This site has blogs from Brian and Martina’s longer walking trips in the great outdoors. We have done 3 multi-month hikes in the USA over the years and there is a blog of each here; the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Hayduke. Plus lots of other stuff including Canada, the UK, Austria, Spain...There are some se kayaking posts too.
We stay in the village of Fortrose, Scotland- near to the highlands, home of some great mountains, coastal and island scenery. We get out into the mountains most weekends or more but escape from the variable weather to sunnier climates abroad whenever we can! That includes rock and ice climbing, camping, sea-kayaking, hiking and lots of sheep farming as well – in both our home country of Scotland and on trips afar. You can see these activities from our photos link on the menu.
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.
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!
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……
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…
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.
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).
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.
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!
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;
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.
Between 17 April and 25 April we based ourselves in and around the small town of Escalante. We looked after the car of a fellow hiker Nathan who has joined Hayduke hikers Heather, Mike and Ryan for a 6 day section and by generously leaving the car with us, we were able to pick them all up from their destination trailhead when they had finished.
Meantime we were able to treat blisters and go for day hikes of increasing length to test progress. We started with a visit to Phipps Arch, a day in upper Pine Creek and then two days on the Boulder Mail Trail. Here are some shots of our “test hikes”.
After a couple of day hikes we walked the Boulder Mail Trail as an overnight backpack between the towns of Boulder and Escalante. This follows the route once taken by the mailman and his horse from the town of Boulder to Escalante before there was a road. It goes through spectacular canyon and rock slab terrain!
On Wednesday 13 April we left Hanksville to hike for eight days to the town of Escalante. We got a lift to the trailhead from a young rancher who was taking horses in a trailer into the range to round up cattle. He told us his grandfather used to walk the herd 100 miles from their winter to summer pastures up the hill. He dropped us off at “Little Egypt”. Before us loomed the refreshing looking snows of the Henry Mountains. And uphill we went…
Little Egypt gets its name from the curious rock formations found there. We were hiking upwards through layers of sedimentary rock of ever changing colour and consistency, traversing forward in time from the oldest to the youngest layers.
We scrambled cross country on loose shale soil above Little Egypt onto a broad slope heading upwards towards the Henry Mountains.
Some of rock layers around the foot of the mountain contain metals. Uranium is still mined in this area. Our trail led through the site of a now vanished gold mining town. Only a couple of cabins remain.
The first water appeared after 10 miles at Crescent Creek and we made camp. The creek was already fringed with thick icicles. We knew from the forecast it was going to be a cold night at 7,800 feet. Our water froze in the bottles over night.
Next day it was sunny but still bitterly cold and very windy. We opted to go over a pass (9,000 ft Copper Ridge) rather than the top of the mountain and hiked 10 miles to the next water source (Airplane Spring). Here we made hot tea and took stock.
Brian’s blisters had multiplied again, were painful and some were bloody. So the sensible decision was made to retreat. That still meant climbing back up over the pass and back to the freezing camp and a 20 mile day. Luckily the weather got a bit milder on the second night there. On Friday 15 April we were back at the roadside and hitched a lift into Hanksville.
Since then much has happened. We have met more Hayduke hikers (Marty, Not Guilty, Peter), took in some great live music and through mind-blowing generosity obtained the use of a car for a week without which we would really be stuck. Thank you Nathan!!!
Now we are in the town of Escalante, eating well, resting and hoping to be back on the trail by the start of next week.
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.
On this section we were mostly on an alternate to the Hayduke Trail to take in an area of very remote and intricate canyons called “The Maze” which we hadn’t seen before. 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 (a very muddy tributary of the Colorado). Credits for the route go to Jamal Green who describes it on his excellent Across Utah website.
The map below has an overview of the routes; Red=Hayduke, Purple=2022 Alternate via The Maze, Black=2014 Alternate via Ernies Country and South Fork Happy
The Needles area of Canyonlands is mostly known for spiky stripy rock formations but it also has a sunken valley known as a graben called Cyclone Canyon which was a cool place to hike. This is not made by water erosion like most canyons but by a collapse of underground salt deposits.
