The Hayduke Trail: Summary

I finished thru-hiking the Hayduke Trail two weeks ago. It was an incredible experience.

Overview: 

The Hayduke Trail isn’t a trail, it’s a route. It’s a mix of trailless canyons, washes, gullies, jeep roads, some trail, and a tiny amount of pavement. The route connects many of the highlights of the Colorado Plateau in Utah and Arizona. It takes you through Arches, Bears Ears, Canyonlands, Glen Canyon NRA, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase, Bryce, Grand Canyon, and Zion. The route is approximately 800 miles long, and it took us 5.5 weeks, September 8 to October 15. We hiked westbound from Moab to Zion, and everything written here is from that perspective. I would rate this hike as very difficult, somewhat on par on a per-mile basis with my previous trips to Alaska or the Sierra High Route. The route includes significant class 3 scrambling. The weather was very hot, resupplies are far apart, and there was not a lot of water, so we had to carry heavy packs, and doing this scrambling with a heavy pack in the presence of cacti and yucca wasn’t always easy or fun. The scenery was excellent. I had some minor worries beforehand that I might feel claustrophobic or bored if we were consistently deep in canyons without open vista views, but in the end I was consistently amazed.

 We hiked all day: waking at 7:00am, moving by 7:30am, and hiking until as close to dark as I could get my partner to go without ending our friendship. We always tried to do at least 20 miles a day. Except for resupply days and a couple days at the end of the Grand Canyon stretch (from Muav Saddle to the top of Kanab Creek), we were successful at this. We never made more than 30 in a day. We did not cache any supplies. We had at least 7.5L of water capacity and filled it to the brim several times, while also carrying 6 or 7 days of food to get us 120+ miles to the next town. (I suppose I understand the appeal of caching in theory, but in practice I don’t like the extra planning, driving, and time it requires. I enjoy hitchhiking and chatting with postal employees and waitresses in small towns, so caching to avoid towns and stay out longer wasn’t a huge draw to me.) Our hike was not 100% continuous, as we skipped a few miles of pavement three times. I’m old and crotchety and can’t be bothered to use my limited paid time off from work to walk painful and dangerous stretches of highway shoulder when I could be hiking in a canyon somewhere else. 

Spring or fall? Do you prefer being too hot or too cold? Hooray, both will happen! Possibly on the same day. We hiked the route in the fall season because Covid-19 cancelled our spring plans. Fall 2020 was unseasonably warm and there was very little water due to a non-existent monsoon season. The fall colors were beautiful in the higher elevations (Bryce, Kaibab Plateau, North Rim Grand Canyon). I’ve never hiked it in spring, but there must be more water from snowmelt. There must be. God, I hope there is. 

 

Should I hike the Hayduke? Alone? 

Maybe not. Have you already hiked multiple long-distance trails, or are you an experienced desert rat? You need to be able to navigate, cache or carry a lot of water while covering big miles, and to do frequent class 3 scrambles on crappy unreliable sandstone and dirt in the presence of cacti and yucca. You shouldn’t need to rappel nor do more than one class 4 chimney climb, but there are plenty of cool alternates you could take where you would. I was glad to hike with a partner (Nano). Despite the fact that we’re both quite stubborn, demanding, and pissy, we got along the vast majority of the time and are still friends. It made life a lot easier to have a partner to hand your pack to during difficult scrambles. I did the Sierra High Route solo, and I filmed a (tongue-in-cheek?) last will and testament video before descending the north side of sketchy-as-hell Snowtongue Pass. I think climbing the class 4 chimney to get up on to the Red Benches would have been a similar moment on the Hayduke if I’d been by myself. Though it was really friggin’ hot, the sky was apocalyptically full of smoke, and it was my birthday, so I’m pretty sure I still had a good cry while Nano wasn’t looking. 

The Hayduke is remote but not Brooks Range remote. We saw another person every single day except two, and on those two where we didn’t see another person, we saw a parked car such that we probably could have waited and seen someone if we wanted. This is probably only because we were doing big miles, and obviously would be unlikely to be the case if we got hurt and couldn’t keep walking. (To that one guy in upper Kanab Creek who was clearly peeved that he saw another person that day: Good morning!) The people we saw weren’t other Haydukers (I believe we saw none of those) but rather mostly ATVers, and occasionally dayhikers or other backpackers, mostly in national parks.  

