Updated on September 25, 2020
Havasupai Waterfalls in Havasu Creek, Grand Canyon Arizona, are a paradise. Also, a photo paradise with a massive number of possibilities to take waterfall pictures. In this article, we present information about each of the five breathtaking Havasu Creek Waterfalls. And most important, we share water photography tips, including waterfall photography settings, best spots, best time to photograph each of the five waterfalls, and more.
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About Havasupai Waterfalls Travel and Photography Guide
We love Havasupai Waterfalls, also called Havasu Falls, from the name of the most popular one of the five waterfalls in the Grand Canyon area. It’s a unique place in the world. Chris was there three times, and together we were on the last weekend of October 2019. That’s why we’ve prepared a comprehensive and detailed guide to this stunning place. We divided it into five separate articles so that it could be easier to find content that interests you. So, if this spectacular scenery of Grand Canyon waterfall oasis is on your list, check our guide, please. It will help you prepare properly for the adventure. To save your time, there is a brief navigational description of what you’ll find in each part of our guide below.
Part 1 – Havasu Falls Permit and Havasupai reservations
Havasu Falls Permit. If you dream of seeing and photographing the blue-green Havasu Falls, but you don’t have the permit yet, check our article on how to make Havasupai Falls reservations and get a Havasu Falls permit. Permits are mandatory to be on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. These permits are incredibly tricky to acquire, and often need to be reserved months in advance. But we share hints, which help you to get the permit. In this article, you will also learn all the essential information about Havasupai: How much does the permit cost, when and where you can buy it? How long do you have to stay in Havasupai? Where is Havasu Falls and how to get there (including Havasu Falls helicopter)? When is the best time to visit Havasu Falls? How long is hike to Havasu Falls? Are there any options if you don’t want to carry all of your gear on your back? How looks Havasupai Lodge reservation, and more.
Part 2 – Havasupai Packing List
Havasupai Packing List. It is not easy to pack for the hike to Havasu Falls. There is no water for 10 miles. You also need to bring camping equipment because day trips are prohibited, and you have to stay overnight. Take advantage of our many years of camping experience, which helps you choose what is necessary for Havasu Falls Camping that you don’t overpack yourself. First rule: bring only basics and travel as light as you can. You will find information about what camping gear to take, what clothes, everything about photo equipment, and cooking gear. And of course, finally, how you should take care of your safety, and more. So, check our Havasupai Packing List.
Part 3 – Hike to Havasu Falls
Hike to Havasu Falls. Planning Havasu Falls Trip is as exciting as the hike itself. In this part, you will find everything you should know about Havasupai hike, and how to prepare for it. Where is Havasu Falls Trailhead, and how to get there? What is the closest airport to Havasu Falls Trailhead? Where to stay the night before hiking to Havasu Falls? How long is hike to Havasu Falls? What is the best time to hike Havasupai Falls? How Havasu Falls hike looks like mile by mile? Is there drinking water available along the Havasu Falls hike? How is Havasupai Falls weather, and more you will find here in our detailed post.
PRO TIP: If you are looking for the most exciting and best hikes in Arizona, we can highly recommend Mountaineers Books 100 Classic Hikes Arizona – 4th Edition. It’s the best hiking guide with detailed hikes descriptions, great maps and photos, numerous tips, and most incredible hikes across Arizona.
|Top Trails of Arizona Includes Havasu Falls||Exploring Havasupai: A Guide to the Heart of the Grand Canyon||People of the Blue Water||I Am the Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People|
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Part 4 – Havasu Falls Camping Guide and Rules
Havasu Falls Camping Guide. From this article, you will learn how to choose a perfect campsite in Havasu Falls Camping; we share our hints with you. What features offers Havasu Falls Camping? And what facilities ARE NOT available at Havasupai Campground? We tell you what items you cannot take to Havasu Falls Camping and what you cannot do there because it is prohibited by Havasupai Tribe law. And you will learn what to do, what to bring, and what to eat at Havasu Falls Camping to have a wonderful time there? Read here.
Part 5 – Waterfalls of Havasu Creek Photography Guide
You are in this part. Below you will find all details about each of the five Havasu Creek Waterfalls. We give you the necessary info about these stunning waterfalls; how high are they, a little bit of history, how to hike to each of them. And most of all, we share our tips on taking waterfall pictures, waterfall photography settings, what time is best for photos of each waterfall, how to prepare for them, which spots are the most interesting and more.
