Havasu Falls Dos & Don’ts: Tips for a Successful Hike

HAVASU FALLS DOS AND DON’TS: TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL HIKE

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, 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 the land, and it supports their community. So out of respect for the land and the Havasupai tribe, there are just a few simple rules that will ensure you, your friends, and future generations get to enjoy this majestic place.

Here’s a full list of dos and don’ts for a successful Havasupai camping trip to complement our other Havasu Falls posts.

DON’T show up without a permit

Permits/reservations are required prior to arrival. We were checked by rangers three times on our hike down and there were signs warning against hiking without a permit. If you do show up without a camping reservation, expect to pay double (if they even let you stay), and I highly recommend against this since it’s a long hike in and you don’t want to get turned back. And don’t think you’ll just be able to sneak in, permits are highly regulated here. Want to know the details of the permit process? Check out our detailed Havasu Falls Camping Guide.

DON’T overpack

The hike out, especially when it’s hot out, is a bit of a doozy, and the lighter your pack, the more you’ll be able to enjoy it. While they do have 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.
Alternatively, a helicopter is $85 per person each way. 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, such as coolers and water toys at home.

DON’T camp where you aren’t supposed to

I’ve seen some Instagram posts of people camping just to the lookers right of Mooney Falls on the edge (where I’m sitting in the picture below). There is a picnic table there, but it is for day-use only so people can eat lunch and hang out and enjoy the view. This is not a camping spot. You are only allowed to camp from the campground entrance to the campground’s final bathroom. Anywhere in between those spots is free game. This rule is in place to protect and preserve specific natural areas and to ensure that everyone who visits gets to appreciate the beauty.
Headed to Havasu Falls? Here's a list of Dos & Don'ts with helpful tips and advice to ensure a successful Havasupai camping trip.

DO be nice to the locals

The Havasupai people don’t have to let us visit these falls. Recognize that we are visitors in their home, be respectful of the rules and their land, and be friendly, just as they are to us.

DO pack out your trash

There are signs everywhere that ask you to pack out your trash. No one comes to pick up trash, so please don’t be lazy and leave your food or any other trash at the campsites or in the restrooms. Animals can easily get into the trash and spread it all over the campground, littering this beautiful place with your Mountain House leftovers.

DON’T leave your punctured float toys at the bottom of the falls

When we were there, there were at least 5 damaged float toys sitting at the base of Mooney Falls. Please don’t leave this place looking like a wild and abandoned spring break destination.
Headed to Havasu Falls? Here's a list of Dos & Don'ts with helpful tips and advice to ensure a successful Havasupai camping trip.

DO bring 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. For a full gear list, check out my Havasu Falls packing guide.

DO go swimming

If the weather allows, don’t miss out on swimming in one of the best swimming holes on the planet. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

DON’T go cliff jumping

I recently saw a video on the Matador Network of people jumping off the top of the falls. This is CLEARLY against the tribe’s rules, not to mention dangerous. This is not a place you want to get hurt, so do everyone a favor and don’t go cliff jumping.

DON’T leave food out at camp

The squirrels are incredibly smart at Havasu Falls, and the marmots have been known to be sneaky as well. You’ll want to bring some paracord and a bag to tie your food up high off the ground from a tree, not too close to the tree trunk. 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.

DO check the weather

We 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 tarp that we rigged up over our picnic table. Without it, it could have been a very miserable day.

DO 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 a ton of 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 other’s experiences. So do as they say and leave the drone at home.

DON’T attempt to day hike

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.

DON’T drive to the trailhead at night, if possible

We saw dozens of huge elk off the side of the road and even some in the middle of the road. We had to be on full alert the entire 60 miles in order to avoid hitting something, and in the dark it’s much harder to see.

DO bring a hammock

There are tons of trees and riverside swinging spots that are perfect for an afternoon hammock nap.

DO 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.

DON’T bring alcohol

Alcohol is not allowed for anyone, locals or visitors, on the Havasupai reservation. When we were there our neighbors not only disobeyed the rules but were yelling “drink, drink, drink” which was subsequently heard by every single camper in the canyon. Be respectful of the law and the people. If you need to brush up on your trail etiquette, you can do so here.

DO hike to Beaver Falls

Once you get down to Mooney Falls, the trail is mostly flat and just 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.

DON’T be afraid if you’ve never been camping

Havasu Falls is a great introduction to backpacking. There are clean bathrooms, safe drinking water, and beautiful photos ops everywhere. If you run out of food you can always head up to the village and purchase stuff at the grocery store. Basically, having the village there provides a small safety net. If it’s your first time backpacking, check out our complete backpacking 101 guide.


DON’T hike out in the heat of the day

The climb out is entirely west-facing with very little shade. Either leave early in the morning or stay and enjoy the falls and hike out in the early evening. If you take option 2, leave with your headlamps ready.

