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Begins: Mar 19, 2013
Date: Mon, May 20th, 2013
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SECTION NOTES FOR FUTURE HIKERS
These are my Section Notes from the Hayduke. The main purpose is to provide a high level overview of what the section was like, major alternate options, permit information, some resupply information and maybe some other tips and tricks I learned along the way. Some specific trail notes and all water source information was provided to Skurka for when he updates his Bundle and not included here. If you would like all my water source information feel free to email me.
Start to Moab:
Another very good option for starting the Hayduke is to walk to the trail directly from the airport. Instead of flying into Moab airport, paying for a shuttle south to Moab, staying the night and then paying for a shuttle back north to Arches you could easily just walk from the airport. About 1.5 miles south of the airport on hwy 191 is a turnoff (signed) on the left for Klondike Bluffs trail (this is a large network of mountain biking trails). Walk this good dirt road about 5 miles to the signed trailhead. (although I did not do this as it was dark, it appears easy to walk cross country from the airport to a point on the road much closer to the trailhead, suggest looking at Google maps/earth). From the trailhead it is several miles of very easy cross country over to the Marching Men formation where you pick up a day hiker trail. From about there you pick up the official trail at about mile 3, but I would highly recommend continuing east over to Dark Angel (mapped Skurka alternate) and south on the day hikers trail to Devil's Garden campground. It's well worth the extra miles to see all the arches and formations. Otherwise your walk through Arches would miss the best stuff.
Unless it's easy for you, I'd suggest risking it and not getting an Arches permit. Other than the Devil's Garden campground ($ 20 plus a ridiculous $ 9 reservation fee) and the day hiker trails north of there, you are extremely unlikely to see anyone, including a Ranger. If you do see someone in the day hiker areas and they ask where you are going to camp you can just say the Fence line at alternate mile 11.5 which is out of the Park. It would be hard for them to prove otherwise.
This is a great short section. Lots of cross country but fairly easy by Hayduke standards and your pack should be light with minimal food. There are a few easy cliffs to negotiate down and Courthouse Wash can be slow trying to navigate through all the brush or the creek if it is running decent like it was for me in the Spring.
Moab is a great little town that has everything. Too bad it's only day 3 and it's the best town on the trail!
Moab to Needles Outpost:
This section is another easier one by Hayduke standards. A fair amount of old dirt roads makes for easier walking and the technical stuff isn't too bad. The most difficult section is the climb out of Indian Creek and subsequent trailless section which is described well by the guidebook and Skurka. I took an alternate mapped by Li which left the official route at Kane creek and rejoined after Hurrah Pass. This route had some nice singletrack along the Colorado river and then good old dirt road and was very scenic and a few miles shorter. I would recommend it.
We tried calling Hite several times to ask about sending a food package and no one ever answered or returned our call. They are hiker friendly and could have risked just sending one and if it wasn't there then just hitching into Hanksville from the main road (although this could be a very tough hitch, better option is to buy minimal food at the store if it is open...see below). Instead I decided to go to Needles Outpost and do a big alternate through Canyonlands mapped by Li. At Lower Jump you can divert on roads over to Needles Outpost. It's about 3.5-4 miles. You cannot send a package here. I found the owners to be very friendly......as long as we were spending money. In the past some hikers were able to send packages and my guess is came in, picked up their package, spent maybe $ 10 and left. The owners have a short season and are running a business and it's obvious they don't let you send a package because they want you to spend money. They actually told a story about a "new" Ranger accepting a package for a hiker and were clearly pissed off about it. I don't like it but understand. Kind of like VVR on the PCT except there the package costs you $ 20. They serve some good food for around $ 10 per meal and have free wifi which was a nice bonus. You can camp for $ 20 and shower for $ 3 or just shower for $ 7 or do none of the above like I did (they have to truck all their water in). Resupply was interesting. I needed 7 days of food. I carried in 5 extra dinners (just in case resupply was bad) and 1 days snacks and was able to easily resupply all the rest. It was expensive but I actually don't think much more than sending a large flat rate box that costs $ 17 plus food. Selection was small but they had everything I needed. Tortillas, bagels, cheese, pop tarts, crackers, chips, candy, granola bars, ramen, knorrs, cookies, etc. Pretty much a small selection of all the standard stuff that you might not love but can easily get by with. It was very relaxing to just sit around and have to do nothing for a bunch of hours and like I said they were very friendly (but I really do think this would have been different if we loitered without spending any money). I'd actually recommend this as an acceptable detour instead of a resupply at Hite.
