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.

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)

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…

Grand Canyon Northern Loop

The aim for our final week was to visit new territory to us on the northern side of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. We chose to try a loop hike, starting at the Indian Hollow trailhead and dropping down to Thunder River, before heading to the relatively popular Deer Creek and then to the Colorado River. From there we would hike along the river downstream off trail on rough bouldery terrain for about 7.5 miles to Kanab Canyon. We would then exit the Colorado and hike a long way up Kanab Creek then Jump Up Canyon, Sowats Canyon to reach the Jump Up-Nail trailhead. All that would be left then would be some jeep tracks and cross country over the wooded plateau back to Indian Hollow trailhead.

Saturday 13th October 2018 Starting from the town of Kanab, we drove towards the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park, firstly on tarmac, then a long good quality dirt road due south. There were lots of hunters camped along the way in cold and frosty sites in the high altitude and shaded ponderosa pine forest. The last 5 miles of off road driving turned a bit rougher with a few deep puddles, but with some nice autumnal aspen in the roadside forest. We were delighted to see a couple of Kaibab squirrels with their distinctive long bushy white tails and pointy ears.

Indian Hollow trailhead was still in the trees, but in a brighter open spot beside some wooden corral fencing. Leaving the car at midday with 6 days food, we looked forward to potentially the longest hike of our holiday, backed up by a reasonably positive weather forecast after the previous rainy couple of weeks. A short stroll on a trail took us to the edge of the forest and the lip of the north rim of the Grand Canyon- always an impressive sight!

We followed the clear trail down the first cliff band to the ‘Esplanade’ – a wide fairly flat terrace between cliffs- and this made for easy walking as we headed east to join with the more popular Bill Hall trail. Some cool slick rock slabs with good looking water in potholes provided an excuse for a stop to admire the scenery. Once on the Bill Hall trail we saw our first other hikers of the day but most were setting up camp and we continued on to the top of the next cliff band known as the Red Wall where we collected water from another pothole for our own dry camp tonight. Here we had our first view of the muddy brown Colorado River, still a long way below us and we descended steeply down a rubbly trail through the Red Wall into Surprise Valley.

The temperatures had been cool today and we felt that we had lucked out as this area can get oppressively hot even in the autumn! Surprise Valley itself hangs above the Colorado River and is the result of huge historic landslips. Once in the valley we headed east to set up camp just before the divide above Thunder Springs. There were rain showers passing through but we stayed dry throughout the night with our tent nestled in behind some boulders.

Sunday 14th October 2018 A great day! We take a short side trip down to the unusual feature that is Thunder Springs – a huge waterfall emerging from underground and through the middle of a cliff surrounding by lush greenery supported by this perennial water source. The views beyond were cool too with Tapeats Canyon snaking its way down to merge with the Colorado.

Picking up the camping gear we headed back on trail across the dry arid ground of Surprise Valley to cross the divide on its north side above Deer Creek, followed by another steep descent down to the creek. The low light and clear air resulted in beautifully coloured walls either side of us. There were gushing springs feeding into Deer Creek and we had a stop there under some cottonwoods. The hike down Deer Creek to the Colorado River was an absolute delight- initially through lush greenery and cactus then on rocky terraces through a steep striated and sculpted canyon. We found some hand print pictographs on the rock walls.

We exited the canyon all too soon but had the grand view of the Colorado River a few hundred feet below us now. Down at the Colorado we wondered around the stunning waterfall as Deer Creek plunges over the final cliff to the Colorado and met some other people as this is a popular spot for river rafting groups to take a break.

Thankfully the temperature was only a little warmer here as we now had an exposed bouldery, trackless walk alongside the Colorado River. We left the boating groups and started picking our way through boulders right down at river level, before using rock terraces to traverse under a ‘Tapeats’ cliff band to reach a small spit of sand. Resting here under a tamarisk we enjoyed a little breeze sweeping down the river and we debated the way ahead as we knew we needed to climb up steeply at some point to avoid being cliffed out. We noticed a few cairns just above the sand spit and climbed steeply up a scoop in the rock to reach a wide sloping terrace above which made for easier headway- and birds eye views down to the river.

