Havasupai, located in Arizona, is considered the secret Hawaii of the desert. A beautiful Oasis, Havasupai has gained popularity over the last few years and for good reason. The backcountry hike boasts an abundance of tumbling waterfalls and rich blue water pools.
It is not easy though to access the hike because of the limited number of trail passes available and you can only book for 3 nights. To hike the trail, you need to be online right when reservations open to book your spot. I recommend having a few different dates available to hike the trail and set up a couple of friends to help you claim your spot on the reservation site.
I also recommend having a few sets of the BioLite SiteLight Overhead String Lights since you cannot have any fires. They add to the magic of the area and provide really good light for hanging outside the tent after dark.
Full Disclosure: There may be affiliate links in this post. All of the products have been tested and the views are 100% our own.
Starting the Hike
To get to the trailhead, drive down Route 66 in Arizona. The turn off is between Peach Springs and Seligman on Indian Road 18. It is marked but the sign is small so can be missed! It’s about an hour and a half down this road to the trailhead. New this year, there is a security checkpoint before the last little stretch of road. They will check your ID and the “Golden Ticket” confirming your reservation.
There are a few options for the night before the hike, but this is what worked for our group. From Las Vegas, we drove the 2.5 hours to Grand Canyon Caverns Motel stopping along the way as each little gas station had their own charm.
The Grand Canyon Caverns Motel is a classic Route 66 Motel and is the actual area “Radiator Springs” that inspired the movie Cars! The beds are so cozy, and the restaurant has homemade food and cold beer. If you go, try the pie. That’s all.
They also have a brown bag lunch service that you can order, and they will deliver it to you before your hike. There is a sense of comradery amongst the people staying at the motel since the majority of them are heading to hike Havasupai. The “Betty Boop Corner”, a small little cafe/restaurant, opens at 4:45 am to accommodate the hikers who want to get an early start.
This motel was easily a highlight of the trip and I would love to stay there again to explore the actual caverns on the property. There are tours of the actual Caverns that run until 5:30 pm, however we got there too late after taking our time on Route 66.
**There are also campgrounds at this Motel, so if you would like to camp but still have access to the amenities for the night before your hike this is also an option.*
Another option is to stay at the Hualapai Lodge, which is about the same distance from the trailhead. We liked the idea of a classic Route 66 motel instead but this hotel is newer, has mini fridges in the rooms and a couple of extra amenities.
Getting to Supai
The hike into the town of Supai is 8 miles. The entire hike down is not that challenging since it is a gradual decline but it is long. We were blessed with clouds and a little drizzle for our hike in. I wouldn’t know until the sunny hike out what a gift those clouds were. The desert can get really hot and unless you leave in the middle of the night, you will end up in the sun at some point.
Once you reach the town, you can rest while whoever booked your permits goes into the registration office to get your bracelets and tent tags. This is also where you can buy Supai/Havasupai patches! My amazing hiking team took this opportunity to go into the store and buy some popsicles and sandwiches….and cold pop…..and chips. It was a nice reward after the hot hike. There is a restaurant in town too, however it was closed the whole time we were in town. After you are all registered, the hike down into the campground is another 2-3 miles depending on where your camp spot is located.
My advice is “don’t fret about the spots”. If you are really unhappy with your spot, you can always do a half set up, and then snag one of the spots that open up each morning as other hikers leave. Now its time for the waterfalls aka the reason why you need Havasupai on your adventure bucket list.
5 Best Waterfalls to Explore at Havasupai
50FT, Navajo & Little Navajo Falls
The first set of falls you see as you enter “Narnia” once you pass the village of Supai is the 50 Ft. Falls and Navajo Falls. These might just be the most underrated waterfalls I have ever experienced. They aren’t as popular as the other falls in Havasupai, however, they are worth exploring.
If you are following the trail to the campground you will eventually see another small path on the left to take down to these falls. There are little places to jump in, swim, and there are grottos filled with ferns you can explore behind the falls. We did this on our “rest day” after the long hike and it is not to be missed!
That photo op spot! This waterfall is magnificent. It is a postcard come to life and the first huge waterfall to see in Havasupai. The roaring, bright teal waterfall surrounded by red travertine deposits and a vista view into the canyon can be heard before it is seen. It will leave you breathless, and if you’re like me, it will leave you seriously emotional and crying like a weirdo at the top.
