Havasu Falls Camping Guide
I recently visited Havasupai Indian Reservation for a weekend of Havasu Falls camping. MIND. BLOWN. I knew it was going to be cool, but I didn’t realize how incredibly magical it was going to be. In my previous post, The 5 Biggest and Baddest Waterfalls of Havasu Canyon, I share my favorite photos from the Havasu Falls area and tips about how to best enjoy each of the waterfalls on the Havasupai Reservation.
Here in this post, I’m share everything you need to know about Havasu Falls camping, including trailhead information, how to get a permit reservation, the layout of the Havasupai campground, and what backpacking gear to bring to Havasu Falls.
••• Where is Havasu Falls / Getting to the Havasu Falls Trailhead •••
The trailhead is located Hualapai Hilltop which is marked on the map below. The two closest airports to Havasu Falls are Las Vegas (4 hours) or Phoenix (5 hours).
Directions to Havasu Falls from Las Vegas
From Las Vegas, take the 93 South towards Kingman, Arizona and then head east on Route 66. After 57 miles, turn left on Indian Road 18. Drive for 60 miles until you reach the end of the road. There is a large parking lot with bathrooms at the trailhead. There is also a place to camp just below the bathrooms, but there is no water available at the trailhead.
••• The Best Time to go to Havasu Falls •••
The best time to go to Havasu Falls depends on what you want to do there. Do you want to swim? Or do you want to avoid the crowds? Here are different pros and cons for visiting Havasu Falls for the different seasons.
- Pros: Less bugs and less people
- Cons: Variable weather could mean less than ideal swimming temps. This year has been abnormally warm and in mid-March it was about 80 during the day and the upper 40s at night.
- Pros: Hot weather means you can sit and hang out in the water all day
- Cons: Hot temps mean hiking could be miserable. In the heat of summer, when Havasu Falls is the busiest, people get up at 4am to begin the hike out. Summer is also monsoon season with flash floods being most likely from mid June to late September.
••• How to Get a Havasu Falls Permit & Camping Fees •••
— How to Get a Havasu Falls Permit —
The biggest obstacle to planning a backpacking trip to Havasu Falls is getting a permit. Advanced reservations are required, and generally permits sell out for the entire year within the first couple of months of the year. Your best chance of getting a permit will be to call at the beginning of the year as soon as the reservation lines open. If you get a busy signal, keep trying until you get through. I’ve heard of people calling for 15 hours straight before they finally reached someone on the other end.
Another way to increase your chances is to have flexible dates. Mid-summer when everyone is on summer vacation is going to be the most competitive time. If you can go mid-week in April or late-October , then you’ll have a better chance of getting a Havasu Falls permit.
Here’s another a quick tip. When I first called to make a reservation, I was told that there were no permits available. A week later I called back and asked again. Turns out someone else had cancelled their reservation for the dates I wanted. Because of that cancellation, I was able to get a Havasu Falls permit, and a couple of weeks later, I was camping there. There is no guarantee this will work, but it’s worth a try, and your chances will increase if you have some flexibility in your dates.
Reservations are made by phone through the camping office on the Havasupai Reservation. To make a reservation and obtain a permit, call (928) 448-2121 or (928) 448-2141 during the hours of 7am to 7pm. Make sure to write down your reservation number, as you will not receive any sort of confirmation by email or mail. You can also email the the tourism office at email@example.com, although I’ve never heard of anyone being successful getting a permit via email.
** Note: I’ve been getting a lot of emails about people having trouble getting through to the reservation line. My guess is that the phone lines have been very busy, and unfortunately, I can’t offer any assistance with getting permits or advice on how to reach the camping office beyond what is offered in this post. Last time I checked, the Havasupai Tourism website was also down, so there is no further information available at this time. Best of luck to everyone! **
— Havasu Falls Camping Fees —
Every person is charged a $35 Entrance Fee and a $5 Environmental Care Fee. Then the campground fee is an additional $17 per person per night. There are no discounts for children. Native Americans will a valid Tribal ID card are exempt from the entrance fee. Credit cards are accepted and they ask that one person pay for the entire group to minimize paper work.
Example: For a two night trip for two people, the cost is: ($35 x 2) + ($5 x 2) + ($17 x 4) = $148.
All fees are paid in person when you arrive at the camping office. When you first get to the Reservation, just keep following the path and eventually you will find the office located near the center of the Supai village directly on the trail. Once you’ve paid your fees, the office will provide each person with a wristband that you must wear through the duration of your visit, as well as a tag for each of your tents, which will be checked daily by a ranger who patrols the campground.
— Can I go without a reservation? Or can I dayhike? —
If you go down there without a reservation, according to the Havasupai Website, the Camping Office will charge you double, and that’s assuming there is room for you. I have no experience doing this, so I can’t provide too much advice and don’t recommend it. However, if you decide to wing it you need to be prepared for an increased fee. No day hiking from Hualapai Hilltop is allowed, and even if it was, the falls are much too far to hike there and back in one day.
For more information on the reservation process, visit the Havasu Falls camping website.
••• The Trail to Havasu Falls •••
Elevation profile courtesy of RockHounds.com
The total distance to the Havasu Falls camping ground is approximately 9.5 miles (19 miles round trip), and the trail begins at the Hualapai Hilltop parking lot at an elevation of 5,200 feet. Immediately the trail begins a 1,000 foot descent over the first mile, dropping you into Havasu Canyon. Once you reach the wash, the trail follows the dry river bed for the next 6.5 miles, gradually dropping another 1,000 or so feet until you reach the village of Supai at mile 7.5.
