Twig Adventures

Hayduke Route Summary & Stats

First and foremost, a huge thanks goes to Mike Coronella and Joe Mitchell, the creators of this route. Their passion and vision for exploring the Colorado Plateau was groundbreaking. Such a challenging and remote route was only made possible by the information generously shared by them and others that followed in their footsteps. There are some notable mapmakers and alternate-seekers that also deserve some accolades: Jamal Green, Andrew Skurka, Li Brannfors and Nic Barth. I also benefited greatly from information contained in many blogs and videos by these intrepid hikers: Buck30, Wired, Katherine Cook, Carrot Quinn, Constantine, Plants, and Samson the Bear.

Carrot appropriately described the Hayduke Route, as this: “Walk cross-country towards a canyon, over lumpy slickrock and/or sagebrush plateau with the occasional stretch of faded jeep track. Drop into said canyon, at one exact specific spot (this is the ONLY way into the canyon!) by climbing down loose rocks and boulders and/or a series of ledges. Once in the canyon, traverse the length of the canyon, wherein you will encounter any number of the following: boulder chokes, impassible pour-offs, piles of flood debris, impenetrable tamarisk, slickrock, narrows, caves, ancient ruins, cowboy trash, petroglyphs, poison ivy, potholes full of water, alkaline springs, non-alkaline springs, mini waterfalls, no water at all, gravel, loose deep sand, good hard-packed sand, walkable ledges, cruisy cattle trails, mud, quicksand, a river. Climb out of the canyon, via one exact spot (this is the ONLY way out of the canyon!!). Travel cross-country via lumpy slickrock and/or sagebrush plateau with the occasional stretch of faded jeep track, to another canyon. Repeat.”

Yet nothing beats the real-life visuals of a well-edited video. Fortunately, my fellow Hayduke hiker and accomplice, Worm, created an awesome series of his experiences. We both started from Arches on the same day, so he was only 1 or 2 days behind me for the first month, then about 3 days ahead of me through the eastern Grand Canyon. As such, videos 1-3 of his journey are an excellent proxy of my adventure, with most of the same routes, weather events and conditions. Since we hiked together for the rest if the route in the fall, I’m actually a feature in the second half of his series (videos 4-5). Thanks to him for all the hard work putting these videos together! They brought back many great memories and are a wonderful keepsake to be able to show others what the experience was like. Mike Windsor: Hayduke Trail Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6. You can also watch his video about our Bonus Hike through Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon, which was an alternate route of the Hayduke that we did as our reward for finishing.

As these videos and Carrot’s description highlighted, the Hayduke was a tough route, filled with a myriad of unique, rewarding, and unfamiliar factors. It seemed destined to push some to or beyond their limits, which was certainly the case for me. Even though the individual days weren’t as hard as I expected them to be, I think the few things that I was uncomfortable with here and there accumulated over time, making me feel overly anxious about challenges to come. An example is how I persevered through the floodwaters in Dark Canyon, only to become more worried and reluctant about upcoming creeks and rivers, especially those in the Grand Canyon. In the end, it was easiest just to concede that this year’s extreme snowpack involved too much risk, and that it was better to save the rest of the route through the Grand Canyon and Zion for when conditions improved. It also seemed prudent to heed the warnings of the the Grand Canyon Park Rangers and other hikers.

Ending at the South Rim to come back for the rest later was indeed a very good call, one that a few other Hayduke hikers made, as well. Yet this decision left me feeling very conflicted at the time. I couldn’t help the negative thoughts of feeling like a failure or unworthy of being part of the group that did have the will and tenacity to push to the end, some of the people I started the hike with. For the rest of the summer, I was left with a pretty negative outlook on the hike overall. This was unfortunate because in reflection, there were a lot of great moments that were overridden by the disappointment, mistrust and regret. Lots of solo time on new trails over the summer helped to build back trust and confidence in myself, preparing me to finish the route through the Grand Canyon to Zion.

In the end, I was actually thankful for the way things worked out. There were many advantages to splitting the hike into 2 segments. I was able to avoid the spring floodwaters in the Grand Canyon and to travel down Saddle Canyon…a route that none of the spring hikers were able to complete. Since it’s considered to be the hardest day on the Hayduke, I’m really proud to be able to say that I did it! This splitting strategy also eliminated the need to cache on the North Rim, plus I got to experience both the spring and fall seasons. In fact, if I had it to do all over again, I probably wouldn’t change much.

Best of all, I’m back to to thinking of the Hayduke as one of my best and most extraordinary hikes. There were plenty of rough times and major challenges, but overall it was a beautiful, unique, and gratifying experience. I’m so glad I stuck it out and finished strong.