We camped near the south bank of the Colorado River on the first night. Brian had arranged for a ferry operator to pick us up at 10:00 and take us across. They were taking hikers from Moab to the opposite northern shore and that all worked out very smoothly.
From there we climbed a steep trail up 1000 ft to a place of rock spires called the Dolls House. The trail was made in the 19th century by sheepherders to allow their flocks access to the river. We followed some jeep tracks north across open plateau to reach the edge of ‘The Maze’ at a place called Chimney Rock and the descent down a cairned route into The Maze was tremendous.
Inside The Maze we saw green cottonwood trees for the first time and the character of the landscape was less severe, more gentle. There was water! Not flowing but emerging in small clear dips in the sand.
We were not the only people to find The Maze hospitable as seen in pictographs at the Harvest Scene panels lefts by people variously referred to as Fremont or Basketmaker people.
From the Maze we had a few miles on jeep trails over a plateau called Hans Flat, named after rancher Hans Andersen who ran cattle here. We were able to pick up some water here at remote park visitor centre.
Then we descended North French Spring Fork of Happy Canyon. Finding the top of the descent down the steep canyon walls was quite exciting as it involved a fair bit of route finding (no trail here). Along the way we came across three black donkeys who live happily down there in a green(ish) valley…… they took one look at us and ran.
After the donkeys we got onto another 100 year old stock trail down, down, down a weakness in the cliffs until we hit the floor of the fork into Happy Canyon.
Happy Canyon had water! Yes, in the pic below this is a delicious clear (once the tadpoles and mosquito larvae have been shoo-ed out of the way) first rate drinking water. Ignore the white rime. That’s just minerals deposited as the water evaporates…
The second best thing about Happy Canyon, after the water, is that it turns into a slot Canyon for the last mile and a bit. So, so beautiful!
Happy Canyon narrows end very suddenly when meeting the Dirty Devil. This is a long river that goes through layers of rock that produce a lot of very fine silt (it also has lots of agricultural run off higher up)…so it is muddy and its bottom is very silty. Not much fun to cross and even worse to drink.
We decided against drinking it though as we pushed on to Poison Spring Canyon which, despite the name, had a wonderful clear spring.
Now we have come over 180 miles and there are some signs of wear! Brian has taken to wearing his socks upside down because the sand has eroded the soles! There are also some blisters and we are now in the tiny town of Hanksville, resting up and preparing for the next section over the Henry mountains to the town of Escalante…..
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. See here for overview map.
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.
Two nights rest and a lot of rain in the town of Moab and we are off again. We are following the mighty Colorado river. In 2014 we paddled down it. This time we are walking in and out of canyons, over ridges and along ledges.
At first we still shared our trail with mountain bikes and ATVs. Although this is very remote country, there are some one or two homes out here and the people who live off grid are usually very hospitable. Like Tom and his tortoise Kobe. He shared his drinking water (which is hauled in by 4×4 over some fearsome rugged terrain) and some good stories about hikers that have come past on the Hayduke and ATV drivers he has had to rescue over the years. He also has installed a Frisby golf course on his property but we didn’t have time…
Although we are following the Colorado, we only stood on its banks with our toes in its water once. The rest of the time we were high above it on ledges and weaving inland to go around (and sometimes into) steep tributary canyons. There are still some areas used for seasonal cattle pasture (less so now after an ongoing long draught).
We passed by an old cowboy camp ‘Tangrens’, used by horsemen up to the 50’s I think. There was an old bedstead and tissue roll amazingly intact as well as some unidentified foodstuffs in jars… we were hungry but didn’t try!
One of the best things in Canyon country is camping with a view of the landscape below at dusk and dawn. And in between the clear night sky and the complete silence…except when there is a cricket…or an owl…or a coyote. Then it’s even better!
