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Length: Approximately 800 miles
Time to hike: 2-4 months depending on pace
Northern terminus: Arches National Park
Southern terminus: Zion National Park
Highest Elevation: Mt. Ellen in the Henry Mountains at 11,419 ft
Lowest Elevation: Grand Canyon at 1,920 ft
Total Ascent: 51,346 ft
The Hayduke Trail (pronounced hei dook) is a series of trails through rugged terrain along the Colorado Plateau in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. This unforgettable trek lies solely on public land and ventures into six National Park’s including Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and Zion.
Most of the trek consists of rough, sandy terrain, canyons, washes, and sun-drenched landscape in climates ranging from 100+ degrees in low elevation areas to freezing temperatures at high elevations.
It's a stunning, yet challenging trail reserved for experienced thru-hikers.
Planning Your Thru-Hike
WHEN TO GO: Timing, Weather and Seasons
The two best times to hike the Hayduke are in the Spring (March-June) or the Fall (August-November), though each comes with its own set of challenges.
If beginning in the Spring: there’s a greater chance of water runoff from winter, so prepare for this at river crossings. You’ll also be working with hot mid-days, which are notorious for pushing most hikers late into the evening when the days begin to cool off.
If you begin the hike in Fall: you’ll have to account for cooler temps and shorter days, but on the plus side you won’t be facing as many bugs, and most of the snow at the higher elevations is likely to have melted off.
Whichever you choose, it’s best to avoid hiking in the hazardous conditions that come along with summer’s scorching heat and winter’s heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.
TRANSPORTATION: Getting to the Trailhead
Many hikers choose to start the Hayduke by flying into the Moab airport and then walking directly from the airport to the trailhead which begins a few miles away. It’s an easy jaunt and no shuttles are necessary. Just head south on Highway 191 from the airport until you reach a sign for Klondike Bluffs Trail.
From there, follow the dirt road until you reach the trailhead sign. Continue past the Marching Men formation, and the trail begins a few miles up. Also, many hikers enjoy Devil’s Garden as a start over Salt Valley because it’s easier to reach and has some stellar scenery.
Another nearby town with flights is 42 miles away in St. George, Utah. The trailhead for the Northern Terminus lies about 20 miles north of the city of Moab. You’ll need to catch a ride there since there are no shuttles to the start of Arches along the end of Salt Valley Rd. However, once you finish the trail at Weeping Rock, there is a shuttle through Zion that can take you to the visitor’s center.
DIRECTION TO GO: Eastbound or Westbound
If setting out to complete the hike in one go, it’ll be easier to hike the trail westbound because you’ll encounter less snowfall by the time you reach the later sections of the trail which sit at higher elevations. Also, there’s a lot of scrambling up and down canyons and the trail is more doable going westbound. However, if you only want to do a section of the hike, there are portions you could complete by hiking eastbound.
NAVIGATION: Maps and Apps
The Hayduke is not so much a trail, but more like a series of routes that pass through all kinds of terrain including canyons, deep sandy waterways, and high elevations with snow. Expect bushwhacking.
Since the trail isn’t clearly marked you’ll want to print off maps ahead of time. Andrew Skurka’s maps are a great option. You can also bring along a guidebook or download topo maps or GPS apps that you can use on and offline, and it’s a good idea to pack a solar panel charger.
The trail’s connected by about 80 miles of the Arizona Trail (AZT), which is a trail that goes through Utah and even parts of Mexico. Being a trek with minimal to no cell service, a SPOT device (Satellite safety device) would be a good investment.
GEAR: What to Pack
On this hike, expect to experience long stretches between civilization and dramatic weather changes.
Expect the weather to change rapidly. Cool mornings turn into hot days that dip again once the sun sets. Elevation also plays a role, especially when climbing from the bottom of the Grand Canyon up the North Rim.
You’ll want to layer up on clothing, so it’s easier to adjust to the temperature change. Choose breathable, UV-resistant pants and long sleeve shirts will help protect against excessive sun exposure and any run-ins with prickly shrubs.
2. BIG THREE
With cold temperatures at night, hot temperatures during the day, and long stretches of trail without access water or resupplies, you'll need gear that'll help you go the distance, namely:
Sleeping bag: At least a 15F sleeping bag for chilly nights.
Backpack: A pack capable of carrying at least 4-5 days’ worth of food. Aim for at least a 40L bag.
Shelter: Being a predominately desert hike, there aren’t as many opportunities for hanging hammocks. A UL tent or a tarp setup works better for this environment, not to mention they provide much-needed shade from the sun if taking a midday siesta.
3. OTHER GEAR
In addition to your basic gear, you'll need a way to purify water (and a few packs of water treatment tablets for emergencies). You may also want to consider a 50-70 ft. rope to use for hauling your pack up cliffs or lowering it down into canyons.
Another suggestion is to invest in a pair of durable, lightweight, nylon gaiters—a favorite among desert hikers to help keep sand out of shoes and serve as additional protection against brush, thorns, animal bites, etc.
WHERE TO SLEEP: Camping and Accommodation
With weather, expect sunny days with sparse clouds most of the time, but you’ll still want to keep a lookout on the surrounding weather.