We crossed a little gorge and Martina took water by scrambling down to a small pothole perched above a steep drop- one of our best water sources ever! Shortly after that we came across Siesta Spring which also had good water- and it was running. Onwards, we pass a cool jumbly conglomerate wall then drop back to the river at Cranberry Canyon. We decide to stop at the confluence of Fishtail Canyon and the Colorado River. A short stroll up Fishtail revealed some cool canyon walls and more clear water in large potholes. Also near our camp we saw some ‘scraping rocks’ which must have been used in the past to sharpen tools.

Monday 15th October 2018 The going along the river was slow, mostly through boulders with very occasional trail and some bushwhacking near the river. We make steady time though and take about 3.5 hours to cover the 4.5 miles to reach Kanab Canyon. The scenery was stunning with the shadows shifting as the sun rose through the morning and we enjoyed this cross country hike under the towering cliffs of the canyon. A few rafts pass us on the way and they helpfully ask us if we need anything or would like a lift down to Kanab Canyon! Brian was tempted but Martina resolutely wanted to keep hiking!

The water was flowing strongly out of Kanab and is a brown muddy colour- a sign that the recent storms are still having an effect. I (Brian) was concerned that we may not make it up the canyon as I had read that there are tricky deep pools to negotiate even at normal water levels. We knew we could expect the extra obstacles of high water levels, soft sand and mud and some storm debris of logs and branches.

A challenge can be good for us though(!) and we set off anyway and at a fast pace up the cobbly river banks with frequent muddy river crossings. Kanab is a beautiful canyon with unbelievably high limestone walls and constant twisting and turning. We passed under a sublime huge striated alcove with water dripping over the edge in a curtain from above. After about 2.5 hours we made it to the junction with ‘Whispering Falls’ canyon and its strong clear flow of water. This was to be our turn around point if things were too difficult, but we had no thoughts to that now and kept wading up canyon heading for a possible camp near a landmark tower at ‘Scotty’s Hollow’.

The going got tougher with a series of large dank muddy pools and car sized boulders to scrabble over and round. Each presented a test for us to work out how to get round them- wade deep pools, burrow under them through gaps or scramble up the canyon side? Surprisingly, we meet a large group of student age hikers coming down canyon- if they have made it thus far then we could relax in the knowledge that we should be able to make it up river.

Eventually we arrived at Scotty’s Hollow, a large side canyon from the west with clear running water and at a tight ‘u bend’ in the canyon overlooked by the lofty ‘Scotty’s Tower’. We found a good camp above the river (in case it floods again) but under a cave with loose looking rock unfortunately which made us a wee bit nervous lying underneath protected only by tent fabric. That was a 10 hour day of wet, silt, boulders, pebbles, scrapes and cuts but we both are feeling good if a bit tired. Interestingly for future planning, our pace up Kanab in these conditions was about the same as that boulder hopping along the Colorado River.

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Tuesday 16th October 2018 Survived the night with no rock fall! We headed up river, still wading the muddy stream and scrambling over huge boulders. Reaching another landmark that is Showerbath Spring, we admired it’s cool hanging ferns streaming with clear water. The going eased a bit from there for 2.5 hours before we hit the junction with ‘Jump Up’ canyon- our exit from Kanab Canyon and a chance for dry feet as it was bone dry! Resting here we watched some ubiquitous but always fascinating ravens soar alongside the canyon walls.

Jump Up was narrower and, with smaller canyon walls, provided quite a contrast. The limestone canyon provided lots of ammonite fossils in the pebbles as well as colourful red agates. These limestone canyons have quite a different feel to the sandstone canyons further east, such as the Escalante canyons, which have smoother sweeping walls of the Navajo and Wingate sandstones. Here the limestone is more broken, but equally colourful and full of variety as well as fossils.

As we climbed upcanyon it soon opened out and we split into another side canyon called Sowats- this had clear running water and was greener with cottonwoods now appearing.

The hiking was now mellower and we stopped to take water for overnight at the gushing ‘Mountain Sheep Spring’ and looked at some pictographs on a nearby wall. A cairned trail provided an easy exit out on the south side of the canyon and back onto the Esplanade terraces. We hunted around a bit for a good campsite away from the trail and on the sandstone slickrock before claiming a viewful spot perched on a rock ledge above a small overhanging rock.

