England

There are a number of long distance hiking trails to the south of us in England. We have done some bits and bobs of these over a period of about 5 weeks and overall had a great time.

Coast to Coast Trail about 2 weeks across northern England in 2015 and 2016 through the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks.

South West Coast path in Cornwall. We have hiked 2 weeks of this trail in 2019 and 2020 out of about 6 weeks in total.

Cumbria Way crossing the Lake District National Park in 2022 for about 70-80 miles, north to south between Carlisle and Ulverston on Morecambe Bay.

Cumbria Way August 2022

The Cumbria Way is a 70ish mile long route north-south through the Lake District National Park in northern England. Brian hiked this over 4 days and 80 miles in August 2022 with some variations to ‘bag’ and camp on hill summits.

Overall I found it a nice, mellow hiking route with plenty of lush bucolic Lakeland scenery. It provides great opportunities to hike variations as I pleased with an almost unlimited labyrinth of trails criss crossing the lakes which could be connected up.

The trail has two distinct characters; the first and last 15 miles or so are outside the Lakes and are at low level, crossing farmland, often along field edges with views to the distant hills. The central section from Caldbeck in the north down to about Coniston Water goes through the heart of the Lakes and offers classic beautiful scenery.

The going is on trail the whole way, but it isn’t that well waymarked and I found that I needed to keep a map at hand at each of the many trail/road/field intersections. The trail can be hiked in either direction and I hiked south from Carlisle but the guidebooks and most other hikers go from Ulverston north.

Most people do the trail in 5 days and stay in towns along the way; either B&Bs or campsites. It is possible to wild camp – as I did for 2 of the 3 nights – as long as you ‘stealth camp’ responsibly i.e. pitch in the evening and break camp early in the morning and follow leave no trace principles.

I used the Cicerone guide which had pretty good background but would be more useful for a northbound hike as that is how it is written. I love the Cicerone guides in general but this one is quite text based and was tricky to read going in the other direction. In retrospect maybe the Harvey strip map of the route would have been more useful. I also downloaded Ordnance Survey topo maps to my phone (I used the OutdoorActive Android App) which was very handy.

Getting to the start and finish is straightforward as both are well served by railway. Trains run a number of times every day between Carlisle and Ulverston and take between 2 to 3 hours (you can choose to pay £40 for the 2 hour fast route or £18 for the slower 3 hour route- you make your choice!). Here also are a couple of good web sites on the trail:

Rambling Man

Becky The Traveller

Day 1 Carlisle to Caldbeck

I parked my car at a Council site near Carlisle train station (a bargain at £3 per day) and set off south at about 3pm. Camping spots are a bit tricky in this first section leaving Carlisle so I decided to push on to Caldbeck 15.5 miles away which has a great wee friendly site including a ‘hiker biker’ area. This day pretty much follows the Caldbeck River all the way to Caldbeck itself. It starts in the city of Carlisle but soon is out in at least suburban and then semi rural territory on a mix of paved cycle ways, trails, fields and dirt roads. A trail closure (temporary hopefully) north of the town of Dalston was a bit of a surprise and I ended up doing a longer route round finishing with 2 miles along the grass verges of a busy B road. Not great hiking but I got past the closure quickly at least.

Day 2 Caldbeck – Keswick- Walla Crag

Caldbeck is a lovely village with a campsite, 2 cafes, pub/hotel and friendly village store. From here the route climbs into the ‘fells’ of the Lake District to High Pike with panoramic views south to the hills to come, out east to the Penines and back north to Scotland. There’s a cool small wooden hut on the way – ‘Lingy’ – maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association which would be a good overnight stop.

I deviated off to ‘bag’ Knott, another hill nearby that I hadn’t climbed before. It was well defended though with boggy, tussocky ground so was hard going! Back on the Cumbria Way I passed Skiddaw House then followed a viewful balcony trail around Lonscale Fell into the ‘bustling’ town of Keswick.

Approaching Keswick

I just realised that it was the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend- and it was mobbed! I had some dinner and shopped for a couple of days food to make it easy to wild camp, then happily left town at about 6pm.

I took an alternate to the main Cumbria way by heading along some hill tops on the east of Derwent Water, rather than the official route which goes down the west side at low level. This also provided a great camp spot near Walla Crag….

Day 3 Walla Crag to Lingmoor Fell

After a very still night with some mist down below, I had some midges around at breakfast but set off south with great views around and to Derwent water below. I soon made it down to Ashness Bridge with a short quiet road walk through forest then steeply down to the Borrowdale Hotel at the south end of Derwent Water. Above was a climbing cliff, Shepherds crag I have been to in the past with some classic routes.

There were good trails round the foot of Derwent Water and I soon rejoined the Cumbria Way again on mellow low level walking into the small cluster of rustic houses at Rossthwaite for a fine snack/ lunch stop at the café.

From there I headed out into more open hill country up Langstrath (the well named long valley). I sped past a couple of waterfalls that were thronging with people, but I did have a quick cooling dip in the river a bit higher up. The going got hot as I went over Stake Pass with it’s glacial drumlins and down to Langdale with more excellent climbing crags above.

The hills again beckoned for tonight’s camp and I traversed Lingmoor Fell to the south of Langdale. Here I experienced a first for camping on hill tops- I needed to put in my ear plugs to dampen the sound of music floating up from a party in the valley below!

