*please excuse some coloring, alignment, and sizing that may be off after migration to a new platform after this was written. Also, note that this trail is evolving and it’s been a few years since my Hayduke hike. I do my best to update this, but be sure to double check specifics, like the resupply suggestions.
If you’re reading this in great detail, then you’ve entertained the idea of possibly attempting the Hayduke Trail Route. I found the planning for the Hayduke to be quite draining and time consuming, but I also am one that likes to gather as much beta on a trail as I can before I do it. I will do my best to organize my thoughts now that I’ve completed the HDT and I hope you will find it helpful in planning your upcoming hike. Also, Buck-30 also wrote two very helpful posts for future Haydukers. That can fill in the blanks on some things I may not cover. May the odds be ever in your favor…
My Hayduke Experience
Each hiker has their own experience on trails and the Hayduke is no different. If you read my Hayduke journal, know that I was fortunate to have a relatively mild weather and temperature experience, so be aware that it can be much more extreme. I would agree that the Hayduke is one of the most unique and varied trails out there, but I honestly didn’t love it as much as others. The Hayduke is definitely not a comfortable hike. Looking back on it, I think that it was a combination of things. I’ve never been a big desert person and I had a rough beginning. I got a stomach bug or possibly a reaction to the alkaline water the first week in, and never really got my energy to where I’d have liked. In the final week, a combination of wet feet, rocky terrain, and colder damp moments made for a soggy ending with aching feet. I also wish I would have cached. I will elaborate on the specifics of caching below, but I will say that I think it could have enhanced my hike by breaking up long carries, lightening the load, and giving me more flexibility to hike shorter, less draining days. The heavy carries combined with challenging terrain and temperatures took a toll, and that contributed to make the hike less enjoyable than it probably could have been. Regardless, I enjoyed the novelty, uniqueness, and challenge of the Hayduke and am happy to have had an extended experience in such a revered area. As a comparison, my hiking partner for the first half of the Hayduke, Katherine, really loved the hike and also kept a daily journal.
The Intimidation Factor
Yes, the Hayduke is an intimidating route. If you aren’t approaching it with care and caution, I would rethink your strategy and mindset. This is a humbling trail that you should not go into under prepared or overconfident. I know many are wondering how much skill and experience is necessary for someone to hike the Hayduke. There isn’t really a definitive answer to that question. There was quite a wide range of people (and ages) on the Hayduke from first time thru hiker to triple crowners and beyond. You just need to know for yourself what you are in for and be level-headed and competent enough to do something that will test the boundaries. I will reiterate that this is NOT a comfortable hike. Be ready for periods of long food/water carries, cross country hiking, deep sand slogs, bushwhacking, having wet feet, hiking in extreme temperatures (cold and hot), some steep exposed scrambling with a full pack, and deep sand slogs(yes I said that twice!). As a comparison, I went into the Hayduke having never visited Utah or Arizona, with less than stellar navigation skills, and a lukewarm enjoyment of desert conditions and I survived just fine. There is a lot of hype surrounding this trail and I’d say, don’t let it intimidate you. Like all other thru hikes, go into it prepared, take it one leg at a time, and handle each obstacle as it comes.
Getting to the Trail
One of the Hayduke Guidebook authors, Mike Coronella, is an awesome guy that lives in Moab and can often help with rides to the start. He gave myself and Katherine a ride and it was great fun to start the trail off with the co-creator! He has a link on his guiding site to contact him.
When to Hike
Navigation & Beta
As a reminder, the Hayduke is a route, not a trail. There won’t be blazes or many cairns leading the way. The route is on a trail or road for much of the hike, but there will be a good deal of hiking in deep sand washes, bouldery canyons, and waterways. I’m not great with map/compass, and mainly used Li Brannfors maps/beta with the GPS track from Nic Barth. I know in my blog I mention Li Brannfors’s maps/beta, but he has since decided to scale back his distribution of maps/tracks/beta. He has asked that I not share his contact information right now and I am going to respect his wishes on that until further notice. New for 2017, someone has teamed with Nic Barth to make an app that has Nic’s beta available in an app form for Android users. It is new, so there is little feedback on it, but here is the linl to the HikerBot app for Android users. Within the app, there should be and option to select the Hayduke Trail. Combining the information in the original Guidebook, Andrew Skurka’s maps/bundle, and Nic Barth’s track is more than sufficient for hiking the Hayduke. Li’s packet was basically a compilation of all these things combined along with current notes from hikers. It was very convenient and helpful, but not necessary for hiking the Hayduke. Other than the main resources, I found reading previous journals to be helpful and some even had beta on routes and water sources. The full list of resources and blogs I used can be found here for those that like to gather as much beta as possible before a hike. Also, since I’ve hiked, Jamal over at Across Utah has put together a wealth of detailed beta for the Hayduke and some really awesome alternate routes.
