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Havasu Falls (officially known as Havasupai) in Arizona is an absolutely magical backpacking destination with waterfalls and some of the bluest, dreamiest water you’ll ever see.
In order to maximize your fun as well as to ensure you are a mindful, respectful visitor, though, it’s important to prepare for your hike to Havasu Falls by understanding the land and its people.
Havasu Falls is on Havasupai tribal land. Havasupai means “people of the blue-green water,” for obvious reasons. It’s their choice to welcome visitors onto their land and doing so supports their community.
So out of respect for the land and the Havasupai tribe, there are just a few simple Havasu Falls tips that will ensure you, your friends, and future generations get to enjoy this majestic place.
Important Reminder: As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage (including toilet paper), being respectful to others, and following the established rules.
1. Check out my full Havasu Falls camping guide
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’ve already secured a permit to visit Havauspai, you’ll want to read through my detailed Havasu Falls Camping Guide to learn everything you need to know about visiting.
This guide includes up-to-date permit information, what to pack, camping tips, and more.
2. Don’t show up without a permit
Don’t think you’ll be able to sneak in – permits are highly regulated at Havasupai. There is a guard stationed on the road about 5 miles from the trailhead who checks permits. Additionally, each vehicle must have a copy of their reservation displayed in their window.
If you have a Havasupai permit, be sure to check in and pick up your wristbands before heading into the canyon. You must pick up your permit the day prior – or the day of – your start date.
Permits can be picked up at Grand Canyon Caverns Inn, located at mile marker 115 on Route 66 (near Seligman).
3. Day hiking is not allowed
Havasu Falls is 10 miles from the trailhead. I’ve had many people ask if they can day hike if they are unable to secure an overnight permit. First, there are signs everywhere stating day hiking is prohibited.
Furthermore, it seems way too far to try to tackle the roundtrip hike and still have time to actually enjoy the falls.
Take a rain check, keep trying for a permit, and visit when you have enough time. Trust me, it will be worth the wait to do it right.
4. Don’t overpack
The 10 mile hike to Havasu Falls is a bit of a doozy, especially when it’s hot out. The lighter your pack, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the trek.
Important: While there are pack mules and horses available to carry your gear with advanced reservations, you should be aware that there have been a lot of reports of pack horses being malnourished and overworked. If you’d like to learn more, check out SAVE, a volunteer-based organization trying to end the abuse and improve the lives of these pack animals.
If you don’t want to carry your gear, a helicopter is $100 per person each way (as of April 2023) and includes one medium-sized bag up to 40lbs.
However, passengers are accommodated on a first come first served basis and locals have first dibs so you could be waiting for several hours before you can catch a ride.
Instead, we suggest you pack like you would on any other backpacking trip. I’ve shared my full Havsupai packing list here. Bring only what you need and can carry and leave the luxury items at home.
5. Yield to the horses and mules
During your hike in and out of the canyon, you’ll likely encounter packs of horses/mules being led by local tribe members. These mules are carrying gear for campers who paid for the service.
Horses/mules have right of way on the trail so please step off the trail when you see them.
Be alert and if you hike with earbuds in, consider leaving one out so you can hear them approaching.
6. Camp only in designated areas
The camping area at Havasu Falls is about a mile long and the campsites are first-come-first-serve.
Do not camp in an undesignated space at Havasupai. Campsites are well marked and most have picnic tables.
There are campsites on both sides of the river. The sites on the opposite side are accessed by footbridges, which can be a bit tricky especially with a loaded pack.
7. Respect the locals
It’s important to remember that the Havasupai tribe doesn’t have to let visitors into Havasupai to visit these falls.
Recognize that we are visitors in their home and it’s a privledge to be there, not a right. Be respectful of the rules and their land, and be friendly, just as they are to us.
8. Pack Out Your Trash
There are signs everywhere throughout Havasu Falls that ask you to pack out your trash.
No one comes to pick up trash (and all the trash left behind has to be helicoptered out by the tribe), so please don’t be lazy and leave your food or any other trash at the campsites or in the restrooms.
We were disgusted to see people leaving garbage bags of trash by the bathrooms and piled by the ranger station.
There are also people leaving camping gear, nearly empty fuel canisters, and discarded water shoes at the ranger station. This behavior is not okay — please be respectful and pack out ALL of your trash and camping supplies.
9. Don’t bring pool floaties
During my first two camping trips to Havasupai, I was horrified at the number of pool floaties left behind – there were at least 5 damaged float toys sitting at the base of Mooney Falls.
