How Long is the Havasupai Falls Hike?
Hiking down to the shimmering waters of Havasu Falls is on the bucket list of most outdoor enthusiasts. Who wouldn’t want to take the plunge into some of the most iconic waters of the American Southwest? Inviting as they seem, however, getting to Havasu Falls is not particularly easy, cheap, or for the faint of heart. The trail is quite long, steep in places, and mostly in the sun. This is not to mention the sometimes dizzying exposures along two ridges.
Here are the best ways to get to Havasu Falls, as dictated by The Goat:
Hiking, as usual, is The Goat’s recommended method of travel. It allows one to truly experience nature and the wilderness was meant to be; unobstructed by whirring motors, and metal boxes on wheels. Though there are other means of travel to reach Havasu Falls (two of which are covered later in this post), hiking is by far the most rewarding. In addition to the physical rewards, the scenery is outstanding, and a multi-day backpacking trip allows hikers to explore the area deeply, which is not to be missed.
Several small tributaries to Havasu creek have carved intricate canyons of their own. Though the waterfalls and turquoise waters are the main attraction, the creeks, chives, falls, slots, and defiles off the beaten path are well worth the time to explore. Here, we outline the particulars of the main hike from its main (read: only) trailhead. Please do not attempt to reach the falls by any other routes or trails.
Length: 10 miles one-way
Difficulty: Strenuous, especially coming out of the canyon in the summer
If you can get a permit, GO! (Read more about Havasupai Permits here). This is one of the most coveted permits in the world, and getting one is no easy task. The best season to go is the date your permit says.
As of 2019, the Havasupai Tribe has changed and streamlined its permit process. You MUST reserve permits online, there is no longer a number to call.
Once again, the tribe has changed things up a bit. New in 2019, the only kind of trip available to reserve as 4 days/3 nights. You can no longer customize your trip length. The rates are $100/night during the week (mon-thurs) and $125/night on the weekends (fri-sun). This means, on average, a 4 day/3 night trip the Havasu Falls will cost you somewhere between $300-$375 per person on the permit.
Hiking down to the village of Supai and Havasu Falls is absolutely the way to do it. The 10-mile hike from Hualapai Hilltop to the campgrounds is reasonably difficult, so plan on hiking 4-5 hours down, and 7-8 hours back up. The weather can be very warm, and there is NO water along the trail. Bring at least 3 liters of personal drinking water, and remember there is no water until you reach the village of Supai, 8 miles down the canyon.
The trail starts quickly, with 1 mile of switchbacks descending 2000 feet into the canyon. Be aware of mules and horses on the trail as you make your way, they can be unpredictable. Always yield to animals. One of the most unfortunate things along the trail is the observation of animal caracasses; the pack animal situation here has become untenable (more on this later). You may reserve pack animals in the village of Supai, or at the campground. Stay on the side of the trail to avoid spooking the animals, and respect their handlers instructions..
Animals and Wildlife
There can be other wildlife (as if pack animals are wildlife) on the trail the you will want to stay aware of. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, and poisonous spiders are part of the desert ecosystem here. Do not put your hands in a place where you can’t see them. Do not, under any circumstances approach or in any way disturb rattlesnakes in particular. The most commonly-treated snakebite injury is on the hand. Would you like to guess how a rattlesnake bites a person on the hand?
Hikers may also catch a glimpse of bighorn sheep, California condors, Red-tailed Hawks, and copious numbers of lizards and rodents such as chipmunks and ground squirrels. Do not approach or attempt to feed wildlife. The rodents may carry the Hantavirus, which is a particularly horrific, Ebola-like virus that can result in death. Also, keeping wildlife wild is what makes wilderness what it is and was meant to be!
Continuing Down the Canyon…..
The hike meanders on the trail for 7 miles before reaching the village of Supai. The first 3 miles of this trek offers very little shelter from the sun. At length, hikers reach the terminus of Hualapai Canyon at the junction of Havasu Canyon, where the famous turquoise waters of Havasu Creek first appear. From this junction, you have just 1.5 miles to reach the village of Supai.
The Village of Supai
The village of Supai, where the Havasuapai Tribe has made their home for the better part of the last 800 years, is a small and quaint place. Services are very limited. There is no cell phone reception (but you probably knew this from the moment your phone lost reception below the canyon rim), and even the mail comes by mule train to this day.