Wednesday 17th October 2018 Great to see the return of the sun in the morning after a cloudy chilly day yesterday. We set out south on a clear path along the Esplanade to reach a clump of cottonwood trees marking our exit climb out of the Grand Canyon. It was cold as we climbed up the trail in the shade to the Jump Up Nail trailhead and we grabbed the chance to take a rest when the sun first hit us. Lots of fossils beside the path and expansive views back across the Esplanade to the other side of Kanab Canyon. At the trailhead we hit a dirt road for a few miles back on the rolling plateau and pinyon -juniper vegetation. To get back to the car we mostly cross countried southwards from here and luckily for us the going turned out to be easy and rather pleasant through open woodland crossing a few dry washes. We got hit by a couple of hail showers though which forced us to keep up a good pace to stay warm!

Back at the car, we didn’t hang around as snow started falling and we were keen to get through the initial jeep tracks before the snow started lying. It was a sprint but we made it back to the town of Kanab and the end of a fantastic mini-adventure!

More photos here

 

Hackberry Canyon-Yellow Rock-Paria River

Sunday 22nd October 2017 Arizona Humphreys Peak

We drove down to the Flagstaff area in northern Arizona and climbed the Arizona’s highest point,  Humphreys Peak (12,633ft or 3,851m) using the standard route up from the Arizona Snow Bowl ski area. It was cool to be in forest with pondarosa pine, douglas fir, then aspen up to limber pine and bristlecone pine on the highest ridges.  Above we had views around northern Arizona and to the pitted landscape of volcanic cones. Being the highest peak, there were a fair number of hikers around with an excellent trail to follow. I guess though, the peak didn’t have particularly dramatic views compared with what we have in our own sunny Scotland so we decided one day was enough for us and we would spend the last few days before we flew out back in the canyon country of southern Utah.

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On Humphreys

Tuesday 24th October 2017 Hackberry Canyon

The aim for our last couple of days in Utah was to visit the Hackberry Canyon, Paria River confluence and find somewhere nice to camp overnight. From Page Arizona we drove over the Colorado River, past Big Water then left the tarmac to head north up Cottonwood dirt road for about 12 miles to near the foot of Hackberry Canyon. The light was sharp and clear and the cottonwoods looked particularly golden and autumnal.

With Michael Kelsey’s guidebook in hand we hiked east uphill to the top of Cockscomb ridge on steep dirt road then cross country to the top of the ridge itself. The panorama was cool with great views over rippling sandstone layers and slickrock to Yellow Rock, Castle Rock and Powell Point way in the distance to the north. We then hiked north up Hackberry Canyon which we rather rushed through previously on our 2014 Hayduke hike. The twisting canyon was beautiful and a healthy stream rushed over the sand and between the curving red walls. As the canyon opened out further upstream continued up through cottonwoods to rustic Watson Cabin in a technicolour scene of gold, reds, greens under a deep blue sky.

Back at the car, we packed the camping gear and headed uphill again this time to the west to the top of the amazingly colourful slabs of ‘Yellow Rock’. We found a superb camp near to the summit on slickrock and pitched the tent just before the sun set.

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From the Cockscomb south down Cottonwood Creek

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Lower Hackberry

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Watson Cabin, Hackberry

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Camp, Yellow Rock

Wednesday 25th October 2017 Yellow Rock, Paria River

We awake early in the morning to see the sun rise and it quickly warms to tent up for breakfast. Stroll over Yellow Rock down to the natural feature ‘the red cairn’ where the rock patterns are particularly vibrant. The peak to the south provided some slabby scrambling – this whole area is cool! We then followed a faint trail west then south back down into the ‘box’ canyon of the Paria River past some lovely cactus rock gardens amidst pinyon juniper forest – very mellow!

Once down in the Paria we hike up to the old movie set (last movie filmed here was ‘The Outlaw Josie Wales’) nearby situated under some particularly colourful Chinle rock formations. The heat began to build in the afternoon and we were happy to splash back down the Paria through the box and up Cottonwood Wash back to the car to complete a great little mini trip!

 

 

 

Paria River Backpack II

Friday 30th September 2016 The next morning we were up before 7am but as we were moving around we noticed that the river had started roaring! The river had increased in height by more than a meter and had turned chocolate brown with silt. Branches were coming down with the river and the flow rate had massively increased with standing waves where we had crossed yesterday evening from the spring. It looked like a flash flood had come through and we thought ourselves lucky with our tent perched on a sand flat a few meters above the river level. The river looked impossible to cross and, as our intended route was to continue down the river itself we were a little trapped!

