Hello and welcome to my article on the Hayduke Trail. I’m a foot traveler and wilderness guide who loves taking extended walks. Walking has always been an escape for me. I was born with an inexplicable desire to see what is around the next corner, next mountain and next horizon. Even as a child I was constantly walking away to the great worriment of my mother.
As I have grown I have come to appreciate that the further I hike the further I can fall into myself. Hiking provides an opportunity to explore not just the world outside but also my own remote thoughts and feelings.
I have ticked off a few incredible long-distance hikes over the past decade including the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012 and the Hayduke Trail in 2019. The Continental Divide Trail will be my adventure for 2022, beginning in late June, heading south from Glacier National Park. In between these epic hikes, I work as a professional backcountry wilderness guide.
Hiking 1,000+ Miles on the Hayduke
The Hayduke Trail is more of a route as opposed to a trail. It is a series of general directions and suggestions on the map. There is a saying that “no two Haydukers will hike the same hike”. This appealed to me intrinsically.
The route was conceived by two Utah natives during several expeditions where scarce water sources and remote resupply points were linked across 812 miles through six national parks and two states. It loosely forms a “horseshoe” shape from Arches National Park to the Grand Canyon and back to Zion National Park, connecting the edges of the Colorado Plateau.
We expanded the original route of 812 miles to a 1,000+ mile adventure, including numerous alternates and local highlights. We started on the northern border of Arches National Park and pointed ourselves south.
Remarkable Southwest Landscapes
Our route traversed the length of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, and ended 65 days and over 1,000 miles later in the Kolob Canyons.
The Southwest is replete with remarkable landscapes. There are slot canyons, snowy mountains and vast expanses of open slick rock. There is the threat of quicksand, dust storms and flash floods. There are snakes, sheep and herds of wild buffalo. There is everything you can imagine and everything you cannot, and that is the magic behind a great adventure.
Best Experience on the Hayduke
On my previous long-distance hikes, such as the Pacific Crest Trail, I was forced to get comfortable with the idea of hitchhiking rides from strangers into and out of towns and resupply points. The Hayduke Trail provided me with my first experience hitchhiking a boat ride. The route enters the Grand Canyon far upstream in an undeveloped area above the LCR confluence.
In order to continue, the hiker must cross the swift and dangerous Colorado River. We anxiously waited several hours before thankfully encountering a rafting party to answer our hails. I will always remember how the riotous voices and colors vibrantly shattered the tension just as mounting quiet, stillness and self-doubt threatened to overwhelm.
Our Small but Supportive Network
There were a few hikers with us on the Hayduke Trail in the Fall of 2019. We had managed to establish a small but supportive network through email and social media, and we did enjoy the opportunity to meet two fellow hikers at Jacobs Lake diner as we waited out a snowstorm and ate pie.
Where we Stayed along the Route
The Hayduke is a remote hiking experience. There are few points to access towns or civilization without tough hitchhikes. In the weeks leading up to our hike, we strategically cached most of our food and resupply deep in the desert using sealed five gallon buckets. We had a few nights where we stayed in a hotel or at a local friend’s home, but these were rare pleasures.
How Tough is the Hayduke Trail?
The route requires significant planning, which is likely the most difficult part. The tricks to ascending massive dry falls, crossing vast arid expanses, and negotiating mazes of steep-walled canyons are all discovered before the trip begins. While the number of resources continues to grow, the Hayduke still requires a lot of forethought on the part of the hiker.
Preparing for the Hayduke Trail
The Hayduke requires preparation and experience to be hiked enjoyably. Unlike other long-distance trails, the available resources are scarce, dated and require the investment of time and the application of knowledge to be rendered useful and safe. “Bailout” points along the route are scarce meaning even small mistakes can cascade into high-risk scenarios.
For the less experienced hiker (or less committed one), shorter sections of the trail can be experienced through the Spring and Fall seasons. If you do decide to attempt the entire trail the three main tips I can offer are: do your homework, know your limits and never be afraid to “live deliberately”.