What was your favorite part? 

 The Grand Canyon is amazing. "In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it." --Teddy Roosevelt 

The stretch from Muav Saddle down Saddle Canyon, to Tapeats Creek, Thunder River, and Deer Creek Falls and up Kanab Creek is jaw-dropping, and also a rewarding physical challenge. I loved every minute of it. (Nano likely agrees with most of that, but I believe he was fed up by the end of the day with having to manhandle your body and pack over house- and truck-sized boulders all day long at 1 mile per hour in Kanab Creek. I loved it all.) 

If you’re wondering about sections to do, other places I particularly enjoyed were Dark Canyon (not very easy to get to), and the East Fork of the Virgin River (The Barracks, easy to get to right outside Zion). A nice stretch from the Burr Trail switchbacks in Capitol Reef down Lower Muley Twist, Halls Creek, up the Baker Route, down Stephens Canyon, across the Escalante, and up Coyote Gulch to Hole in the Rock Road would be an excellent section. You just have to get a ride out Hole in the Rock Road (which is probably fine--we saw a Mini Cooper and a Prius out there, it’s just 30+ miles of solid washboard.) The drive to the Burr Trail switchbacks is also a long dirt road, but NPS says it’s well-maintained [Link].  

Least favorite? 

Walking Kane Creek/Kane Springs Road from Moab over Hurrah Pass is nice scenery-wise, and if you don’t like walking dirt roads per se, you shouldn’t even remotely consider hiking the Hayduke. But if you don’t like walking dirt roads while being passed by loud, high speed OHVs at all hours of the day and night, welcome to the family. If I had read about it in time, I would have recommended to Nano that we take the Jackson Hole alternate, as described by Jamal Green [Link], in order to cut a few miles off this road walk. Or you could packraft all the way from Moab. 

 I also didn’t like the Henry Mountains. Last mountain range in the lower 48 to be explored. Cool, but what does that mean for me today? Wild buffalo herd. Cool, but I didn’t see any, nor really any evidence of them that I could distinguish from cow tracks. It’s a tough climb from 6,000 to 11,000 feet and then straight back down. The climb kicked my butt, which isn’t a good reason not to like it, but it was on roads the entire way. The mountains don’t have any interesting cliffs, knobs, or shapes to them; they’re about as interesting visually as Department of Transportation salt and sand storage mounds. With no other mountains anywhere in view, climbing didn’t seem necessary to get the views, and the air quality was awful, so the views weren’t good anyway. Being passed by a few ATVs while sucking wind on the way to a summit with views shrouded in smoke is not my favorite. I also thought the descent down Sweetwater Creek was brushy and really annoying. The Hayduke was about canyons and redrock to me. If I wanted to bag uninspiring peaks, I would have gone somewhere else. Should I keep going? I did not like them. They were boring, and hard for no reason. I’d honestly recommend the low alternate around them. Save half a day and use it to explore a canyon instead. All that said, Nano enjoyed them. 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Walking in soft sand is the worst. Energy- and momentum-draining sand. It will fill your shoes and start to hurt. Hackberry Canyon (between Grosvenor Arch and the Pariah) was awful. It was dry soft sand at first, but then had a small creek flowing in the bottom half while still managing to be sandy. Both sections filled my shoes and made for extremely slow progress. I would have killed for a pair of lightweight sandals this day. My other least favorite sandy stretches were Park Wash (between Bryce and Kanab) and Broad Hollow and Shunes Hollow north of Colorado City.  

Planning Information: 

Nano and I used a bunch of different resources while planning and hiking, all mentioned below. Given the nature of the route, you need to be comfortable finding water, route, and resupply information, weighing different opinions and options, and being responsible for your own information and route choices. 

Guidebook: You probably need the guidebook by Joe Mitchell and Mike Coronella [Link]. Originally published in 2005, it’s back in print (though not updated) as of 2017. I think the guidebook is in need of updating (I’d love to work on a 2nd Edition) but it is still useful to have a narrative textual description of what it is you’re trying to do. 