Havasu Creek is a stream in Arizona associated with the Havasupai Tribe. The Havasupai Indian Tribe is living on this land for about eight centuries, long before the Grand Canyon was established as a National Park in 1919. Havasu Creek is a tributary to the Colorado River, which it enters in the Grand Canyon. Havasu Creek is the second-largest tributary of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. The creek is well known for its breathtaking blue-green color of water and distinctive travertine formations. It is because of large amounts of calcium carbonate in the water that formed the limestone that lines the creek and reflects its color so strongly. Because a natural spring feeds Havasu Creek, it is not prone to drying up like other creeks around Arizona. The falls are active, and the water temperature remains around 70°F year-round.
The five main waterfalls of Havasu Creek are:
- Fifty Foot Falls (which is the closest one to the Supai village),
- Little Navajo Falls (which is on the trail to camping),
- Havasu Falls (the famous one, which is closest to the campground),
- Mooney Falls (which is the tallest one, and with a demanding descent down), and
- Beaver Falls (furthest from the village and camping – 3 miles hike one way).
PRO TIP: If you like books and would like to learn more about the history of the Havasupai Tribe and the impressive Havasu Waterfalls, we can recommend two items. The first one is Exploring Havasupai: A Guide to the Heart of the Grand Canyon when you can find not only the hike to Havasu description but also o lot of great background that everyone should read before going. The second is Havasupai Legends: Religion and Mythology of the Havasupai Indians of the Grand Canyon. Hanging in the hammock at Havasu Camping with this book is a perfect idea. This book details their religious beliefs, customs, and healing practices.
Flooding in Havasu Creek
Flooding is frequent along Havasu Creek. That’s why it’s so important to check the weather before your hike to Havasu Falls, especially during the monsoon season. The last great flood occurred in August 2008. But almost every year during the monsoon season, rainstorms or small flooding occurs at the campsite. As a result, the 2008 flooding changed the appearance of Havasu Canyon and Havasu Creek Waterfalls. On August 17, 2008, the Redlands Dam on Havasu Creek burst after days of heavy rain. The village was evacuated. Havasu Canyon is home to the Havasupai Tribe, consisting of over 400 members living in the village of Supai. Flooding in Havasu Creek poses a hazard to both visitors and residents of Supai. During this flooding, Lower Navajo Falls was formed, and Fifty Foot Falls became more prominent.
Navajo Falls was the first prominent waterfall in the canyon until flooding changed the area in 2008. They were named after an old Supai chief. It was located 1.25 miles (2 km) from Supai village. The falls were approximately 70 feet (21 m) tall. Please see a photo taken before the flood in 2008 below.
Confluence of the Colorado River
The Havasu Creek flows to the Colorado River from Beaver Falls. There are multiple ways to reach the Colorado River. You can be hiking to the confluence of Havasu. One of them including going back to the Beaver Falls trail and continuing downstream hike. The 3 miles (4.8 km) hike from Beaver Falls is long, challenging, and rugged, and it is advisable only for experienced hikers. The creek ends at the confluence, where there are some camping areas. This spot is also famous for river rafters to stop. We didn’t hike to confluence, because we were focused on the Havasu Creek Waterfalls. But confluence is on our list for next time.
Beaver Falls waterfall
Basic info about Beaver Falls
Beaver Falls consists of 5 tiers of waterfalls that drop a total of about 40 feet and offer outstanding swimming opportunities in its pools. It’s occurring at the confluence of Havasu Canyon and the dry Beaver Canyon. Beaver Falls is the farthest from the Supai village (6 miles) and the campground (3 miles). But for us, Beaver Falls is undoubtedly the most beautiful. Although the hike is demanding, however, it’s worth it. Hike requires off-trail hiking, scrambling, crossing the river. We recommend this hike if you are up for 5-7 hours of hiking (round trip) and are well prepared for it. And only if you have hiking experience. But if you are not a moderate or advanced hiker, stay at Havasu Falls Camping. Less than half of the visitors to the Havasupai Indian Reservation make this hike. But the three other waterfalls are also beautiful, stunning, and provide you with a surprising and delightful experience and magnificent waterfalls photos.
Hike to Beaver Falls Arizona
How long does it take to hike to Beaver Falls?