Lingmoor Fell

Day 4 Lingmoor Fell to Ulverston

Another still, warm night and I quickly descended to Little Langdale then along lanes and trails to pick up the Cumbria Way again at High Park.

I noticed my first Cumbria Way trail sign here- hoorah! Rolling lower level fields and woodland made for quick walking into the town of Coniston for early lunch. Hiking south of the town alongside Coniston water I took a well needed dip to cool down – superb! From there the Way headed over moorland covered in thick bracken and heather but thankfully with a clear path through the vegetation. I now had the ‘bit between my teeth’ and decided to push on to the end of the trail that day. The air was hot and muggy but the ground was dry and the walking was easy into the pretty town of Ulverston.

Recommended!

Hayduke hiker notes spring 2022

Arches National Park

Route We had plenty of time to spend in Arches NP to align with our permits for the next section so took a longer indirect more scenic route in parts than the Hayduke. We walked from Moab Canyonlands Airport, across H191 to Tower Arch, then NE across Salt Valley to the Devils Garden, back SW across salt Valley following the pipeline to the Hayduke and Courthouse Wash.

Our route in purple and joining up with the red actual Hayduke in places

Willow Springs 03/27/22- Good pools before and small flow around the junction with Willow Springs.

Upper Courthouse Wash 03/27/22- Good flow down to Sevenmile Canyon then dry to near the road. We had a fair bit of bushwhacking after Sevenmile but may not have found the best route.

This year we followed the Hayduke route down Upper Courthouse Wash as opposed to 2014 where we took an another route described by Nic Barth ‘Arches Slickrock Alternate’ (green on the map). This slickrock line was way more enjoyable and scenic in my opinion – but did involve some Class 4 downclimbing down into the canyon.

Lower Courthouse Wash 03/27/22- Pretty mellow hiking but with more beaver activity this time than we saw in 2014.

Moab to Needles

Route We followed the Hayduke but with a few alternates as described.
HT30.2 We did the Amasa Back alternative which was nice and recommended. We started at Kane Creek, where there was a trail from the Trailhead to a bridge over the creek a few hundred meters up from the Colorado River (the Colorado river backs up into Kane Creek making it awkward and muddy to cross). There is a steep scramble down from the high point into Jackson Hole on an old trail, but other than that it is trail or jeep roads with good views.
Stopped at Base Camp and chatted to Tom who kindly let us fill up with water as well as admiring the tortoise!
There were 2 river access points to the Colorado River for water south of Base Camp after HT4.5, see below.


HT6.8 This is Chicken Corner and hard to miss, see pic! We took a direct alt (purple line below) south up a mellow wash with a couple of 2-3m high scrambling steps to short cut the HT (red below) which is an indirect jeep road. Worthwhile- its shorter and more interesting than the jeep road I think.


HT11.3 We left the HT just south of the pass at HT11.3 for a grand alternative down Hermit Canyon based on the Kelsey Canyonlands guidebook. We then followed a lovely limestone bench above the Colorado River narrowing to a meter or so in places.

There likely was access to the Colorado River for water from the bench, both at the bottom of Hermit and at the first canyon south of Hermit, but we didn’t check either out so can’t confirm that.

There is also the cool Tangren old horse camp on the way (please leave everything in place). We couldn’t find the spring to the east of Tangren as described in Kelsey though, …. I have doubts that it still exists.

We continued on the bench along the rim to Lockhart Canyon. Here we thought we could cross Lockhart and continue south to connect with the Hayduke at Rustler Canyon. There was a small cairn at the rim of Lockhart looking like we could drop down into the canyon. However we didn’t fancy it, the top looked too loose and rubbly for us!

Instead we followed the rim of Lockhart east easily on the same bench. Continuing along the rim of the north fork back to the Hayduke at HT20.9 and the foot of the Nic Barth Lockhart Cliff descent and a big pour off (black line below). This Hermit alternate taking you above the Colorado River is scenic and varied. Contact me if you want more info.

Overview map showing our Hermit Canyon route in purple along the Colorado river (Hayduke in red)

HT20.9 There was a small clear flow of water coming down a slabby gully within the first half mile south of HT20.9 but I suspect this would be short lived after the rain we had about 4 days before so I wouldn’t rely on it.
HT25.4 Lockhart had a good flow for about 1/3 mile

HT32.3 Rustler dryfall. there was a small pool just above the dryfall but Rustler was dry below. The direct route under the chockstone was fun!

HT35.1 Indian Creek. Pools of water in this stretch but no flow.

HT39.3 ‘We hope so’ wash. About 1/4 mile south of HT39.3 there is a large pothole of water just under a small dryfall (as mentioned by Jamal Green in Across Utah). We took a side route out to the Colorado River neck lookout. Nice view and a short diversion starting from 200-300m before the pothole in ‘We hope so’ wash. Would be a nice camp spot too…

Needles to Hanksville

Route We took a northerly alternate from the Hayduke over the Colorado River at Spanish Bottom, through the Maze, Hans Flat and Happy Canyons to join the Hayduke at Poison Springs. 

