:
- JetBroil mini propane tank
- Water filter
- Mini camping pot & pan
- Propane to cooking connection device
- Mountain House MREs (Mac & Cheese, Chicken Fried Rice, Breakfast Skillet)
- CLIF Bars
- 2 person tent
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Trash bags
- Collapsible lantern
- Hiking boots
- Camel pack
- Overnight backpacking pack
- Reusable water bottle
- Smartwatch (for mile tracking & time)
- Water shoes
- 2 long sleeve shirts
- 1 t-shirt
- 2 pairs of leggings
- Clothes for the water (swimsuit in the warmer months, sports bra & compression shorts/pants for cooler months)
- EZ dry towel
- Wool socks
- Warm jacket
- Extra batteries
- Solar power phone charger (in case of emergencies)
- Toilet paper
- First aid kit
Now onto the good part, we’re packed up and ready to leave for Havasupai.
After 5 days of stressing over which way to pack what in my backpack, securing the Goldfish (a very important trail snack, FYI), and perfecting the art of rolling very big gear into super small bags, I was ready to take on the trail.
The trailhead starts at Hualapai Hilltop, which is where we decided to camp the night before in the back of our pickup truck. Snuggled up in my sleeping bag, I couldn’t sleep for more than 4 hours before I was up and ready to start down into the canyon.
Promptly at 7:30 AM, I forced my other half to get ready as I packed our backpacks full to the brim with snacks and food for our night at the falls.
Around 8:00 AM, we descended down into the canyon and immediately realized that the trip back up was going to be brutal.
From Hualapai Hilltop you descend 2,000 feet down into the canyon with the first mile being the steepest part of your trek. Four switchbacks later and you’re down on the canyon floor. The rest of the 10-mile hike to Havasu Falls is relatively flat.
It was breathtakingly beautiful the entire way.
We stopped three times prior to the village (located 8 miles into the hike!), checked in, petted some of the amazing native pets, including horses and dogs, and carried on our way to Havasu Falls.
About a mile past the village, you’ll see Little Navajo Falls. A picturesque mini waterfall that really gets you giddy for the falls to come.
Half a mile after Little Navajo, you come across the waterfall you’ve all been waiting for: Havasu.
Amazed by what I saw, we stopped immediately as we rounded the corner down into the Falls and campground area. There’s something about falling water that really makes you stop and think.
After I was prodded on by my hiking partner, we set up camp right next to the river about a half mile away from Havasu Falls.
Havasu Falls Campground
The camping area goes on and on past the Ranger’s station, almost to Mooney Falls (1 mile after Havasu). There are plenty of places to camp alongside the river as well as composting bathrooms for you to use every so often along the trail.
While we visited, there was always toilet paper, but to be safe we brought our own. I imagine during the busier months that toilet paper will be scarce, so definitely pack a few rolls if you’ll be staying for more than a night!
Down at the campground, you also have access to drinking water if you are running low. We brought enough with us, but in case you leave a bottle or two behind in the car you will have plenty down at the campground!
You must also pack your own trash bags. There are NO trash cans down at the campground. All the trash you pack in, MUST be packed out.
We forgot trash bags (bad on me!), but we packed everything out in our daypacks! If you are going to be down at the campground for a few days, be sure to bring your own bags to throw your trash away and pack it all the way out!
There are a few trash cans available for your use by the village stores, but they definitely are not large enough to throw away a large amount of trash.
Havasu & Mooney Havasu Falls are mind-blowing. The water gets its color from lime deposits in the soil beneath it, but you will be hard pressed to find water as crystal blue elsewhere.
Havasu has a large swimming area, but it was much too cold for us to go all the way under in February. You definitely want water shoes to avoid hurting your feet in the fall areas, but I stuck with my wool socks and climbed right on in.
The water was pretty chilly, but mostly due to the wind. I was about thigh deep before I couldn’t take it anymore, although some others were all the way in and seemed to enjoy it!
We spent about an hour and a half at Havasu before we decided to head down to Mooney Falls.
HAVASUPAI PSA: Mooney Falls is much more difficult to get to than Havasu Falls. You have to descend down through a small slippery and rocky space. You have only chains and a few wooden ladders to support your climb down to Mooney, so beware before you decide to descend!
After landing with feet safely on the ground at Mooney Falls, you see a small island in front of you. I wandered through the water to the island and then saw a rope swing!
Even though I hadn’t been too far into the water at Havasu Falls, I couldn’t resist a good rope swing so I grabbed hold and swung over the mini falls and into the freezing water. Twice.
It was truly an experience I will never forget. Also because I think the freezing water shocked that memory into permanent existence in my brain. You most definitely want to visit the Falls during warmer weather to enjoy them at their fullest!
Hiking Out of Havasupai
After we experienced it all in such a short time, we were exhausted and promptly fell asleep at 9 PM before hiking out the next day.
We packed up around 7:00 AM and made our way through the village and through the canyon. We doubled up on our stops (6 stops instead of our previous 3) and finally reached the last mile around 11:00 AM.
The last mile was tedious, painful, and steep. It took us about an hour and a half to make it up the last mile itself, but we were so proud of ourselves once we reached the top. The last mile is the reason why they say this hike is difficult.
It takes a lot of motivation and water to make it up a trail that steep, so if you plan to visit in the warmer months, please take as much water as you can carry. You will need it.
All in all, this was a trip of a lifetime. From start to finish, I couldn’t stop smiling and I know your trip will be the same.
And remember: Always be safe, smart, and keep it wild.
This blog was thoughtfully written by Erin Maxon. You can find her on Instagram @airmax14.
* Please remember to hike at your own risk. To learn more please refer to our Hiking Disclaimer.