The Grand Canyon is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular sites in the world, but what’s even more remarkable that it’s canyons are it’s breathtaking waterfalls. Undoubtedly Arizona’s best kept secret, the Havasupai only allow a few thousand visitors onto their reservation each year.
Pristine and untainted by pollution, Havasupai is the most remote community in the contiguous United States. It’s also the only place in the country that still gets its mail delivered by mules. Their are no cars or paved roads here, the landscape has been left just as nature intended.
While this makes for an unforgettable vacation, it also makes it difficult to prepare for such an excursion. The nearest gas station is roughly 60 miles away, and supplies must be flown in by helicopter, carried by mules, or backpacked. But don’t fret, this insider’s guide will tell what to pack for Havasupai and the falls.
Quick Article Guide:
1. How to Make Reservation for Havasu Falls
2. How Do I Get to the Havasupai Trailhead from Phoenix?
3. Driving from Williams to the Havasupai Trailhead
4. Hiking from the Havasupai Trailhead to the Waterfalls
5. Choosing the Perfect Campsite At Havasu Falls
6. Getting to the Beaver Falls from the Havasupai Campground
7. Reserving Mules for Camping at Havasu Falls
8. Flying In or Out of Havasupai by Helicopter
9. Reserving a Helicopter Flight to Havasupai
10. When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Havasu Falls?
11. What Should I Wear to the Havasupai Waterfalls?
12. What to Pack for Havasupai and the Falls
How to Make a Reservation for Havasu Falls
In 2017, the Havasupai stopped accepting campground reservations by phone. All reservations to camp at the falls must be made online at the tribe’s website here. The Havasu Falls are open from February through November and closed during the months of December and January.
Reservations are available for the season starting on February 1st. The cost is $100 per person on weekday nights, and $125 per person per night on weekends. All of the dates from March until the end of the season are completely booked within minutes, so it’s important to register for the site before you try to reserve in February.
The drive from Phoenix to the Havasupai Trailhead takes roughly five hours. There are no hotels near the Havasupai Trailhead, and the closest town of Williams is about three hours away. The daytime temperatures in this area can reach 100 degrees, so most people prefer to hike into the Havasupai canyon early in the morning.
Unless you plan to drive all night and then hike into the canyon, you have only two options for the night before you start your trip:
1. Stay in your car and sleep at the Havasupai Trailhead.
2. Get a hotel in Williams and drive to the trailhead in the morning.
The four of us chose the later. Williams is a really cool town that is located off the nostalgic Route 66. If you’re into Americana and classic cars, its definitely worth checking out. After stopping at local diner for the full experience, we checked into our hotel around 9:00 pm to get some sleep before the long day ahead.
We had read some horror stories online about people experiencing car alarms going off at all hours of the night while sleeping at the Havasupai Trailhead, so we didn’t want to take the chance. We were also lacking space with four people and all of our camping gear, food, and backpacking supplies in the car.
The drive from Williams to the Havasupai Trailhead is about 3 hours. Once you get close to Indian Road 18, you’ll see a gas station that we recommend stopping at. The drive from Route 66 to the trailhead is roughly 60 miles, and there is NOTHING along this road. Once you reach the trailhead, you won’t find any modern amenities either.
The closest town to here is Supai which has no paved roads or cars. The only way to get to the waterfalls or the town of Supai from the trailhead is to fly in by helicopter, hike, or on a horse. If you want to use a flushing toilet, buy supplies, or fill up with gas, this gas station is the LAST place to do it. The drive to the trailhead from here is over an hour.
The gas station has great breakfast burritos and we were starving so we bought some extra snacks for the road. We left our at 4:00 am that morning in hopes to reach the trailhead by 7:00. After our short pit-stop at gas station, we arrived at the parking lot closer to 7:15 am. The lot was already full, but we were able to find parking along the road less than a half of a mile away.
We were some of the last people to leave the trailhead for Havasupai. In fact, by the time we checked our bags and started down the trail, the few people we saw were finishing up. By 9:30 am the trail was completely desolate the only couple that started after us had probably given up and turned around. We didn’t see them for the rest of the trip.
Around 10:00 am, when we reached the first small store outside of Supai, the temperature had already reached 94 degrees. For most people, the eight mile hike to here takes about three and an hours to four hours. In the heat of the day, and with gear, it took us about four and a half hours. We also stopped a few times for pictures and lunch.