Maps: Andrew Skurka created a resource bundle after he hiked most of the route in 2009. (He stopped in the Grand Canyon.) The bundle has not been updated much. I think the most useful part of it is the ready-to-print PDFs of paper maps. If that is worth $25 to you, go for it [Link]. These days I think it’s very easy to design and print your own maps using a GPX file and Caltopo. He also shares updates to the water source information for free (see the “Interim Updates” section at the end of the linked page.) 

 I also carried every National Geographic Trails Illustrated map I thought might be relevant. The scale is generally too large for really helping with cross-country or canyon navigation, but I thought the Canyonlands, Bryce, and Grand Canyon maps were helpful--the first two because we took alternates and were following NPS maintained trails that were on the maps, and the Grand Canyon because you’re in the park for so long it was nice to have a full overview. Plus that map is the easiest way to figure out what permits you’ll need. Water Info: The guidebook mentions most water sources. Skurka’s bundle has water source info more conveniently organized. It’s outdated, but as mentioned above, people send him updates. 

GPS: There’s a bunch of route GPS online. I used Caltopo.com at home on my computer and then Backcountry Navigator on my phone. Now that Caltopo has an app, it’s probably easier to just use the one service/app on both your computer and your phone for easier syncing. (I think Gaia offers both, too) There’s an Android app specific to the Hayduke (by HikerBot) but it doesn’t seem to work anymore. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have any information that isn’t already in publicly available GPS routes that you can just plug into your existing app (Gaia, BackCountry Navigator, Avenza, likely others). 

  •  Nic Barth has a .KMZ file on his website. [Link
  • Puppy has a file as well; you have to request access. [Link][Link
  • Have you tried Google? One of the very first results for anything remotely like “Hayduke GPS” gets you somebody’s route on CalTopo. [Link
  •  I also had a set of waypoints that just reported the mileage as recorded in the guidebook and the mileage from a few of the more common alternates. I don’t know where I got them but they were useful in determining the mileage we’d covered since Backcountry Navigator doesn’t seem to allow you to easily measure portions of lines on your map. 

Websites: There are tons of journals and comments on specific sections out there. I thought it was nice to have a few of these saved on my phone as we went along. 

Permits: Nano took care of it. Many, many thanks, my friend. My only suggestion is to take 70% of the miles that you do per day on good trail like the PCT, and assume that’s what you can do on the Hayduke. Then look at the guidebook for section mileages. Then find a map with the backcountry permit sites like the Nat Geo TIs, and do some math. I wouldn’t worry if you’re a few days off, but it would be pretty turdly of you to try and do the trail without Grand Canyon permits, or Canyonlands unless you can do big miles.  

Alternates: 

“You can go your own way. Go your own way.” --Fleetwood Mac 

I recommend you read as much as you can about which route you want to take instead of following the guidebook or any one previous hiker’s route exactly. The most comprehensive information on alternates currently available online of which I am aware comes from Jamal Green’s Across Utah site [Link]. I’ve only hiked the trail once, so I can’t make 100% reliable comparisons, but I can make educated guesses. I recommend the following:

