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*Note: I hiked to Havasupai on the second day of the 2023 Havasupai reopening (February 2 - 5, 2023). As one of the first hikers welcomed back to Havasupai since it reopened, I’m sharing my personal experience only for informational purposes. As the season progresses, things may change that can make your experience different from mine.
When that's THE ONLY word you use the entire trip, you know you're pretty close to finding heaven on earth!
Nestled at the bottom of Havasu Canyon in Arizona (just outside of the Grand Canyon) is the remote, sacred tribal land of the Havasupai Indian reservation. The powerfully mesmerizing waterfalls, vibrant blue-green water that seems almost unreal, and the remoteness of the Supai community make Havasupai Falls one of the most magical places I've ever explored. Many adventure travelers and outdoor lovers rank hiking to Havasu Falls at the top their adventure bucket list!
I mean, visiting Havasupai was so moving and unforgettable of an experience that hiking there once in March 2018 just wasn’t enough. I had to visit TWICE!
However, In 2020, the Supai tribe closed the Havasupai Indian reservation to all tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anybody that scored permits to hike to the Havasu Falls (including us) had their reservations postponed until further notice.
Around Christmas in 2022, nearly three years later, we got a surprise email announcing that Havasupai will officially reopen! The Supai tribe opened their homes back to tourists on February 1, 2023. And my group was fortunate to be one of the first tourists to hike to Havasupai, backpacking in on the SECOND DAY of the Havasu reopening!
As one of the first hikers to explore a mostly untouched Havasupai was a surreal adventure. And it was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than when I last visited in 2018 (but not in a bad way). From the check-in process to the conditions of the hiking trails to Havasu Falls and Beaver Falls, a lot changed.
I’m here to share with you all the updates, travel tips, and essential things you need to know before you hike to Havasupai so that you can make the most of what’s about to be the most unforgettable trip of a lifetime!
They weren’t lying when they say A LOT can happen in a year, let alone three years!
While the Havasupai Indian reservation was closed to tourism from March 2020 to February 2023, a few things happened:
The check-in process to hike to Havasupai in 2023 has completely changed from prior years. If you ever visited Havasupai before 2023, all hikers needed to check in at Supai village, 8 miles from the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead where the hike starts.
If you have permits to hike to Havasupai Falls in 2023, the trip leader designated on your reservation must check-in for all everyone in the group at the Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, Arizona, almost 1 hour and 15 minutes from the Havasu Falls hike trailhead. Be sure you have all check-in documents and know when check-in hours are before your trip! There’s nothing worse than showing up at the wrong place, at the wrong time, or without the required documents. When I got to the checkpoint by the trailhead, I saw a car get turned around back to Peach Springs because they hadn’t checked in.
*Note: I recommend downloading an offline map since there is barely any cell service in Peach Springs, the trailhead, or in the Havasupai Indian Reservation.
Once your group successfully checked in, all visitors must wear their wristbands during their visit to Havasupai.
There will also be several checkpoints verifying that all hikers to Havasupai have permits, checked in, and completed the entry form. We encountered three checkpoint locations as we hiked to Havasu Falls:
My experience of the new check-in process for hiking to Havasu Falls was positive! Communication from the Supai tribe before our trip was clear, informative, and timely, which made our check-in process easy, smooth, and fast (it took about 10 minutes!).
This new check-in process for visiting Havasupai is much better than prior years when hikers showing up in Supai Village without a permit were immediately turned around and had to hike 8 miles back out of the canyon (after hiking 8 miles in!).
All visitors are required to wear a mask in Supai Village and all public areas, including the general store and cafe. Non-compliance may mean immediate removal from the Havasupai Reservation at your own expense.
Since Supai Village is 8 miles from the trailhead and 2 miles before you reach Havasu Campground, you don’t need to wear a mask for most of your hike towards Havasupai Falls.
My first trip to Havasupai Falls in 2018 started with crappy sleep as my hiking group and I tried to sleep in our tiny-ass sedan at the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead, where we would start the hike to Havasupai early the next morning.
As memorable (and terrible) as that sleepover was, one of the changes from the 2023 Havasupai reopening is that overnight camping at the Havasupai trailhead is no longer allowed. And this includes sleeping in your car. Instead, hikers must make overnight accommodations elsewhere.
The closest towns to look for overnight accommodations near the Havasupai trailhead are:
Since Peach Springs, Arizona is the closest town to the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead (about 1 hour and 15 minutes away), my brother and I found accommodations there. I stayed in Hualapai Lodge with my group…where the tradition of bad sleep the night before hiking the Havasupai trail continued! The lodge is right next to the train tracks, so we heard the train running all night long.
However, my brother and his squad slept soundly in their 10-person bunkhouse at the Grand Canyon Caverns. From what I saw, this was a great option if you’re looking for simple, overnight accommodations for a large group before your hike to Havasupai Falls.