Follow the trail down and then veer to the right on the small path. It eventually widens and there is a trail to the base of the falls. You can swim at the base of these falls, in the cascading pools and a lot of space to just hang out. On the far right there is a picnic table set up by some grottos, and a little ledge, perfect for a picture! You can swim at the base of Havasu Falls. If I had brought my kids with me, I would have hung out here all day and been perfectly content.
Mooney Falls will leave you breathless. Literally. Over 200ft tall, this is the largest falls in Havasupai. This was my favorite spot to sit and watch the sunrise in the mornings. The falls on one side and the seemingly endless canyon on the other. This is a sight that a picture will never do justice and something you really must see to believe.
*I would definitely take my kids here, I saw lots of families with kids, one as young as 5 months old! I likely wouldn’t be brave enough to get down to Mooney/Beaver Falls, but I have heard and seen people do it. My kids have aged out where I could wear them down, but there would be plenty to do and have fun with kids even without beaver. I think it would be awesome to go with another family and then the parents could take turns going to Beaver if they wanted to and the kids weren’t able… You could still take the kids down the ladders in the cave sections to a certain point which would be fun for them and still safe*
Mooney Falls sits at the very end of the campground. You must climb down the sketchiest chain ladder I’ve ever seen in my life. Is it chained up properly? Who knows? But it is an absolute MUST do. The climb down was one of the most exhilarating, adrenaline pumping experiences I have had to date. Once you get to the bottom of the ladder you can immediately feel the power of these falls. You get to climb through two cave sections and then down the side of the Grand Canyon (this is a part of the grand canyon, just not the government owned portion of it). I mean, who doesn’t want to do that!? You do climb through two cave sections and then one last section of vertical ladders.
Only look at Mooney falls and do not swim in the base of them. Since Mooney falls is over 200ft tall, it creates an undertow that has taken the lives of people who have tried to get too close in the water. It is just not worth the risk. Alternatively, there is a large area that is good to walk around on and soak up the falls before hiking farther into the canyon. If you really can’t resist the urge to go for a dip, go a little farther past Mooney and there is a little area with a rope swing set up in the trees and some cascading pools enjoy.
Beaver Falls – My GOAT (Greatest Of All Time)
My GOAT. This is the picture that drew me here. Miles of massive cascading pools, every one of them you can swim in, rope swings, grottos, beaches. This was the highlight.
From the campground you have to first climb to the base of Mooney Falls, and then you follow the river down stream.The trail isn’t marked, other than one sign that I saw with an arrow on it. I have heard it is 3 miles from the base of Mooney but it took longer because they were some of the most adventurous 3 miles that I had ever hiked.
Three miles may seem short, but it is a serious terrain. You need to be able to take your time to stay safe, stay on track, and really enjoy this hike. There were ladders up and down the sides of the walls, river crossings, ivy vines covering the entire canyon floor and climbing the walls (we didn’t climb the walls, the ivy vines climb the canyon walls), planks of wood to cross the canyon and a little hole through a palm tree into a secret lagoon paradise. We hiked to Beaver Falls on our third day. We left at 8:00 am and didn’t get back to camp until about 4:45 pm.
I could do this hike over and over again it was so incredible. When you arrive at your destination, you see Beaver Falls from the top first, then you climb down the final two ladders to the base where you can climb around and explore. You can even go climb up the other side of the canyon wall and check out upper Beaver Falls. The grotto behind this fall is big enough to get right into and sit.
The “Secret Falls”
There is a place on your way to Beaver Falls and if you are not looking for it, you will walk above it, never knowing it existed. We arrived at Secret Falls via a wrong turn on our way back to the campground. We ended up staying for the better part of an hour watching Mooney in the distance, and the most magical waterfall that is coming out of the side of the canyon. There was no visible water source around it the Secret Falls. It was really like magic.
I wish I could tell you how to get there, but I don’t. All I can tell you is that it is downstream from the base of Mooney. If you are on your way to Beaver Falls it will be in the Canyon, below you, to the right. Good luck!
Havasupai is a bucket list adventure and such a stunning place to explore.
If you are thinking about tackling Havasupai with kids then check out this post from Hiking the Globe with Kids “Tips for Hiking Havasupai with Kids”.
Holly Burgess is the
She is an adventurer at heart and hiking is her favorite family activity! On weekends in the summer
Find Holly on Instagram @BurgessAdventures