Well, it’s not an easy hike, but worth your effort. It’s a rough and rocky 6.0-mile round-trip hike from the Mooney Falls. The hike is dynamic, with a river crossing, climbing ups, and climbing downs. How long does the hike takes? It’s about 3 miles down canyon from the Mooney Falls (one way). It’s a day-trip destination. Hike from Havasu Falls Camping to Beaver Falls takes about 2-3 hours one way (depends on your physical condition, preparation, and weather). For us, it was 2 hours one way. Hike provides beautiful views, and often you can also encourage mountain goats and other wildlife. Pack properly for this hike.
How hike to Beaver Falls looks? Is it a difficult hike?
To get to Beaver Falls from the Havasupai Campground, you must make the Mooney Falls descent first, which is difficult. Take traction or work gloves. But after the Mooney Falls descent will be a little bit easier. From Monney Falls, you must hike three more miles down the canyon. There is no marked trail, but you will find it for sure. It’s winding through grapevine fields and crossing Havasu Creek several times. You have to cross the river at least three times. So, check our packing list, and take water shoes or waterproof sandals and trekking poles. The water reaches up to the knees and sometimes even above the thighs. It depends on which water route you choose. Observe the banks of the river on your side and the other side. You will see trodden places on both sides. It will be easier to decide where you should cross the river. After about 2 miles, you will see a huge palm tree. From this place, you will climb several times. Some ladders will help you with climbing. These are not very difficult approaches. But the stones are slippery, so it’s a good idea to change your water shoes for hiking boots before the first ladder for your safety. From this point, you won’t cross the creek again, so water shoes will be useful when you reach the Beaver Falls.
Beaver Falls Shooting Hints
If you want to take great pictures of Beaver Falls, you should start your hike early in the morning at about 6.00 am- 6.30 am. It will be the best light for shooting. Around 9.00- 9.30 am, the sun is already sharp, and there will be huge contrasts on the canyon walls. Around 9.30, other campers will reach the falls, too. They want to swim in the water warmed by the sun. So if you go in the morning, you will have waterfalls for yourself. The sun changes position and hides behind the red creek wall around 11.30. Well, it’s good to wait and spend this time wading and swimming in the water and bathing with other campers. After 11.30 people leave the water because it’s getting much colder and you can retake pictures.
Before you go down the last ladder to Beaver Falls, it is worth stopping for a moment next to the bench. You will have an excellent spot for all pools from above. You have to do it in the morning; later, the sun is too intense. After descending the last ladder, everything depends on your imagination.
You will find great spots directly in the water under all pools. But it is worth going higher between the pools from the left. Trees create a tropical and fairy landscape. Light infiltrates through leaves and branches. From the trees, you can also enter the upper waterfall. You will have a view of the lower pools. Obligatory, you should put on water shoes for your safety, take a tripod, and remote shutter release. Take a lot of water and snacks for this hike, too.
Basic info about Mooney Falls
Mooney Falls is the tallest of Havasupai’s waterfalls. It’s 196 feet tall. It’s most spectacular of the Havasupai waterfalls, too. But swimming in this waterfall is dangerous due to circulating currents. Mooney Falls is located just beyond the end of the campground, but reaching the base of the falls requires a steep scramble down a cliff wall. It is a highly exposed trail, and you should not go when the weather is not suitable, and you are not prepared. It is named after D. W. “James” Mooney, a miner, who in 1882, decided to mine the area near Havasu Falls for minerals. One of Mooney’s companions was injured, so he decided to try to climb up the falls with his companion tied to his back and subsequently fell to his death. Hence, Mooney Falls.
Mooney Falls Hike
How long is hike to Mooney Falls? It’s short, takes only 15-20 minutes to go down, but it’s the hardest one, and most challenging hike. It’s only 0,5 miles from Havasupai Campground, but it’s very vertical climbing downwards. The trail is narrow; the rocks are slippery and sharp. If you are afraid of heights and exposure, it could seem a bit spicy. So take your time, do not hurry up and be careful. It requires several climbs down through a dark tunnel carved into the rocks. There are vertical ladders and a chain to help you climb. Unfortunately, the problem is that everything is incredibly slippery. The water breeze from the Mooney Fall is powerful and reaches the top of the rocks. Ladders, chains, and stones are very wet and muddy, so be careful. The climb is also tricky because of having to pass people going in the opposite direction.
