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Havasu Falls Tips: 21 Dos and Don’ts for a Successful Visit

Headed to Havasu Falls? Here’s a list of Do’s & Don’ts with helpful tips and advice to ensure a successful Havasupai camping trip.

Havasu Falls Arizona

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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.

a pinnable image of a woman sitting at the top of mooney falls with the text "essential planning guide to havasu falls - camping, hiking and permit tips"

2. Don’t show up without a permit

Permits and reservations are required prior to visiting Havasu Falls.

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.

A person wearing a yellow backpacking pack stands near the top of Havasu Canyon before hiking down
The hike into Havasu Falls is 10 miles with little shade. Pack light so you aren’t weighed down

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.

Campsite with tent set up behind tree and tarp over picnic table with gear laid out on top of it
This was my campsite at Havasupai. Most sites have a picnic table and some shade

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.

Beaver Falls in Havasu Canyon
Help keep Havasupai beautiful and pristine by packing out all of your trash

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.

Abandoned pool floats at Havasu Falls in Arizona. Pool floats are not allowed in Havasupai
Due to the number of abandoned pool floaties, pool toys are no longer allowed at Havasu. Photo from my 2018 trip

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.

Two hikers cross a pool of water near Mooney Falls in Havasupai
There are several water crossings if you hike past Mooney Falls, so pack water shoes

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.

You’ll want to bring some paracord and a bag like this dry bag to tie your food up high off the ground from a tree. Don’t try it 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 and you don’t have to worry about hanging your food.

A woman hangs a bag of food from a tree at Havasu Falls
You MUST hang your food in the camping area or use a bear canister

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.

A backpacking tent set up near a picnic table with a tarp set up over it in the Havasu Falls campground
Be sure to check the weather and pack a tarp in case of rain

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.

Fifty Foot Falls in Havasu Canyon
Drones are not allowed in Havasupai, but you’ll get gorgeous photos without it

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!

Hammock set up between two trees at Havasupai in Arizona next to blue water pool
There are plenty of trees to hang hammocks in the campground

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!

Beaver Falls in Havasu Canyon
Beaver 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!

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43 Comments

  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!

  8. This is such a wonderful experience to read thru. Thank you for being super duper putting all this info together.

    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).

  9. Thank you for all the awesome suggestions! We are headed there at the end of March and counting the days!

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

  11. 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

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. Hello,
    We have a tentsile hammock tent, is there anywhere to use that or should we bring our tent that goes on the ground?

  18. This is a wonderful guide and has really inspired and prepared me for my senior trip next year! Thank you for your guide!

  19. Thank you for this wonderful guide! It is a great resource and inspired my husband and I to go to Havasupai last Fall. It is indeed the trip of a lifetime! I wanted to mention to others a little bit more about the alcohol restrictions in hopes of preventing others from experiencing the same unexpected trouble we did upon entering the Havasupai land border . We were aware that alcohol was restricted for our backpacking trip and we had all intentions of honoring this. We were under the impression that alcohol would be ok to leave hidden and secured in our vehicle. However, when we showed up for backpacking down into the Canyon, we were on a trip cross-country and had been living out of our camper that was well stocked with alcohol. At least a month’s worth and also quite a few local craft beers we purchased as gifts for friends back home. Upon entering the boundary, we were shocked to find out that all alcohol would have to be poured out onto the ground. We could go back into the closest town and drop our camper but it was at least 2 hours one way and we did not have the time since we planned to start hiking at 5am due to the heat. Sadly we poured hundreds of dollars away. Still it was worth it since Havasu is so amazing! Just wanted others to know that ALL alcohol is forbidden on Havasupai Lands.

    1. Hi Kate, I’m glad we could be a resource for you planning your Havasupai trip. I’m sorry that happened to you on your trip, and thanks for sharing that info with us so future hikers can be aware too!

  20. Hi,

    Sorry my above comment was so long. I really just wanted to communicate this so that it could be made clearer in the Bearfoot Theory guide. Thanks!