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Cliff’s Tips: Havasu Falls, Arizona, Is Well Worth The Permit Hassle

scenic waterfall

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Thanks to his numerous jaunts around the country in our 18-wheeler for long distance moves, Cliff Wallace has racked up the miles and seen the sites. A seasoned traveller and fount of knowledge, Cliff always has something to share from his experiences. Today, it’s about the beauty you can experience when visiting Havasu Falls – if you’re lucky enough to get a permit.

To get to Havasu Falls in Arizona, you need one essential thing: a permit. The Havusupai tribe offer something close to 150 permits per day each year. This year they sold out in just 2 hours but I managed to get one.

This process used to be entirely based on luck – whether or not they answered your phone call to book your permit. Thankfully, it’s the future, and in 2018 and they’ve rolled out their online booking system.

Part of me actually feels bad even sharing this spot with you because the permits are so hard to get, they’re sold out for the rest of the year and are non-transferable. I bought mine within moments of permits being open to the public; another minute or two later and I would have had to wait until 2019 like you. I recommend putting February 1, 2019, at 9:00AM CST (8:00AM Arizona time) in your calendar to remind you to purchase a permit within seconds of it opening.

Havasu Falls is a gorgeous 98’ waterfall located within the Havasupai Native American Reservation, nestled in a nook of the Grand Canyon in Arizona accessible only by helicopter or a 10 mile hike. Kyle and I are paid pretty well at the Spine, but we haven’t quite hit helicopter status yet, so we opted for the hike.

The hike is fairly arduous being 8 miles to the Supai Village, with an additional 2 miles to the falls afterwards. This hike can be extremely challenging in the summer, with temps getting to 110 degrees and above. We were lucky hiking it in February when we had gorgeous weather of 65 degrees during the day.The first 6 miles are somewhat meh, but it helps make the beauty of the falls that much greater. You go straight down for 1.5 miles (makes for a painful hike back up), a 3 mile approach to the canyon and then the following 3 miles are into the canyon itself, with the walls growing higher and higher on each side of you, walking along sand, small rocks and the occasional big rock a majority of the way.

Upon entering the gorgeous Supai Village you’re met with a very clear route that makes you go past a check-in station where they verify you paid for a permit; there’s no way to get to Havasu Falls without a permit if that’s not been clear yet. The village is a special place, one of the few tribes in the country that was able to keep a valuable piece of it’s land as it’s own without being entirely relocated. The Supai are very friendly and we were grateful they allowed us on their land. Here we received our wristbands and tags for our tent. The next few miles to the falls are when the scenery really picks up and you encounter the unbelievably blue water.

“Ha” means water, “vasu” means blue-green, and “pai” means people. The water is an unbelievable shade of blue, mostly reserved for the tropics or glacial run-off; however, the spring-fed Havasu Creek is found in Arizona and gets its color from lime deposits, or something like that.

Kyle and I passed Havasu Falls and hung out for a moment but wanted to set up our tent before the sunset so we decided to come back in the morning. We walked another 1.5 miles through winding streams with small log bridges across each one. Mooney Falls is two miles past Havasu Falls and is well worth the trip if you’re not too tired. The falls are close to twice as large, and require climbing down slick, old rickety ladders to reach the base.

Havasu Falls are three hours from Flagstaff with the last 90 minutes of the drive having no access to restrooms, gas stations or food, so plan accordingly for both the drive in and out. The trailhead also does not have clean water, so bring several gallons in your car. When typing into google maps just look up “Havasupai Trailhead” for directions.

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