Needles Outpost to Hite:
I took a huge alternate mapped by Li which bypassed the first 45 miles of this section and was about 60 miles to join back with the Hayduke. The alternate followed Salt creek (mostly trail and lots of water) for a long time, some high washes and plateau's, Ruin canyon (water), Trail Canyon (amazing narrow canyon at 8,000') and then very scenic upper Dark Canyon for many miles and met up with the Hayduke at the junction of Dark canyon and Young’s canyon. I have not done the Official route but Li's route was fantastic. My understanding is that it is more diverse (you are up much higher at times so you actually get ponderosa pines, etc), more water (I rarely had to carry anything significant for 3 days of hiking) and less technical (there is one brutal climb out of Ruin canyon but otherwise navigation is straightforward and there are no issues like those noted in Butler Wash and Young’s Canyon). It also passes a fair amount of ruins and pictographs and is very, very scenic overall. It does add about 12 miles in total but if you like the alternate and the Needles Outpost resupply strategy then the extra miles are worth it. You could actually do this and also send a package to Hite to make your food carry even easier.
After I rejoined with the Hayduke, Dark canyon is amazing and a little slow but not too bad. The climb up the Sundance trail is tough and the place where they have rerouted the trail on roads I just took the old trail. It still exists and people have even started to erect new small cairns. It's only a mile or so and easy going.
Hite was a fantastic surprise when I found the store to have cold sodas, ice cream, microwave stuff and very limited groceries. You could actually resupply your snacks here to get to Hanksville and maybe have just carried your dinners in. The one big issue is will they be open and will they have your package if you decided to send one. The store just opened a few days before we arrived and we had tried for several weeks to call to see if we could send a package with no answer and no return call. It's a tough call. You could get an open store and your package or neither. Good luck! Also, note the store has erratic hours and generally is only open a few hours a day. They just get told by someone how many hours to be open and it varies (note, apparently even if the store is closed you should be able to track down a package if you sent one).
Lastly, if you were thinking of hitching into Hanksville from Hite, the main road gets extremely little traffic. It could be a very, very long wait.
FYI, the backcountry permit in Canyonlands now costs $ 30 which is ridiculous. On the alternate it's unlikely to see a ranger in the 25 miles you are in the park and if I did I was just going to say I was going to night hike and camp out of the park. If you go the main route it will be tough to get a permit since you would have to divert to the Ranger station near the Outpost.
Hite to Hanksville:
The main focus of this section are the Red Benches and Dirty Devil river. The Class 4 chimney to the Red Benches wasn't a big deal and easier if you have a partner to hand packs up to (we did not need rope as Skurka mentions). Skurka's route through the Red Benches was great. The area isn't that confusing or technical, it's just that his route keeps you from doing a ton of up and down. The descent into Fiddlers Cove canyon was easier than expected. There was a cairn at the drop-off point.
I took the high water Dirty Devil alternate and am not sure it was worth it. I had read some notes about how awesome and easy Hatch canyon was and that there was a Fern Maiden spring. In reality the canyon was easy but slow as always, the Fern spring was a fern growing out of a rock wall dripping one drop per 2 seconds so useless and the climb out was a decent haul up. Plus it's twice the distance. I thought the Dirty Devil was going to be a lot of thrashing through brush but looking down it just looked like a winding slog through sand and of course fording the river many times. Since we had low water it probably would have been worth taking the Dirty Devil and not the alternate.
Also, the guidebook makes drinking the Dirty Devil worse than it is. The key is absolutely letting it settle overnight. It comes out as brown but that's the huge sediment load. After settling overnight I just transferred the mostly clear water to another bottle, treated it and surprisingly it tasted just fine. Maybe a tinge alkaline. The sediment left in the original bottle was amazing. Without the Dirty Devil it's a long 30 miles between sources. I had no issues drinking it.
