Hiking the west end of the Grand Canyon
Havasu Falls cascades 80 feet into a clear, blue pool in the Grand Canyon. Most visitors make the arduous, 10-mile hike from the canyon rim to the falls following a trail overseen by the Havasupai Indians. Others ride mules or take all-inclusive tours. No matter your mode of transportation, Havasu Falls’ breathtaking plunge is worth the excursion.
The route to Havasu Falls
The falls are on the Havasupai reservation, about 200 miles west of Grand Canyon Village. The trail begins on Hualapai Hilltop and descends through a series of switchbacks for a mile to the canyon floor. Hiking is easier once you’ve stepped off the trail down the cliff, but for the next three miles there’s little shade. The heat can be brutal in the summer, and you’ll need protection from the sun year-round. After three miles, the hike to the village of Supai, part of it along Havasu Creek, is shady. The campground is one mile beyond Supai. Once you’ve set up camp and have taken a break, you can hike the half-mile to Havasu Falls.
Havasu Falls hiking and camping regulations
The Havasupai tribe requires hikers, even those who think they can do the 20-mile round-trip hike in one day, to spend the night in the canyon at designated campsites or at the lodge. Those who break either of these rules are subject to a steep fine.
Hikers must pay an environmental care fee, lodging fee and entrance fee before they can begin their trek. A limited number of hiking/camping permits are awarded each year. Hikers must register at the tourist office in Supai, eight miles into the hike, and show proof they’ve paid their fees and have overnight reservations.
Be respectful of tribal lands. Follow leave-no-trace practices and leave flora, fauna and archaeological formations alone.
Remember that pack horses have the right of way. When you encounter them, move to the canyon side of the trail and wait for the horses to pass.
The tribe prohibits hiking into the canyon when the temperature exceeds 115 degrees F.
Desert hiking tool kit
The 10-mile-long hike can take as long as seven hours to complete, depending on your conditioning and pace, so prepare yourself mentally and physically. Climbing up and down the switchbacks can be difficult for hikers who suffer from vertigo.
Hikers won’t find a clean water source until they reach Supai, eight miles from the trailhead. Plan on carrying a gallon of water and electrolyte-rich drinks.
Make sure your hiking boots are broken in and waterproof. Add blister bandages and moleskin to a basic first-aid kit. Carry lightweight river sandals or sneakers for fording streams.
The creek that flows through the canyon maintains a constant 70-degree F temperature, year-round, providing a spot for cooling off in triple-digit heat.
Havasu Falls through the seasons
Despite the summer heat, peak hiking season to Havasu Falls is June through August. Temperatures can rise above 110 degrees F on the canyon floor and remain warm overnight. The canyon is least busy in the winter, when daytime highs are in the mid-50s to low-60s and nighttime lows hover around 30 degrees. Early spring and late fall are the best times to visit, but be aware that flash floods can happen during the late summer monsoon season. As a rule of thumb, temperatures on the valley floor are typically 10 degrees hotter than at the trailhead.
How to get to Havasu Falls without hiking
Visitors who don’t want to hike to the falls have several options. Guided tours by mule include meals, permits and gear. All you need to bring is your clothing and personal items. Skilled guides are expert with wilderness first aid and are knowledgeable about the region. At the end of the trip, a guide will set up camp and cook a meal. If you want to get to Havasu Falls in style, book an all-inclusive helicopter backpacking tour that includes a ride in a helicopter to Supai followed by the short hike to the campground and several days of exploration.
If you don’t want to camp, consider staying at the lodge in Supai operated by the Havasupai tribe.