[Click image to see the video]
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We sat watching the roaring river and set sticks up at the waters edge to monitor the height of the flow. After an hour or so the river level went down a little which gave us hope.

The river valley looked to widen out with a trail marked on our map starting about a mile downstream . If we could bushwhack down the south bank of the river for a way to stay out of the water, we could perhaps make it to the trail and continue downstream for a while before having to cross the river. So we decided to give it a go….

After some scrambling through willow, tamarisk and under some boulders we did hit an intermittent trail of sorts and we kept hiking.

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We soon hiked onto the ‘Chinle’ rock layer which here was colourful and soft providing a welcome shelf above the river for us to walk on. We stopped at a side canyon – ‘Bush Head’- and scrambled up to find a spring with fresher water to supply us for the day.

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The heat began to build after that as we headed downstream on sandy banks high above the river which was now lined by cliffs. We halted at a boulder, the only shade around, and were interested to see it had a petroglyph- we weren’t the first to find shade here!

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Eventually we dropped down a steep sand dune back to the river at the now abandoned Wilson’s Ranch. Our guidebook suggested it might have a spring, but after lot’s of searching, we gave up trying to find water and slumped down in the shade of some cottonwoods. We needed to get to the other side of the river but it was still running too strong to cross so we pitched the tent to try again in the morning. Both of us were rather thirsty by now so Martina took the brown silt laden liquid from the river and filled our ‘platypus’ water bags with the hope that the silt would settle to the bottom overnight.

Lo and behold, the dirt and silt did settle to give us about 2/3 rds of a liter from each of the 3 water bags. After treating it with our ‘Aqua Mira’ water purifier tablets it almost tasted fine!

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The water levels had definitely dropped overnight but the first crossing was still a challenge in thigh deep forceful water- but we made it. From there we strolled on with three other crossings to good trail on the final few miles to the tarmac road near the campsite at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. Now for the challenge of getting back to our vehicle, 74 miles away in Utah!

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We needn’t have worried, after hiking down the minor tarmac road a few miles towards the main highway 89A, we got a lift for the final 3-4 miles to Marble Lodge – a gas station, diner, PO and motel. Fortified by some lunch, we started hitching and got two great lifts; firstly from a Navajo family then from a Mormon family returning to Salt Lake City area. Back at the car we drove to Kanab for a welcome shower and fresh food. What a great trip down the fantastic Paria River!

More photos here…..

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Paria River backpack I

Tuesday 27th September 2016 Our first backpack of this trip was to follow the Paria River down its lower section for about 40 miles or so to it’s confluence with the Colorado River. This was supposed to be one of the most spectacular canyon hikes around and we were so looking forward to it!

After an enjoyable morning hike in Snow Canyon state park near St George Utah, we drove east over to Kanab Utah to shop for food and then carried on about 40 miles east to the small Paria Visitor Center to pick up our permits for the hike.

We were told that a recent flash flood down the canyon had made hiking difficult with more water in the river, mud, quicksand and flood debris. Also that our intended start along a super narrow canyon called Buckskin Gulch for 14 miles before joining the Paria might not be possible due to deep pools and mud! We decided to still go for it but amended our plan to avoid the Buckskin start.  However we still hoped to be able to explore a part of Buckskin from the main Paria river.

The dirt road  was also closed a  mile short of the start trailhead, as it had been washed out by the flood, so we parked our car by the closed signs and sorted our gear for the hike out on the dirt road. We then set off in lovely low light at about 5.30pm for a short evening hike and soon reached the trailhead with a register…..

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At the Paria River trailhead

We dropped down to the river in a wide basin and followed it down making many pleasant splashy ankle deep crossings. The bed was sandy and mostly easy although there were some soft patches of mud where we sunk down into its squelchy depths!

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First of many Paria River crossings in the evening

The river basin soon steepened to rocky canyon walls…..

0927-img_0857-pariaAfter an hour or so we found a petroglyph site and soon after a sandy bench to set up camp. A grand start and it was great to back in canyon country!

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Wednesday 28th September 2016 We had some rain overnight so we both dashed out to put the outer tent on for shelter- other than that there was a clear sparkly sky to enjoy. We awoke at 6.30 and after a fine muesli breakfast we both were up and keen to hike down the canyon. After a few miles the canyon walls constricted and we were in the famous ‘narrows’.