  • Start at the Moab airport or Devils Garden instead of Salt Valley; it’s easier to get to and prettier. Definitely walk through Devils Garden--it’s Arches National Park, you probably want to see some arches!
  • We managed to get permits for Needles thanks to cancellations. We got water at the front-country campground in Needles. (It’s on older maps as S--- Flat campground, but NPS no longer uses that name/term on their website. Piped water, trash collection, and flush toilets in season! No need to go to the ranger station or Needles Outpost if you don’t want.) We hiked through beautiful Chesler Park and the Joint Trail. We saw two rangers in rapid succession here. Don’t try it without a permit! You’re also required to carry a wag bag and pack out your feces. Chesler Park permits are hard to get, but it’s about 16 miles from the park boundary on your way from Indian Creek to Bobby Jo (which has picnic tables and a latrine) or Horsehoof (which no longer has an arch--it collapsed) campsites, which must be easier to get. It’s about 3 more dirt road miles to the southern boundary of the park.
  • The guidebook route along the Escalante River sounds awful. Happily, it seems like people mostly take alternates now. We took Halls Creek to the Baker Route to Stephens Canyon to Coyote Gulch, and it was awesome. This route goes down the Escalante for just one short bend, and that was enough to see how brushy and bad the guidebook route would have been. There’s a short Escalante high water bypass at the end that cuts off one more bend before you drop into Coyote Gulch and gives you a great view of Stephens Arch.
  • Have you been to Bryce Canyon so many times that you’re tired of it? If not, the guidebook route is not your friend here, as it skips the most famous and scenic parts of the park. I’ve been to Bryce at least three times before and I loved seeing it again. Nano had never been, so I think taking the route through the popular, northern part of the park was the obvious choice. We walked directly from Tropic into the park. Note that we didn’t care about connecting our footsteps, so we skipped the 7 miles of pavement from Skutumpah Road to Tropic (5 of which from Cannonville to Tropic have high speed traffic).
  • The alternate we didn’t do that I’m most interested in is a route through Buckskin Gulch and down the lower Paria that adds 80 miles (and probably requires permits) designed by Nic Barth [Link]. It’s also described by Runaway [Link]. Buckskin is famous for a reason. At the very least, I recommend a serious out and back. Taking this alternate means you would miss some non-amazing and/or burnt parts of the Kaibab Plateau.

Gear: 

Pack: ULA Ciruit. Other than the fact that my pack is from 2007 and the shoulder straps have no padding left in them, this pack worked great. Nano used a Catalyst and was also happy with his choice. 

Sleeping bag: I used an REI Sub-Kilo 20-degree down bag from 2004 that I’ve used for probably 10,000 miles of backpacking. New, that’s probably a decent bag to take. 16 years old, I was cold a few nights, and would have been uncomfortable more nights had it not been unseasonably warm. That’s definitely beyond the productive life of a down sleeping bag. 

 Tarp: Six Moon Designs Deschutes. We set up our tarps/tents the first three nights and never again. We did luck out since it rained one night when we were in town, but it probably won’t rain very often, so it doesn’t seem worth carrying extra weight for an enclosed tent, especially when there’s also essentially no bugs. On the rare occasions you do set up your tarp, be prepared to anchor stakes with rocks, because getting stakes into the rocky ground can be very hard. 

Water: I had several Platypus bladders, plus a 20oz wide-mouth Powerade bottle, which was extremely useful for filling from low-flow or shallow sources. I carried bleach to treat water, but I was pretty lazy about it by the end. There were far fewer cows out there than I expected, perhaps due to the heat or just the time of year. 

I used a NeoAir sleeping pad and had to patch a slow leak during the trip. We also carried 40’ of cord for lowering and hauling packs, which we needed a couple times. Nano carried a Garmin inReach that I mooched a few times. It could almost always find a signal even deep in canyons. Other than that, I’d say my gear was similar to any other hike.  

 

Resupply/Caching: 

 We didn’t cache. I guess you could if you want. 

My thoughts on resupply towns: 

Moab--Nice place with everything you need. I got a nice vegan cheesesteak sub at 98 Center Moab. The best gear shop is Gearheads, 0.6 miles out of the way past Kane Creek Boulevard, but you pass by a smaller one (Pagan Mountaineering) and the Post Office and grocery store (City Market) on your way. There was a lot of construction on the main drag in 2020 that required a short and obvious detour on the north side of town. 

Needles Outpost--Didn’t go. 

 Hite--Hite Outpost (formerly known as Hite Marina) is back in (seasonal) business. It’s a mile or two of pavement out of the way, but you probably need to fill up with water here at the very least. They accept packages. In 2020 they were closed on Tuesday, but the only employee (Katie) lived in the RV park up the road and was nice enough to open just for us. Call ahead to check that they’ll be open. (435) 233-6822 

 Hanksville--It was fine, I guess. I was glad to get in and out the same day. The grocery store was very small and not well stocked. We mailed our packages via UPS to Duke’s Slickrock Campground under the assumption that they’d have better hours than the Post Office. Of course we arrived on a weekday morning and had to wait several hours for the campground office to open at noon. We had a hard time hitching out of town, but the owner of the ATV rental place on the edge of town seemed happy to be paid to drive us back to the trail. (Other hikers seem to have tried the very same thing, also with success.) The restaurant across the street, Outlaw’s Roost, is also hiker-friendly, maybe even trail angels. 

