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 Caanan Mountain, the high ground in the background
We soon left the town for a steep ascent up Water Canyon
Into higher ground over beautiful cross-bedded sandstone
The scenery just got better and better – Zion National Park in the background
Colourful campsite on flat ‘slickrock’
We hiked up to the high rim of Water Canyon to see its arch
Looking back down Water Canyon
Some great hiking on the rock slabs
We can’t afford to be choosy when it comes to water! We carried this with us but thankfully later found a better supply
Amidst surreal black iron accretions sitting on top of the cream coloured sandstone
At ‘The Notch’ on the cliff tops looking south across the ‘Arizona Strip’ and back to the edge of the Grand Canyon
This is an old winch or ‘Windlass’ used to lower timber down the 1000ft cliff to the plains below
2nd night camp with grand views to Zion National Park
Morning hiking with Indian paintbrush
Looking towards Zion before descending down an old stock trail
Slow going on this route with energy sapping sand, cross country and here, on an old ‘stock trail’, rubbly descents
…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!

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!

The Arizona Trail (AZT) a “proper” trail to follow

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.

Snow melt and springs galore!

We reached the edge of the Grand Canyon at Nankoweap on our second night out, camped early and started our 6000 foot descent at dawn.

Down the Nankoweap trail
Nankoweap trail
The final descent,  now in the desert and 5000 feet below the rim but still going strong despite the 30C heat
Prickly pear paradise (this is only one of 5 flowering species we saw)
Agave utahensis var kaibabensis
Nankoweap creek meets the Colorado

We camped that night at the bottom of Nankoweap canyon on the shore of the Colorado Rivet itself with high 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 aquaintences from all over the US. Their figurehead “Uncle Dave” was very welcoming and, once we had sourced a life jacket for each of us, invited us to travel 9 miles down river the next day with them..

Our generous river rafters packing up in the morning
Heather and Martina head down the river with boatman Brian (Big Dill)

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.

View of the turquoise blue Little Colorado Rivet
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. Our rafting friends were camped opposite us on the other side of the river

Camping at Lava Creek (left bank)

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

Hiking at first light
The River is a green corridor
Tributaries to the Colorado form deep canyons that the trail follows until we can cross them, making our route very wriggly
Lunchtime cup of tea cooling in the Colorado
Heather uses a lunchtime stop to rinse her hair
Afternoon hiking towards the bottom of Hance Rapids, our next campsite
Meeting up with our boating friends again at Hance rapids where they moored and we camped too. We were invited to their evening campfire circle and dinner.
Dangers of the Hayduke
Hiking up to the South rim via Hance Creek, Horseshoe Mesa and the ….Trail
Gaining hight on the trail and changing vegetation zones – Sweet smelling vetch
Topping out of the Grand Canyon on the South rim after 6 days, dusty but happy!

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…..

Into Arizona…

During our rest days in the town of Kanab we bought food for the trail ahead and sent 8 days of supplies to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and, with the help of a friend, 6 days to a remote diner/hotel called Jacob’s Lake (also on the Northern edge of the canyon).

Supplies for the next few weeks

We started putting our thumbs up on Highway 89 out of Kanab at 7am on 04 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!

Heading towards Wire Pass from Buckskin Gulch
Narrows at Wire Pass

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 and finishes after 800 miles at the Utah border. We were hiking it southward ‘against Wainwright’, meeting lots of northbound hikers who were nearing their finish line.

Brian at the Northern terminus of the AZT

Once on the AZT we climbed very quickly up onto the Kiabab Plateau, a high limestone 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.

Taking water from a “wildlife guzzler” on the AZT (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!
The AZT on the Kiabab plateau
vintage transport at Jakobs Lake

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

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 Escalante to the next town stop of Kanab, heading in a South Westerly direction and not going into Bryce National Park. Information about this route was greatfully gleaned from Jamal Green’s website and blog.

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 muted greys and some surreal landscapes (see banner pic at top).

Weird and wonderful rocks in the ‘Mudhills’

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
The dining room

Camping near Grosvenor Arch and cattle tank

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
Descending into the slot canyon of Round Valley Draw
Cool rock inside Round Valley Draw
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 and Hogeye.

Cacti starting to flower in Hogeye Canyon
Well camouflaged lizard in Hogeye Canyon

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 Cyn (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.

Ancient pictographs at the back of a cave (Starlight Cyn)

Looking out from the cave

We had seen the pointy landmark that is Molly’s Nipple on our first day out of Escalante, 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!

Hiking towards Molly’s Nipple
More spring flowers
Toadstool at Molly’s Nipple
Bright white rock layers with deep red iron-rich rubble (Molly’s Nipple)

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.