Due to the number of abandoned floaties, Havasupai has now banned the use of floats, noodles, and other pool toys.
Please be respectful of this rule and leave them at home.
10. Pack water shoes
If you plan on swimming at all or hiking down to Beaver Falls which requires several stream crossings, you’ll want a pair of shoes that can get wet. I love the Astral TR1 Loop Shoes for hiking through rivers and canyons.
For a full gear list, check out my Havasu Falls packing guide.
11. Don’t jump off the cliffs
I recently saw a video of people jumping off the top of the falls. This is CLEARLY against the tribe’s rules, not to mention dangerous.
Due to its remote location, this is not a place you want to get hurt, so do everyone a favor and don’t go cliff jumping.
There are signs EVERYWHERE reminding people of this rule — please don’t break it.
12. Hang your food
The squirrels are incredibly smart at Havasu Falls and the marmots are also known to be sneaky.
We saw squirrels jumping over a foot or two off of the ground onto people’s bags. They then ate right through the backpacks to get to the food inside.
Even better, if you have a bear canister, bring that as it’s the most fool-proof way to keep those buggers out of your food and you don’t have to worry about hanging your food.
13. Check the weather before heading out
I once visited Havasu Falls in May and it rained the entire second day. Luckily we checked the weather beforehand and came with appropriate gear, including a lightweight and waterproof tarp that we rigged up over our picnic table. Without it, it could have been a very miserable day.
Havasupai is prone to flash floods, so always be prepared and check the weather ahead of your trip.
Alternatively, you can check in with the ranger at the station (across from the first bathroom in the campgrounds) for the latest weather report.
14. Campfires are not allowed
Campfires are not allowed at Havasupai, although you’ll likely see old fire pits at most of the campsites.
Please obey the signage and rules and don’t build a fire.
15. Bring a camera, but leave the drone at home
Havasu Falls is a photographer’s paradise. It’s literally impossible to take a bad photo and it’s a great place to practice if you want to improve your camera skills.
There are also plenty of places to stash your camera so it doesn’t get wet, or you can store it in a small dry sack to be safe.
As far as drones go, they are NOT allowed on the Havasupai reservation. I packed my drone down there unknowingly and didn’t see the sign until we arrived at the campground, so it stayed in my pack the whole time.
Now that I think about this rule, it does make sense. There are many people down there enjoying the beauty of the place and drones are loud and disturb the peace. And if one person gets some sick drone footage, all of a sudden, everyone is going to be down there with one.
This is another rule that’s in place to protect the natural environment, the soundscape, and others’ experiences. So do as they say and leave the drone at home.
16. Bring a hammock
There are tons of trees and riverside swinging spots that are perfect for an afternoon hammock nap.
I even slept in my hammock on one of my Havasu camping trips!
17. Be a good neighbor
The campground is busy and you’ll likely be within eye and ear sight of your neighbors. So don’t be inconsiderate and yell all night at your campsite, like our neighbors were.
Also, be respectful and leave the speaker at home – please don’t blast music that will disturb the peaceful nature of Havasupai.
18. Don’t bring alcohol or drugs
Alcohol and drugs are prohibited for anyone, locals and visitors, on the Havasupai reservation.
During one of my trips, our neighbors not only disobeyed this rule but were yelling “drink, drink, drink!” which was subsequently heard by every single camper in the canyon.
19. Hike to Beaver Falls
Once you get down to Mooney Falls, the trail is mostly flat and gets prettier the further down you go so I highly recommend you hike all the way to Beaver Falls.
There are gorgeous secluded swimming holes around every corner and it’s worth the effort it takes to get there.
Get an early start though, because this is a longer day hike and you’ll want time to enjoy all the falls!
20. Just go, even if you’re a beginner backpacker!
Havasu Falls is a great introductory trip to backpacking. There are clean bathrooms, safe drinking water, and beautiful photo ops everywhere.
If you run out of food you can always head up to the village and purchase stuff at the grocery store.
Plus, if you’re nervous about the hike out, there’s a first-come, first-serve paid helicopter available. Basically, having the Supai village right there provides a small safety net.
21. Don’t hike out in the heat of the day
The climb out if Havasupai is entirely west-facing with very little shade. Pack adequate sun protection and if you’re visiting during warm months, either leave early in the morning or stay and enjoy the falls and hike out in the early evening.
Most people were leaving the campground to start the hike out at 5am in April.
If you take off in the afternoon, leave with your hiking headlamps ready.
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What Havasu Falls tips did we miss? What questions do you still have about planning your trip? Leave a comment below!