Unfortunately, tragic accidents and even death took place on this route, so be careful and prepare yourself very well.
Take high trekking boots with excellent traction and work or traction gloves for easy climbing and keeping wet and muddy chains and ladders. Take comfortable clothes that will not hinder your movements. Descend to the base of Mooney Falls at your own risk.
Monney Falls Shooting Hints
Any time of the day is good for photos of Mooney Falls because the waterfall is the highest, and no sharp light reaches it. But the best light and warmest colors of cliffs you will reach before sunset.
If you are afraid of going down the waterfall for health, physical, equipment, or any other reasons, don’t worry. You have two spots to take great Mooney Falls photos without steep climbing.
At the top of the Mooney Falls, there is a spot that overlooks the 210-foot (64 m) canyon wall that the waterfall cascades over. The second spot you achieve just after 3-5 minutes going down the trail. But just before the tunnel and ladders. This piece of the path is safe, and you can take a great picture from this height.
If you decide to go down to the waterfall, you can take pictures of the water from different places in front of the waterfall. Remember, however, that the breeze is powerful. Watch out for your lenses and equipment so that they don’t get too much water.
If you decide to go to Beaver Falls too, we advise you to go in the morning, when the light is best. You can take great Mooney Falls photos on the way back.
Basic info about Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls is the most famous of the Havasupai waterfalls. And is one of the most frequently photographed features in Grand Canyon. That’s why all the Havasu Creek Waterfalls area is commonly called as Havasu Falls. It is 100 feet (30 m) vertical cliff tall and cascades into a crystal blue-green pool. It is the third waterfall during the hiking journey to Havasupai. Havasu Falls is located about 2 miles from Supai village, and just 5 minutes easy walk to Havasu Falls Camping. It’s the favorite one and most crowded due to its proximity to the Havasu Falls Camping and ample space for sunbathing and swimming. The water temperature is a cool 70 degrees. The pool is large and about 4 to 5 feet deep in most places. The falls were called “Bridal Veil Falls,” before flooding in 1910 because they fell from the entire width of the now-dry travertine cliffs north and south of the present falls.
Havasu Falls Hike
All you should know about the hike to Havasu Falls (all areas of Havasu Falls Camping) you will find in our detailed, separate article. So check it, please.
Havasu Falls Shooting Hints
The best light for taking pictures of the famous Havasu Falls is in the morning, between 8 and 9. Fortunately, it’s close to the campground (10-15 minutes), so you don’t have to get up early. There are no people in the morning, too. They will come around 9.30 – 10.00 when the sun warms the water in the pools, and they can swim.
So if you want to have waterfall photos without people, come before 8 am.
You have many photo possibilities – you can wade in the water under the waterfall. An interesting point is a large fallen tree, too. On the left, you have a small tree-lined island. In water shoes, you can easily get on it and take photos from the island. On the left side of the island, you also have several small cascading pools. The trees cover the main waterfall, but it is also an exciting place for pictures. After 9.30 people are swimming in these little pools.
After 9.30 it will be possible to take pictures too, but not in front of the waterfall. You should go through the water to the left wall of the waterfall behind the island), then the sun will not fall into the lens.
In the afternoon around 5 pm. before sunset, there is good light for taking pictures of the waterfall from above. You have several points where you can take photos from the top, and the best is directly on the trail leading from the camping to the village.
It is also called “Lower Navajo Falls” or “Rock Falls”, and is 30 feet (9,1 m) tall and was created during flooding in 2008. This waterfall offers outstanding swimming opportunities with breathtaking views. It’s about 1-mile easy hike (30-40 minutes hike) from Havasu Falls Camping. Little Navajo Falls is located on the road to Supai village and about 0,15 miles (0,24 km) below Fifty Foot Falls.
It’s just a 5-minute walk from the main trail. You will see it on your left (heading to the campground). It’s easy to get there from Havasupai Campground or the village. Hike from the campground is about 1-mile and is easy. In our article: Hike to Havasu Falls you will find how to prepare for the trek to Havasu Falls, and what to bring. Going down to the base of the waterfall is not demanding and takes a few minutes, so it’s worth to get there.
The best time to take pictures of this waterfall is early in the morning, around 8 am. After 8.30 am, the sun gives a sharp contrasts on the canyon walls. Later you can also try to take photos after 4:30 pm.