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The ‘Slide’ in the Paria above Buckskin Gulch

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The scenery was splendid with huge twisting rock walls of ‘Navajo’ sandstone with lovely alcoves, holes and towers. The river occasionally reached both sides of the canyon but was never more than knee deep. Soon we reached the confluence with Buckskin Gulch and we decided to drop our backpacks and hike up Buckskin for a while to explore.

Buckskin was beautiful with it’s own character- narrower and darker than the Paria with only a tiny flow of water but mostly an easy flat sandy bottom. In 2014 we had hiked down from the other side of Buckskin 14 miles upstream for about an hour. We need to come back and complete the full traverse – it is unique and amazing!

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A snake in Buckskin Gulch…it didn’t look bothered by us thankfully

Back at the Paria we hiked down more great canyon to ‘Big Spring’ – some lovely clear water gushing out of the canyon walls. We picked up water here and hiked on a bit to find another scenic camp on a raised sandy bench above the stream and under some cottonwoods. Today had been both successful and scenic. We both had injury fears before starting but the tremendous scenery, the warm weather in the 20’s C (but not too hot) and the variety of intermittent crossings of the river, sandy benches and occasional trail seemed to work wonders for us!

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Thursday 29th September 2016 More rain with distant thunderstorms overnight so again we scrambled out to put the outer tent on! The river level was up and flowing faster in the morning as we headed down river to an area called the ‘Goose-necks’ – a particularly winding steep walled canyon section. This was one of the most dramatic hiking locations we have ever been in! We stopped at an old 1930’s cast iron pump ‘Adams Pump’ for a break- it was intended to be used to transport water from the river up a pipe onto the plateau to provide water for cattle. It never went into operation, and looked remarkably well preserved!

[Click here or the image below for a short video clip]

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Adam’s Pump

After lunch we left our backpacks again and explored another side canyon – ‘Wrather’ which had lush vegetation, deep red walls and a stunning arch higher up- it was definitely worth the trip.

After more, deeper splashing down river, we came across another petroglyph rock art before a good dripping spring. We filled up our water bottles then waded across the river to camp across from the spring. Spanish rice, tea and biscuits for dinner with canyon wren song, bats overhead and glistening stars – another great day!

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Datura in Wrather Canyon

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Wrather Arch

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Climbing up above the cottonwood trees in Wrather Canyon

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Go to part II of our Paria river hike here…..

Autumn 2016 in the US south west

We returned to the desert and canyons of southern Utah and northern Arizona in September/ October 2016. Two years ago we hiked and kayaked our own version of the Hayduke Trail. Having enjoyed it so much we returned this year with a rental car to hike to some other canyons and interesting places. Whilst we wouldn’t get the full immersion of a multi month hike such as the Hayduke, we were aiming to target some of the most spectacular places in the region with some trips ranging from  1 to 5 days.

You can see an overview in the interactive map below and read our blogs listed below too…

  1. Paria river backpack I
  2. Paria river backpack II
  3. Escalante river, Death Hollow, Bowington and Boulder Mail trails
  4. Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons I
  5. Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons II
  6. Peekaboo, Spooky and Brimstone slot canyons day trip
  7. Canyonlands National Park- Horseshoe canyon
  8. Canyonlands National Park- Salt Creek backpack
  9. Farewell to the Escalante area- Wolverine and Little Death Hollow canyons
  10. Video summary from our hikes (6 minutes)

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Exit from the Grand Canyon

26th May Grand Canyon South Rim
We met up with Li Brannfors and friends Jen and Jasper who kindly let us stay with them in their South Rim national park lodgings. Today was a lovely relaxing day, catching up with things on the internet, eating lots and generally chilling out.
We reserved a campsite at Cottonwood Campground for our intended crossing of the Grand Canyon tomorrow to the North Rim. Well, it was almost booked out, but we got a place in the overflow mule area!

27th May Grand Canyon South Rim to Cottonwood Creek 18 miles
Alarm at 4.30 am Utah time (3.30 Arizona time!). Thanks to Li for a great stay!
Off hiking around 4.20 in the dark to reach the rim of the canyon again to start descending the Bright Angel trail into the canyon. We dropped height easily on a zigzagging path in a valley, soon heading into the shade of beautiful green cottonwoods and flowing water at Indian Creek campground.

