If we’re friends IRL, I’ve inevitably spent hours telling you about my hike to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon last October. It was the trip of a lifetime, but I’m so glad I went with an adventurous friend. Getting to Havasu Falls – both the planning and the hike itself – can be pretty daunting. But this Havasu Falls Hiking Guide should make the trek a little easier.
Planning? Can’t I just show up?
Short answer, nope. The first thing you need to know about this trip is you must have a permit to get to the falls and there’s no in-and-out hiking – meaning you must camp or stay at the lodge in the Havasupai Indian village. Permits are now on an online system and are released for the entire year on February 1, 2018 at 8 a.m. That’s next Thursday!
What exactly am I getting myself into?
The way the hike is set up is you’ve got about 8 miles to get to the village of Supai and then another 2 if you decide to camp. More on that in a bit. The first 1.5 miles is strenuous downhill switchbacks, but after that, your biggest issue is the sun. This is why you’ll hear about people sleeping in the parking lot and starting the hike at 4 a.m. We aren’t that extreme …
The nearest hotel to the starting point was one of the very coolest places I’ve ever stayed. Highly recommend Grand Canyon Caverns and Inn – it’s a roadside motel, but has an awesome cavern / fall-out shelter you can tour, eat dinner in, or even sleep in! Even being the closest option, it’s an hour and a half from the parking lot.
Once you get to Supai, you’ll check in at the visitor center where they’ll give you wristbands based on your permits. There are a few places to grab food and essentials, but, don’t count on them being there because sometimes they close for whatever reason. You should also plan to bring cash for this.
Not for the faint of heart …
If you’re camping like we did, the 2 miles from the village to the campground is borderline torture. Mostly because you’re already fatigued from the previous 8 miles. And it’s up and down hills in sand. After we set up camp, we went straight to bed – at, like, 4 p.m.
We spent the following day between Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls. Havasu falls and Mooney falls are at either ends of the campgrounds and maybe about a mile apart. Beaver falls is a bit more of a trek. I honestly would say skip that unless you’re staying more than two nights – to me, it wasn’t worth it and is about a 7-mile round trip.
To get to Mooney falls, you’re essentially scaling a cliff with craters in the rock they count as stairs. It’s pretty intense – there are chains hanging off the rock that you can hold onto and the ladder at the very end is slippery from the spray back of the falls, so you’ll need to be very careful on that. There are a couple of “caves” you’ll have to walk through to get there as well, but those were the easiest part – don’t let that scare you!
Once you’re tired of the falls, stop by the food stands in the campground or village to hang with the local pups and get some Nutella fry bread and frozen Gatorade! They’re Havasupai staples!
To get back, we had planned to take a helicopter – they’re about $80pp from the village. Unfortunately, we didn’t know they were closed the day we were hiking out. And we would have had a mule take our packs to get rid of the weight but we would have had to plan that the day before. Definitely look into this in advance because the 10-mile hike out of and up the canyon was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Camp? Do I have to?
Well, we camped, but no, you don’t have to. All of our research told us that the Indian village is pretty inconsistent … sometimes commissaries are open, sometimes they aren’t; sometimes there is electricity, sometimes there isn’t. Our thought was that we wanted to be closer to the falls and we weren’t afraid of a little camping.
While the camping was really lovely, we both said that if we were to do it again, we would stay in the lodge. It all just depends on the experience you’re looking to get out of it.
Anything else I should keep in mind?
Okay, this was my personal pet peeve of the trip … A lot of commentary online painted the natives who live there as uncaring, uneducated, and even criminal. This ALMOST deterred me from going at all. And when I did go, I had a padlock for the tent and about three different places to hide cash.
Not that you shouldn’t always be careful when traveling, but we were so pleasantly surprised by the friendliness and hospitality of the Havasupai tribe. The man who owned the first commissary actually gave us hugs on our way out. Please don’t let small-minded folks on the internet freak you out.
Whew. That’s a lot of information. And I have so many other things I want to tell you and share about the trip. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!