Please be prepared to make overnight accommodations before and after your hike to Havasupai Falls outside the trailhead.
All visitors parking their vehicles overnight at the trailhead for Havasupai Falls must register their vehicle during check-in and display their reservation confirmation on the dashboard.
Parking at the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead is limited, so please carpool if possible.
One of my biggest concerns about hiking to Havasupai Falls was where I’d be able to get drinking water, especially after Havasupai had been closed for almost three years.
Before the closure, I relied on Fern Spring in Havasu Campground (located 10 miles from the trailhead) as my source of drinking water during my trip to Havasupai in 2018. As I prepared for my February 2023 Havasupai trip, I couldn’t help but think:
I emailed the Supai tribe’s tourism department before hiking to Havasupai, who confirmed that Fern Spring was still a source of drinking water and recommended I filter any water from Havasu creek or the spring if I was to use it for drinking or cooking.
However, since I drank the water straight from Fern Spring at Havasu Campground without filtering it on my 2018 trip, I decided not bring a water filtration or purification system (hey man, I was trying to shave weight and increase space in my backpack!). And I was fine. No stomach issues or anything! But it’s up to you if you want to bring a water filtration or purification system as you hike to Havasupai falls.
*Note: understanding your drinking water sources is critical before any hiking trip, especially if you’re hiking to Havasupai Falls. If you are hiking into Havasu Canyon, be aware that there is no drinking water until you get to Supai Village, 8 miles from the Havasupai trailhead. Bring enough water for your hike, especially in summer when temperatures in the canyon are well above 100F.
Sidenote about an insane thing I saw as I hiked out of Havasu Canyon: we ran into a solo hiker that had RUN OUT OF WATER. The tourism workers at the top asked if we had seen the hiker because they were about to emergency evacuate her out of the canyon. And this was in February when the temperature during the day was in the 50Fs.
As the first hikers welcomed back to Havasupai on day 2 of their official reopening, we were curious how the October 2022 flood impacted the trails and Havasu campground.
Since there were only about another 75-100 hikers in Havasu Campground when we arrived on day 2 of the reopening, we took our time scouting the campground for the best sites for our group. And I was shocked by how much the campground had changed.
Remembering that there were some incredible, more secluded campsites along Havasu Creek closer to Mooney Falls back in 2018, we scouted that area there first.
Not only was a large area of the campground overgrown, but the footbridges that previously existed were destroyed by the flood! Which significantly reduced the number of camping areas available. Some people were able McGeyvor across Havasu Creek to set up camp, while others found rakes to clean up the brush in areas they wanted to pitch their tent.
Throughout our stay, more and more hikers arriving in Havasupai were looking for campsites. Although Havasu campground is large enough to accommodate max capacity, the campground felt tighter and more crowded by the last day of the trip.
As the season advances, I'm confident areas will continue to be cleared up, increasing the amount of camping area available to hikers. Until then, be prepared to have tent neighbors nearby.
As you can imagine, after almost 3-years of being untouched by hikers and then surviving a severe flood, the hiking trails to the Havasupai waterfalls looked different than their pre-COVID days.
On February 3, 2023 (day 3 of the 2023 Havasupai reopening) we tested the trail conditions as we made our way from Havasu Campground to Mooney Falls, then hiking to Beaver Falls.
Hiking to Mooney Falls - downclimbing Mooney Falls' somewhat sketchy ladder and chain system (honestly, it's one of my favorite parts!) seemed to be a more slippery and wet adventure compared to my last hike to this waterfall in 2018. Believe it or not, the flow of Mooney Falls was EVEN MORE POWERFUL than before! Which made more of the Mooney Falls stairs and chains wet. As long as you go at your own pace and don’t act a fool, you will make it down! Also - I highly recommend NOT hiking this section while it’s dark out.
Hiking to Beaver Falls - As we hiked from Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls, this section of the trail was the most overgrown and unmaintained. There was dead shrubbery scratching our legs and we could barely see the trail. And knowing where we needed to cross Havasu Creek was a fun game of “let’s see and find out”! But my favorite new feature of the trail was the rock rappelling and scrambling we had to do closer to Beaver Falls. Since one of the bridges was damaged by the flood, the Supai tribe installed a makeshift bridge and a great system of ropes for us to climb! This was an adrenaline-dumping adventure that involved a lot of screaming, butt-clenching, and motivational cheers from the group!
*2/10/23 update: other visitors that hiked to Beaver Falls had mentioned that the footbridge was repaired and hikers no longer have to rappel on rocks.