Escalante--The town seemed a little spread out to us, but I believe that’s only because we were lucky enough to have a friend pick us up on Hole In The Rock Road, and he drove us around. The gear shop we tried (Escalante Outfitters) didn’t have large Platypus bladders nor running shorts, but was open early to serve breakfast. There’s another one across the street we didn’t try (Utah Canyon Outdoors). The restaurant/pub we went to took forever to give us our food, gave us no warning, and the food was not great. I think we could have gotten a ride to town from a stranger, since there were a dozen cars in the Hurricane Wash parking lot, but only the next day, so having a friend meet us was very nice. We walked directly out of town the next day. This makes a huge discontinuous stretch to our hike, so if you care about things like that, you might consider taking Jamal Green’s Via Escalante route from the Lower Muley Twist so you can walk in and out of town [Link]. Or cache, or hitch. You do you. If I had it all over to do again, I would have tried to have our friend bring our resupply food to us at the trailhead on HITR Road so we wouldn’t have to go to town, because it’s a long washboard drive. 

Tropic--The town is compact. There aren’t many options, and there’s no gear shop, but we enjoyed it. Bryce Pioneer Village was fine if underwhelming. (TV has no cable). Their restaurant (Showdowns) supposedly has live music sometimes. It’s very nice to be able to walk right out of town into Bryce (but note that the walk into town on the east would likely involve 7 miles of highway pavement). In retrospect I should not have mailed a package here (or at least not to the post office) because it’s only a few days to Kanab, and the grocery store is plenty large enough to get you through that. 

Kanab--The hitching spot where you come out of Park Wash onto Highway 89 is not great--cars are going 80 miles an hour. Even if you stand in one of the junctions, a driver will likely have to stop and turn around to come back to you. Luckily that happened for us in under 20 minutes. Kanab is a bit spread out, but it clearly has the most options of any place since Moab. Wild Thyme Cafe had good fresh food and vegan options, Houston’s Trail’s End had veggie burgers, and the Kanab Creek Bakery was excellent. The gear shop/coffee shop/bookstore Willow Canyon Outdoor is small but reasonably well-stocked, and the staff were friendly. Best of all, Kanab has trail angels! The Arizona Trail maintains a list of trail angels, a few of whom are based in Kanab [Link]. 

Jacob’s Lake--Didn’t go. We did get cell reception when we were nearby. 

South Rim Grand Canyon--Why did we go here exactly? If I’d done more research I think I would have just sent food to the North Rim, given that we were in season and they were open when we walked right through it later in the same day after leaving South Rim. That said, I didn’t mind the extra hike up and down South Kaibab trail, even though I do think it’s silly for the guidebook section to end in the middle of nowhere at Horseshoe Mesa. Nor did I mind that the post office, cafe, and market are all in the same plaza within walking distance from Mather Campground, which had nice hiker/biker spots for $6/person. The grocery store is twice the price of a regular store, and their gear section is sorely limited. The cafe is actually pretty good, with a veggie burger that was way better than the elementary school cafeteria food I was expecting, and decent pizza. Cell service was non-existent for me (Google) and existent but bad for Nano (Verizon). The market has free wifi but it's slow so I wouldn't expect to be able to download podcasts.