In 2014 we took another alternate and what both have in common is that from Needles in Canyonlands National Park, we end up at the Colorado River at a place called Spanish Bottom. From the north bank of the river we climb up again over remote plateau and end up in the well named Happy Canyon and then cross the even more appropriately named Dirty Devil river. Credits for our 2022 route go to Jamal Green who describes it on his excellent Across Utah website.

Needles visitor centre to Colorado River – We saw no water on the trail from Big Springs down Cyclone Canyon then Lower Red Lake. We took water from the Colorado.

Maze – Standard descent from west of Chimney rock to Pictograph canyon – small pothole on scramble descent and small potholes at canyon bottom about where marked by Kelsey as a spring.

Maze- Wash north of the Harvest Scene, on the west side of the canyon junction -small seep flow

Maze – Foot of the Maze Overlook trail – Good water in pools with a small flow.

North Trail Canyon – Small pothole just before steep zig zag exit. We didn’t notice any water between Maze Overlook and here.

Hans Flat Ranger Station- Sells gallon jugs and open between 8 and 4.30.

North French Springs Fork – Medium pothole of water in wash above steep constructed trail descent. Well used by feral donkeys though and we didn’t take.

North French Springs Fork- Constructed trail descends steep section round a nose to the boulder filled wash at bottom and then continues criss crossing wash to easier ground after boulder section. Makes for a relatively easy passage.

North French Springs Fork- Slickrock pothole area down wash mentioned by Jamal Green was dry.

Happy Canyon- Small seep 1 mile below French Springs Fork junction. Good pools and seeps 3 miles below. We also saw these in April 2014. Happy Canyon narrows had some small potholes which may be better than the muddy water in the Dirty Devil…

Poison Spring Canyon- Good flow about 1 mile below and 2 miles above the spring.

Henry Mountains

Route We hiked from H95 past Little Egypt then joined the Hayduke before Crescent Creek. We then took an alternate dirt road south over Copper Ridge to Airplane Spring. Due to Brian’s blisters(!) we then turned about and hiked back to H95 but this time following the Hayduke from Crescent Creek to H95.

Little Egypt – This is an alternative route south of the Hayduke Trail from H95 as described by Nic Barth. The hoodoos and mining cabins were interesting and worthwhile as an alt.

Crescent Creek– Good flowing water as the jeep track nears the creek bed. Nice camping on the west side of the river too.

Airplane Spring on a lower alternate on the south slopes of the Henry Mountains had reasonable water in two wells inside the fenced off area.

Escalante to Kanab

Route The route we took between Escalante town and Highway 89 was really enjoyable and recommended with a particularly great sequence of canyons in the middle in the area of the Paria River. We pretty much joined up 3 alternatives described by Jamal Green along with some information from Michael Kelsey’s guide;

firstly Via Escalante West

then Stone Donkey to Hogeye

then a short hike down the Paria River before going up Kitchen and Starlight Canyons. Jamal Kitchen/Starlight text here and Kelsey’s Paria River Guidebook had useful information on upper Starlight, the cave and Mollies Nipple.

Alvey Wash- 04/25/22 About 5.5 miles south of Escalante town on Smokey Mountain dirt road- there was water running here where the wash narrows.

Mossy Dell- 04/25/22 This is about 19 miles from Escalante town and mentioned as a water source by Jamal but we couldn’t find any water here unfortunately.

Collet Canyon forks- 04/25/22 The jeep road crosses a few forks of upper Collet Canyon but all were dry for us. It looks like they might flow for a bit following rain.

Headquarters Springs- 04/26/22 A number of small flows of water here. We couldn’t find the cabin marked on the map though…

Corral south of Grosvener Arch- 04/26/22 Two good full tanks of water here, see map below.

Round Valley Draw, HT Section 8 mile 2.9- Our second time down these narrows and this is an excellent scramble.

Hackberry Canyon, HT Section 8 mile 11.2- 04/27/22 Water started from about here. Bear in mind its a tough walk down canyon from the narrows of RVD to this point in deep soft sand. Also this area was fouled by cattle making the water a little less inviting!

Hogeye Creek- 04/28/22 Excellent water flow in two shady sections in the middle of Hogeye down to maybe half a mile before the Paria River.

Paria River- 04/28/22 This was flowing quite clear between Hogeye and Kitchen.

Kitchen Canyon- 04/28/22 Very, very muddy flow. The canyon is so rubbly and loose that it looks like it the water flow is full of mud and silt from the side walls sliding into the wash.

Starlight Canyon- 04/29/22 Lovely flow of good water up the length of this canyon to where we exited at the cave.

1/2 mile to north of Kitchen Corral Spring (HT 43.4) – 04/30/22 Good small flow 1/4 mile east of Hayduke Trail dirt road along side canyon on jeep road. Go over barbed wire to small spring that is piped off so the canyon looks dry before you get to the spring.

H89 Buckskin to Jacob Lake

Route We followed the Hayduke in this section for the first time(!) with the exception of the enforced fire reroute on the AZT below…

Water- we relied on a single wildlife guzzler source on the AZT about 4 miles south of the Utah-Arizona state border, which seems reliable. That said there was a fair bit of activity at the state border with a few northbound AZT hikers finishing each day in May so there could be a fair chance of picking up water from people here to meet AZT hikers.

AZT diversion- there was a rerouting of the AZT north of Jacob Lake due to burn areas impacting the trail. See sign below…

Whilst on the AZT, the AZT water report provides good hiker updated water reports.

