Havasupai is considered by many as the holy grail of Arizona-based backpacking and hiking destinations. Along with the Grand Canyon, I’d have to agree with that statement! Located on the Supai Reservation in west-central Arizona, Havasupai contains several huge waterfalls that spew Carribean-blue water thanks to a mineral compound found within the water itself.
The most famous waterfalls on Havasupai include:
For this post, I’ll cover the basics of getting camping permits for Havasupai and what to expect with camping at Havasupai’s famous campground: Havasu Campground. In addition, from my personal experience, I’ll detail out some tips for winning camping permits for Havasupai as well as basic hiking instructions for both Havasupai and the main campground.
Where can you camp at Havasupai?
Havasu Campground features campsites on both sides of the main river: Havasu Creek. The entire campground is split into sections that are assigned once you successfully win camping permits to Havasupai. Once you are designated a section, the campsites in that section are first-come-first-serve.
Havasu Campground extends for about two miles (if I had to guess) from the beginning near Havasu Falls to the lip of the massive Mooney Falls waterfall.
Things to know about camping at the Havasu Campground:
- The whole campground is split into sections and you will be assigned a section after you win camping permits to Havasupai
- Within your assigned section, campsites are first-come-first-serve
- There are four pit-toilets spaced out within the boundary of the campground
- Fires are not allowed anywhere in the campground
- No drugs or alcohol are allowed anywhere in the campground (and Havasupai as well)
- There is one designated spring where you can collect drinking water
- Mice and cockroaches are common visitors to the campground and Home Depot buckets are provided by the Havasupai Reservation to cover and protect your food from critters
How do camping permits work In Havasupai?
Camping permits are required for anyone looking to camp in Havasupai. You are also allowed to stay in the Havasupai Lodge which is located in the town of Supai, about two miles from the main Havasu Campground. Although at $440/night, camping might be a better option for those on a budget or looking for a true Microadventure in Havasupai like myself!
If you’re looking to camp in Havasupai, you will need a permit issued from the Havasupai tribe. Camping permits not only verify that you are allowed to camp on the reservation but that you have met all the requirements that are necessary backpack and hike Havasupai as well.
Every hiker and backpacker looking to visit Havasupai needs to acquire a camping permit beforehand in order to visit the reservation at all- no exceptions!
There is no day hiking available in Havasupai. You are not allowed to hike to Havasupai or visit any of the waterfalls without camping or staying in the Havasupai Lodge.
How do you get permits to visit Havasupai?
Camping permits for Havasupai are released on the 1st of February every year and most of the reservations are gone within a few days of the release.
Currently, as of 2016, you can now reserve camping permits to Havasupai through an online reservation system. This is a stark contrast of what occurred prior to 2016. For details about that nightmare, check out our “Havasupai Camping Permits: A Quick Guide” post.
For those not interested in camping at the Havasu Campground, you can reserve a room at the Havasupai Lodge. Rooms fill up very quickly. I recommend reserving a room immediately after you successfully win permits to Havasupai– to ensure you have a place to stay when you’re scheduled to hike to Havasupai.
Regardless if you are planning to camp at the Havasu Campground or the Havasupai Lodge, you will need to apply for permits through the online reservation system- no exception. And no day hikes allowed either!
If you are traveling in a group, then the reservation will be placed under one person’s name and that person should be present on the day of your hike at the Supai Office at the Hilltop parking lot in order to attain the permit.
2020 Havasupai and camping fees for Monday through Friday:
- $100/per person per night
2020 Havasupai and camping fees for Saturday and Sunday:
- $125/per person per night
2020 Havasupai and camping fees for Holidays (regardless of the day of the week):
- $125/per person per night
Camping is included in your reservation- there is nothing extra that you need to pay for on top of your reservation. Also, keep in mind that the reservations are 100% non-refundable and non-transferable. Once you swipe your credit card online, you’re bound for camping in Havasupai.
It is important to note that there is a three-night minimum stay at Havasupai now.
When are permits available to Havasupai?
As mentioned before, the reservation gates for camping permits to Havasupai opens on the 1st of February every year.
You should be hasty in applying for camping permits as soon as the reservation gates open on February 1st as most of the permits are gone within the first few days.
In my personal experience in 2018, camping permits for Havasupai were sold out on February 1st- the first day that the reservation gate opened.
Be diligent and aggressive when applying for camping permits otherwise, you will have to wait until the following year to camp and hike Havasupai!
Tips for getting camping permits to Havasupai
There are several tips and tricks that I have personally used in order to secure camping permits to Havasupai. These tips are by no means a guarantee for you winning permits but they did help me out when I was applying:
- Have your dates picked out with three backup dates
- Apply for camping permits to Havasupai during the off-season
- Apply for camping permits for Havasupai as a group
- Be prepared with everything before you apply for camping permits to Havasupai
Every second counts! Make sure you’re prepared before applying!
Rules for hiking Havasupai and camping in the Havasu Campground
Once you’ve scored camping permits to Havasupai, you’re ready to start your hike and backpacking Microadventure! The Supai Reservation is very strict with several things.