Total Distance Hiked: 740 miles, plus 16 miles of aqua-blazing on rafts down the Grand Canyon. This figure was based on my daily totals that incorporated alternate routes and sometimes extra distances due to navigational errors or side-trips. My total came up a little short of the official route’s advertised length of around 800 miles because I skipped or took alternate routes for a few big chunks (alternate to avoid about 30 miles through Monday/Rogers/Navajo/Reese canyons, skipped section from AZT northern terminus to Jacobs Lake, then alt to avoid Kaibab Plateau, and I skipped the main corridor hike through the Grand Canyon). Of course, I more than made up for these distances in my bonus hikes around Escalante, Zion and the Buckskin Gulch/Paria River, which were not included in my total. These hikes (about 120 miles) included some alternate Hayduke routes, so I’m inclined to add them, which would then be a clean 860 miles. As such, I feel that I more than adequately put in the requisite time and distance on the Hayduke.

Dates: April 1st to May 12th, then September 29th to October 7th, 2023; plus a week for bonus hiking afterwards.

Duration: 44 official days hiking on the route, which includes 3 zeros

Average Daily Distance (w/o zeros): 18 miles
Longest day: 30 miles
Shortest day: 5.5 miles
Days hiking 15 miles or less: 14
Days hiking 15-20 miles:
Days hiking 20-25 miles:
Days hiking 25-30 miles: 5

Zeros: 3 (Hanksville, Escalante, Tropic), plus 1 week intermission doing side-trips around Kanab & Escalante. Also an intermission of 4.5 months before I came back to finish the route in the fall.

National Parks hiked through: 5: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Zion; plus Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Biggest elevation gain / loss in one day: up and down Nanokoweap Trail Day 32

Favorite Days: HayDay 1: Arches April Fools, HayDay 7: Druid Arch, HayDay 9: Two Easy Ways to Die in the Desert, HayDay 17: In Traction We Trust, HayDay 32: Nankoweap, HayDay 33: The Grandest of Days, HayDay 37: The Final Exam, and HayDay 38: The Colorado River

Least-Favorite Days: HayDay 22: Round and Round the Round Valley Draw, HayDay 28: Snow & Sand

Favorite Sections: Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Lower Muley Twist, Halls Creek Canyon, Stevens Canyon, Coyote Gulch, Hackberry Canyon and parts of the Paria, Buckskin Gulch, all of the Grand Canyon, the Barracks and other canyons in Zion.

Nights tenting on or near trail: 35.
Here’s more of a breakdown: 24 stealth sites, 7 permitted/designated NP backcountry sites, 7 sites directly in a wash, 8 sites near roads (never heard any vehicles go by), 22 nights next to a water source, 2 campgrounds (Needles Outpost/GC North Rim). Cowboy Camping: 1 night on a picnic table outside deserted Hite ranger station, another night in the Grand Canyon and one night in Teddy’s cabin (the only shelter I stayed in).
Nights camping alone or with only 1 other: 29
Nights camping with a group of hikers, rafters, or around other people: 6
Nights Spent at a Trail Angel’s place: 1
Nights in town at a hostel or motel: 9

Days seeing no other people: 5

Unexpected Reunions with hiker alumni: Plants CDT 18, Number 2 PNT 22

Towns/resupply points visited, in order: Moab (left a small resupply at Gearheads outdoor store/purchased food at City Market), Basecamp Adventure Lodge (water only, courtesy of lodge), Needles Outpost/Canyonlands (box mailed UPS/purchased some food/awesome hiker box!), Hite Marina (water & food bucket cached inside grate), Hanksville (extra food left at campground office), Burr Trailhead (food & water cache buried), Escalante (extra food left at Outfitters/purchased some food from outfitter, natural grocery and regular grocery), near Grosvenor Arch (food & water cache buried), Tropic (extra food left at motel/purchased some food from general store), Kanab (some food left in car plus 2 great grocery stores in town), South Rim GC/Flagstaff/Las Vegas (exited route for intermission), North Rim GC (resumed route in the fall), Hack Canyon reservoir (food & water cache buried), Colorado City (long stop at Bee’s Market, an awesome grocery store), Kanab/Page/Hurricane/Las Vegas (final ramblings and return home).

Resupply parcels mailed/cached/left in towns: 1/4/4

Longest food carry: 5 days (western Grand Canyon)

Best Food along the Hayduke: Escalante Outfitter’s pizza and salads. Kanab also had a variety of good eats.