There are some options for supplies, however. In addition to the campground office, there is a convenience store stocked with items like chips, jerky, gatorade/water, and other snacks provisions (bacon!). This a great place to recharge for the last 2 miles of the trek to the campgrounds. There is also a diner, grocery store, and more in the town, so take a moment to explore.
The Last Leg to the Falls
Departing from Supai, hikers descend for an additional 1.5 miles down Havasu Canyon. Come around a bend, and wait for a figurative punch in the face. The outstanding scene around the corner, the famous Havasu Falls, comes into view. Cascading nearly 150 feet over cliffs of travertine, Havasu Falls plunges into the blue-green waters with a thunderous might. This view alone will make every step of the journey worth it.
If you can, pry yourself away from the mesmerizing view and continue to the campground, a short half-mile beyond the falls. The campground has running water and trash receptacles, please use them both responsibly (more on this later). Bringing additional water bladders and water bottles can cut down on the time spent at the faucet. There is but one faucet, and lines will form at any time of year. Be smart, plan ahead, save time.
While at the Campground
Havasu Falls and the surrounding area is a very popular place. Do not come here expecting solitude, or anything that could be considered a “wilderness experience”. While it is intensely beautiful, it is that beauty that makes it very crowded. On any given night, during all times of the year, expect to share the campground with somewhere between 300-400 other people. Also expect a nearly constant din of helicopters landing and taking off, as this has become a very popular method of reaching the falls.
There are several things you can do while at Havasu Campground to minimize your personal impact. Rule one: Pack it in, pack it out. If you bring it, take it the hell out (please). Do not flick cigarette butts, toss napkins or do your dishes in the creek. Do not act a fool. Over the years, especially as the popularity of this place has grown, guests here have acted fools; don’t be them.
There are trash receptacles at the campground itself, along with more in Supai. Don’t be one of the rubes who comes to this beautiful place only to treat it as their personal dumping grounds. Please contribute positively towards a future where everyone that comes here can enjoy its pristine beauty and granduer without having to stare a pools full of popped intertubes, discarded bras, cigarette butts, and beer cans.
Hualapai Hilltop to Campgrounds – 10 Miles
Hualapai Hilltop to Supai – 8 Miles
Supai to Campground – 2 Miles
Campground to Mooney Falls – 0.5 Miles
Mooney Falls To Colorado River – 8 Miles
Mules and other pack animals such as horses have long been used to transport gear, supplies, and people up and down the canyon walls of Havasu. In recent years, this practice has been adopted by several private outfitters that run trips to Havasu Falls. Due to crowding, jostling, and overall irresponsibility and disregard, this pack animal situation has become untenable. What exactly does that mean? It means that there have been numerous cases of serious animal abuses, from dehydration and starvation, to squalid trail and living conditions, to outright physical abuse and death.
The Goat strongly advises against using any company that offers pack animal-supported tours. The long list of serious offenders (which we won’t mention here out of professional respect), reflects a culture of lack of accountability. There are ZERO companies that offer pack animal-supported tours that have a 100% clean sheet of responsibility. You may contact us directly for more information on this malpractice.
There has been a massive increase in the popularity of getting to Havasu Falls by skipping the hike, instead opting to ride a helicopter. The Goat cannot stress how much he detests this practice, and bids adieu to anyone wishing to do it. You may do what you please, but we cannot and will not instruct, offer information to, or otherwise involve ourselves in an industry that actively degrades and disrespects the sanctity of wilderness. Also, get off your lazy butt and walk down if you want to see something beautiful.
****As of 2019, the Havasupai Tribe has placed a moratorium on all commercial guiding into Havasu Canyon. Due to overwhelming popularity, overcrowding, and lack of regulation, the tribe thought it best to place a hold on all guided tours until a proper management plan can be outlined. Contact us for information regarding self-guided tours, and other means of support for trips to Havasu Falls.
The Goat’s Final Word
Havasu Falls and the four azure waterfalls that accompany, are some of the most beautiful, unique, and stunning scenes the world has to offer. The journey to reach it is challenging, but extraordinarily rewarding. Please follow and respect the permit regulations and requirements, and once there please have reverence and respect for this truly special landscape. The tribe has significantly altered the permit process, and placed restrictions on commercial guiding companies in order to combat the overrunning of their homeland.
Going to Havasu Falls and exploring the fantasy-like landscape is an absolute bucket list destination; a destination that any hiker who wishes to explore Earth’s most special landscapes would want to check off. However, getting there takes advance planning, commitment, and respect.
For more information on the Permit Process, visit the Havasupai Tribal Website