Jacob Lake to Grand Canyon South Rim

Route We mostly followed the Hayduke in this section apart from at the end where we hiked out of the Grand Canyon to the south rim on the Grand View Trail. This shortened the route a bit and we had already hiked the remainder part along the Tonto Trail and up South Kiabab Trail in 2014.

South from Jacob Lake the Hayduke follows the well maintained and relatively popular Arizona Trail (AZT) for about 30 miles. AZT water report

Its dry from leaving the AZT til hitting Nankoweap Canyon about 8 miles down from the North Rim on Nankoweap Trail. This trail is really scenic and makes for a superb hike. Nankoweap Canyon looks like a perennial stream with a gushing spring source just 10 or 20m downstream from where the trail hits the stream.

Once you hit the Colorado River there are a number of places to access the river for water. You can’t do this anywhere though so best keeping an eye on the map. The Nankoweap Granaries are definitely worth the side trip.

The route along the Colorado River between Nankoweap and the north of the Little Colorado can be pretty slow going over boulders with bushwhacking so allow plenty of time and best to start early if its going to be hot. We have managed to get lifts across the river to the Little Colorado outlet pretty easily within a few hours both times we have been there.

Hance Creek had a good, if small, flow of water.

Overall, from Jacob Lake to South Rim is a brilliant hiking expedition. We were there in May and at that time a challenge is the heat down in the bottom of the canyon.

Grand Canyon South Rim to North Rim

Route We followed the Bright Angel and North Kiabab trails. These are popular and make for easy hiking for anyone who has hiked the Hayduke or variants to here. We camped at Cottonwood but I guess could have made it the whole way rim to rim if we weren’t able to get a permit.

The temperature was in the low 40C range at Phantom Ranch and to avoid that we had a really early start from South Rim then spent a while cooling down at Ribbon Falls (a must see anyway).

North Rim to Kanab Creek

Section 13 miles 27.9-37.4 I think the section down Saddle Canyon to Upper Tapeats Campground is one of the toughest sections of the Hayduke, although with some great scrambling and scenery. We were here mid May and it took us about 10 hours but that included about 1-2 hours time wasted scrabbling about at a wrong exit from Saddle Canyon.

The initial descent down Saddle Canyon (28.6-30.2) was cross country with some scrub in the dry bed of the creek but wasn’t too hard at all. Maybe with more people on the Hayduke it is gradually getting easier.

We missed the correct exit from the dry canyon bed at 30.2 to traverse around the dryfall and headed uphill too early. There are a few smaller dryfalls you get to first which have cairns on the left side but you need to go down past these to more cairns before the bigger dryfall. The route from there back into Saddle Canyon involves traversing on the left, west side onto a ridge then descending its west side to a small side wash and back into Saddle Canyon. It was pretty slow going, scratchy bushwhacking but had some cairns and signs of traffic.

Once you are back into Saddle Canyon at mile 31.0 the character changes straight away to scrambling and hiking inside the slickrock canyon. There were a few drop offs where we were happy to have a team to assist each other and lower packs- it would be trickier solo. The cord to lower packs was definitely useful. We didn’t really get too wet in the slickrock potholes, maybe knee deep. A superb canyon.

The scrambling ends at 32.6 with the Stina Canyon junction. From memory there were two small potholes at 33.1, the junction with Crazy Jug Canyon. The next few miles were very hot down a rubbly dry streambed and slow going. The going gets nicer about 1/2 mile before Tapeats Spring though with cottonwoods, shade, pools and running water.

Once we met Tapeats Spring the river changed character to a raging and loud cataract! There is a trail which helps a lot, starting on the south side and crossing the river at reasonable places with some scrambling along the way. We maybe had knee deep water (but very fast flowing) after a dry spell, any more might have made progress difficult. The area is really dramatic and scenic and a stand out of the Hayduke if you have low enough water levels!

Hildale to Zion

Our route deviated from the Hayduke to cross Canaan Mountain from Hildale to Rockville.

This is a marvelous hike has a real Hayduke flavor to it with a mix of trails, cross country, route finding and superb scenery. Its downside is that it misses out the ‘Barracks’ on the Hayduke which is also top class (we were there in 2014).

We did this hike in the opposite direction in Autumn 2018.

The site ‘Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park‘ gave us the original idea and the associated book is worthwhile purchasing too.

Water is available in the well named Water Canyon, then there are some big potholes in the slickrock wash at the top of Water Canyon. Sawmill Spring had water about 10 minutes downstream from the spring itself and there was some seeps and pools in the slickrock below that.

Post Hayduke explorations…

It is now late May and near the end of the season here for us in southern Utah as the temperature is getting a bit too hot. We picked up a rental car though and did some day trips in around the Zion and Bryce National Park area…. We have been to Bryce Canyon before, but it was hard to resist the mellow pleasant hiking in this popular park with cooler temperatures high up above the lower canyons

Parowan gap north of Cedar City. Southern Utah. An impressive array of pretty abstract looking petroglyphs etched into the rock.