I used the same gear as I do for my other thru hikes and just added more bladders to carry water. I will say that you’ll probably go through shoes 100mi earlier than usual depending on what you wear as the tread and mesh wears in the sand. If you don’t like shoes full of fine sand, then you’re in the wrong place. Do what you can to keep zippers clean. I did carry an extra zipper in anticipation of needing to replace my tent zipper and barely made it through by tightening the zipper in town and rinsing it clean when needed. Keep cameras in Ziplocs or something if you can. Sand will surely get in there. As for packs, they will get scraped up. I’ll advise just putting Gorilla Tape on the edges of side pockets that stick out because they scrape so often against the rock. My Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack made it through, but had plenty of duct tape on it! Sunscreen is a must out there. I loved the Sawyer Sunscreen. A little bit goes a long way and it lasts a long time with less reapplication needed than other sunscreens. Highly recommended. I mostly used bleach drops for water, but along the Colorado I used the Sawyer Squeeze to filter out the scary stuff and it was perfect. Just know that gear in general will wear down quickly with the sand and abrasive surfaces. Most of my gear was well used before the hike and survived the hike just fine. Here is a comprehensive gear review I wrote after the hike.
Water sources will vary greatly from year to year, but regardless, there will be some long carries. I found that compared to other hikers, I tend to carry 1/3 less water than most. Skurka’s bundle has a water chart that hasn’t been updated in 6yrs. There is a 1-4 ranking on water reliability with a lot of iffy 2’s on the list. That means that there were a lot of unknowns and we had to carry as if the water wouldn’t be there, but in some cases, it was. Personally, I think my largest carry was 7L, but I know other Haydukers have done up to 10L at times. My three longest carries that I recall were Day 11 coming out of Hite, Day 23 just before Monday Canyon (worst carry of whole trip that also included 9 days of food), and Day 25 in Paradise Canyon. Many sources are alkaline meaning it is hard water with high minerals in them. It affected my tummy and it would rumble when the sources were especially alkaline (dried white minerals around sources indicated high alkalinity). Not much I could do about it, but I was aware on the data sheet where the higher alkaline sources were and I would grab extra at previous sources if I could to drink less of what hurt my stomach. As for the most up-to-date water info, Dec of 2015, Skurka added an “Interim Update” doc to his bundle of all the water and trail updates he’s received 2011-2015 that can be downloaded for free on is site. Right now, it has Buck-30’s trail notes, but his water notes are linked separately, so pay attention for that. If you would like ALL of Buck-30’s water chart, trail notes, and waypoints in one place, here is a link for that.
One of the challenges of the Hayduke is the remoteness of the trail and the logistics of resupplying. There are towns along the way, but some are long hitches and there are some long carries if you aren’t caching. Fore the most part, I’d say send a box, but Skurka’s bundle has more specifics on what each location has. When Katherine and I planned, we knew some days would be faster than others and guesstimated a 15mi/day average. Note that some of these sections had alternates that extended them, and in two cases, we returned to a town for a second time because the town was still close to our route. Below is how long the legs actually took once we hiked, which ended up being closer to an 18-20mi/day average in most cases.
As for shipping boxes, many towns had sufficient stores, but I’d ship to Needles(expensive/limited), Hanksville(limited small store outside of town), and Tropic(no major store, but you could hitch to a nearby town).
-Moab, UT: 2.5 days back into Moab-31mi
-Moab, UT: 8 days to Hite Marina 165mi
(NOTE: Hite Marina is now is closed and you now have to hitch 1hr to Hanskville from the closed marina). I now recommend resupplying at Needles Outpost(under new management, on the way, very welcoming), and then hiking on to Hanksville.