What are your Havasu Falls Dos and Don’ts? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

38 comments on “Havasu Falls Dos & Don’ts: Tips for a Successful Hike

  1. I would suggest the Outsak bags instead of a bear can for food storage. They are lighter than the bear cans and more packable. Bear cans are, well, for bear problems. The Outsaks work great when you are just dealing with rodents, ring-tailed cats and deer in places like Grand Canyon and Havasupai Canyon.
    Side note: Raccoons will figure out how to open Outsaks! Crafty little critters. Back to the bear can if these are in your camping area.

  2. Havasu Falls! Perfect for our wedding anniversary coming up this June! The tips for what to do and what NOT to do are withut a doubt the best instructions ever! I am so impressed with your knowledge of this area and appreciative of you sharing the do’s and don’t’s. Your writings make me want to go more than ever!

  3. This is on my list for next year! Thank you for writing this guide since I had no clue what to expect or where to even start!

  4. Don’t take a September slot if you have other options. Monsoon season. Do go in October, though. Perfect weather. Even if you can’t get a permit on your first attempt, do keep trying often. Slots do open up and timing is everything.

  5. Unfortunately when we called this year, they only allowed for anyone to reserve one night for the campground. How would you stay for a week? Do they let you extend your stay once you are there?

      1. Good to know. I hadn’t even given a desired date when I called in February. The person answered the phone with, “We are only taking single night campground reservations.” I had assumed that was what they decided to do for the whole season. We’ll have to try calling back. Perhaps there will be some cancellations.

  6. Kristen,
    I don’t know why I waited so long to reach out to you for your help. Havasu Falls is one of the most amazing places on this planet. I hope your do’s and don’ts give people confidence to go, even if they are not experienced hikers or campers.
    Before I went last fall, I had read on many blogs about the sad state of garbage along the trail. It is indeed heartbreaking. And I was prepared for it, so I had packed an extra 13gal kitchen bag to pick up what I could on the way back out. That’s certainly not a lot, but as I said, I had been warned. Most of what I’d picked up were empty soda bottles and junk food wrappers…it’s obvious how that trash landed. In any event, if every hiker picked up just a handful of trash – it’s not particularly gross – I’m certain a small dent could be made to lessen this unfortunate state.
    With your reach of loyal and enthusiastic followers, would you feel comfortable addressing this? And asking those headed there if they’d pack out one or two things in addition to their own waste? I only thought of this now after seeing the flowe power tag. I couldn’t agree more.
    Thanks for your consideration, and THANKS for your Bearfoot Theory. I discovered you while googling around before JMT hike several years ago. You are the best. I work from time to time in Deer Valley and bet I’ll run into you one of these days.

    1. what kind of food do you pack? I want to go but to stay in a lodge. I called today and they are already booked for next year :(.

    2. I am always collecting trash when i hike in general. I’m heading out in a week. I’ll be sure to bring extra bags. Thanks for the heads up!

    3. I’m so sad to hear this. I don’t know why I’m surprised. 🙁 I will bring three trash bags, one for each family member, to pack out trash from the trail. Thank you for the suggestion.

  7. Wondering if you had any issues with snakes, scorpions or other wildlife that I should be aware of. I am terrified of snakes, but I really want to do this hike… but also want to make sure I will be able to do it, once I commit. Thanks!

    1. They do not take reservations for the helicopter ride. You have to get in line to put your name on the list.
      We packed up camp early for the hike up the hills and arrived in Supai just after 5am. We were the second group in line.
      They start flying around 10am, tribal members and supplies go first. I was on the first tourist helicopter and flew out after noon.
      The pilot was AMAZING and the view wasworth the wait!
      They do take cards but prefer cash. They require name/address/phone to be written on every card receipt, which holds up the line of 100+ people (we were there this weekend, which I’m told is still off-season and less than busy season).

  8. Hey! I was just wondering if there is a map posted anywhere of how to get to the waterfalls, check in centers or campgrounds?

  9. Hi! Trying to plan a hike at some time next year. It is my first one and I am from Louisiana and have no idea where to start. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thanks
    Hollie

  10. This was very helpful to read. We are headed to Havasupai in a few days and I feel much more knowledgable and prepared now. Thank you for the awesome photos and content!

  11. Hi!
    My group is all set to go 4/15-4/18…it looks like there may be rain showers. What tarp(s) do you recommend for the picnic table?
    Thanks!

  12. The idea of waiting to hike out later in the day, early evening is very tempting. How does that work with their rules of NO night hiking?

  13. Thanks so much for all of your awesome tips! You helped us have a successful, rad trip as two families with 8 tweens and teens in March 2018 and I am just now thank you ! It was EPIC! Love your inspiring, adventurous blog.

  14. I’m glad you mentioned the abuse of the pack animals. I went years ago and will never go back because of the condition I saw them in. It was awful and not much has changed. The tribes dirty secret is slowly being exposed. More people need to be educated on what really happens here and it’s our job to help spread the word.

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