The hike on the way in is long but not too difficult, and the initial descent is on a well-maintained series of switchbacks. Once you are in the river bed, the hiking can be a bit slow due to the sandy gravel, but the trail is very easy to follow. If any point you think you’ve lost the trail, just keep following the river bed until you meet back up with the path.
Once you pass through the Supai village, it’s another 2 miles and a couple hundred of feet down to the Havasu Falls campground.
Hiking back out is a bit more challenging. By the time you reach the climb at the end, it’s likely that you’ll be a bit tired. Make sure you have plenty of water and snacks for the return.
Also, there is very little shade on the trail, so depending on the time of year, the hike out can be deathly hot. That extreme dry heat can suck the life right out of you, and even in March when the temps were in the mid-80s, it was quite hot hiking out. If you are doing this hike in summer, plan to start the trek out in the very early morning, like 4am early.
Do take time to enjoy the scenery as you hike. People say that the hike itself isn’t all that exciting, but the colorful canyon walls really are quite beautiful and worthy of some photos.
••• The Havasu Falls Campground •••
The area for Havasu Falls camping is about a mile long and sits between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. Campsites are scattered throughout. A majority of the sites are right on the river that runs through the campground, and all of the sites have a picnic table. Note that there are campsites on both sides of the river with several foot bridges that make for an easy crossing.
Despite being told that the campground was full, when I was there in March, I would estimate that over half the sites were empty, and the crowds seemed thinner the further we walked. The only disadvantage of being near the Mooney Falls end of the campground is that the water spigot where you fill up your water bottles is located near the start of the campground. There are four toilet facilities evenly spaced throughout the campground, and they were surprisingly clean with plenty of TP. There are NO showers, and there are no campfires are allowed in the Havasu Falls camping area.
When you are camping it’s also important that you practice Leave No Trace in order to keep the campground and the falls clean for everyone to enjoy.
The campground is also hammock heaven, with tons of trees to swing from. I slept in my ENO Hammock for the first time ever on this trip, and I believe there are many more hammock nights in my near future.
••• What Gear to Bring to Havasu Falls •••
Beyond the standard backpacking gear, there are a few additional pieces of gear I would recommend packing for Havasu Falls:
This is why you are going to Havasupai, yes?
Consider bringing along a lightweight pair of Tevas. When you go swimming it will make entering and exiting the water much easier. Also, they come in handy on the hike to Beaver Falls. On this trail, there is a river crossing and getting your feet wet is unavoidable. I did the entire hike to Beaver Falls in my Tevas, while my friends wore their hiking shoes and took them off for the crossing. Either way works, but having the sandals makes things more convenient.
Havasupai is a great place to practice your photography skills. The landscape is diverse and with so many waterfalls, it really is a photographer’s dream. If you want to try and get some of those silky waterfall shots, you will want to bring a tripod. Mefoto makes a sturdy, compact tripod for backpacking that I recommend. If you want something lighter and less expensive, Joby makes some great flexible tripods for trekking.
A GoPro is also awesome for Havasu Falls since the GoPro is waterproof when it’s in its case. Getting fun video footage is super easy with a GoPro as well. I shoot with a GoPro Hero 4 Black.
Get my Favorite GoPro Tips & Tricks
Hydration Bladder and Water Filtration
There is a fresh spring in the campground that is tested for contaminants on a monthly basis. On my trip, this is where we filled up, and we didn’t worry about filtering our water. However, there are times when the Camping Office will recommend you filter the water, and for that reason, it’s always good to have a backup plan. Good options include simple purification tablets or the Platypus GravityWorks Water Filtration System (read my full review) which is super lightweight and effortless to use.
There is also no water available at the trailhead, so make sure you have enough with you for the hike before you drive all the way out to Hualapai Hilltop. This means you should have a way of carrying 3 liters of water for the hike in and out, such as this 3 liter Osprey hydration reservoir. I especially like this bladder because the back side is hard, making it easy to slide in and out of your pack. Multiple water bottles also work, and I’m a big fan of the Platypus Soft Bottles.
A Small Daypack
It’s a good idea for someone in your group to have a small daypack that you can use to carry gear on day hikes to the waterfalls. This is especially important if you are planning on going down to the base of Mooney Falls. That trail is slightly treacherous and you are going to want both hands as you make your way down. A small collapsible daypack like the Cotopaxi Luzon will ensure you don’t have to worry about hanging on to your water and camera.
Quick dry towel
It’s nice to have something to dry off with when you get out of the water. A simple quick dry towel like the REI Multitowel Lite takes up little room in your pack.
The bugs were nonexistent when we were there in March, but we were told by the ranger that once the trees start to bloom, they come out in full force and bug spray is necessary.
The sun is crazy intense out there in the desert, so don’t forget some waterproof sunscreen.
While there is definitely a time and place for nothing but nature’s sounds, camping at Havasu Falls is not an isolated wilderness experience. You will be camping near other people, and there’s no escaping it. So you might as well embrace the atmosphere and bring along some tunes so you can drown out the nearby chatter and the helicopters overhead. And for a water based adventure like Havasu Falls, the waterproof FUGOO Sport bluetooth speaker is the perfect option. As always, be sure to be polite and don’t bother your neighbors by having a high volume dance party.