Following good trail down easily into the inner gorge of the canyon led us into different rock types of schists and granites to the Colorado river itself. We were able to cross the river on a suspension bridge here and hiked a short distance to Phantom Ranch (this is a park lodge and campsite set in a deep side canyon near the bottom of the Grand). We made it by 8.20 am after a 10 mile easy, scenic and enjoyable descent. Both glad to have started so early though as it was already roasting (maybe 30 C) at Phantom Ranch even this early.

Picking up water, we had a look at the canteen and 1920’s style chalet buildings which all look pretty nice. But we headed on and now had the uphill part of the day ahead of us climbing towards the North Rim of the canyon on the popular North Kiabab trail. The hiking was on good trails, firstly following a stream flowing through a deep canyon made of ruptured schists and pegmatites- this rock scenery was very much like that in Scotland and was familiar to us!

The heat really cranked up though after about 1 and half hours hiking when the valley opened out and we had less shelter from the sizzling sun. A stop in the shade by the river revived us after we soaked our T-shirts in the river and wore them wet to cool us a little. It worked!

It was a relief to stop at a waterfall – ‘Ribbon Falls’ at 11 am for another cool down. We hid there from the sun for almost 6 hours under a deep mossy overhang with stalagtites; reading, dozing and chilling out under the waterfall. Some wild mint made for delicious tea and we had some frogs for company – perfect! Our thermometer recorded 36 C in the shade.

Eventually in the evening we hiked onwards, climbing up to Cottonwood campground which remained uncomfortably hot into the late evening.

The bridge over the Colorado River

 

 

 






28th May Grand Canyon Cottonwood Creek to North Rim 8 miles
It was uncomfortably hot overnight and at 3.30 am it was still 24 C and we decided to get up and hike on. Leaving at 4.20 am in the dark felt good and the trail was clear with head torches- climbing upwards towards the rim at 9,000 feet where we hoped it would be cooler!

Above Roaring Springs the light crept in and the scenery was beautiful with red rock walls and a ‘Dolomitic’ style trail traversing cliff edges. We made it to the top at the North Rim after about 3 hours and it was refreshingly chilly – it felt good to wear a fleece again. Also there was Ponderosa, White fir, Douglas fir and Aspen trees around, a great contrast to the dry inner Grand Canyon.

North Rim has a national park visitor centre, lodge, campsite and lots of tourists but is quiet compared with South Rim and we liked it. We find the laid back campers store and have a relaxed coffee and cake on the veranda- excellent!

Our dinner was a luxury mix of Idaho mash potato, black beans and salad, washed down with a bottle of Chardonnay- way hey! A campsite talk by park rangers on bats ends a wonderful relaxing day after the early start.

 

29th May North Rim rest day 4 miles
We were both happy to chill out today and take a stroll around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for the views.

The evening park ranger talk is ‘Ravens’ – a specialty and love of Martina’s!

The heat of the inner Grand Canyon had been getting to us and we agree not to do the next section of the Hayduke which descends back into the canyon for a particularly tough hike where we felt that the heat would prevent us enjoying the marvelous scenery. We will need to come back earlier in spring or in autumn some day to do that!!!

Instead we decide to hike out north on the Arizona Trail tomorrow to the National Park entrance to complete a loop hike in the Grand Canyon National Park. Then to hitch back to near Zion National Park to do the final two days of the Hayduke Trail. It’s disappointing not to continue on the Hayduke but we would have been miserable hiking in these hot temperatures.

On the North Rim of Grand Canyon

 

30th May North Rim visitor centre to North park entrance on AZT 14 miles
After posting our ‘float box’ of spare supplies at the PO to Zion National Park, we hike north at around 9.40 am on the Arizona Trail. It was easy going through green forest of aspen and ponderosa in cool conditions at 9,000 feet – hoorah!

We caught up with another hiker- Shawney(?)- running the AZT, covering 30-45 miles per day. We caught him at our walking pace because he had run up from the bottom of the Grand Canyon in the morning and had now slowed down after that huge climb. After a fun chat we leave him and hike on and reach the north entrance of the park where we quickly hitched a lift north to Jacob Lake resort.

Hiking on the Arizona Trail through aspen
Brian at Jacobs Lake

31st May Jacob Lake to Kanab 0 miles
We took a day off today as Martina was feeling ill and we lucked out with a direct hitch to Kanab health centre (thanks!) and got taken straight away, diagnosed and antibiotics administered- our travel insurance was worth the money!