After 4 days we arrived at Needles Outpost, a privately run campsite and store at the edge of Canyonlands National Park and we are having a rest day in one of they glamping tents. Comes with a hammock. Very relaxing! We picked up one of our resupply parcels here with food for the next section. So far we have come about 105 miles. Doing some kit repair and enjoying a hot shower before hiking on into The Maze.
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. Email me if you want more info.
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 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. We took a side route out to the Colorado River neck lookout (pic above). 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…
We hopped across the Atlantic from Glasgow to Denver and holed up in the University and all-round outdoorsy town of Boulder, Colorado, for two nights. Here we shopped for hiking food for 17 days and packed two boxes to send forward with supplies: one to Caleb at Needles Outpost just outside Canyonlands National Park and one to the post office in Hanksville Utah. We will hopefully meet those boxes again!
Winter was still lingering in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Boulder. Paths amongst trees held compacted old snow and the vegetation was parched. We went for a walk around the Flat Irons (rock formations above the town) in bright sunshine and cold clear air.
In the afternoon of the second day we returned the hire car at Denver airport: feet only from now on! A 45 minute flight in a bus size plane took us over the Rockies to Moab airport with one rucksack each, all our belongings within and 3 days food.
We walked from the desert airport across Highway 191 and towards the Klondike bluffs, a wall of red rock formations at the edge of Arches National Park. A couple of hours on but still outside the park, we made our first camp, snowy hills to the East in the glow of the setting sun, the warm air juniper scented and the distant hum of unfeasibly large American trucks..we were back!!!
Now, three days later, we have seen many rock arches, tiptoed over prickly balls of Russian thistle (a sort of angry tumble weed with spikes that gets blown around where it is flat), been checked out by Ravens as a potential source of titbits more than once, exclaimed at the sight of lizards on the rock, pointed out interesting paw prints in the sand to each other (coyote, beaver), seen one live and one dead jack rabbit, drunk water from a stream, crossed the same stream over and over again, watched the sun rise, shared a canyon with a flock a turkeys for the night, found some marvellous petroglyphs and pictographs in insanely scenic places and exclaimed at every new flower that has opened around us as spring is slowly unfurling (not many leaves on the trees here yet either).
Now we are having our first town stop in Moab, another outdoorsy place. To our great delight it has been raining last night and today which will fill the rock holes, boost the streams and enliven the springs we depend on for water as we hike on along the mighty Colorado from here.
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.
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.
We are out walking in the local hills and coast a fair bit most times, especially during the last two years of lockdown. But with the Hayduke in mind we have tried to do a few more miles over flatter ground during the winter. The coastline north of us from Fortrose to Rosemarkie to Cromarty offers pretty perfect terrain; sand, boulders, trail, cross country, minor roads and even some bushwacking – it also happens to be great fun!
The Hayduke Trail is a 800 approx. mile hike and scramble through the canyons of the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah and northern Arizona USA. The route links six stunning National Parks…. Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Zion and crosses great places in-between.
Our long distance backpacking trips have mostly been abroad- USA, Canada, Alaska, Nepal, Alps/Dolomites, Norway- and even England with the ‘Coast to Coast’ and parts of the South West Coast Path. In Scotland, with only a few exceptions, we tend to have spent our overnighters as weekend trips at 1-3 nights at a time. We have a particular attraction to camping on or near hill summits, with the winter solstice being a specific love and challenge given typical harsh Scottish weather conditions and the minimal amount of daylight around December 21st!
Summits in Scotland are relatively easy to reach and often afford decent, dry camping spots with short cropped vegetation- as long as you are prepared to hunt around a bit. The views can be panoramic and fantastic with the special light you can get at sunset and sunrise.
We have mostly used a 3 season tent, the Terra Nova Superlite Voyager (the best compromise we have found between robustness, roominess for 2 and lightweight at 1.4kg, but now see that Terra Nova no longer sell these) and occasionally its more robust and heavier sibling the Terra Nova Quasar for wild conditions.
The map below is a compilation of where we have wild camped in Scotland, along with bothies we have stayed in. Lots to go at still!