Hiking past cattle fences towards Highway 89 (and a lift into the town of Kanab) early in the morning

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!

Testing the feet around Escalante

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”.

Phipps Arch day hike (see also the banner of this page)

Although with car, we preferred to camp on the beautiful slickrock, a short walk from the road.
After a couple of day hikes we walked the Boulder Mail Trail (16 miles) as an overnight backpack
Spring is slowly starting to add colour to the desert
The Boulder Mail Trail follows the route once taken by the mailman and his horse from the town of Boulder to Escalante before there was a road. This is the spectacular terrain it goes throughout!
After about 40 miles of test-hiking the feet had sufficiently recovered and allowed us to head onwards on our intended route through the desert on the Hayduke (and alternates).

Blistering into the Henry Mountains

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…

Hiking up towards the Henry Mountains (in the background)

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.

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.

We never make fires when we hike…except when it’s -10°C!! Crescent Creek

First water appeared after 10 miles 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 7500 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 (9000 ft Copper Ridge) rather than the top of the mountain and hiked 10 miles to the next spring (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. 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.

Return to Hanksville via the culvert under Highway 95 – too many blisters
With local singer Rod Asay!

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.

Back.on the trail, soon

Moab to Needles Canyonlands NP

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.

Leaving Moab on the Amasa back trails

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…

On our alternative to the Hayduke, the Hermit Trail, on a narrow bench above the Colorado

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).

Tangrens camp. Used by horsemen up to the 50’s I think. Old bedstead and tissue roll amazingly intact. Some unidentified foodstuffs in jars… we were hungry but didn’t try!
Came across this on the dirt road in Lockhart Canyon. It wouldn’t start though!
Rustler Creek dryfall had a cool scramble under a chockstone
Some great sunset sunrise camps so far

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!

Brian looking down to a loop of the Colorado river

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.

Resting up in Needles Outpost before we head out again!

Hiker notes


We did the Amasa back alt which was nice.
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 Colorado for water south of Base Camp.
Chicken corner HT6.8, we took a direct alt south up a mellow wash with a couple of 2-3m high scrambling steps to short cut the HT indirect jeep road. Worthwhile.
HT11.3 We left the HT just south for an alt down Hermit Cnyn based on Kelsey. Followed a lovely limestone bench above Colorado narrowing to a meter or so in places. see pic below.Also cool Tangren old horse camp. Couldn’t find the spring to the east from Kelsey though. Continued on bench along rim of Lockhart north fork back to HT at foot of Nic Barth alt descent and big dryfall. Scenic and recommended. Can write up better notes when home after trail.
Small clear flow of water just after above dryfall on HT but may dry up soon.
Lockhart had a flow for about 1/3 mile
Rustler dryfall. Small pool just above but dry below. Direct route under chockstone was fun!
Indian Creek. Pools of water but no flow.
We hope so wash. Good pothole of water.
Took the alt out to the Colorado river neck lookout, nice view and short diversion starting from 200-300m before pothole. Would be a nice campspot too…

Arches National Park March 2022

We are walking!

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 who currently runs Needles Outpost just outside Canyonlands National Park and one to the post office in Hanksville Utah. We will hopefully meet those boxes again!

It’s our healthy balanced diet that will see us through..

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.

Moab Canyonlands airport. Baggage collection in the sun

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!!!

Camp outside Arches NP with La Sal Mnts in distance

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).

Tower Arch, just inside Arches NP
It feels like we are in the high desert now…. Upper Courthouse Wash
Pictograph rock art near the Colorado River

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.

US Hayduke 2022

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…. ArchesCanyonlandsCapitol ReefBryce CanyonGrand Canyon and Zion and crosses great places in-between.

And hey, we are heading back in Spring 2022 to hopefully hike in this area again with some cool variations after a previous hike in 2014 and a few other visits to this amazing land of canyons and high desert. We aim to start hiking direct from Moab airport into Arches National Park in the east at the end of March through to Zion NP, perhaps beyond in May/June and will be adding posts in here as we go along!

HIKE

1 Arches National Park

2 Moab to Needles in Canyonlands NP

3 Needles to Hanksville via The Maze

4 Blistering into the Henry Mountains

5 Testing the feet around Escalante

6 Back hiking South West to Hwy 89 and Kanab

7 Into Arizona….

8 Grand Canyon part I

9 Grand Canyon part II – crossing to north rim

10 Grand Canyon part III – feeling hot, hot, hot…

11 Grand finale to Zion National Park

PRE HIKE

Hayduke training hikes

Hayduke background (from 2014)

Hiker links

Other useful links

Our intended route in 2022

Some photos from previous hikes in the area to show what its like….

From 2014- ‘Happy Canyon’
Yellow Rock