This will be especially important when choosing where to sleep for the night, being that much of the trail doesn’t have established campgrounds. Flash floods are rare, but even still they’re a serious threat in the Southwest, and when rapid rainfall occurs you want to be sure you’re sleeping somewhere on higher ground to avoid areas where washouts and flooding are possible.
For hiking through the National Parks you’ll be required to have a backcountry permit. You can find further information about permits here:
|Arches National Park 84532
|Canyonlands National Park (Needles District)
|Capitol Reef National Park
|Bryce Canyon National Park
|Zion National Park
|Grand Canyon National Park
|Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
|Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
HOW TO RESUPPLY: Food and Towns
The trail is very remote, with some towns stretching over 150 miles from one another. Since direct access to roads from the trail is so rare, there’s only a handful of towns you’ll pass by where you can resupply, grab a bite to eat, or rest.
To resupply, caching food and water at certain points along the trail is an option. You can do this ahead of your hike by storing food and water in odor-free bags and hard-shell buckets and then hiding it in nearby bushes or behind rocks at certain points along the trail. For added protection against natural elements or animals getting into your supplies, you can bury it at least 2-3 feet below ground. To keep track of your resupply spot's you can take pictures of each one and either mark the locations on a paper map or by setting GPS waypoints.
If using this method, just be sure to follow good Leave No Trace principles and return to your waypoints to pick up your supplies after you complete the trail if you miss a pickup.
B. RESUPPLY POINTS
The only major town you’ll walk through is Moab, UT, but there are a few small towns in Utah you can hitch to (Hanksville, Tropic, Kanab, Big Water, and Page) and in Arizona (Jacob Lake and Colorado City).
Below is an overview of resupply options and distances:
In Moab, you can pick up pretty much anything you might want or need. There’s also a hostel called the Lazy Lizard Hostel that is about 5 miles off the trail on the southeast side of town. It’s a super friendly place to camp for $10/ person with showers. (30 miles)
Once in Canyonlands, the Needles Visitors Center is about 3 miles off the trail. Here you can stock up on water and small snacks. (85 miles)
Hite, Utah is about 153 miles with a place called the Hite Outpost where you can pick up water and snacks. It’s not the best resupply spot, but they will accept packages. You could also try to hitch into Hanksville, Utah, but it’s over 50 miles.
The Hayduke crosses US Route 95 about 30 miles later (mile 180), making the hitch to Hanksville only 20 miles. Hanksville is a great resupply spot where you can get a burger and shake at Stan’s Burger Shake, or homemade margaritas and a burrito at Outlaw’s Roost. The owners, Doug, and Katie are hiker friendly and will let hikers charge their electronics and camp either behind the restaurant or on their property.
After the 26-mile walk along the Escalante River, Hole-in-the-Rock trailhead (mile 310) is 30 miles from the town of Escalante—another resupply spot where you’ll find hotels and Airbnb’s.
Near mile 440, Skutumpah Road is a less traveled road but still could hitch north into Cannonville (9miles off-trail) or Tropic (14 miles off-trail).
Crossing mile marker 489 is Route 89, which is much more popular. At this point, you are 47 miles from Page, AZ, a city with multiple hotels and a Walmart. The other option is to head west to Kanab, UT, which is more touristy with pricier hotels and several convenient stores. You could also try to connect with the Arizona Trail angels on their website for a hitch or place to stay. (www.aztrail.org under Trail Stewards)
Entering Arizona on the AZT is a 2,800 ft climb for 40 miles to Route 89A. Jacob Lake is a 6-mile hitch west where there are convenient stores and hotels. (mile 530)
After descending into the Grand Canyon via Saddle Mountain on the northeast side (mile 568), follow the Colorado River and connect the Tonto Trail to South Kaibab Trail. From there you can climb 5 miles out of the canyon to go to the Grand Canyon Village to resupply at the store or continue the descent through Phantom Ranch, where you can purchase snacks at the store.
The North Rim General Store (mile marker 650) is a quarter-mile off the trail and is another hotspot for resupplying.
A longer food carry can get you to AZ 389, only 2 miles south of Colorado City. There you can hitch 5 miles into town for a full local grocery store that has an electric plug outside near benches (mile 760).
WATER: Staying Hydrated on the Trail
How much water you encounter through canyons will depend on the precipitation for that year and the season in which you’re hiking.
Sometimes the trail will be bone dry, while other times you’ll find areas where you're surrounded by water and will need to wade or trudge through it.
When it comes to hydration needs, there are long sections (30+ mile spans) where freshwater is scarce, so you’ll want to always carry at least 3-5 liters of water with you to stay hydrated until you come to the next clean water source.
Dark Canyon is one of the more reliable spots for water.
As with most hikes, it’s always recommended to filter your water first, and it’ll be helpful to have a plastic baggie or bottle to scoop water out of small, shallow puddles before filtering it.
The Hayduke trail passes close by many cattle ranches and farmlands, and there’s a lot of alkaline water in the area, which because of its improper pH balance can lead to gastrointestinal issues if drinking it in large quantities.