The hitch into and out of Hanksville took less than 30 minutes each but we could have been lucky. There isn't much traffic on the main road so be prepared to wait. Hanskville is a pretty crappy town. Both motels are expensive for where you are ($ 75+). We stayed at the Hanksville Inn and it was acceptable to me but definitely would not be to my mother. Cable TV though and the owner was a nice guy. The other motel looked nicer but was maybe $ 10 more. There are only like 3 places to eat (Stan's was the best), the laundry at the RV park was broken and the small grocery store had been cleaned out Easter weekend and was pretty weak.
Hanksville to Escalante:
This is a very tough section. It's long, you've got the Henry's and a few good water hauls, but it's gorgeous. With the Official route you would resupply in less miles but because of 30 miles along the Escalante River it's probably the same amount of time for the alternate's about 135 miles.
The Henry's are 1+ tough day. 6,500' up and right back down. I hiked 10 miles out of Hanksville and camped at about 8,000' which was perfect to get over the Henry's the next day and down to about 7,000'. The locals said that it was a low snow year and I didn't have much snow to contend with although the short stretches I had to posthole through were exhausting. I brought microspikes but didn't need them. If there had been a lot more snow then I think snow shoes would have been necessary. When I did have snow I almost always was postholing and it's too long a stretch to time early when the snow is harder. The dirt road seemed to hold snow longer so sometimes taking off cross country was easier. It was insanely windy and seriously not a place I would want to be in a thunderstorm so be careful but if you can get over it's worth it. The views are incredible and it's a quintessential part of the Hayduke. Plus you might see a bison. Seriously!
After Tarantula mesa you descend to Muley Creek. From here for about 6 miles I found it to be confusing. The guidebook makes it sound like an easy bench walk with an old mining track but I never saw an old mining track and most of the walking was in and out of drainages. It wasn't terrible but more confusing than I was expecting.
Capital Reef NP and the lower muley canyon walk are amazing. Really amazing. The Burr road/trailhead does get some national park cars so hold out hope for trail magic. The climb up Red Slide to Circle Pass is also amazing (and slow!). I didn't have the free Capital Reef permit nor did I think I was likely to be caught or fined.
I took the Skurka mapped Escalante detour. He has the pros and cons laid out well. Personally, I think worse than the hitch on Hole in the Rock Road (HITR) is thrashing and fording the Escalante River for 30 miles. The alternate was nice enough although I'm sure the Hayduke is better. Harris canyon was particularly nice although after 10+ miles was tiring and I took the dirt road alternate out of there which took me up to a nice bench with great views and was an enjoyable walk. If you take the official route make sure you check the water levels of the Escalante in Spring. If the river is running high it's probably impassible with so many fords. In hindsight I think I would have stayed on the official route and not done the town detour. The detour has a long waterless stretch before Escalante (the troughs at Horseshoe/Colt mesa are now dry) (30+ mile carry) and after Escalante the first guaranteed water is 50 miles away at Hackberry Canyon (I had one tiny flow/pothole 1/4 mile before Death Ridge reservoir and that's it, without that it literally would have been 50 miles without water and that tiny flow isn't remotely guaranteed). Plus it is a lot of dirt road after Escalante. I think the official route would have been worth the thrashing for 30 miles on the Escalante river and hitching on HITR road.
A tip on hitching HITR. Hitch to town in the afternoon and back to trail in the morning. I walked HITR for 10 miles in the morning and about 10 cars were going to Hole in the Rock and only 1 car was going towards town.
Escalante was only ok although much better than Hanksville. The Prospector Inn is the cheapest in town (about $ 70) and the old woman owner was super friendly to us and seem to like Hayduke hikers. The attached restaurant has the biggest portions in town. Nemo's is also good and the smoked meat restaurant was a bit more pricey but smelled delicious. Also a Subway in the gas station. The grocery is decent. Not awesome but better than Hanksville and fine to resupply. There are 2 small outfitters with limited and random stuff. I couldn't get a pole tip or zip off pants but they had a lot of other stuff. Also a good thrift store if you need an extra layer for the upcoming Bryce section.