Colorado City--I grew up (mainstream) LDS. I no longer believe, and if you called me bitter about it, I couldn’t prove you wrong. All this meant I definitely wanted to visit the FLDS town. There was also a podcast about the community (Unfinished: Short Creek) being released while we were hiking. I’ve heard rumors of hikers having bad experiences, but I felt it was creepy at times but generally fine. No one was rude to us. Bee’s Marketplace is a good grocery store. I have no idea who owns it. You could resupply at Dollar General instead if you wanted to give your money to a large corporation instead. The town is still full of compounds (giant houses with 10+ feet high solid walls surrounding them), but according to the podcast, the state of Utah has taken control of the church collective property fund (UEP) that convicted felon Warren Jeffs was embezzling from and evicted many FLDS family for non-payment of even minimal rent/maintenance fees, and some ex-FLDS have moved in. When I asked a question at the post office (“Where can I buy some coffee?”) all four people within earshot said they didn’t live in town and didn’t know. Short Creek Cottage right next to the Post Office is where some of the FLDS women sell homemade goods, but that was closed. On your way out of town just before the trailhead (assuming you are doing the alternate that walks through town and out up Short Creek and Squirrel Creek, which I would recommend) you’ll pass Finney Farms, which has a small dairy store selling local cheese and frozen yogurt. Berry Knoll Bakery Pizza Cafe was unremarkable. There’s a brewery in the same plaza (Edge of the World Brewery), so the town clearly can’t be completely FLDS anymore. I will say that the community gets a little rougher-seeming as you cross the state line and head toward the trailhead. The most unusual things about the town stop were having the US Marshalls drive by us twice, slowly, and the former “prophet” Warren Jeff’s compound that is now a hotel, Zion’s Most Wanted Hotel. No, thanks. 

 Springdale: Springdale was fine, if (obviously) full of tourists, myself included. It’s a bit of a shock to go back to paying California prices for food ($18+/entree, $8 for a small crappy vegan soft-serve ice cream cone) but I believe it is the first draft beer I had all trip. Oscar’s Cafe had an excellent breakfast. There’s a library with a good selection of books for sale if you want to pick something up for the flight home.  

Sections: 

Here are my brief thoughts on sections of the trail. (I’m breaking it up as seems sensible to me rather than according to the guidebook.) 

 Start to Moab: Start at the airport or at Devil’s Garden! Easy. Pretty. Arches! Courthouse Wash is tough because of very dense cattails and brush and beaver ponds requiring a swim. I wish it hadn’t been rainy and cold that day so that we hadn’t bailed. If you bail, bail east rather than west so you don’t end up on the bike trail by the highway like us, but if you do, it’s fine. 

Moab to Hite: The roadwalk out of Moab has too many ATVs to be fun, but they’ll go away when you’re in Lockhart Basin. Indian Creek didn’t have water, which was disappointing. Going through Chesler Park in Canyonlands was great. We just took the Ruin Park roads through the Grabens to get to Beef Basin, it was fine. Homewater Spring was flowing great. It was undrinkably sulfuric out of the pipe, but tasted fine out of the tub overflow. Watch out for red ants nearby--there unfortunately wasn’t anywhere to sit while enjoying the only water for miles. I didn’t love Fable Valley, the scrambling was brushy, pokey, and dirty. Youngs Canyon is similar, but you’re headed downhill, so it was fine. Dark Canyon was amazing. I could live down there. 

Hite (HWY 95) to Hanksville (HWY 95): The roadwalk to Rock Canyon was miserably hot for us. The chimney climb out at the top shouldn’t be a huge deal, though it is really the only thing on the route I’d call class 4. The Red Benches route isn’t great but you’ll get over it. Fiddler Cove Canyon is nice, but you’re not in it for long. I liked the Dirty Devil River. There was evidence of cows, but we didn’t see any. It was flowing at ankle-depth, which made walking in it slower than walking on the mud bank, but less slippery. Nano was glad to be done with it. We didn’t drink the water. Poison Spring Canyon was nice. Easy walking with nice canyon walls and a powerful protected spring. 

Hanksville (HWY 95) to HITR Road: I did not like the Henrys (see above). Capitol Reef’s Grand Gulch, Burr Trail switchbacks, Lower Muley Twist, Halls Creek, Baker route, Stephens Canyon, and Coyote Gulch are all Grade-A desert canyon and slickrock hiking. 

Escalante to Tropic: We cut off some miles here by walking out of Escalante. Death Ridge Road is fine, and the scenery is actually sort of nice when you’re on the ridge between Paradise Valley and Headquarters Valley. We didn’t go by Headquarters Spring, but if the road is dry, you can probably yogi water from tourists near Grosvenor Arch. No fewer than five cars stopped without prompting and asked us if we wanted water. Round Valley Draw slot was amazing. I hated Hackberry Canyon’s sand. The upper Paria was really cool. We were glad that there were no cows to be seen. Once you leave the Paria for Sheep Creek the water goes away and the wash is full of horse tracks, making for a sandy mess. In retrospect, I might have liked to go up Bull Valley Gorge and down Willis Creek. We did short out and backs up both, but they weren’t epic in the sections on the east near Sheep Creek. 