RIVER CROSSINGS: A Word of Caution
There’s a point in the Grand Canyon where you’ll need to cross the Colorado River to continue the trail. You won’t want to swim here—the river has some serious currents. But, it’s common for hikers here to wave down rafters for assistance. If hiking in the off-season, the chance of flagging down a ride can be hit or miss.
The Hayduke trail winds through six National Parks and is divided into 14 sections.
Section 1 (39.7 miles): Passes through the Arches, home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. After 40 miles to Hurrah Pass, the trail follows the outer part of the Needles side of Canyonlands for 47.1 miles—expect rock scrambling over small canyons and washes.
Section 2 (47.1 miles): Next, you’ll slope down along the Colorado River and follow it until reaching the Lockhart Basin. Then the trail dips to Rustler Canyon and into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This section ends at Big Spring Trailhead.
Section 3 (67.9 miles): At nearly 70 miles, this part of the trail passes through Elephant Canyon, Grabens, Cyclone Canyon, Red Lake Canyon, and then Butler Wash into Beef Basin. Here, hikers will pass through Dark Canyon, a cool spot with surrounding layers of rocks and fossils. You’ll end this section of the trail by following along a dirt road that leads to Hite, Utah.
Section 4 (35.8 miles): The shortest overall, this is the first time you can expect to get your feet wet because you’ll be walking through the Dirty Devil River for about six miles. Leaving the river canyon has petroglyph panels, so be sure to keep an eye out!
Section 5: (48.9 miles): This portion ascends to Mount Ellen (highest point on Hayduke). This view captivates the southwest with beautiful views of red rocks and steep, jagged mountains. The descent out of the Henry Mountains brings you into Capitol Reef and the start on section six.
Section 6 (72.5 miles): The most challenging yet rewarding section, this stretch follows along the Escalante River. If you’re lucky, you might even see some bighorn sheep hanging out high on the rocks. Just before exiting the 26-mile walk along a river, be sure to watch for Stevens Arch.
Section 7 (80.8 miles): Hole-in-the-Rock trailhead is the start of section seven that climbs up to overlook the Kaiparowits Plateau. This section connects one wash after another, so monitor the weather and be aware of potential conditions that could lead to flash floods. Last Chance Creek holds to its name and often has water (but be sure to check ahead on the trail, this isn’t guaranteed). Along the road walk, you’ll also get to see the Grosvenor Double Arch and Round Valley draw.
Section 8 (49 miles): This is on the west side of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, where slot canyons are more frequent as you close in on Bryce.
Section 9 (66.3 miles): Goes through Bryce and connects Buckskin Wash to the Arizona State line trailhead.
Section 10 (60.9 miles): Starts at the Northern Terminus of the Arizona Trail (AZT) and follows an established trail ascending through southwest juniper trees. This ends with Saddle Mountain and begins the descent into the Grand Canyon.
Section 11 (47.1 miles): Nankoweap Trail starts off this section, which will take you to breathtaking views leading towards the Colorado River. It’s important to be prepared to wait for some time until rafters float down the river to get a ride to the west side of the canyon. The Little Colorado’s brilliant turquoise blue hue comes from calcium carbonate minerals in the water.
Section 12 (34.9 miles): Continuing along the Colorado River, section 12 has the Tonto West trail connecting with the South Kaibab Trail and heads to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon (lowest elevation on the Hayduke).
Section 13 (87.3 miles): The North Rim starts section thirteen and goes to Hack Canyon, which is on the northwestern part of the Grand Canyon. There may be snow in this section and beware of the slick limestone that drops back into the canyon. Exiting Hack Canyon begins the last section of the Hayduke trail to Weeping Wall in Zion.
Section 14 (69.9 miles): The trail ends with drastic, vertical drops into the East Fork of the Virgin River. After climbing out of the gorge, known as Fat Man’s Misery (because it’s extremely steep and narrow), you’ll go over Cable Mountain, down into Echo Canyon, and enter Zion Canyon where the trail ends at Weeping Wall.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Fastest Known Time on the Hayduke?
Trail adventurer and route guide Andrew Skurka completed the Hayduke trail in a record-setting 32 days in 2009. To date, this is the fastest recorded completion of the trail.
What does the name "Hayduke Trail" come from?
The Hayduke trail is named after the fictional character George Washington Hayduke from author Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang as a tribute to the author’s passion to protect America’s public lands. As for the founders of the trail, that’s thanks to two Utah locals named Mike Coronella and Joe Mitchell, who spent the late 1990s and early 2000s setting out on various trips to explore the region.
What is the movie Figure It Out on the Hayduke Trail about?
In 2019, Alex Maier created the documentary of his Spring 2018 experience on the Hayduke. It captivates the beauty and hardship he faced while completing the trail.
Are dogs allowed on the Pinhoti Trail?
Yes, dogs are allowed on the trail. It is recommended that you have them leashed and are aware that you will encounter loose dogs on the road, walk portions of the trail.
How many deaths have occurred on the Hayduke Trail?
There are no recorded deaths to date on the Hayduke Trail.