For once we left Highway 95 for the Henry Mountains following the actual Hayduke Trail! However we deviated round the mountain summits due to blizzard conditions unfortunately. Entering Escalante from Lower Muley Twist canyon we took another major alternate as mapped by Li Brannfors via Stevens Canyon. Highly recommended and see below for details…
Section 5|10.0 Crescent Creek had flowing water but it was quite silty due to what seems to be recent mining and heavy vehicle activity in this area. It was still drinkable once treated however.
Henry Mountains lower alternate
Why Do it?
To avoid bad weather on the summit ridge. It was blowing hard and snowing for us here and after an attempt at climbing onto the summit ridge we retreated back to skirt the tops from the south on jeep tracks on this lower route. This is still a scenic trip but it would be better to follow the Hayduke over the tops if you can.
We just followed Li’s maps on good jeep trails although they became a bit sticky with mud from the melting snow!
Airplane Spring at alternate mile 8.9 has some broken faucets in a grassy clearing on the right when arriving from the north. The water is in a tank a short distance further down (300m?), visible from, and just to the right of the jeep track.
Back on the Hayduke…
Section 5|31.3 Tarantula Mesa#2 had goodish water (see picture).
Tarantula Mesa had some of the trickiest navigation of the trail- for us at least…..
Section 5|33.9 There is a cairn marking the descent from the rim and once you find the cairn the scramble down is fine (see banner picture).
Section 5|35.8 The stock trail is a bit vague to locate so keep your eye’s peeled around here.
Section 5|37.1 Canyon Junction springs were flowing but a little mucked up by cattle. We didn’t take from here, but we would have drunk the water if necessary.
‘Below Tarantula 2’ alternate
Why Do it?
A shorcut saving 2 miles and interesting cross country travel.
Section 5|37.1 Follow Nicolas Barth’s Below Tarantula 2 directions. From the spring though, you need to hike up the wash on the Hayduke for maybe 200m before turning west-left up the side draw.
The terrain is a little hard to navigate and I turned the GPS on for an hour or so through here. There is a scramble up a cliff band at the end but if you have made it this far on the Hayduke it will be a ‘breeze’! This is a small alternate but thanks to Nicolas for posting it (and many more) and we rather enjoyed it!
Back on the Hayduke……
Section 5|40.4 the approach and descent into Swap Canyon is another tricky navigation area through rugged rocky territory. The scramble down is short and has cairns though.
Section 5|42.0 There are 2 sources marked on the Skurka/Li maps here. We found the 2nd to be better and pretty good quality water in a big pothole with flow beyond that. There were some historic signs of cattle around but we didn’t see any – all in all this was a good source for us.
Section 6|1.0 Lower Muley Twist There was water in slickrock pockets in the first half mile of Lower Muley Twist. We didn’t see any other water until Muley Tanks at Section 6|12.5
Lower Muley Twist is a wonderful hike with some of the best alcoves ever!
Section 6|12.5 Muley Tanks A classic water source! Just to clarify the location. It is across from the large brick-coloured dome as has been described, but it is across the wide valley to the west at least 300m away from the wash and at the foot of the slickrock rising to the west. We missed the old wagon track to the pools and had to backtrack to find it.
Halls Creek-Stevens Canyon alternate
Why Do it?
This is a major alternate which has been mapped by Li Brannfors and for us was a candidate for the best hiking of our entire Hayduke trip. Stevens Canyon in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument area is a wonderful, scenic wild place with only faint signs of others and pretty good water. It rejoins the Hayduke at the Escalante River near Stevens Arch (Section 6|58.5), leaving only 1.5 miles following the Escalante River before exiting for Coyote Gulch.
The main Hayduke would be great too but we didn’t fancy the full 25.6 miles of Escalante wading and bushwacking! The short section of 1.5 miles of the Escalante we did, admittedly at 6-7am, had knee deep, fast flowing, frigid water.
Jamal’s Across Utah! website has an excellent description of the Steven’s Canyon section (in both directions) along with a treasure trove of other information including blogs of his trip through here.
Nicolas Barth’s route via the normal Hayduke through Moody Canyon, around 5 miles of the Escalante and then exiting the Hayduke via Scorpion Gulch also looks superb.
If you are interested in exploring the almost unlimited possibilities of the Escalante area then I recommend Steve Allen’s Loop Hike book. Having visited the canyons here in 2004, this is an area we would love to return to again!
Section 6|17.9 Leave the Hayduke at the foot of the Red Slide and keep hiking down Halls Creek.
Halls Creek has plenty of flowing water after the first few miles of dry wash all the way down to the route exit before Lake Powell.
The route crosses from Halls Creek into Stevens Canyon before Lake Powell by climbing south west over the slickrock ridge of the waterpocket fold. This is the old Baker Trail which is cairned on the way up but we lost the cairns after about 20 minutes and then cross countried up and down the undulating slickrock to the summit of the ridge at 5,658 feet. We couldn’t locate any signs of the descent into Stevens so pretty much just dropped into the first gully to the south of the summit. After some down climbing we eventually made it into the upper Stevens Canyon wash.
Upper Stevens Canyon had many good pools of water in the slick rock.
In general the route either follows the wash bottom or traverses benches on either side to avoid unclimbable drop offs. You have to be alert for cairns and faint trails which mark the entry and exits from the wash but Li Brannfor’s maps show the line of the route well.
After about 2 miles from the summit you need to leave the wash on the north side on a faint trail (cairns) which winds north then descends steeply back south with some scrambling back into the wash.
There is some fantastic slickrock hiking on the benches but be careful on the boulders. Brian had a freezer sized rock roll-over onto him after hopping over boulders and narrowly escaped from it!
Lower Stevens Canyon has a flowing river with good water which you will have to wade on occasion.
We saw a fair amount of what we thought was poison ivy in the area around the grotto.
In the last mile or so before the junction with the Escalante River there are some great riverside canyon camping spots.
Back on the Hayduke….
Coyote Gulch had great flowing water -as well as being very beautiful! – and other hikers!!