In order to avoid any unnecessary brushes with the Reservation police, I recommend you keep these rules in mind when you are packing for your trip:
- Alcohol and drugs are strictly forbidden – be respectful and don’t sneak anything in
- Drones are not allowed
- Littering is not allowed and will be persecuted to the highest degree
- Day hiking into Havasupai is not allowed – all hikers must have permits as soon as you step on the trail to Havasupai
Breaking any of these rules can result in a $1,000 fine as well as potential jail time. Please be respectful and follow all the rules set up by the Supai Reservation. This area is sacred to the Supai people and they allow us to hike, backpack, camp on their land. Please be respectful and follow their rules.
Those who break the rules are only endangering everyone else’s abilities to visit this beautiful area.
Finally, always stay up to date with the reservation rules and process as they tend to change without any notice. Our blog posts on Havasupai are written by our team based on our personal experiences and research and our advice should be taken with a grain of salt.
These aren’t necessarily rules but things to also consider when packing and preparing for your hike to Havasupai:
- Hiking and camping in Havasupai during the summer is a very hot time – considering packing lighter clothes and leaving your heavy, thick tent at home
- Havasupai has dozens of waterfalls and creeks – make sure you have water shoes and plenty of pairs of socks
- Critters like mice and cockroaches are common in the Havasu Campground – sealed Home Depot buckets are provided by the Supai Reservation
- A hammock is your best friends in Havasupai
How to get to Havasupai and the Havasu Falls campground
Havasupai and its many waterfalls are located just over two miles from the town of Supai on the Supai Reservation. Located near the edge of the Grand Canyon in west-central Arizona, Havasupai is 10ish miles from the banks of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
In my experience, there seems to be a lot of confusion over Havasu Falls and Havasupai. Havasu Falls is a waterfall that is located within the Havasupai Reservation.
How to get to Havasupai
The trail to Havasupai starts at the famous “Hualapai Hilltop” parking lot located north of the town of Seligman, Arizona.
The “Hualapai Hilltop” parking lot is a huge parking lot located just steps away from a cliff-face that overlooks a huge canyon system. Because of the remoteness of the Havasupai reservation, both residents and hikers alike park their cars in the parking lot and then start their journey down the canyon system and into Havasupai. Right next to the parking lot is a helipad that receives a visit from a helicopter about every 15 minutes- transporting supplies, hikers, and residents from the parking lot and the main town on the reservation: Supai. It is a strange sight to see!
Hiking down to Supai is a relatively easy trek. The trail snakes back-and-forth down a massive cliff-face and into a canyon. Once you get into the canyon, it’s pretty much a straight hike to the town of Supai along dry river beds and washes. In my personal experience, the first couple of miles are the toughest hiking to Havasupai. Once you’re in Havasu Canyon, the trail has little elevation gain and is pretty flat- with the exception of crossing the washes and gullies.
How to get to the Havasu Campground
The trek to Havasu Campground is even more straight-forward than the hike to the town of Supai. Once you get to Supai, follow the clearly-defined trail (and signs) 1.8 miles to the campground. The trail is as wide as a road and you literally can’t miss it once you get to Supai.
Once you get on the trail, you’ll first pass a few houses on the outskirts of Supai, Navajo Falls on the left, and then you’ll cross a bridge that goes over Havasu Creek. Past the bridge, you’ll come up to the famous Havasu Falls on the right.
Stop and take a moment to enjoy your first glimpse at this breathtaking waterfall.
Descend down the steps past Havasu Falls and you’ll enter Havasu Campground just past the horse corral and little campground station on the left. You’ve made it!
For those curious about hiking distances and times to both Havasupai and the Havasu Campground, below are my personal recordings from my 2018 backpacking trip:
One-way hiking distances in Havasupai:
- Hualapai Hilltop to Havasu Falls: 10.3 miles
- Hualapai Hilltop to Supai: 8.0 miles
- Supai to Havasu Falls: 1.8 miles
- Havasu Falls to the Havasu Campground: 0.3 miles
- Hualapai Hilltop to the Havasu Campground: 10.6 miles
One-way hiking times in Havasupai (estimated):
- Hualapai Hilltop to Havasu Falls: 7 hours
- Hualapai Hilltop to Supai: 6.5 hours
- Supai to Havasu Falls: ½ hour
- Havasu Falls to the Havasu Campground: 15 minutes
- Hualapai Hilltop to the Havasu Campground: 8 hours
I openly recognize that I’m an experienced hiker and backpacker so my hiking times may seem a little fast for some. It’s not uncommon to hear of it taking 10 hours to make the full hike from the Hualapai Hilltop to the Havasu Campground.
Havasupai is an unbelievably beautiful place within Arizona. Nestled between the towering walls of Havasu Canyon, Havasupai is a paradise for those looking for the ultimate Microadventure in the desert. As you outline your next visit to Havasupai, please consider this post’s advice on how to secure camping permits for Havasu Campground, how to get there, and what to expect when applying for permits and your experience in both Havasupai and Havasu Campground.
Good luck getting your camping permits and we’ll see you down at the falls!
Resources for Havasupai:
- Havasupai permit guide
- Havasupai online reservation system
- Havasupai hiking guide
- Mooney Falls hiking guide
- Beaver Falls hiking guide
- Havasu Falls photo gallery
- Mooney Falls photo gallery
- Beaver Falls photo gallery
- Luxury items to bring to Havasupai
Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When he’s not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.