Zion National Park, looking south to the peak of North Guardian Angel
Enjoyable scrambling up slabs on North Guardian Angel
Mellow green pastures in western Zion National Park approaching a cave with pictographs
Looking back out from a pictograph cave in Zion NP
These pictographs are etched out of fire blackened walls in the cave and it seems of unknown age
More pictographs in the cave, this time using white pigment and some crazy looking creatures
You can just see the tent, lower center, on rock slabs south of Hop Valley near Zion National Park
Martina, Heather and Dan. We were grateful to take part in a canyoneering trip arranged by Heather and Dan to Spry Canyon in Zion National Park. Thanks for inviting us!
Some superb scrambling on slabs to approach Spry Canyon
The descent of Spry Canyon involved about 12 rappels (abseils), lots of scrambling and a few dips into dank pools! Grand rock scenery here at the first rappel.
The canyon narrowed up
Brian abseiling (abseil 3 of 12 ?)
Brian trying vainly to avoid one of the deep pools
Dan descending into a pothole of cold water
Martina abseils off an overhang
M at the M&M super store in Las Vegas
Flying out of Las Vegas…

Grand finale to the edge of Zion National Park

For the last section of our Hayduke hike we headed north from the Utah Arizona border to Zion National Park. Typically for us, we deviated from the actual Hayduke route to instead cross an area to the west called Caanan Mountain. Although to be fair to us, the final route used by the Hayduke in Zion NP (Weeping Wall) is currently closed due to rockfall so variants are pretty valid.

We hiked north through the streets of the town of Hildale from the Utah-Arizona state line into Water Canyon and the Caanan Mountain area.

We soon left the town for a steep ascent up Water Canyon

In the morning we did a side hike up to the high rim of Water Canyon to see its arch…

We can’t afford to be choosy when it comes to water! We carried this with us but thankfully later found a better supply
…desert now in full bloom…
…bloom…
Back into town to pick up a rental car!

Many thanks for all the help we have received with planning and logistics for this hike from Charlie Neumann, Joe Mitchell, Li Brannfors, Monica Stapleton and Jamal Green; and for support, inspiration and shared enthusiasm from fellow Hayduke hikers Heather K, Nathan K, Mike Tyler, Ryan, Peter, Race, Not Guilty, Sprinkler and ‘Butcha; also the numerous wonderfully generous Americans (and two Danes) who gave us lifts in their cars to town and those we met who gave us fruit, water and kind words of encouragement!

Hiker Notes

Our route as mentioned above deviated from the Hayduke to cross Canaan Mountain from Hildale to Rockville. You can click on the overview map below to enlarge it. (Our route in purple, Hayduke in red and some other alts in black).

This is a marvelous hike has a real Hayduke flavor to it with a mix of trails, cross country, route finding and superb scenery. Its downside is that it misses out the ‘Barracks’ on the Hayduke which is also top class.

We did this hike in the opposite direction in Autumn 2018.

This site ‘Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park‘ gave us the original idea and the book is worthwhile purchasing too.

Water is available in the well named Water Canyon, then there are some big potholes in the slickrock wash at the top of Water Canyon. Sawmill Spring had water about 10 minutes downstream from the spring itself and there was some seeps and pools in the slickrock below that.

Grand Canyon III- feeling hot, hot, hot

The attractively named “Swamp Point” high on the edge of the North Rim (no swamp, just a few mosquitoes) was our departure point back into the Grand Canyon after resting, eating and watching out for the endemic Kiabab Squirrel in the campground near North Rim Lodge.

Just below the rim lies Teddy’s (Roosevelt) Cabin, a cool ‘bothy‘. Apparently the great man stayed here on a cougar hunt – the cabin was built (and named) afterwards. From this piece of civilization our route headed into the wilds, sans trail, bushwhacking and scrambling down Saddle Canyon and then Tapeats Creek.

Firstly we bushwhacked our way down through the scrub in upper Saddle Canyon. This was slow going but not too difficult until we took a route out to avoid a big dryfall. We climbed out the canyon too early and got into some nasty scrubby, loose sand scrambling before we returned back to the canyon and finding a set of cairns for a better route.

After a few hours of that, the walls of the lower part of Saddle Canyon suddenly rise up and form smooth alcoves above and slick chutes and channels under foot and we found ourselves sliding and scrambling down polished half pipes and overhangs into dark pools of water. By that time we were joined by a fourth hiker (Peter) and were able to assist each other, passing packs down the steep drops. Superb and exciting stuff, unfortunately I then stored the camera away in a waterproof bag for safety!

After the shady but steep narrows of Saddle Canyon,  we joined Tapeats Creek which was dry and hot at mid day. But after a couple of hours of sizzlingly hot hiking with a few rests in the shade we thankfully reached pools of water, then flowing water and then to a roaring clear river which we had to cross numerous times.

Travelling through this terrain without trails is hot sweaty and challenging and we took 12 hours to cover 11 miles that day, arriving at our intended camping spot near the junction of Tapeats Creek and Thunder River at dusk. We were welcomed by a large pink rattlesnake who slithered away and happily was not seen again during the night!

Next morning at 5 am we climbed up 1,400ft to Thunder Spring, a roaring cascade of spring water gushing straight out of the limestone cliff. We knew the day would be hot, so the early start maximised the comparatively milder morning temperatures (and beautiful morning light).

We rested for a couple of hours at the oasis-like Deer Creek in the welcome shade of cottonwood trees and descended the beautiful Deer Creek narrows before reaching the banks of the Colorado River itself around 11am. We were not alone: Deer Creek is a must-see side trip for river rafters.