The first store you’ll come across is a family owned store. They have items like granola bars, trail mix, cold drinks, and a cooler with ice cream and frozen pizza. The amenities in this store are comparable to a gas station. About a half of a mile further, you’ll reach Supai which has a cafe. The cafe has items like cheese burgers, omelets, and sandwiches.
Across from the cafe is another store that has more supplies and invaluable items like cold Gatorade and water. They also had some produce, meat, bread and most of the staples you would expect from a small town store. This small town is the last place to buy food or supplies before reaching the campground which is two additional miles from here.
As you’re nearing the campsite, you’ll pass Havasu Falls on your right side. This waterfall is the most popular, and its the closest to the campsite. It has a few smaller pools you can relax in and a larger natural pool you can swim in. The Havasu campsite is another quarter of a mile from downhill from here.
All of the sites on the campground are first-come, first-serve, and the designated camping area is a mile long. Despite the size of the area, the best spots fill up fast. Camping closer the front of the camping area will make it easier to get water and hike to town, but this area also has the most dust and the least privacy.
Farther down the trail, there are campsites that are right on the water. The water was only about twenty feet away from us, but in hindsight, I wish we had moved closer on the first day. We were so exhausted after the hike that we took the first site we could find. We were also eager to hike back up to waterfall and jump in.
Most of the larger waterfalls at Havasupai are near the main campsite. If you want to visit Beaver Falls, you’ll need to hike there miles past the campsite. On day two, most people wake up early to hike to Beaver Falls. To get to Beaver Falls, you need to hike down Mooney Falls which is about a mile from the beginning of the camping area.
Mooney Falls is difficult to climb down without shoes that have a good grip . While we were visiting, someone actually fell on their hike down. She survived, but not without a lot of bruises on her legs and body. If your shoes aren’t the greatest, make sure your hands are free. There are chains you can hold onto while climbing down.
Once you reach the bottom of Mooney Falls, it’s an additional two miles to Beaver Falls. For most people, the round-trip hike to and from the campsite area takes roughly four hours. From Beaver Falls, you can continue hiking another four miles if you want to reach the Colorado River. There are tour groups that actually come here to spearfish wild trout.
If you have too much gear to carry in on your own back, you have two options: Rent a mule at the Havasupai Trailhead, or have your gear flown-in by helicopter. Most people use the mules to carry their gear, but the helicopter is usually less expensive for larger groups. One of the larger tour groups actually have inflatable couches and large propane grills flown-in each year.
From the helipad, or the area where the mule’s drop-off, there are wheelbarrows that you can use to carry your gear to the campsite. You should pack your supplies in something that is dust-proof and waterproof. The website recommends duffel bags, we used garbage bags and plastic tarps. The garbage bags came in handy for cleaning up and we put the tarps under our tents to minimize dust.
You must make a reservation online in advance. Each mule carries up to four, 32 pound bags, and one mule is available for every two visitors. Your bags cannot be longer than 36 inches and must be less than 19 inches in height and width. The cost is $400 round trip, and your gear must be at the trailhead by 10:00 am, or 7:00am at the Ranger’s Station, on your way out.
*As of 2019, the mules no longer carry coolers or ice chests. You must have your cooler flown-in by helicopter.
On our last full day at the falls we were completely wiped out. We had blisters all over our feet, and it was over 100 degrees. That day while swimming at Havasu Falls we decided against waking up the next morning at 4:00 am to hike out. We decide to sleep in until 5:30 am pack up when the sun was out instead. By this time, the campsite was deserted, and everyone had already started hiking out.
We started back towards Supai around 6:30 am, and we arrived by 7:30. The line for the helicopter was already about sixty people long so we put our bags in line and had breakfast at the cafe. We had to wait almost six hours for our turn to fly out, but we paid in advance so we didn’t have a choice. The helicopter can only take six people at time, and tribe members and workers get first priority.
The wait was definitely worth the short but adrenaline-filled flight out of the Canyon. It’s takes roughly five minutes to get back to the top of the trailhead where the main parking lot is. Airwest was chartering the flights in 2018 while we were there. The cost is $85 per person, each way, and all major credit cards are accepted.
