Arguably, one of the most stunning natural sights in the American Southwest is spectacular Havasu Falls, which tumbles over a redrock cliff and into a vivid turquoise pool. The brilliant colors and contrast of the scene make it appear surreal and otherworldly. But this is no roadside attraction. The only way to enjoy this sight is to work for it—namely, by making the 10-mile hike down into Havasu Canyon, a tributary of the Grand Canyon. But before you can make the hike, you have to obtain a permit from the Havasupai Tribe (not the national park). Due to the sensitive nature of the canyon, and the limited space in the canyon to accommodate visitors, permits are very, very limited—and dayhiking into the canyon is not permitted. Permit reservations become available on Feb. 1, with camping available from Feb. 1 through Nov. 30. Permits are $100–$125/night; all reservations are for three nights.
If you’re fortunate enough to obtain a coveted Havasu Canyon permit, the journey starts with an 8-mile trek from Hualapai Hilltop down to Havasupai Village. The route is waterless and mostly shadeless, where summer temps can soar above 100 degrees. The village has a lodge, cafe and small store. From the village, the “campground” in Havasu Canyon is another 2 miles down the canyon, and is not a traditional campground. Instead of designated campsites, the camp area is a mile-long stretch along the banks of Havasu Creek where you can pitch your tents wherever you like—however, you should choose sites away from the creek, and that don’t damage vegetation or nearby cliffs. There are picnic tables and vault toilets located in the camp area, and water can be obtained from a nearby spring; this should be treated (boiled or filtered) before drinking. Campfires are not permitted, but contained camp stoves are allowed.
Campers in Havasu Canyon are invited to explore at will, but be courteous of their tribal hosts, and respect the land. Swimming in the brilliant blue pool beneath Havasu Falls is a must-do, especially on sweltering summer days. From the campground, you can hike 0.5 mile down the canyon to Mooney Falls, another spectacular waterfall in a sheer-walled amphitheater of red rock. Adventurers can continue down a series of ladders, steps and steep trail to follow the creek up to 8 miles down the canyon, where it empties into the Colorado River. This trail is strenuous and not recommended for children.