Longest I went without a hot shower: 8.5 days, with plenty of dunkings in rivers, plunge pools, tanks, and even a sink shower in CO City. I also didn’t bother to do laundry from when I started at the North Rim until I got home over 2 weeks later, but hopefully the people next to me on the plane didn’t notice too much!

Precipitation on the trail: 1 night of very light rain (outside of Moab), 1 night with snow in the Henry Mountains, 1 very brief thunderstorm with grauple while walking across Tarantula Mesa, 1 night with medium rain from thunderstorms (Hackberry Canyon trailhead), short thunderstorms overnight along Tapeats creek, Thunderstorms and heavy rain overnight on the banks of the Grand Canyon near Deer Creek

Campfires enjoyed: 1…the last night along the Virgin River. Generally I don’t like making fires in the SW because of the risk, plus lack of fuels and extinguishing water. Though I gotta admit, a little extra warmth would have been REALLY nice a few nights!

Injuries: Miraculously, my worst injury was a stubbed and bruised toe and later I hurt my hand when I slipped and fell the only time the whole journey on a flat part in Saddle canyon. There were also plenty of cuts, scrapes, and bruises from bushwhacking and scrambling, but all very minor, considering. I got worse injuries bushwhacking on the PNT and Bigfoot Trail.

Times the mosquitos were really bad: never…I think I saw 2 mosquitos the whole trip!

Animals sighted/signs/noises: a herd of 30 bison in the Henry Mountains, bighorn sheep in Muley Twist canyon and the Grand Canyon, mule deer, jack rabbits, cotton tails, coyotes, 1 bullsnake, toads/frogs, thousands of lizards, turkeys, Mexican spotted owls, Great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, ravens, Harrier hawk, turkeys, black widow spider, tarantula, black-necked stilt in Kanab creek, white pelicans flying over the Arizona Strip. Pettings: 250 lb African tortoise, cow, horse, goats, dogs, cats. I didn’t see a single rattlesnake!

Times I wished I carried a gun or bear spray: 0

HDT sections not hiked: about 5 miles of road/wash walking from Needles Outpost to the Salt Creek Trailhead in Canyonlands, about 11 miles from the Sundance Trailhead to Hite, did not connect footsteps on the in and out of Hanksville and Escalante (resumed from alternate points), Skumtumpah road walk into Tropic (about 15 miles), about 30 miles from Wire pass to Jacob’s lake (hiked during my AZT thru) then another 15 miles to where I picked up the alt to Nankoweap, raft hitch from Nankoweap to the Little Colorado, South Rim to the North Rim main corridor (hiked during my AZT thru), 2 miles of hwy walk into Colorado City, and section from the hwy to Weeping Wall in Zion, due to the 2018 landslide)

Alternates taken: Devils Garden Arches National Park, Great Wall, Jackson Hole, The Boys Canyon, Jamal Green’s Mushroom ridge alt near upper Lockhart Canyon, side trip to the Colorado River Bend, Jamal Green’s best route through Canyonlands (see the map he provides), side-trip to Druid Arch, Ruins Park road to Beef Basin (instead of Butler Wash), lower low route around the Henry mountains to Pennellen Pass (a dirt road walk that was made-up to avoid higher elevations), Below Tarantula Mesa alts, Halls Creek/Baker/Stevens Alt, Right Hand Collet Canyon alt from Devils Garden Hole in the Rock Road, Hackberry Canyon upper canyon, Yellow Rock, Bryce Extension, Grandview Trail, low elevation House Rock road to Nankoweap, South Kaibab up to the South Rim, road walk into and out of Colorado City.

Hitches & pre-arranged rides from Trail Angels: Debbie–Kanab to St George, Plants–rides around St George, Kent & Sheila–Green River to Moab, Leah–Moab to outskirts of town, Mangesh & Sanjana–Tesla ride from Arches entrance to Devils Garden TH, Jill & Sarah–Needles Outpost to Salt Creek TH, Allan & Jeff & John–packrafters whose van we shuttled from the Sundance Trailhead to Hite, Cory–ride into Hanksville, Connie–ride out of Hanksville to Little Egypt, Tom–Hurricane wash to Escalante, Emily–Escalante to Devils Garden along Hole In The Rock Road, Yeti & Lemstar–Skutumpah Road end to Tropic, Woody–Buckskin Wash to Kanab, Steve–Escalante to Boulder, Michelle–Kanab to Buckskin wash, Joan Ted & David–Wire pass to Kanab, Tom–Kanab to 15 miles east of Jacob Lake, Leah–South Rim to Flagstaff, Jon–Pinecrest CA to Phoenix AZ, Raj–Phoenix to North Rim, short ride into Colorado City, 2 different rides from Checkerboard Mesa to Kanab storage lot, Worm–rides in his van for most of the rest of my travels… Kanab to Page to Lees Ferry then back to Kanab Zion and Hurricane, Sky and Leah for a shuttle to Wire Pass and around Zion then to Las Vegas.

