Backpacking Havasu Falls - Havasupai, AZ

Dates: 10/13/12 - 10/15/12

Miles: 26 miles

Elevation Change: 2,482'

Trail Type: Out and back

Trailhead: Google Maps

Trip Report:

We've heard a lot about Havasu Falls and we finally had the time to make a trip out there! Since these famous turquoise waterfalls are located in the Havasupai Indian Reservation, the permit system was much different. Overall the hike was hot and monotonous at times, but it was definitely worth it once we got down there. It was perfect weather when we went,  and I was amazed at how many waterfalls were in a single location. For a feel of what it was like, check out this video Kyle made:

The drive there was long and tedious, with the trailhead being at Hualapai Hilltop. There were lots of cars at the trailhead, and since we got there a little late, we had to park decently far from the actual TH.

Elevation profile of the hike to Beaver Falls
Elevation profile of the hike to Beaver Falls
The view of the canyon on the hike down
The view of the canyon on the hike down

It's an 8 mile journey to Supai village (population of 450) where we would pick up our permits at the main office.

A view of the winding, exposed trail down to the canyon floor
A view of the winding, exposed trail down to the canyon floor

The trail is very exposed and dusty, and we frequently had to pull to the side to let horse trains carrying supplies and people pass by. I'd suggest pulling over to the canyon wall side when letting the horses pass because they can easily knock you over the side of the cliff!

A train of donkeys being corralled by their owner's dogs
A train of donkeys being corralled by their owner's dogs

Once we got to the bottom, the trail was quite flat, and shade could be found behind the canyon walls.

The trail at the bottom is relatively flat and easy
The trail at the bottom is relatively flat and easy

Eventually we saw the river. It definitely looked different and had a unique blue tint to it.

Kyle cooling off in the river
Kyle cooling off in the river

When we reached the village, my legs were already shaking from hiking down so many miles. There were a lot of horses and stray dogs throughout the village.

The village of Supai was preparing for Halloween at the time
The village of Supai was preparing for Halloween at the time

Make sure to have reservations beforehand because it will cost you $114 per person to enter without one! After we checked in and paid $35/person entrance fee, $17/person/night camping fee, 5$/person environmental fee, and 10% tax, it came out to about $163! This is definitely the most expensive permit we have ever gotten..

The views of the rock walls around the village
The views of the rock walls around the village

With 2 more miles to go till the campground, we followed the river and passed by numerous waterfalls including Navajo Falls, Rock Falls, and Havasu Falls.

A picture of the setting sky colors reflecting in the pools of Navajo Falls
A picture of the setting sky colors reflecting in the pools of Navajo Falls
Falls
Falls

0.25 miles later we reached the top of Havasu Falls. We decided to just pass by since it was getting dark, but we promised to return the following day. Another 1/8 of a mile later, we finally arrived to the campground right after the sunset and had quite a bit of trouble finding a camp spot. There are no designated sites, and some people ended up pitching a tent wherever there was a flat area of dirt. We ended up walking through the entire campground all the way to Mooney Falls and pitched our tent at the top less than 3 feet from 3 other tents. The bathrooms throughout the campground were very nice - they were raised log cabins. Since the campground was so packed that night, there was always a line for the bathroom, even though there were 3 stalls per structure.

However, when we woke up we were astonished at our view. Since we arrived in the dark, we had no idea how tall Mooney falls was and how close we camped to the edge! It was beautiful as the sun hit the 200 foot waterfall and created rainbows that bounced off the red canyon walls.

Our view of Mooney Falls from our camp spot.
Our view of Mooney Falls from our camp spot.

We made breakfast and packed up to find a better camp spot since most people left that day. We had many great spots to choose from, and we settled for one that was close to the bathrooms and isolated on a little island (we had to cross wooden foot bridges to get to our site!)

Our second night's camp spot right by one of the turquoise rivers that flow through the campgrounds
Our second night's camp spot right by one of the turquoise rivers that flow through the campgrounds

We then laced up our hiking boots and headed to climb down Mooney Falls. It was about 0.5 miles from the beginning of the campground to Mooney Falls, and the hike down was slightly treacherous since the mist from the falls would make the steep rocks even more slippery. On a crowded day you can expect the one way trail to get blocked up, since you have to wait for people to climb up before you can climb down at some parts.

Emerging from a cave on the hike down Mooney Falls
Emerging from a cave on the hike down Mooney Falls

Once at the bottom, the mist and wind created by the powerful waterfall was so refreshing. We followed the creek and occasionally turned around to look at the spectacular view.

Looking back at Mooney Falls
Looking back at Mooney Falls

A short distance further down from Mooney Falls, we had to get our shoes wet as we hiked over pools and even passed a small cave filled with green ferns!

A small cave filled with lush ferns
A small cave filled with lush ferns

There were a couple stream crossings where we took off our shoes and easily crossed. The water was so warm compared to the frigid alpine water we were used to! As we reached a forest of bushes surrounded by tall red walls, we decided to keep our shoes off since the trail was mostly packed dust and sand.

The forest of vines that we walked barefoot through
The forest of vines that we walked barefoot through

The trail had a few short ladders/ropes to help you up some dusty cliffs but the trail was pretty easy since we were following the creek downstream.

The ladders and aquamarine waters made for a unique and fun hike
The ladders and aquamarine waters made for a unique and fun hike

After 3 miles from the base of Mooney Falls, we finally reached Beaver Falls!

Falls
Falls

After eating lunch here, taking some photos, and going for a swim we packed up and headed back to the campground.

Looking back up at the steep climb up Mooney Falls
Looking back up at the steep climb up Mooney Falls

We walked by our campground and headed back to Havasu Falls, trying to catch the sunset in our pictures. We had lots of fun jumping down the mini waterfalls into the pools and we stayed until the sun went down.

A view of Havasu Falls and the pools it created
A view of Havasu Falls and the pools it created
One of my favorite pictures of Havasu Falls
One of my favorite pictures of Havasu Falls

We returned to camp and had a delicious meal of mashed potatoes with Knorrs chicken noodles. Even though we didn't hike that much, all the time spent in the sun, water, and the climbing up and down waterfalls took its toll. I felt like I just spent an entire day in my bathing suit at the beach!

We woke up early to beat the sun and headed back out of the valley.

Seeking shade relief in the shadow of a well-placed rock
Seeking shade relief in the shadow of a well-placed rock

The trek up was difficult, especially the last couple miles when the trail actually steepened up towards the parking lot. By the time we reached our car we were quite sweaty and dusty!

Overall Havasu falls is a very popular and touristy place. It is not a backpacking excursion by any means since the campgrounds are well developed, crowded, and expensive. I've also heard the water flow is altered to make more waterfalls, which is a slight turn off for me. However the waterfalls are numerous and absolutely gorgeous. The turquoise water and red rocks are quite unique, and perhaps coming here during the week would be a better idea.

Other useful sites:

Wild Backpacker

World of Waterfalls