Backpacking and camping in Havasupai

Ace Vu
8 min readDec 12, 2018

Havasupai was an amazing experience. It was a paradise that’s out of this world. I decided to write this blog because when researching for my trip, I found a lot of helpful blogs regarding getting the permit and what to bring. However, I couldn’t find many blogs that talk about the experience of camping there.

Note: In this blog, I won’t talk about how to get the permit or what to bring since you can find a lot of helpful tips from other blogs.

Thursday night

Right after we landed in Las Vegas, we went to REI to pick up the Jetboil gas tank. We got our dinner at Lee’s sandwiches and stocked up our food for the next morning there. Then we headed to our hotel that was 2.5 hours away from Vegas and 1.5 hours away from the trailhead parking lot.

At first, we planned to drive to the parking lot and sleep in the car so we could start early; however, a few of our friends who did that suggested otherwise because it was hard for them to sleep in the car and having a good night rest before the hike was important.

The first day

Friday morning

We woke up around 4 am to get ready. We started hiking in around 6:30 am. The hike in was easy and nice. It was mostly going downhill, so it wasn’t too bad. Hiking with a heavy backpack may be hard for some people. There’s an option to use the helicopter or the mules to carry your backpack in, which I think would be a better choice if you are not used to carrying a heavy backpack.

Here are some pictures along the way. The scenery here is decent, though not as amazing as the campground and around the waterfalls, so you won’t miss much if you helicopter in.

You will often see horses and mules going back and forth, which leaves lots of poops along the trail. The trail traffic and poops would be even crazier in the summer.

Note: As we hiked in, we noticed there were trash people left behind like soda and beer cans and plastic bottles. Please don’t do that. It’s not hard to carry your trash out or put them in the trash bins in the main village.

8 miles in

After hiking for 8 miles, you will first see a mini grocery store with tables in a big backyard. Feel free to stock up on your snacks or Gatorade here. They have some fresh fruits here, too. They serve breakfast and lunch. Their food is actually good. There is also a restaurant and a bigger grocery store in the main village within is 0.25 miles. I think the stuff they sell here is cheaper than the grocery store at the main village.

Main village

Check-in is at the tourism office. Once you check in they will give you a wristband to wear. There will be rangers at certain locations to check your wristband.

Going to the campground

From the main village, you will hike about 2 miles into the campground. You will see the Havasu Falls before the campground. It’s beautiful. After seeing the other two waterfalls, I think this one is the smallest falls.

Picking a good camp spot

With the suggestion from our friends who went before us, we tried to stay near the Mooney Falls which is toward the end of the campground. I think the best spot is between the second restroom and the third (last) restroom. We stayed on the riverside but still near the second restroom. Our spot was not far from the spring water pipe 😀. We were very happy with our spot.

1 pm

By the time we finished setting up our tents, everyone was tired, so we decided to just take it easy and rest for the next day. It had already started to get cold, so we didn’t go to the water.

Get to know your neighbors and the people around you. Everyone is very nice. We learned so much from the people we randomly met. Our neighbors were a group of veterans. Some have been to Havasupai about nine times already. November is their favorite time to go because it’s not as crowded and crazy as the summer. They said if I went in the summer, there would be tents everywhere. I would hate it and wouldn’t be able to enjoy nature.

We also met someone at Mooney Falls, he said it was his 50th year anniversary since coming as a boy scout at age 12. He said back then you could just go in without any fee

Saturday (2nd day)

We woke up around 7 am since we slept really early the previous night. After breakfast, we headed to Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls around 9 am. There’s only one path that will lead you to all of the waterfalls. You will pass Mooney Falls first. Then, hike another two miles to Beaver Falls, on the way to which you will cross the river three times. Make sure to wear water shoes.

Descent at your own risk

Going down to Mooney Falls can be dangerous. Make sure to take your time and be very careful.

Once you get down, take your time with pictures but don’t take too long since you want to get to Beaver Falls before it gets crowded. I would recommend hiking early. A good time is to get to Mooney Falls around 7 or 8 am.

Hiking to Beaver Falls

The start of the hike from Mooney Falls can be confusing since there are a couple of misleading paths. Just make sure to follow the map.

A treat of nature

The scenery along the hike to Beaver Falls is amazing and worth every step. It was kind of a surreal experience because every picture I took looks photoshopped-ish. Imagine a vibrant turquoise water, red canyon, rich green leaves, and deep blue sky put together in a picture. I don’t think my camera was designed to handle this authentically wonderful landscape.

Crossing the water

To get to Beaver Falls, you will need to cross the water three times. You may not know when to cross the water. A trick I learned was that whenever your path ends or leads to the river, that’s when you need to cross. Also, there is usually a table around the crossing area.

Beaver Falls

Going down to Beaver Falls was also kind of dangerous, so please be careful.

Beaver Falls features amazing overflowing waterfalls and a powerful river. It’s not as tall as the other two, but it’s the biggest and has many cascades.

Last day (Leaving Havasupai)

Since all four of us were tired and wanted to start our trip to Page, Arizona early, we opted for the helicopter ride out. Learning from other regular Havasupai campers, we knew we had to wake up early to get in line for the helicopter ride. Someone told us that during peak season (summer), his friend woke up and got in line at 3 am; they didn’t get out until 3 pm even though they were the first in line. The helicopter gives priority to the villagers and/or veterans.

Our amazing friends, Vy and Jon, woke up at 3 am and hiked out to the main village early to be the first in line for our group. I was able to sleep in a bit more and met up with them at 8 am. Although my friends were the first to sign up for a helicopter ride, we had to wait for 80 veterans and some villagers on the signup sheet to leave first since it was also Veterans Day weekend. Villagers always get priority. Luckily, they had two helicopters on that day. Calculating the numbers, it would take the helicopters about 3 hours to take 80 people out. I was right; we were out by noon.

While we wait,

I went to get some snacks at the grocery store and breakfast at the restaurant. The restaurant only serves breakfast before 11 am so I didn’t get to try their fry bread there. However, I went back to the first grocery store outside the main village to get some watermelon, and they were serving fry bread dishes. It was freshly made by hand and to order. I witnessed them roll each dough one by one as people ordered. It’s very “mom and pop,” and it is good.

After finishing the food, we got called for the helicopter and hopped in. Two of us went out first, and the other two went on a different helicopter.

Thank you, Vy, Jon, and Ethan for an amazing trip.

It’s a wrap (for Havasupai Falls)

I’m writing this as we are in the car leaving Havasupai to Page, Arizona for Antelope Canyon.



Ace Vu

Storyteller, UX Designer, Accessibility Advocate, and World’s Beauty Admirer