Hiking to the Colorado River (“The Confluence”) - if there was any part of the trail that we couldn’t see, it was this section! River crossings were random and my knees worked overtime because of the amount of jumping over and ducking under dead shrubbery that was required. Since I opted to wear shorts (the February temperatures were too cold for me to hike in wet pants and stay warm), my legs were cut up. But we eventually made it to the Colorado River because we had downloaded waypoints onto my Garmin Inreach device before the hike to help us figure out the route and river crossings!
If you plan on hiking to Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, or even the Colorado River (“the Confluence”) from Havasu Campground, some sections of the trail may be unmaintained, overgrown, or even damaged. But as the season progresses and more visitors are hiking these trails, they will be more maintained.
*As mentioned above, your experience hiking these trails may be different from mine. I am only providing my experiences for informational purposes as I hiked on the first few days of the 2023 reopening of Havasupai.
Man - food storage in Havasupai is a process! Because rodents are known to tear up visitors’ tents and backpacks as they ransack for food (my brother’s group was terrorized back in January 2018), properly storing your food is critical.
I was curious how the rodent issue would be after the 3-year closure of Havasupai to tourism. Were the rodents starving from 3-years of no tourist food and ready to pounce all over unsuspecting visitors? Or did they finally find a food source other than naive campers? The only way to find out was to go and see it myself.
In previous years, the Havasu campground had empty paint buckets available for campers to stash their food into to protect it from critters. However, I didn’t see those paint buckets available when I went, which is why I was hella grateful I brought some Ratsack food storage bags and bear canisters for our group!
Havasupai critters: 0
Molly’s food: 1
(Suck it, rodents!)
But don’t get too comfortable with the fact that our food stashes are left unscathed by the critters in Havasupai - the rodents are still out there! I saw some food stashes that were not stored properly TORN UP.
So before your trip to Havasu Falls, it's important to bring food storage gear to protect your energy source!
For a complete list of things you should bring to hike to Havasu Falls, check out my guide "What to Bring to Hike to Havasu Falls - The Ultimate Packing List".
This is not a new rule or update, but it’s a critical one worth re-emphasizing for all visitors and hikers planning to travel to the Havasupai Indian reservation.
Please respect the tribe’s rules that do not allow visitors or hikers to take pictures or videos inside Supai Village. That includes pictures or videos of the property and tribe members. Along the Havasupai trail towards Havasu Falls and campground, you will see signs on trees that mark when you are in Supai Village.
I’m beyond grateful to not only have the opportunity to hike to one of the top bucket list destinations, Havasupai Falls, twice but also to be one of the very first visitors welcomed back to Havasupai after the 2023 reopening!
As one of the first visitors hiking on the first few days of the Havasupai reopening, I was able to experience the impacts of being closed for three years, switching tourism operators, and surviving a severe flood. From the check-in process to visitor expectations to trail conditions, my February 2023 experience was quite different from my March 2018 Havasupai trip…but just as memorable and EPIC!
I hope these updates and must-know travel tips help you prepare and plan for your upcoming adventure to Havasupai Falls!
As a reminder, it is our responsibility to keep magical places like this as beautiful as possible. To leave it better than we found it:
The Supai tribe has opened up their homes for us to experience the magic and make lifetime memories. WE ARE GUESTS. We are not entitled to visit places like Havasupai…it is a privilege.
Is hiking to Havasupai Falls on your adventure bucket list?
Yes! The Supai tribe welcomed visitors back to Havasupai on February 1, 2023.
Located 10 miles from the top of Havasu Canyon (and the Havasupai trailhead where you'll start the hike) is Havasu Falls. There are no roads to the waterfalls, so you cannot drive to Havasu Falls. The only way to reach them is to hike th challenging Havasupai trail. All visitors are required to have a permit from the Supai tribe.
Day hiking to Havasu Falls is not allowed. All visitors of the Havasupai Indian Reservation are required to have a permit.
You can only purchase Havasupai permits (reservations) through the official tourism website by the Havasupai tribe. Havasupai permits for the entire season are released annually on February 1st, which tend to sell out within minutes.
Havasu Falls is about 10 miles from the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead. How long it takes to hike to Havasu Falls will depend on how fast you hike and the conditions. It took our group (11 hikers us total of various fitness levels) 6 hours to hike to Havasu Falls in comfortable weather in February 2023. We kept a nice leisurely pace and took about 45 minutes for lunch. If we hiked in summer, I’m sure it would’ve taken us longer due to the number of breaks we’d need from the scorching summer heat in Havasu Canyon.
Havasupai permits cost $100-$125 per person, depending on the day of the week you visit (with weekends being more expensive). The minimum stay for Havasupai permits is 3-nights.
ABSOLUTELY! Havasupai permits are the most expensive permits I’ve ever paid for, but the experience of swimming in those gushing, blue-green waterfalls is an indescribable and magical memory I’ll never forget. And having to backpack through such rough terrain just to get to Havasupai makes the experience that much more rewarding!
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