Havasu Falls: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of the Grand Canyon

December 14, 2020 /
Havasu Falls hike

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

As you go around the Grand Canyon, images of the fascinating emerald waters of Havasu Falls stand out in all the postcards, photo books and calendars. Yet, it seems strange, of all the millions of tourists who flock to this magnificent gorge in Arizona every year, only a very small percentage have ever seen these mysterious waterfalls. Why?

Well, first of all because the Havasu Falls are located inside Havasu Canyon, on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, a territory controlled by the Indian tribe of the same name (not to be confused with the Hualapai, whom we have already learned about because of the Grand Canyon Skywalk), and therefore they are found outside the jurisdiction of the Grand Canyon National Park; but there are other reasons too:

  • Distance: Similarly to Grand Canyon West, this other little hidden gem is located quite far from the Grand Canyon (about 4 hours from the starting point of the trail).
  • Planning the visit: Havasu Falls are not so easy to reach and to visit them you need careful planning and be willing either to put the work in while taking a nice hike, or to spend a few extra dollars to get there with more comfort. It is also forbidden to make a day trip out of the hike to the falls. The Havasupai require the (expensive) reservation of a permit for overnight stay in the area (campground or lodge).

In any case, if you plan well, the visit is feasible and definitely worth it. Here’s how to do it!

Grand Canyon Waterfall: Tips For the Visit

Havasu Falls arizonaHavasu Falls are known all over the world for their beauty and, among the things to do at the Grand Canyon, they are one of the most fascinating places. It is in fact a kind of natural amphitheater carved into red rock cliffs typically found in the great canyons of the American West. However, the presence of waterfalls and natural pools with turquoise water forms a unique and wonderful contrast of colors, and you will never find another place like this!

How To Get To Havasu Falls?

how to get to Havasu FallsAs it was mentioned, forget about getting to Havasu Falls by car. You can drive as far as Hualapai Hilltop (the starting point of the hike, about 9.3 miles away), park and then decide what to do. If you want to get to the waterfalls on foot it is best to sleep in the area in order to start walking early in the morning (the heat can be devastating during rush hour).

The nearest urban area to Hualapai Hilltop is Peach Springs (62 miles) and Seligman (89 miles). Below are two links for accommodations in the area, unless you want to experience something more touristy at the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn on Arizona Route 66 (Mile-marker 115).

At the starting point of the hike you will find only a parking lot. There are no facilities there, so for any need (gasoline, food, water, urgent needs!) plan a stop in the cities mentioned above.

Havasu Falls Permit

grand canyon waterfallIt is necessary to book well in advance (even a year before), as the number of visitors accepted is limited and day trips are not allowed. In other words, to get to Havasu Falls it is compulsory to book a permit for an overnight stay in the campground or in the Supai Lodge. You can find all the information on the official website.

On the same website you will see the warning that the Havasu Canyon area is a fragile and flood prone environment; some areas of the canyon are off-limits to visitors and in several cases sudden closures may occur.

Best time to visit Havasu Falls

The area can be visited at any time of the year, however the climate and the influx of tourists change a lot depending on the seasons. Here are the instructions of Wild Backpacker:

“The best months for swimming and hiking are March-May and September-October. The heat of June-August can be unbearable for many with average temperatures of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, although it is considered a high season anyway. July-September is the monsoon season, when you are more likely to see storms and flash floods, with the risk of having your holiday ruined. If you are looking for an experience with fewer tourists or for activities such as birdwatching or caving, the winter months are ideal.”

Hiking Havasu Falls Trail

Havasu Falls trailThis is the most typical and adventurous way to get to the falls.  From the parking lot the path descends steeply through a series of hairpin bends carved into the rock. After only 1 mile, you will have descended over 2000 feet and find yourself directly at the bottom of Hualapai Canyon. The trail then wedges you into the narrow rock faces of Havasu Canyon, where you will see Havasu Creek, the river you must follow faithfully to reach the falls. Before you arrive (about 30 minutes away) you will pass by Supai, where you can cool off.

How long is the hike to Havasu Falls?

The route is fascinating, but rather long, 10 miles, and it’s also quite challenging. You can expect to walk 4-7 hours each way. Near the falls you can (or should!) spend the night either in a camping area or in a lodge in Supai (Havasupai Lodge), capital of the Indian reservation (a 30-minute walk from the falls).

Be prepared!

  • Along the way, just like in typical western movies, you will often see lines of mules carrying luggage or people one after the other. Stand on one side and let them pass.
  • Bring adequate food and water supplies. Until Supai you will not find any facilities.
  • Hiking equipment is a must!

Map of Havasu Falls Trail

For a more detailed map, I suggest you take a look here.

Guided Tours

Havasu Falls Biglietti

You can walk along the trail accompanied by an experienced guide: you will find more information here.

How to get to Havasu Falls without hiking?

Until recently, there were 2 other possibilities to visit Havasu Falls.

  • Mule Ride: If the hike seems a bit too tiring for you, you can try something unusual. You can cross the Canyon on the back of a mule, and don’t worry about your luggage, mules will carry them too. Again, a reservation is required.
  • Helicopter Ride: If you want to take it easy and enjoy the view in the meantime, this is just for you. It is not possible to book the tour in advance, but you have to be at the parking lot as early as possible to get in the line to get on the departing helicopters.
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Recently some things have changed: Mule rides are no longer available (but you can still use mules to transport your gear for $400 round trip). Helicopter rides are no longer available either (occasional and limited access only).

Other Waterfalls in the Area

Havasu Falls BigliettiTo be honest, Mother Nature has been particularly generous in this area and has scattered it with other beautiful and glimmering waterfalls. Although they are quite close to the Havasu, but to reach others, you may have to venture on a challenging hike on rugged trails. Find out more on the official website to organize the hike. Here are several other waterfalls you can find in the Havasupai Indian Reservation:

  • Mooney Falls
  • Navajo Falls
  • Beaver Falls
  • Rock Falls

For an overview, in order to have a clearer idea of the route, the waterfalls, Supai and everything else, take a look at the video below.

lorenzo puliti
lorenzo puliti

I am fascinated by the wonders of the world I never tire of going in search of them.

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