Escalante to Tropic:
See above for Escalante detour out of town and major water issue.
I found this section pretty easy. Other than the Escalante detour water issue noted above it was a lot of dirt roads until rejoining the Hayduke and then the canyon walking wasn't too hard.
Back on the official trail, the narrows in Round Valley draw are amazing. Hackberry canyon is a slow slog through sand until you hit water at mile 11 and then following cow paths through the canyon. All very scenic. The Paria is long and nice. About 1/2 way up the river turns muddy brown from the sediment and is undrinkable but there are occasionally good side streams coming in.
If you take the highly recommended Bryce alternate then you will walk through Cannonville about 5 miles before Tropic. There is an all in one gas station / market / Inn that has a small selection of food and stuff to microwave and good indoor seating to loiter for hours. They were very nice to us.
Tropic is super tiny and has 4 or more motels but only 2 restaurants, neither open for breakfast in April. I stayed at the national chain, Americas Best Value Inn for the now standard $ 75. The other places were about the same. It was nice enough and had cable TV and laundry. They also have the restaurant and the market which is an easy resupply although definitely a bit pricey for certain items (like $ 4.75 for pop tarts!). The other restaurant is a good pizza place. Not much else in town. I also suggest sending a package from here to Jacob Lake (call first to confirm) with food to get you from Jacobs Lake to the South rim of the grand canyon. You cannot resupply at Jacobs Lake (or see alternate resupply suggestion below).
Tropic to Kanab:
You absolutely must take the Bryce alternate unless you are early season and there is too much snow. Keep in mind that it's high up there (8,000-9,000 feet) and can hold snow for a while and/or be very cold. I had almost no snow on April 20 and nice cool weather but the day before I went through there was a wind chill factor of 16 degrees.
I also highly recommend changing up Skurka's route. Instead of taking the mapped Queens garden trail take the unnamed trail on the topo just to the west. This is the absolute best part of Bryce (it takes you into the Queens Garden proper). Take this to the Rim at Sunrise point, walk the Rim to Sunset point, descend on one of the Navajo trails, connect to one of the Peekaboo trails and then back up to the Rim at Bryce Point. This adds a couple miles but there is nothing like Bryce in this world so enjoy it.
At Sunset Point you are a mile from the visitor center where you can get the required permit, however there is a new major issue. Bear canisters are required and loaned for free except how will you return it? I wasn't carrying it to Kanab and mailing it back so I had a host of excuses ready depending on where I was caught and just stealthed my way through the park. Late April is still early season and I had no issues.
The Under the Rim trail is scenic through ponderosa pines and off and on good views of the Rim and cliffs above. It's also rather grueling as it goes in and out of a million drainages. The climb up to Rainbow Point is awesomely scenic. The rest to Highway 89 is fairly easy.
The spot where the trail hits Highway 89 isn't the greatest hitching spot but I did get a ride on the first car. Kanab is easily the biggest town since Moab. McDonalds, Subway and Pizza Hut but not too many good and cheap local places. Several motels at the junction with 89 and 89a and many more a 1/2 mile north. Most services are near 89/89a junction. Motels are slightly cheaper in Kanab at $ 50-$ 60. A pretty good outdoor shop and lots of other services. If you are totally opposed to hitching you can pretty easily skip Kanab and make it from Tropic to Jacobs Lake in one push. The grocery is like a real supermarket.
Kanab to Jacob Lake:
Resupply tip: I went from Tropic to Kanab to Jacob Lake. I bought food in Tropic and mailed it to Jacob Lake. In retrospect I would have rather skipped Kanab from Highway 89 and walked from Tropic to Jacob Lake and from Jacob Lake hitched the 30 miles to Kanab. There was a surprising amount of traffic at Jacob Lake even with the North Rim not yet opened. This would have allowed me to buy a week’s+ food from the great grocery in Kanab to get me from Jacob Lake to the South Rim instead of mailing a large flat rate box to Jacob Lake for $ 17 with non-fresh food bought at the more expensive store in Tropic.
From Kanab (Hwy 89) I walked 13 miles, illegally camped near the Wire Pass area and then woke up at 6 am and did "The Wave". You'll never get a permit for The Wave and you absolutely have to see it. I walked in, explored around and walked out over the Notch and never saw a single person. Do it!