Deer Creek narrows

We found ourselves a shady cave under some big boulders and tried to sit out the heat. The forecast at river level had been for 107 F (41.6 °C) that day and the next.

We passed the day reading, venturing out only occasionally to dip in the pool below Deer Creek falls and to talk the boaters arriving at the beach. In the afternoon we (Brian and Martina) decided that it was way too hot to enjoyably continue hiking down the canyon (an off trail route requiring boulder hopping on the steep riverside most of the way for 8 miles or so, we had done this in 2017 but in cooler temperatures).

So we hiked back uphill that evening and, with a 3.30am alarm the next morning and a helpful bright moon we continued upwards when it was cooler, all the way to the North Rim on the scenic Bill Hall trail. About a 4,700ft climb in all. There we got a lift with some friendly hikers from Idaho to the town of Hurricane, Utah.

Heather and Peter have hiked on (hardier than us!). We are hopping forward and with the help of a cooler weather window hope to continue our route into Zion National Park…meantime we are enjoying a decadent town stop!

Hiker Notes

Section 13 miles 27.9-37.4 I think the section down Saddle Canyon to Upper Tapeats Campground is one of the toughest sections of the Hayduke, although with some great scrambling and scenery. We were here mid May and it took us about 10 hours but that included about 1-2 hours time wasted scrabbling about at a wrong exit from Saddle Canyon.

The initial descent down Saddle Canyon (28.6-30.2) was cross country with some scrub in the dry bed of the creek but wasn’t too hard at all. Maybe with more people on the Hayduke it is gradually getting easier.

We missed the correct exit from the dry canyon bed at 30.2 to traverse around the dryfall and headed uphill too early. There are a few smaller dryfalls you get to first which have cairns on the left side but you need to go down past these to more cairns before the bigger dryfall. The route from there back into Saddle Canyon involves traversing on the left west side onto a ridge then descending its west side to a small side wash and back into Saddle Canyon. It was pretty slow going, scratchy bushwhacking but had some cairns and signs of traffic.

Once you are back into Saddle Canyon at mile 31.0 the character changes straight away to scrambling and hiking inside the slickrock canyon. There were a few drop offs where we were happy to have a team to assist each other and lower packs- it would be trickier solo. The cord to lower packs was definitely useful. We didn’t really get too wet in the slickrock potholes, maybe knee deep. A superb canyon.

The scrambling ends at 32.6 with the Stina Canyon junction. From memory there were two small potholes at 33.1, the junction with Crazy Jug Canyon. The next few miles were very hot down a rubbly dry streambed and slow going. The going gets nicer about 1/2 mile before Tapeats Spring though with cottonwoods, shade, pools and running water.

Once we met Tapeats Spring the river changed character to a raging and loud cataract! There is a trail which helps a lot starting on the south side and crossing the river at reasonable places with some scrambling along the way. We maybe had knee deep water after a dry spell, any more might have made progress difficult. The area is really dramatic and scenic and a stand out of the Hayduke if you have low enough water levels!

Grand Canyon II – Crossing to north rim

After a day’s rest in South Rim village, we descended once more into the Grand Canyon and hiked to the North Rim on the popular Bright Angel and North Kiabab trails. The forecast was for temps of a sizzling 97 F down at the river so we decided to set off early….

We set off early again from Cottonwood camp to avoid the heat climbing up to the North Rim. The steady climb was made easier by a good well trodden trail…

Looking back to the South Rim from the patio of North Rim Lodge (on the day before the road into the North Rim opens)

The Grand Canyon part I

At the small lodge of Jacobs we joined forces with Heather whose three hiking partners have all left the trail for various reasons. Good to have more options when it comes to the point where we have to draw lots about which member of the expedition to eat when we run out of food, for we were now heading back out on a pickup truck to the tough part if the trail: the Grand Canyon!

But first the trail keeps following the AZT on the plateau up to 9000 feet altitude through aspen (still mostly leafless), fir, spruce and pine forest with open alpine meadows in between. Winter is only just retreating here.

We reached the edge of the Grand Canyon at Nankoweap on our second night out, with gale force winds and we camped in relative shelter amongst aspens at the edge of the cliffs dropping down into the Grand Canyon. Next morning we started our 6,000 foot descent to the Colorado River at dawn.

The heat ramped up as we descended down to the inner cauldron of the Colorado River. We camped that night at the bottom of Nankoweap canyon on the shore of the Colorado Rivet itself with stormy gusting winds whipping sand and river water at us.

We were not alone however as there were two big motorised commercial river boats moored on our beach with about 25 clients. A private boat trip with 6 small rubber rafts was moored in the next bay downstream. In the evening we walked up to a viewpoint and afterwards chatted to the private rafters. They were a group of friends, relatives and acquaintances from all over the US. Their figurehead “Uncle Dave” was very welcoming and, once we had sourced a life jacket for each of us, generously invited us to travel 9 miles down river the next day with them..

After a fun (and wet from rapids) morning on the river with our boater friends, we got off at the Little Colorado River confluence with the Colorado and said our farewells.