-Moab UT: 3.5 days to Needles Outpost-59mi
-Needles Outpost: 7 days to Hanksville-119mi
-Hanksville, UT: 6.5 days to Escalante-110.6mi
-Escalante, UT: 7 days to Tropic-143.8mi
-Tropic, UT: 3 days to Kanab-65mi
(NOTE: We chose to stop and hitch to Kanab to resupply in order to do a bonus loop for 4.5days that brought us back to Kanab). Haydukers that don’t do this sometimes resupply at Jacob’s Lake, AZ instead of Kanab because it is on trail.
-Kanab, UT: 4.5 day loop back to Kanab-81.7mi
-Kanab, UT: 7.5 days to S Rim Grand Canyon Village-122.1mi
-Grand Canyon (Village on S Rim) AZ: 9 days to Colorado City/Hurricane-146.4mi
(NOTE: Gavin and I chose a bonus alternate that added two days here that I wouldn’t recommend that I explain below in my alternates section. Also, an alternate walks into Colorado City, but I recommend hitching to much larger Hurricane from there as a great spot to overnight and resupply)
-Hurricane/Colorado City: 3 days to Weeping Wall in Zion-46mi
-Springdale, AZ: Technically, this is the village/town of Zion you’ll end in. We added a 38mi traverse to Zion that Gavin and I ended up bailing on halfway due to poor weather. More explained below…Caching
When you choose to do this trail without caches, you are forced to keep a faster pace to make it to towns and water sources. For some reason, I wanted the challenge of not caching, but when you really think about it, mailing boxes to town is the same as caching. By caching, supplies can be dropped to break up these long carries and legs can be done in a less stressful fashion. Those that don’t cache tend to take about two months to hike the Hayduke(pushing the hike more to make water and food carries shorter), whereas those that cache can take it in a bit more over three months if they wish. The guidebook is broken into sections that are more idea for caching and that was an adjustment when I first got it. Now that I’ve done the hike, it makes perfect sense! For those interested in even more details on caching, Spiderwoman’s 2014 Tips has a great summary of caching options at the end of her document.
Solo vs Partner
This is a common question for the Hayduke. Know that I’m barely 5’3″ and I had concerns for some of the exposure and scrambling. Overall, I’d say it isn’t necessary, but that this hike can have so many crazy and difficult moments, that it’s nice to just have another person to share it with in general. I was very grateful to hike with Katherine and Gavin, as it did provide a much needed morale boost at times. However, I can also appreciate the desire for solo time out there. There were times when having another person was helpful for handing or hoisting packs up/down, but I do believe none of it would have been impossible for me to do on my own. In fact, a woman my year named Wyoming, who is not much taller than me, was the first solo female hiker to complete the Hayduke, and she fared just fine. She definitely had challenging moments, but the point is that it is doable to go solo. Yes, it is safer and possibly more fun to have a partner, but it is doable solo and some may have more fun going on that type of solo adventure.
I did NOT enjoy this aspect of planning the Hayduke. Skurka lays it out in his bundle, so I won’t go into too much detail…plus, it makes my blood pressure rise just thinking of it. I. Can’t. Deal. What I can say is that permits ended up not being as do or die as I thought they would. Generally, the rangers are very forgiving to Haydukers as long as they have some kind of permit and are close to their intended date. They are pretty understanding if you are off your schedule a bit, but it ain’t cool to try to go with no permit at all or to take the campsite of someone who paid and reserved a site. Basically, be considerate, do your best to get a permit and be on schedule, but know it isn’t the end of the world if you are off. The main piece I’d say is getting the Grand Canyon permits. Apply as early as you can…like 5 months early. You can see on my blog where I ended up camping and that worked just fine. The process is not easy and you’ll want to get the Nat Geo maps of the Grand Canyon to be able to see the sections you’ll be selecting from. It is seriously frustrating and I’m shocked there isn’t more online to at least have an overlay of the sections and campsites. Once I got there, I found that we were the only ones out there, so it was a lot of stress for little reason, but maybe that was a freak occurrence. As for others, I chose not to carry a bear canister where required the two nights it was required. In the parks, where I couldn’t get a permit ahead of time (because you had to go into the headquarters in person and I was nowhere near there), I didn’t get one and was ready with money if need be. I ran into one ranger all trip (in the Grand Canyon) and he didn’t even ask to see our permits. He knew we were Haydukers and expected to see us since he had a list of the few out there. Basically gave us a high five and we were on our way.Alternates, Alternates, Alternates