The rest of the section is through fairly mundane but nice for a change of pace forest on the Kaibab Plateau on the Arizona Trail. Good trail, wahoo!! The Hayduke follows the Arizona Trail for almost 60 miles.
Jacob Lake is 2.2 miles off the trail and worth going to. A very good cafe, good baked goods and very limited snacks. You definitely could not resupply here for a week to the south rim but could supplement with some snacks or baked goods. Also a pay phone and sometimes wifi. No AT&T cell service but yes for Verizon.
Jacob Lake to South Rim Grand Canyon:
The Grand Canyon is the one and only permit you should really get for the Hayduke. You are in the GC for like 150 miles and there is almost no way you won't see a ranger at least once and I'm sure they will have zero tolerance for folks without a permit, even long-distance hikers. I'd highly recommend taking Skurka's advice and getting your permit in advance even if you can't predict the exact date. Getting the permit is a pain but once you have it it's easy to change. I got my permit in early March and ended up about a week behind my permit dates. From Tropic I called the GC and with a little prodding they quickly changed my permit over the phone and emailed me a new one. A few tips: First, they don't answer the phone all the time and they only answer calls M-F from 1-5. Second, there is no online system to see what is available for your week+ in the canyon and the permit needs to be filled in on paper and faxed in. This is a problem for such a long permit because the odds of getting the exact areas you want aren't great but you are flexible so if you knew what was actually available it would be much easier to map out your permit (the NPS is ridiculously antiquated sometimes). I called before sending the permit in to check what was available and got a cool ranger. Because it was a slow time when I called (March) and my permit was so long he checked all nights over the phone, we made a few small changes and then he reserved the permit in the system and then I faxed my permit in. This worked very well if you can at least call to check what you have planned before sending the permit in. Third, you will need the National Geographic TI map to plan your permit to see all of the camping quadrants. The GC website has a backcountry map that covers 89% of the areas users use but of course the Hayduke spends a lot of it's time in the other 11% so you can't actually see what quadrants the trail goes through for a lot of nights. (I did recommend to Skurka to add the quadrants to his maps so maybe that will be done at some point). Lastly, just do whatever it takes quadrant wise to get your permit. Once you are out there you can always camp in a closer or further quadrant without likely getting caught. Just having a permit that you are close to on schedule should be enough.
From Jacob Lake to the Nankoweep trailhead you are on the Arizona Trail (except the last 7 miles on dirt road). The AZT was a nice change of pace and there were a surprising number of water sources. With no cattle even the dirt ponds had drinkable water.
The rest of this section is tough especially if you have hot weather. I was there late April/early May and several of my days were 95 in the shade which means probably 115 or something in the sun and unhikable for much of the day. I was usually hiking by 6 and then a 4+ hour siesta and then evening hiking. However, I also did have a couple cooler days (like 80) where I didn't need the siesta. Since you are generally near the Colorado water was pretty good (except the last day or so on the Tonto) and I was drinking 2 gallons a day. Plus rafting parties will feed you if you are lucky!
The descent from 9,000' to 3,000' on the Nankoweep is pretty tough, especially in the mid-day heat. The "connector" from Nankoweep to the Little Colorado was brutal. Maybe I was just having a bad day but the 7 miles took me 6 hours. Getting a ride across the Colorado was fast for me although you could wait a few hours if very unlucky. The ford of the Little Colorado was crotch deep and easy. The Beamer trail was fairly easy compared to what I had just hiked and amazing. The Escalante "route" is all trail and while slow going sometimes, nothing too hard. The Tonto is fairly easy with one big climb to Horseshoe mesa although weaving in and out of every drainage gets annoying. The climb out on the S. Kaibab trail was pretty easy.
Overall, the section was slow going as the mileages in the Grand Canyon are almost certainly significantly understated.
I found the guidebook and others commentary about "exposure" to be a non-issue. I never felt there was any danger. sure there were places if you stepped a foot off trail you would fall and die but why would you do that! I just did less multi-tasking and paid a bit more attention to where my feet were landing. I never felt I was in any real danger.