Trail Angels (in addition to those that give me rides): Jolly Rancher, Plants & Kay, Tom @ Basecamp Adventure Lodge, Amber & Caleb @ Needles Outpost, Mojo & Wiley, Steve & Page & Margay, Lemstar & Yeti, Jared JJ Giveaway @ Annies Place B&B, Monty and company…1st raft party on the Colorado River, Jon Peters (my #1 Trail Angel), Dave and Company…2nd raft party, Sky and Leah who left us a bonus cache at hwy 89 before Colorado City, Jeeople who gave us water and a Whiteclaw outside of Zion.

Hayduke Hikers Met: 21, Leah, Sky, Adrian, Stickers, Why Not, Cache22, Wolverine, Mac, Legit, Trailcrew, Uncle Donn, Emily, Lemstar, Worm, Woody, Fancy Feast, Double Happiness, Weekend at Bernie’s, Mimi, MountainDog, Silver Bullet (who I met while hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail).

Gear: For the spring, my gear was similar to what I carried on the AZT, GET, and MRT. See my gear list here. In the fall, I stuck with my lighter summer kit, which I still had on me after transitioning from California. This included my frameless and hipbelt-less Waymark pack. It was a stretch to use such a lightweight pack to carry 5 days of food and a lot of water, but I made it work.

Shoes: 1 pair of Altra Superiors 4.5’s from Arches to the South Rim. 1 pair of Altra Superior 5.0’s from the North Rim to Zion…I had been wearing that pair on the PCT and TRT from Mt. Shasta all the way to Sonora Pass.

Least used items: my PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)…carried the whole way, never used…but that’s a good thing. I also only used my rain skirt once. But my umbrella was perfect for some really hot days in the Grand Canyon and on the Red Benches. I was VERY glad I carried it.

Gear lost/failures: Fortunately, I didn’t lose anything major on this trip. My clothing took the biggest beating, but it was all stuff I had worn on other hikes and was pretty beat up to begin with. This was my black HMG Hyperlite pack’s 2nd trip. I have the one with the mesh pockets, which I expected to be a bad thing on this rough and thorny trail. It did get some tears in the mesh but not as many as I expected…still a bad design and I hate the side pockets on that pack.

Here is the list of all my Hayduke posts:

2023: Introducing the Hayduke T̶r̶a̶i̶l̶ Route
HayDay 0: Ramblings
HayDay 1: Arches April Fools
HayDay 2: The Great Wall
HayDay 3: Tom and the Tortoise
HayDay 4: Lockhart Basin
HayDay 5: The greatest diving board into the Colorado
HayDay 6: Canyonlands
HayDay 7: Druid Arch
HayDay 8: The Song of the Canyon Wren
HayDay 9: Two Easy Ways to Die in the Desert
HayDay 10: Making Shade
HayDay 11 & 12: Hanksville
HayDay 13: Up into the Mountains
HayDay 14: All the Weather
HayDay 15: Muley Twist
HayDay 16: Halls Creek
HayDay 17: In Traction We Trust
HayDay 18 & 19: Escalante
HayDay 20: Right Hand Collet
HayDay 21: The Ways of Water
HayDay 22: Round and Round the Round Valley Draw
HayDay 23: Beautiful Hackberry Canyon…Sin Vacas
HayDay 24: Yellow Rock, Paria River and Bonus Stuff
HayDay 25 & 26: Tropic
HayDay 27: Bryce
HayDay 28: Snow & Sand
HayDay 29: Kanab
Hayduke Intermission #1
HayDay 30: Pieces to Arizona
HayDay 31: The Grand Chapter
HayDay 32: Nankoweap
HayDay 33: The Grandest of Days
HayDay 34: Canyon Flowers
HayDay 35: A Grand Finale
Hayduke Intermission #2 and Bonus: Highpoint Substitute
HayDay 36: The North Rim
HayDay 37: The Final Exam
HayDay 38: The Colorado River
HayDay 39: Rafting and Hiking
HayDay 40: Slowly up and out
HayDay 41: A Cache and Pool Party in the Desert
HayDay 42: Colorado City
HayDay 43: The Barracks
HayDay 44: Zion, the Promised Land and the Finish
Hayduke Bonus: Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River
Hayduke Bonus: Zion Canyon & The Subway, Zion National Park
Hayduke Summary & Stats

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