We recommend going down to the base of the waterfall and take photos from the bottom. The path is on the right from the pools. It leads 3-5 minutes down between the bushes and trees, but it is effortless.
There is another spot on the main trail. You will see cascading pools and red canyon walls.
Fifty Foot Falls
Basic info about Fifty Foot Falls
Fifty Foot Falls started to be significant when it was changed by the massive flood and mudslides of 2008. The other name is “New Navajo Falls” or “Upper Navajo Falls.” The falls are about 50 feet (15 m) tall and fall into a rocky pool, and offers excellent swimming opportunities, too. It is the closest major waterfall to the Supai village; it is 1 mile below the Supai village and about 0,8 mile upstream of Havasu Falls. The original name of this waterfall is Supai Falls.
Hike to Fifty Foot Falls
Fifty Foot Falls is above Little Navajo Falls. It’s a short hike about 5-10 minutes to reach it. They are just north of Navajo Falls. It is lovely falls between the village and the campground. It’s a little bit of a challenge to get there because the trail is not well marked, but you should see the path. These waterfalls are tucked behind thick tall grassland, and you have to wade through the water a little bit.
Fifty Foot Falls Shooting Hints
Similar to Little Navajo Falls, the best time to take pictures of this waterfall is early in the morning, around 8 – 9 am. Or later after 4 pm. You can take photos from the bottom. It requires a little rock hike down and wading in the water. But it is an easy hike and a few minutes of short descent. Other spots you will see when you reach it from the path.
Waterfall Photography Settings
Waterfall photography is not difficult. You just need to have some essential gear and basic knowledge. Except for camera and lens (in case of Havasu, it’s good to have wide or standard zoom lens), you will need a stable tripod with proper head and remote shutter release. You might also need some ND filters if you plan to take pictures in a very sunny day. Check our Havasupai Packing List. There is part about photo equipment we used in Havasupai.
The trick is that you need to use longer exposure to make water stood still and look beautiful in the picture (please compare photographs from this article). To get this effect, it’s best to use your Tv, S, or M mode (time pre-selection mode or full manual mode). In this mode, you will be able to set your shutter speed to 1/8s-2s. To find proper exposure settings, you will have to take a couple of pictures and observe the desired effect, then adjust your settings accordingly.
The aperture should be set to f/5.6-f8 or more. It will depend mainly on the amount of light in the scene (on the very sunny day, you will have to close it probably to f/11 or even f/16 to be able to set shutter speed to desired value). If still, you can’t set the desired shutter speed, you might have to use the ND filter.
The next important thing is to keep your ISO as low as possible (in case of Canon, it might be ISO L, and in case of Nikon ISO 100). There are two reasons – we want to be able to set a long exposure, and we don’t want to have noise in the picture. Lower ISO settings will guarantee it to us.
Tips & Tricks
Use polarizer filter
Use the polarizer filter to reduce reflections on the water and other surfaces. Some filter may warm up your scene a little bit.
Try different times of the day
If you go to the waterfall in the middle of the day, there is a big chance you will have too much light for your camera. Try to take a picture in the morning or later in the afternoon (the so-called “golden hour”) when the sun is lower, and there’s less light falling on the falls.
Use RAW format
Shoot in RAW mode or JPEG+RAW mode, and then your sensor will record more data. You will be able to make more adjustments later on the computer during the post-processing phase.
Be prepared to clean your lens
When photographing waterfalls from the close distance, you might encounter a situation when your lens will be getting permanently wet (usually, it happens in Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls). Be prepared for this situation with cleaning cloth. Finally after setting your scene, before pressing the shutter release, please gently clean your lens front element to make sure there are no drops on it.
Cover your camera and lenses against getting wet
There is a common situation in waterfall photography that your gear is getting wet (especially on the windy day). You can be prepared for such a situation by buying a waterproof camera or just so-called camera rain cover or raincoat to protect your camera and lens.
Take long exposure photos with iPhone
Are you surprised? Yes, you can do a long exposure shot with your iPhone. Just tap the round icon on the top of the screen (LIVE ON/OFF) and turn it on. Take a photo of the waterfall. Go into your Photos directory and find the picture then swipe up. You will have four choices: Live, Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure. So please select the last one and see the effect.