Reservations must be made in person and by 10 am on the day of your flight. If you do not make a reservation by 10 am, you are not guaranteed a flight. The helicopters also stop flying when it gets dark, so check in as early as possible. It’s also important to note that the helicopters do not fly everyday. Here is the current AirWest schedule for flights to and from Havasupai.
From March 15th to October 15th:
- Sunday: 10 am to 1pm (or until dark)
- Monday: 10 am to 1pm (or until dark)
- Thursday: 10 am to 1pm (or until dark)
- Friday: 10 am to 1pm (or until dark)
From October 16th to March 14th:
- Sunday: 10 am to 1pm (or until dark)
- Friday: 10 am to 1pm (or until dark)
You need to be present in Supai when you are waiting to fly out. If you are not at the helipad when your name is called, you will lose your place in line. As far as we know, everyone was able to catch a flight on the day we left. We could still hear the helicopter running at 2:30 pm after we made it back to our car and packed up.
From November until February, it’s too cold to visit Havasupai. During these months, temperatures drop below 40 degrees at night and tourist avoid the waterfalls even though they’re open. In March, April, and May, the average daytime high is 70 degrees which is great for hiking, but it’s too cold for most people to swim in the falls.
In June it gets hot and by August, the temperatures reach 100 degrees. During, this time of year monsoons are common, and everyone has to be evacuated when they occur. For this reason, we recommend avoiding these months. Originally, our reservations were in late August, but flooding forced Havasupai for almost a month.
We got lucky and moved our reservation to mid-September when the temperature is a bit cooler and rain is uncommon. This is the the best time of year to go. During the daytime, temperatures are in the mid-90s and a comfortable low in the 60s at night. In addition, no one in our entire group experienced a mosquito bite.
By October, the temperatures start dropping again. By the middle of the month, it reaches an average high of 77 degrees during the day, and a low of 48 at night. The temperature of the waterfalls remains at 67 degrees year-round, but for most people it’s way too cold outside to enjoy a swim.
What Should I Wear to the Havasupai Waterfalls?
The time of year you visit the falls should determine how you dress and what you pack for Havasupai. In the summer, athletic clothes and swimming gear is best. You’ll also want to invest in a few pairs of heavy wool socks and a pair of trail shoes. REI offers some zip-off pants made by Columbia that are also ideal. They are lightweight, offer UV protection, and are very easy to pack.
Regardless of the time of year you decide to camp at Havasupai, you should always bring a light waterproof jacket. Even in the summer, the evenings and early mornings can get cold, and you’ll want to have some protection if it rains. We also recommend at least a few changes of clean undergarments to prevent chaffing.
In the winter, the weather is exactly the opposite. The nights are freezing and the days rarely get above 70 degrees. During these months, enter the water at you own risk, and be sure to bring thermal underwear and shirts you can layer under your zip-off pants. You’ll also want a sweatshirt or a heavier waterproof jacket.
What to Pack for Havasupai and the Falls
Below is a list of items you’ll want to pack for Havasupai and the Falls. We brought too much gear for our trip, and some of these items weren’t needed during our visit. Don’t make the same mistake we did, you’ll regret carrying the extra weight in and out of the canyon.
Here are the items you should pack for Havasupai and the surrounding waterfalls:
– Sunscreen (The sun is very unforgiving in Arizona, especially when you are hiking in without shelter)
– Mosquito Repellent (We didn’t see any mosquitoes in September, but its better to be safe)
– A Wide-Brimmed hat and Sunglasses (Almost every single person we saw had some kind of hat)
– Comfortable Trail Shoes or Hiking Shoes (You will need to walk on sand for almost twenty miles)
– Lots of Water (Bring at least one gallon of water for the hike)
– Electrolyte Packets (We really needed these to replace lost fluids)
– A Tent or Hammock (The first night we slept in a tent, but the hammock was much nicer)
– Credit Card or Cash (You can buy items like water and food at the stores)
– A Headlamp or Flashlight (The campsite has no lights)
– Camera (You’ll want to capture some pictures of the falls)
Items to Leave at Home or at Your Hotel:
– Pets (The rangers have dogs, so please leave your pets at home)
– Loud Music (No stereos, loud music, or cell phone speaker allowed)
– Drones (Drones are not allowed at the Havasupai Reservation)
Do you need help determining what to pack for Havasupai? Leave us a comment below with your questions and we’ll help you prepare for your upcoming visit to the falls.