Tropic to Kanab (HWY 89): The popular part of Bryce is the best part here. The Under-the-Rim trail is nice, but surprisingly poorly maintained, with blowdowns from a fire not taken care of. Seems like a single chainsaw crew could solve this. If you don’t have a permit, there are several places that the trail is extremely close to, or even over, the boundary with the National Forest. Bullrush Gorge is nice and had fall colors, but Park Wash was very sandy. The roadwalking at the end of the section is fine. 

Kanab (HWY 89) to the Grand Canyon Main Corridor: Buckskin Gulch is incredible, and you should do a serious out and back if you’ve never seen it before. The part of Buckskin the Hayduke covers to the north is a pathetic, miserable, worthless slice of what awaits you south of Wire Pass if you seek it out. Odds are low, but it’s worth a shot at permits for The Wave, both four months before your trip and any morning that you’re in Kanab by 8am. We didn’t try and we didn’t bandit it, so I’ll just have to go back some day. The Kaibab Plateau and the AZT is kind of boring, kind of nice. As you get closer to the North Rim, there are really nice open meadows. There’s also water from AZT hiker caches at road crossings! The AZT seems like a walk in the park. The Grand Canyon is amazing. The descent down Nankoweap was hard and very hot. I’m glad we weren’t climbing out that way. Once down there, we struck out with a commercial rafting trip but had a blast hanging out with a private crew at the very next site and got a ride down and across to the Little Colorado. The Beamer Trail and the Escalante Route are hard, but I enjoyed them. I think the Tonto Trail is pretty boring and annoyingly scratchy--it would be nice if that were ever maintained. 

Grand Canyon Main Corridor to Colorado City: If I did the Hayduke again of course I’d try some of the Grand Canyon alternates, but the main route up North Kaibab and roadwalk to Muav Saddle was nice, especially with aspens changing in the fall. Saddle Canyon to Tapeats Creek to Thunder River to Deer Creek Falls and up Kanab Creek was amazing. Favorite section of the trip. We skipped the riverside boulder hopping from Deer Creek to Kanab by catching a ride and I would encourage you to do the same if you can because rafters are nice and rafting is fun. September 16-March 31 is the non-mechanized rafting season on the river, so that’s a point in fall’s favor. The Arizona Strip roadwalk was interesting. For us there was plenty of water from wells, but also the most cows we’d seen all trip, which wasn’t many. I liked that in certain spots there wasn’t even a single juniper or pinyon pine as far as the eye could see. Just sagebrush and tumbleweed. 

Colorado City to Zion: The alternate up Short Creek and Squirrel Creek by the Beehive was awesome, with wave-like striations in the rock. The East Fork of the Virgin (the Barracks) was also incredible. Make absolutely sure you go as far as the Powell Plaque and do not exit right next to Misery Canyon as the guidebook describes. You’d be missing out on incredible narrows and an easier, less exposed, way up. Due to the Weeping Wall landslides we were unable to do the original finish in Zion, and due to toxic cyanobacteria in the Virgin River, we were unable to do the technical (two short rappels) Orderville Gulch ending. So we just called it good at HWY 9. That worked for us, because the East Fork was incredible, and except for one hunter on the south side in the early morning, we didn’t see anyone else all day until we reached the road. I visited main Zion canyon the next day, and it was of course a zoo. I am glad I hiked it though, because you can still get some privacy just walking along the river most of the way from The Temple of Sinawava down to Springdale. (The guidebook says the road is narrow and discourages readers from hiking this, but only shuttle traffic is allowed, so it felt safe to me. I don’t think anyone should feel they need to walk this part, but it’s pleasant enough.)  

Conclusion:

I loved it. In addition to the fact that I didn’t read or hear a news article for six weeks, the scenery was incredible. Feel free to email me questions--the more specific the better. 

Thanks for reading all this way. My favorite photos from the Hayduke are [here].

 

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