As I mentioned above, Nic Barth has a great track available for download! The great thing about his track is that it also includes the Hayduke on steroids pretty much for those interested in alternates, extensions, canyoneering, and even packrafting. Also, Jamal at Across Utah has developed a wealth of beta for Haydukers. I tend to be a by-the-book hiker that sticks with “official” routes, but the Hayduke is the type of trail that encourages exploration and making the hike your own. Just download that sucker and have fun on GoogleEarth drooling over the possibilities. In talking with Hayduke co-creator, Mike Coronella, he believes some of these alternate routes ARE better than what he and Joe Mitchell originally created and he is excited to see the route take on many different forms. He even says he’d pack raft certain sections and that it isn’t about hiking the whole route, but more the experience traveling through such a unique landscape.Here are a list of the alternates I did and a brief thought on them. For more detail, click the link provided for my journal entry. Many of these are alternates were created by Nic Barth, so see his blog for complete details. He even has GoogleEarth overview shots to get an idea of what it looks like. Brian & Martina hiked in fall of 2012 and they have a wonderful site that includes alternate summaries on many of these that were really helpful for us. Thanks so much to these hikers for putting the time and energy into these trip reports for others! Sadly, some are Li alternates that are on his maps if you can get ahold of those. Here are the alternates in order for each section. I’ve listed the sections from town to town hoping it would make more sense. We went all out on the alternates wanting to see and experience all we could along the way. It ended up adding over 100mi to the trip and most were well worth the effort.
Klondike Bluffs Start & Devil’s Garden: Really enjoyed both these that gave a more eventful start to the Hayduke and plenty of arches to be seen. Basically parallels the original route. Together, they are 8.7mi and add 3mi to the HDT.Arches Slickrock: Um, yes please! I really enjoyed this one that avoided part of the deep sandy Courthouse Wash. It does involve some exposure going down cliff bands, so check out my photos to see if it’s something you’re comfortable doing. It is 7.7mi and takes 4mi off the Hayduke. Shorter, but possibly more time consuming with scrambling.Lockhart Cliff: This is another one I had fun on. A classic Hayduke experience where it can look deceivingly impossible until you’re right up on it. There was a part where the angled slick rock with sand on it freaked me out and I had a moment. It can be difficult to find the one spot to get down through a boulder cave, but it’s there and was fun to find it. 1mi alternate that cuts 3.1 off the Hayduke. Yes, shorter, but probably more time consuming with the scrambling.Needles Outpost-Hanksville
Salt Creek: This is one of Li’s alternates, so they are not on Skurka or Barth’s info. I was sick this day, but recommend this one. It was quite lengthy though. If you can’t get your hands on Li’s info, here is a link to a general Canyonlands map that shows you the first half. Looking at this, you will hike from the Needles Outpost to Squaw Flat Campground. From there head east to the Peekaboo campsite and then south along Salt Creek Canyon with a side trip to see Angel Arch. At the bottom of the map you’ll want to go west and some cross country is involved to connect with Ruin Canyon and then Dark Canyon. I’m sorry, I can’t give out more detail, but it is something visible on a map if you like figuring that out. It reconnects at mile 45 of Sec 3. It is 63mi long and missed 48.5mi of the HDT, so it adds 14.5mi. From what I hear, the original route is enjoyable too and you’ll still experience most of Dark Canyon, which is great!
Below Taratula 2: One of two alternates Nic has in this area. It was nice short one that got us on some slick rock and and we saw an area with coal in the layers. One of the most memorable views for me was at the end of this I believe…unless it’s back on the original trail just after it reconnects.Stevens Canyon/Halls Creek Alt: This is another one of Li’s alternates if you get your hands on his stuff. If not, Jamal, from the site, Across Utah! has the route and a map with waypoints published on his website! Note that he calls it the Baker Route and Stevens Canyon. Thanks Jamal!! It was one of the highlights of the trip for sure. You can read in my journal the experience we had and Brian and Martina also describe it in some general sense. It is 29.7mi and misses 42.3mi of the HDT, so it cuts off 12.6mi, and 25mi of what you miss is a wade through the Escalante River.