Collared lizard posing by the trail

Our target for camping was Lava Canyon rapids and the trail stayed high above the river on balcony ledges until we got there. The wind was back and buffeting but at least helped keep us coolish in the 30C heat. We chose to camp in a dense grove of trees that provided shelter from the wind. When it got dark and the wind abated we sat on the beach for a while with our rafting friends camped opposite us on the other side of the river.

Because the mid day temperatures are way above 30°C, we start hiking at dawn now (5am). The best time to hike for beautiful light as well!

Tributaries to the Colorado River form a labyrinth of deep canyons that we followed until we can cross them, making for a wriggly but beautiful route. Some scrambling added to the interest- this is a great hike in the depths of the Grand Canyon.

By chance, we met up with our boating friends again at Hance Rapids on the Colorado River where they had moored and we camped too with good access to water from the river. We were invited to their evening campfire circle and dinner.

After 5 nights and 6 days hiking we arrived at the South Rim on May 11th. Fresh food, showers and rest beckon! Next we will hike back down into the canyon bottom and up to the North Rim to continue our hike…..

Hiking up to the South Rim via Hance Creek, Horseshoe Mesa and Grand View Trail
Topping out of the Grand Canyon on the South rim after 6 days, dusty but happy!

Hiker Notes

Route We mostly followed the Hayduke in this section apart from at the end where we hiked out of the Grand Canyon to the south rim on the Grand View Trail. This shortened the route a bit and we had already hiked the remainder part along the Tonto Trail and up South Kiabab Trail in 2014. This part was also our least favourite hike due to the heat and paucity of water!

South from Jacob Lake the Hayduke follows the well maintained and relatively popular Arizona Trail (AZT) for about 30 miles. Good AZT water report website.

Its dry from leaving the AZT til hitting Nankoweap Canyon about 8 miles down from the North Rim on Nankoweap Trail. This trail is really scenic and makes for a superb hike. Nankoweap Canyon looks like a perennial stream with a gushing spring source just 10 or 20m downstream from where the trail hits the stream.

Once you hit the Colorado River there are a number of places to access the river for water. You can’t do this anywhere though so best keeping an eye on the map. the Nankoweap Granaries are definitely worth the side trip.

The route along the Colorado River between Nankoweap and the north of the Little Colorado can be pretty slow going over boulders with bushwhacking so allow plenty of time and best to start early if its going to be hot. We have managed to get lifts across the river to the Little Colorado outlet pretty easily within a few hours both times we have been there.

Hance Creek had a good, if small, flow of water.

Overall, from Jacob Lake to South Rim is a brilliant hiking expedition and if there in May, the main challenge is the heat down in the bottom of the canyon.

Into Arizona…

During our rest days in the town of Kanab we bought food for the trail ahead; 2 days to carry straight away for the hike down Buckskin Gulch and onto the Arizona Trail, then with the help of a friend, 6 days which we left at a remote diner/hotel called Jacob Lake (on the Northern plateau of the Grand Canyon) and a whopping 8 days of supplies which we mailed to the post office at North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Supplies for the next few weeks

We started putting our thumbs up on Highway 89 out of Kanab at 7am on 4th May and got a lift back to the trail with an 82 year old gentleman who was driving a portable water tanker for supplying firefighting crew in New Mexico. He was driving it there from Montana!

The Hayduke goes through some spectacular sandstone country in and around Buckskin Gulch and then picks up the Arizona Trail (AZT) for approx 65 miles. The AZT itself starts at the Mexican border in the south and finishes after around 800 miles at the Utah state border. We were hiking it southward ‘against Wainwright’, meeting lots of northbound hikers who were nearing their finish line. What this meant for us was that we had well maintained, clear trail to follow for the next few days!

Once on the AZT we climbed very quickly up onto the Kiabab Plateau, a high limestone forested area that forms the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We left behind the slick gold and red sandstone and spent two days in dry pinyon-juniper forest, then ponderosa pines higher up. Our one water source was from a “wildlife guzzler”. Below Martina is straining some “wildlife” out with a handkerchief before treating the water!

To avoid setting the dry forest floor on fire with our stove, we usually cook on a flat rock…but if none are available a cow pat does the trick!

After two days we got to Jakob Lake, got a hotel room and picked up our food parcel ready for the next 6 to 7 exciting days headed for the depths of the Grand Canyon……

Vintage transport at Jacob Lake

Hiker Notes

Route For the first time we followed the Hayduke in this section(!) with the exception of the enforced fire reroute on the AZT below…

Water- we relied on a single source about 4 miles south of the Utah-Arizona state border, the wildlife guzzler as pictured above which seems reliable. That said there was a fair bit of activity at the state border with a few northbound AZT hikers finishing each day in May. There could be a fair chance of picking up water here from people there to meet AZT hikers.

AZT diversion- there was a rerouting of the AZT north of Jacob Lake due to burn areas impacting the trail. See sign below…

Back hiking South West to Hwy 89 and Kanab – mostly “Alt”duke

It had always been our plan to hike an alternate to the Hayduke from the town of Escalante to Highway 89 and the next town stop of Kanab. Heading in a South Westerly direction our route would join and cross the Hayduke for a while but taking an independent line for much of the way. Information about this route was gratefully gleaned from Jamal Green’s website and blog. You can click on the overview map below to enlarge it. (Our route in purple, and red where joining the Hayduke).

