The Majestic Land and Blue Water of Havasu Falls
Instagram Handle: @johnrosano5
Location: Havasu Falls, AZ
Board: ISLE Explorer
Get Your Permit
On February 1, I set my alarm bright and early, and was ready to go at 7 a.m. which is when permits go on sale for the entire year. I was in charge of getting myself and 10 friends permits this year. The clock stuck 7 a.m. and I hit refresh and was in — 11 people, four days, three nights, and $2,600 later. It was 7:02 a.m. and I had the permits (and was really early for work that day as I thought it was going to take a few hours to get these permits like the prior years).
On April 20 we all caravanned off from San Diego and other parts of the U.S. in route for the majestic land and blue water of Havasu Falls. We choose to sleep about an hour away from the trail head the night before as it’s not safe to drive the last 60 miles in the dark as there is a lot of wildlife on the road. We woke up early to a beautiful sunrise, breakfast, a cup of coffee, and were ready to tackle the 10-mile into the Havasu Falls Campground. The hike down the campground is mostly downhill, but is long and there is not much shade along the trail for breaks. There is also no water until the village at mile eight, so be prepared and plan accordingly! I also suggest you leave a cooler with some cold water in your car for after the hike out, but more on that later. Our group of adventurers made it down to the campground and were rewarded with one of the best views I have ever seen. We set up our tents and made a big family dinner as a reward for making in through the first 10 miles of the weekend. I think only three people had blisters so we considered day one a success.
We woke up early on day two to conquer the confluence. A confluence is where two rivers meet. Eight miles from the Havasu Campground, the Havasu River meets with the Colorado River and it was our goal to see where these two rivers meet. We each had our day packs and I started out with carrying the inflatable paddle board backpack down Mooney Falls.
This was a tough task to carry all the way out to the confluence and back, but a few of us took turns and it was well worth it. There are multiple logs to climb over, branches to duck under, and rivers to cross which is difficult enough with a normal day back, let alone a paddle board. The trail to the confluence is pretty straightforward as you follow the river the whole way, crossing back and forth a few times. When we got to the confluence the water was so turquoise it almost didn’t look real. It was 85 degrees and sunny and we had the whole place to ourselves! Needless to say everyone was pretty overheated and ready to hang out in the water for a few hours. We took turns paddling down the last bit of the Havasu River, which is definitely the most scenic part of the day.
After a few hours we packed up the board and our stuff and started to make our way back to the Havasu Campground. The eight miles back felt way longer than the first eight miles there! We made it back to our campsite and needless to say everyone was tired. I think everyone had a blister or two after this day but we still considered day two another win!
Everyone agreed to sleep-in after a long trek to the confluence the day before. We made a big breakfast and everyone wanted to hang out and chill near the famous Havasu Falls. Surprisingly, the falls aren’t too crowded as there are lots of people leaving and coming every day so it never felt like we were in a super touristy place. We hung a few hammocks and took turns paddling around the pools near the waterfall. It was one of the most relaxing days we all had in a long time and well-earned after a long day the day before.
On the last day we had to mentally prepare ourselves for the hike out. We started early but the group was sore from the past few days. It took about 4-5 hours to get back to the parking lot and we were so happy someone told us to keep some cold water (or a few cold beers) in our cars as there is no water anywhere along the trail. Over the group had an awesome time and would highly recommended setting an alarm for February 1! Tents are recommended, but paddle boards are definitely required.
The Packing List
- Sleeping bag (I had a 0-degree bag, but in April a 30-degree bag or so would have been fine)
- Camping stove, pot, utensils, etc.
- Backpacking food of your choice
- Clothes (wasn’t as cold as I expected for April)
- Water for the hike in and out
- Water filter for the hike to the confluence. The campground has a spring that you don’t need to filter
- Good hiking shoes and hiking sandals for the day hike to the confluence
- Tripod if your into night photography
- Paddle board (optional but highly recommended)
- Please note that at Beaver Falls (mile 4) there is a sign and sometimes a ranger that will only let you passed if its before 10 or 11 a.m., depending on the time of year. They do this for safety reasons as it’s a long hike and would be very dangerous going back up the Mooney stairs in the dark.
- They sell some food at the campground — cash only and certain days only