Havasupai – it’s one of those special places, so perfect and unique that it finds itself on everyone’s bucket list. It’s two most famous waterfalls, Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls are so beautiful and picturesque it’s almost hard to believe they’re real. With the widespread use of the internet and Instagram, these waterfalls have in recent years become world famous. Having traveled to many amazing places in numerous countries I can say my trip to Havasupai ranks among my favorite and most memorable of all time.
Unlike many popular destinations this epic campground and swimming hole requires some effort and planning before one can experience it. The land is home to the Havasupai Tribe, and they have set in place rules all visitors must follow. A limited number of permits are available each day and once they’re sold no one else is allowed to visit. These permits generally sell out for the entire year shortly after they’re made available. Due to widespread popularity, these rules are necessary to keep the campground to a reasonable occupancy. If you’re one of the lucky few who gets a permit, you’ll then need to plan your trip and hike yourself the 10 miles in and 10 miles out, as there are no roads leading to the campground.
The Benefits of a Guided Tour
If you’re reading along and feeling upset that you won’t be able to get a permit there’s a solution. You can join a guided group tour with one of the few companies that offer multi-day trips to Havasupai. After calling the reservation to get a permit and learning they were all gone for the entire year I did just that. I joined a 3-day guided tour with Just Roughin’ It.
In addition to being the only other way you can visit the Havasupai campground besides getting your own permit, there are some other advantages of taking a group tour. The company provides nearly all the gear you’ll need (backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, cooked meals) so you don’t have to buy it and travel with it. They also provide transportation to and from Phoenix. Best of all, the experienced and knowledgeable guides will keep you from getting lost, set up camp, provide knowledge of the tribe and the land, and take care of any other issues that arise.
The Paradise that is Havasupai
The Havasupai Reservation spans nearly 300 square miles, but it’s Havasu Canyon and the creek that runs through it that is home to Supai Village and the waterfalls everyone wants to visit. Havasu Creek, which is the source of the falls, is famous for the vibrant blue-green colored water and travertine formations that make the waterfalls so incredible to look at. The water in the creek stays a cool and refreshing 70° F all year round.
Part of what makes the Havasupai experience so splendid is that you don’t just stand around looking at it; you get to fully experience and immerse yourself in it. There are lots of short hikes, unique falls, and plenty of places to swim and explore. All while enjoying a couple nights under the stars camping.
The long hike into the campground is an exhausting one. But once you’ve reached it you feel a sense of accomplishment that makes the trip even more rewarding. The designated campground is conveniently sandwiched between Havasu Falls on one end and Mooney Falls on the other; while Havasu Creek runs through it. The campground has a freshwater spring that requires no filtering to drink, and plenty of trees for stringing up hammocks and relaxing.
Tips for Visiting Havasupai Falls
Get A Permit On Your Own:
If you want to try getting your own permit there are some things to know. They usually begin selling the year’s permits in the beginning of February. The only way to reserve one is to call the Tribe, although they planned to recent online reservations in 2017 the system crashed and reverted back to phone only. They are notoriously bad at answering the phone, so you will likely have to try calling many times. More information is available on their official website: http://theofficialhavasupaitribe.com
You might’ve seen videos of people cliff jumping from Havasu Falls or other waterfalls on the reservation. Officially, it’s against the rules, but unofficially it’s rarely enforced. The problem is the travertine, sediment and flash floods. The creek is constantly changing, and that includes the water depth. One year a waterfall can be deep enough to plunge into from great heights, and the next it might be far too shallow. Many injuries occur each year from careless cliff jumpers. Don’t be one of them!
Things to Bring:
In addition to your basic camping gear (backpack, tent, sleeping bag, food, water) I consider these items essentials.
- Waterproof Blister Bandaids – with all the hiking and wet feet you’ll have these are gold. They are more expensive than a regular baindaid, but they’ll hold up a lot longer and provide more comfort for blisters on toes and heels.
- Hammock – because they’re lightweight and so fun to have while camping!
- $20 cash – The tribe has a general store (pricey) and next to the campground during the day there’s a frybread stand, and it’s delicious.
- Water Shoes – You need something to protect your feet in the water, and you don’t want to hike in the same shoes you swim in.
Best Time To Go:
Havasupai can enjoyed any time of the year, although there are definitely considerations to make. In the winter it will be too cold for swimming. In the summer months it will be misery for hiking in the extreme heat, but the water will be all that much more enjoyable. The ideal time to go is usually in the spring or fall, when temperatures are likely to be warm/cool but not extreme.