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What is Havasupai?

Updated: Feb 5, 2020

A First Timer's Guide to Havasupai: Part 1

Havasupai Reservation

Welcome to Heaven on Earth: Havasupai Indian Reservation

You’ve seen the pictures, saved the posts, followed the hashtag…you know you want to see this place for yourself, but now what? What even is this magical place they call Havasupai? How do you get there? What is it going to take to become that person who frolics amongst the blue-green waters of these amazing waterfalls? Well listen up, because I have answers for you!

I’ve been blessed enough to visit Havasupai 5 times {so far!} in my life, and I’ve gathered quite a bit of knowledge on the place over these visits. Now it’s time for me to pass that knowledge along to you! This is one of my most favorite places on the planet, and I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience this truly one of a kind oasis. There’s a lot to it, so I’ve divided the information into several posts. You can find links to all of them just below. Now let’s get started!

Let me be clear: this first post is for Havasupai newbies. Are you someone whose only knowledge of this place is that there is a gorgeous waterfall at some point? Excellent. This is for you. Are you someone who knows there is camping involved, but that’s about the extent of your knowledge? Beautiful, read on my friend! Are you someone who knows the basics, but is looking for the finer details such as how to get your hands on some permits, what gear to pack, or how to even get to this place? Then much of this first post will likely be a little redundant for you. The answers you seek are located in the following articles:

A First Timer's Guide to Havasupai:

Part 7: The Confluence- coming soon!

Havasupai means “people of the blue-green water”. The Havasupai Tribe have lived in and called the Grand Canyon home for over a thousand years. They are a hearty and resilient people who graciously allow us to flock to their land in droves to camp along the shimmering blue waters to feel just a bit more alive when we return to the reality of our lives.

The secret to the blue-green color of the water is a mixture of calcium and magnesium found in the rocks, helped out by high levels of carbon dioxide. Some chemical reactions take place, science happens, I don’t understand it all, but boom! Gorgeous water. The color really is THAT vibrant. It’s not Photoshop, people. It’s real. And it’s absolutely stunning.

Before you pack your bags and head off into your Havasupai sunset, it is imperative that you know this hike requires permits. They go on sale at 8 am sharp MST on February 1st, and It’s like, total and utter insanity. But for reals. The process is so intense I’ve dedicated an entire post to it. I highly suggest you go read it. Not just because I wrote it and I want people reading my blog, but because I care about you! And I want you to have a fighting chance come February 1st. Not everyone will be lucky enough to score permits this year. In fact, I daresay most will walk away empty handed.

Getting to the waterfalls is no easy task. The location is remote. There are no major cities nearby, and it is a long drive to the hilltop, which is where you will leave your car and start the 10-mile trek to the campgrounds. On foot. No cars, no ATVs. Just you, your pack, and 10 miles of desert canyon ahead of you. So pack light, and keep in mind that you must pack out everything you take in with you. Imma gonna say that again for the people in the back: Pack your crap, yes, every single bit of gear you brought down or piece of trash you accumulated, out! And I don't mean dump it in the village, they don't want your trash either. Take it and dispose of it responsibly elsewhere. It has become a major problem these past few years, and it deeply saddens me. We are guests on this land, if you can't treat it with respect than don't bother going. There are options for you big spenders who want to opt out of as much as the hiking or carrying heavy pack parts as you can, but the facts remain the same: ya got 10 miles to cover before blue water bliss.

The trail to Havasupai Falls

At mile 8 you come to the village of Supai, which is where all the locals live. This is the last town in the US that still receives its mail via mule train. If camping ain’t your thing, there is a lodge in the village so that you can enjoy nature but still shower at night and use a real toilet. There are a couple of general stores here, and even a small restaurant. No, restaurant sounds way too swanky. Burger stand. That’s more accurate. I think they actually call it a cafe. Do yourself a favor and get a fry bread burger at some point. You’re welcome.

It is important to note that there are no medical facilities available for campers, so do your best to stay healthy and safe! In the case of an emergency, being helicoptered out may be your only option and it is PRICEY. Getting travel insurance is strongly recommended.

From the village you continue down 2 more miles to the campsites. Along the way you will pass a couple of the smaller, lesser known waterfalls, and then you’ll come to it: the moment your FOMO, wanderlusting heart has been dreaming about. Hava-freaking-su Falls. She’ll be there. In all her glorious glory. You’ll hear her before you see her, and rounding that bend and having her come into full view will be one of the most spiritual moments of your life. The heavens will open, a choir of angels will sing- not that you’ll hear them, cause she freakin’ loud. But they’re there. Savor that moment. Take all the pictures. Marvel at how blessed you are to be here in this moment. Because, my friend, you are about to have the time of your life!

From Havasu Falls you’ll continue just a short distance to the campsites. Campsites are first come, first served. They are all beautiful places to rest your head, but they get prettier as you go, so don’t be afraid to shop around a bit. Don’t take too long though, because you won’t be the only person searching for a prime slice of real estate. Campfires are not permitted, nor is alcohol. Picnic tables are located at just about every site. The squirrels of Havasupai are infamous scavengers, and I highly, HIGHLY recommend bringing a rat sack or 5 gallon to store and hide your food away.

Lately I’ve seen a few people ask, “What is there to do down there? Two days seems like plenty of time to take it all in.” Shut your mouth, Karen. You could stay there a week, and it would still not be enough time. The audacity of some people. But it does raise a good point, what DO people do during their visit? Forget their worries and play, mostly. # yolo will be your spirit guide, and “just living my best life” your mantra. There are 5 main falls to explore, and you could easily dedicate a day to each and still feel like that wasn’t enough time. If you're feeling extra, you can hike the 16 miles round trip to the confluence with the Colorado River. If escaping reality and enjoying nature is your thing, Havasupai is the place for you. I promise, you’ll never want to leave!

I hope that you now feel a little more knowledgeable and a little more prepared to pursue your bucket list dream of visiting Havasupai. There’s a whole lotta information I still want to bestow upon you. So put on your reading glasses, because there is more where this came from!

Be sure to read on to the next post in this series, A First Timer's Guide to Havasupai Part 2: How do I Get Permits to Havasupai?

{as always: practice LEAVE NO TRACE. stay hydrated. tell someone where you are going. wear appropriate clothing. be mindful of the weather. be nice to fellow hikers. have fun, make good choices, & hike smart}

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