We gathered our things, with eyes still sleepy, and prepared ourselves for the upcoming ten-mile hike into the Havasupai canyon. I was thankful Scott agreed with me about paying for a mule to carry our large packs. Ten miles is a long hike and it would have felt dreadfully longer with the weight of our camping gear and food.
We were headed to Havasu Falls, a gorgeous oasis in a remote part of the Grand Canyon. Havasupai means people of the blue-green waters and we soon found out how breathtakingly blue-green these waters really are.
If you are considering a trip to Havasu Canyon, you will want to come prepared. Not only with gear, but also armed with knowledge and tips from those who have gone before you. We learned a few things the hard way, so this post is intended to prevent others from making the same mistakes we did.
Planning a Trip to Havasupai Falls
Distance to Havasupai Lodge: 8 miles one way
Distance to Havasu Falls Campground: 10 miles one way
Closest Airport to Havasu Falls, Havasupai: Las Vegas airport is about 4 hours away
Reserve pack mules at least one week in advance.
We didn’t reserve a mule because we planned on carrying our packs. Right before we set out on our hike, we asked a tribe member if we could rent a mule even though it was last minute. He took our bags and we thought we were all set. Once we got down to the lodge (8 miles down the trail) the woman told us our bags were not guaranteed to make it to the campground (another 2 miles into the canyon) because we had not booked in advance. We spent the next 5 hours at the campground wondering what we would do with no clothes, food or camping gear because neither of us were in any condition to hike 10 miles back up the canyon.
Since we’ve visited Havasu Falls, it has come to my attention that the pack mules are not well taken care of. I no longer advise using a pack mule. I recommend carrying your gear just like you would on any backpacking trip.
Reserve a camping spot or make a lodge reservation at least three to four months in advance. For camping reservations, call 1-928-448-2141, 1-928-448-2121, 1-928-448-2174, or 1-928-448-2180. For lodge reservations, call 1-928-448-2111.
Plan to spend the night in your car (or pitch a tent) at the Hualapai Hilltop the first night so you can get an early start the next morning.
If you are hiking during the summer or fall, plan to begin your hike at first light. This will give you plenty of time for breaks and will make sure you are shaded from the scorching sun for most of the hike.
If you plan to take the helicopter, instead of hiking the last 8 miles out of the canyon, get there by 7 am to secure your place in line.
If you don’t get there early, you could be waiting until late afternoon for a ride out.
How to Get to Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls, Navajo Falls and Mooney Falls are located in the south rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The trail down to these falls begins at Hualapai Hilltop parking lot (which is where you will be sleeping the night before if you want to get an early start on the hike).
Hualapai Hilltop is at the end of Indian Road 18 which is 65 miles north of Route 66. Beware of cattle and wildlife on Indian 18 – especially after dark! This is no joke. We had to stop several times for cattle in the road and had to dodge a few bunnies.
GPS coordinates: 36° 9′ 44″ N, 112° 42′ 34″ W
What to Bring to Havasu Falls
Good Shoes and Socks – Make sure your foot does not move around in your shoe. The downhill will give you blisters if you don’t have the right socks and shoes! Hiking shoes are recommended.
Water Shoes: Necessary for swimming and walking in the river. These shoes are perfect because they protect your toes, have grip on the bottom, and they dry quickly. I would use these to hike from waterfall to waterfall once you are in the canyon.
First Aid Kit: If you are camping, the nearest store is 2 miles away and they sell mostly food items. J&J sells an inexpensive mini first aid kit.
Mosquito Repellent: We got bites even though we were good about putting this on. We brought this one because it was small enough to add to our pack.
Water: Bring enough water to get you through the hike down. You can buy water at the store near the lodge or if you are camping there is a natural spring to fill your water bottles.
Travelan: According to the National Park’s Service, any untreated water from a spring does have the potential to cause illness if it is not properly and carefully disinfected. We recommend bringing a pack of Travelan caplets, a product that is high in antibodies which helps maintain digestive health and protect against E. coli and other common traveler’s diarrhea culprits. Getting sick is one of the last things you want to have to deal with while you’re camping in Havasu Falls!
Water Filtration System: As an extra precaution, this water filtration system is extremely compact and easy to use.
Camping Stove: We have done extensive research on the best and lightest backpacking gear for these types of trips. This backpacking stove is tiny, weighs next to nothing and it heats stuff up fast.
Cookware: We just bought this tiny cookware set for backpacking trips and it’s extremely compact.
Sleeping Bags: This sleeping bag is great for backpacking and it gets excellent reviews.
Tent: We love this lightweight Marmot 2-person tent.
Sleeping Pads: These ones are amazing!
Backpacks: If you are looking for a durable, light, and inexpensive backpack, we recommend the Teton Scout.
Portable Charger: We carry this portable charger to charge our phones while camping and backpacking.
Waterproof Camera: We use the GoPro Hero4 Silver with LCD.
Rope: For hanging clothes and trash (so the squirrels can’t get to it).
Biodegradable Soap: This biodegradable soap is a must have (!!) for washing dishes and bathing in the river. Please do not use soap that is toxic for the environment!
Food: If you plan on camping, bring as much dehydrated food as possible to lighten your load. They sell dehydrated food packets at most camping stores. Other ideas for food include beef jerky, instant mashed potatoes, oatmeal, trail mix and nature bars.
Best Time to Visit Havasu Falls
This will depend on personal preference, but our opinion of the best times to visit Havasu Falls is March through June.
We visited in early September and got hit with a few gnarly thunderstorms. We thought this would be the perfect time because the water is warmer than in the spring, but thunderstorms and constant rain can definitely ruin a trip where you plan to hike and swim all day.
Also, be aware if you visit during monsoon season (July to early September) that this area has a likelihood of flash floods.
Prices for Havasu Falls Camping, Pack Mules, Helicopter and Lodge
Prices as of September 2015 and all prices are in US Dollars:
Entrance Fee: $35 per person
Campground Fee: $17 per person/per night
Environmental Care Fee: $5 per person
Round Trip Pack Horse (Campground): $187
One Way Pack Horse (To or from campground): $93.50
Round Trip Pack Horse (Lodge): $120
One Way Pack Horse (To or from lodge): $70
Helicopter: $85 per person – One way
Lodge: $145 per night, plus $35 Entrance Fee. ($40.00 deposit per room/per night)
Please visit the official website of the Havasupai Tribe for more information.
Closest Hotels to Havasu Falls
If you are visiting during the winter or you just don’t want to sleep at the hilltop the night before you hike in, here are a few of the closest hotels to Havasupai Canyon.
Maswik Lodge Hotel – 66 miles from Havasu Falls
El Tovar Hotel – 67 miles from Havasu Falls
Canyon Plaza Resort – 60 miles from Havasu Falls
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For more ideas on gorgeous places to camp, visit this post with some of the best places to camp in California.