Bull Valley Gorge-Willis Creek-Sheep Creek: Another Li alternate, but this is an easy one to spot on the maps. It adds 6mi to the trip and zigzags in a less efficient way than the official way, but takes you through some fun gorges. You can see it in my journal, but I commented at the time that it was nice, but not sure everyone would want to do it to add 6mi to an already long and tiring leg. I enjoyed it and would probably do it again given the chance. Again, Brian & Martina have a good description too.
Bryce Canyon: Bryce is somehow not part of the Hayduke, but it’s easy to swing through and totally worth it! This alternate also gives the perk of walking through the town of Tropic to resupply. Overall, I was on the alternate for three days paralleling the HDT route. You see the classic Bryce views and also get to hike the “Under the Rim” trail. It is in both Skurka and Li’s mapsets and adds 23.5mi to the HDT.
Buckskin-Paria: This is the super bonus alternate that Nic Barth lays out wonderfully. It is basically a bonus loop that barely overlaps with the Hayduke, so most of it is not even paralleling the Hayduke and you will not make much forward progress. It is basically an additional loop of 82mi of hiking. It is pretty great for those that have the bonus energy and time. The Buckskin and Paria Canyons are two of the most destined trips in the area and the Buckskin is said to be the longest slot canyon in the world. The route is best viewed on Nic’s track. The loop is comprised of his Buckskin Gulch, Paria Canyon, Bush Head Route, Vermilion Cliffs, Sand Hill Crack Route, and Hwy 89A to Arizona Trail. As for camping, Katherine did a great job of figuring out where to camp so that this was done legally and that is explained in the journal in more detail. Yes, you can camp in many places, but it’s doing it legally that’s the catch and we wanted to do that through there if we could. It was a fun challenge to make those campspots.
Kanab-S Rim Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Horsethief Alt: Anothe one of Li’s alternates that is best understood by looking at his maps. No matter which route you take in this part of the Grand Canyon, you’re going to deal with some difficult hiking. It’s basically a pick your poison type of thing. In an effort to avoid some of the bushwhacking along the Colorado River, Gavin and I did the first part of the Horsethief Alternate. We both found it to be not enough reward for the effort involved and we cut back to the original route partway through. If it was sweltering hot out, you’d probably not want to do the alternate. I found the variety of doing part of the Horsethief nice to give variety but it certainly wasn’t a cake walk and neither is the bushwhack along the river…hard to say which is better and just a matter of your situation and personal preference. Katherine did do all of the Horsethief alternate if you would like to know more about it.
S Rim Grand Canyon-Colorado City/Hurricane
Tonto West-Bass Trail: Again, a Li alternate that is well laid out on his mapset. I was not a fan of this one and wouldn’t recommend it for most. At this point in the hike making an already challenging 7 day leg, into a 9 day leg isn’t advised unless it adds something spectacular. This was nice, but added more of the same of what we had already experienced prior to the S Rim. Yes, it is more scenic than the road walk on the N Rim, but I am bummed I missed the popular N Rim area having never been to the Grand Canyon. In this case, more was just more tiring for me.
Colorado City: This is the opportunity to walk through the polygamist towns of Colorado City and Hildale. I walked through mostly on my own before Gavin met up with me at the end of town. You’ll be stared at for sure, but I know some hikers have been welcomed. Things are becoming more modern and less intense there, but it’s still quite a creepy kind of experience with forts around homes and no one walking around. Definitely not the most welcoming town. I was glad to have Gavin with me at the end of town as we both felt kinda sketched out camping on the outskirts of town. This alternate is on Skurka’s maps and adds 2mi. Yes, this is right where the town of Hildale was hit by flash flooding in Sept of 2015 and many died.
Lee Pass Finish/Zion Traverse: The intention at the end of the hike was to add on a couple days to do a full Zion traverse since the Hayduke ends at the east end of Zion and it’s the perfect opportunity to traverse the park. Due to bad weather, Gavin and I bailed on the last day. Katherine stuck it out to the end. I recommend it and it is a great way to end the trail…if the weather is good! Katherine also looked into where the legal spots would be to camp. For us, that ended up being the East Rim Trail area the first night and Wilcat Canyon the second night. You can get the permits here. This alternate is in Skurka’s Bundle and is 38mi long.
WHEW! I know this is long and there is still I ton I didn’t include. The planning of this hike is on par with the endurance needed to hike it, so it’s a good test of how well matched you are for this route. If you survive the planning, then you’re probably in good shape to survive the trail, ha!