On Monday 25 April we finally walked out of Escalante, blisters dried and dressed, with all our belongings and 6 days food on our back to climb up the Smokey Mountain Road onto the Kaiparowits Plateau. We then followed the tad morbidly named ‘Death Ridge’ jeep road for a while. After that the reds and yellows of the rock and grand ponderosa pines give way to ‘The Mudhills’ with muted greys and some surreal landscapes.

We hiked through this grey landscape for a day and a half past Canaan Mountain into the very remote Wahweap wash drainage system where we found precious water at Headquarters Spring. From there we briefly picked up the Hayduke Trail to Grosvenor Arch and camped near a luxurious cattle tank from which we prepared dinner, breakfast and our daily water ration.

Grovesnor Arch

In the morning we met a torpid snake warming itself in the sun. It wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry, in contrast to which we were eagerly heading towards an exciting slot canyon in Round Valley Draw (leading to Hackberry Canyon- both part of the Hayduke Trail proper).

Wildlife dozing in the morning sun
Brian sits out a dust storm at the end of the slot canyon

We camped that night under red rock walls in Hackberry Canyon with running water (a rare delight).

On our fourth day we headed west out of Hackberry, leaving the Hayduke again and striking out above the canyons over golden sands with fantastic views in all directions. Our itinerary now followed some imaginatively named canyons: Stone Donkey, Hogeye, Paria, Kitchen and Starlight…

We crossed the Paria River at the mouth of Hogeye and met not only the Hayduke Trail again at this point but also, by pure chance, our fellow hikers Heather, Ryan and Mike – the first two reclining in a pool in the river! After stopping for a chat we headed out on our alternate route and walked up Kitchen Canyon (a very actively eroding bright red rubble-fest with muddy, silty water) and into Starlight Canyon- also bright red and collapsible looking but with clear cold water flowing down from multiple springs. This lovely canyon also had some narrows and a fun scramble up a waterworn shoot.

The narrows of Starlight Canyon
Scrambling up the shoot at the end of the narrows in Starlight Canyon

We camped below the narrows. The next day we reached a large cave with pictographs painted in soot at the back on a white wall. Very impressive.

We had seen the pointy landmark that is Mollies Nipple on our first day out of Escalante town, rising above the plateau. Now, on day 5 we were aiming to hike across its flanks. More steep sand (with ever more flowers coming out) but amazing technicolour views!

From the Nipple a sandy ATV track took us into the red valley below and reunited us with the Hayduke Trail for the last 10 miles. Final camp was made under a juniper near a spring 7 miles from Highway 89. On our last day we got up at dawn to hike in the cool of the morning. A lovely couple from Colorado gave us a lift into the town of Kanab.

Kanab is a fabulous little town: it has two independent supermarkets and many shops are shut on Sunday (including one of the supermarkets!). It’s back country used to be a favoured movie location in the 40’s and 50’s so it has a hint of Hollywood to it. Clint Eastwood shot ‘The Outlaw Josie Wales” near here!

Hiker Notes

Route The route we took between Escalante town and Highway 89 was really enjoyable with a particularly great sequence of canyons in the middle in the area of the Paria River. Overview map here We pretty much joined up 3 alternatives described by Jamal Green along with some information from Michael Kelsey’s guide;

firstly Via Escalante West

then Stone Donkey to Hogeye

then a short hike down the Paria River before going up Kitchen and Starlight Canyons. Jamal Kitchen/Starlight text here and Kelsey’s Paria River Guidebook had useful information on upper Starlight, the cave and Mollies Nipple.

Alvey Wash- 04/25/22 About 5.5 miles south of Escalante town on Smokey Mountain dirt road- there was water running here where the wash narrows.

Mossy Dell- 04/25/22 This is about 19 miles from Escalante town and mentioned as a water source by Jamal but we couldn’t find any water here unfortunately.

Collet Canyon forks- 04/25/22 The jeep road crosses a few forks of upper Collet Canyon but all were dry for us. It looks like they might flow for a bit following rain.

Headquarters Springs- 04/26/22 A number of small flows of water here. We couldn’t find the cabin marked on the map though…

Corral south of Grosvener Arch- 04/26/22 Two good full tanks of water here, see map below.

Round Valley Draw, HT Section 8 mile 2.9- Our second time down these narrows and this is an excellent scramble.

Hackberry Canyon, HT Section 8 mile 11.2- 04/27/22 Water started from about here. Bear in mind its a tough walk down canyon from the narrows of RVD to this point in deep soft sand. Also this area was fouled by cattle making the water a little less inviting!

Hogeye Creek- 04/28/22 Excellent water flow in two shady sections in the middle of Hogeye down to maybe half a mile before the Paria River.

Paria River- 04/28/22 This was flowing quite clear between Hogeye and Kitchen.

Kitchen Canyon- 04/28/22 Very, very muddy flow. The canyon is so rubbly and loose that it looks like it the water flow is full of mud and silt from the side walls sliding into the wash.

Starlight Canyon- 04/29/22 Lovely flow of good water up the length of this canyon to where we exited at the cave.

1/2 mile to north of Kitchen Corral Spring (HT 43.4) – 04/30/22 Good small flow 1/4 mile east of Hayduke Trail dirt road along side canyon on jeep road. Go over barbed wire to small spring that is piped off so the canyon looks dry before you get to the spring.