The South Rim has a real grocery store. A bit pricey but a pretty decent resupply.
South Rim to Colorado City:
This is a long and brutal section. Easily the hardest of the Hayduke. About half the miles are dirt road miles and fast and the other half are mostly brutal miles.
The Bright Angel and North Kaibab corridor trails are nice and the walk out to Swamp Point is all dirt road and fairly boring. We did see 4 Bison up here. Seriously!
The guidebook does not understate the difficulty of the next 20 miles. If you've hiked a harder 20 miles I'd like to know what they were! Almost every mile in here is 1-1.5 mph walking pace.
Saddle canyon is insane. The bushwhack is pretty nasty and the plunge pools are crazy. I literally had to swim across one large pool and waded waist deep in several others. There are a couple of noted impassible pour offs with routes around and also some other fairly difficult down-climbs where we diverted around or at least had to hand down our packs. Make sure you have your pack lined with a trash compactor bag for the potential swim. Also a partner will be really helpful for carrying packs across the plunge pools (one person slides or drops in and gets pretty wet and then the other hands them the pack to carry across).
Tapeats creek is a mostly dry walk until the Tapeats Cave stream joins from the North. Then it is an extremely powerful raging creek. I forded mid-thigh deep about a dozen times and it was fine. I would not want to do a waist deep ford. There is also a 1/4 mile section where the creek is wall to wall and you have to walk in the creek. High water would be impossible and life threatening. Otherwise it's a super cool walk! The hike up to Thunder Falls is steep, but on trail and the falls are awesome. Your only respite is the easy walk across Surprise Valley and then down on rocky trail to Deer Creek.
Then it's a brutal boulder walk along the Colorado. There is a decent game/use trail for the first 1.25 miles and then it's a choose your own boulder adventure. Enjoy!
Finally, the 20 miles are done and you enter Kanab creek/canyon. From the Colorado to Showerbath spring it's a beautiful and slow walk but not terribly strenuous. Lots of creek walking and fording and navigating around truck and small house sized boulders. From Showerbath to Jumpup it's mostly rock walking in the dry creek bed. From Jumpup on I picked up a horse trail almost the entire way to Hack. Hack is also horse trail until the fence/gate and then it's all blazing hot road walking for a while across the Arizona Strip.
Colorado City to Zion:
This is a short and great section, although challenging at times.
Colorado City Alternate: I'd highly recommend the Skurka alternate. Walking through Colorado City and Hilldale is a trip, you can get food and drinks in town and the route out of CC was actually very, very cool (although also very, very sandy!)
Resupply Update: The market in Colorado City has been closed by the church. Several other options: A) Downtown CC there is a gas station with limited amount for resupply and a few hot items (corn dogs, etc), a pizza place and we were told a fried chicken place. B) 2.5 miles past the turnoff to downtown CC (continuing on main highway)there is the Merry Wives cafe (good food) and attached gas station convenience store with a slightly better selection that the one downtown. There is also a health foods store with a selection of dried foods you could buy. You can cut over to downtown and only add about 1.25 miles total. C) Couple miles before CC on the main highway you pass the community of Centennial Park. It is a short ways off the road (maybe 1/2 mile?) and we were told and read that a new market has opened or is opening up there very soon. D) My preferred method is to hitch the 25 miles west to Hurricane which is a largish town with good, cheap motels and lots of food. Other than Moab this was easily the best town on the trail as far as good food, resupply and good cheap motels. It was worth hitching back and forth.
Weeping Wall: Less than an hour after finishing I was at the Spotted Dog all you can eat breakfast buffet. Now, that's how you finish a trail!
The Hayduke Trail is an extremely challenging, 800-mile backcountry route through some of the most rugged and breathtaking landscapes on earth. Located entirely on public land, the trail links six of the National Parks on the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona with the lesser known, but equally splendid, lands in between them. Encompassed in the route are Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks as well as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and numerous National Forests, BLM Districts, Primitive Areas, Wilderness Areas and Wilderness Study Areas. The Hayduke Trail is not intended to be the easiest or most direct route through this incredibly varied terrain, but is rather meant to showcase the stunning Redrock Wilderness of the American Southwest.
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