US South West

We have visited an area in the south west of the United States called the ‘Colorado Plateau‘ a number of times now. The plateau covers the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and southern Utah. It is characterised by high desert, deep canyons, steep rock cliffs, forests and vivid colours. For us the attraction is in the vast wild countryside that provides endless adventures for backpacking, exploring, hiking, scrambling as well as paddling and rock climbing. There are many signs of prehistoric cultures too: Ancestral Puebloan, including the ‘Anasazi,’ Sinagua, Fremont, and Cohonina. And thankfully much of the area is public lands such as National Parks, National Monuments and Wilderness Areas (although under some threat from the current Trump administration).

Listed below are our outdoor adventures- many with links to blog posts.

Autumn 2019

We visited California in Autumn 2019 and took a 10 day break to hike in southern Utah again from September 14th. We stayed in the Escalante catchment for another two excellent 4 day hikes covering some new territory for us.

Escalante – Bobsway and Stevens Arch

Escalante- The Gulch and Boulder Creek

Autumn 2018

We returned to southern Utah and the Grand Canyon in Arizona in October 2018 for more backpacking in this wonderful area.

Buckskin Gulch slickrock

Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks

Escalante – Bighorn Canyon, Harris Wash and the ‘Cosmic Navel’

Capital Reef NP – Lower Muley Twist and Halls Creek

Zion – Canaan Mountain traverse

Escalante – Scorpion Gulch

Grand Canyon North Rim Loop (Indian Hollow-Colorado River-Kanab-Jumpup Canyons)

Video summary of our 2018 hikes ( 9 minutes)

Autumn 2017

Back again to the canyons and high desert of the US south west in October 2017! We flew from Scotland to Las Vegas and rented a car with 3 and a half weeks to get out and backpack further into some new areas.

Canaan Mountain and White Domes loop north of Hildale

Escalante – Boulder Mail Trail-Death Hollow-Escalante-Brigham Tea Bench-Boulder

Capital Reef NP – Upper Muley Twist and the rim route

Grand Gulch area – East Slickhorn-San Juan-Slickhorn canyon loop

Dark and Youngs Canyons

Hackberry Canyon-Yellow Rock-Paria canyon

Video summary of our 2017 hikes (10 minutes)

Autumn 2016

Back 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.

Paria river backpack I

Paria river backpack II

Escalante – Death Hollow, Bowington and Boulder Mail trails

Escalante – Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons I

Escalante – Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons II

Escalante – Peekaboo, Spooky and Brimstone slot canyons day trip

Canyonlands National Park- Horseshoe canyon

Canyonlands National Park- Salt Creek backpack

Escalante – Farewell- Wolverine and Little Death Hollow canyons

Video summary from our 2016 hikes (6 minutes)

Spring 2014

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The Hayduke Trail is a 800 mile hike and scramble through the canyons of the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah and northern Arizona USA. Read about our trip on this wonderful route here…Hayduke hike

2009

We had 6 months in the USA in 2009 to mainly hike the wonderful Continental Divide Trail. We also managed a few short trips to the desert south west before after the CDT though…

Grand Junction CO – Colorado National Monument

Montrose CO – Dominguez canyon

Mesa Verda National Park CO

Montrose CO – Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP

Montrose CO – Dolores Canyon

New Mexico – Chaco Canyon

Arizona – Monument Valley

Canyonlands NP – Needles hikes

Moab UT – Slickrock trails mountain bike

Canyonlands NP – Islands in the Sky

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Chaco Canyon

2004

Our first visit to southern Utah and it was a bit of a revelation to us contrasting with the green and wet Scottish scenery. We did a number of hikes, scrambles and rock climbs…

Grand junction CO – Colorado National Monument

Moab- Kane Valley rock climbs

Moab – Negro Bill canyon

Arches NP – Off Balance Rock rock climb

Arches NP – Owl Rock rock climb

San Rafeal Reef

Goblin SP – Wildhorse Canyon – Crack Canyon

Capital Reef NP – Fern’s Nipple

Capital Reef NP – Sulphur Creek, Cassiday Arch

Capital Reef NP -Burro canyon, Rim Overlook trail

Escalante – Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls

Escalante – Coyote Gulch and Stevens Canyon

Escalante – Spooky and Peekaboo Gulches

Grand Gulch loop hike

Canyonlands NP – South Six Shooter rock climb

Canyonlands NP -Needles

Moab – Slickrock mountain bike

Moab – Fisher Towers, Ancient Art rock climb

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Ancient Art Fisher Towers

Moab – Castleton Tower rock climb

Grand Junction – Independance Monument rock climb

Telluride – Lizard Head peak

Bryce Canyon and Zion Parks

This post covers covers two day trips to famous National Parks in southern Utah; Bryce Canyon and Zion.

In Bryce we simply followed a few of the popular trails on a great crisp clear day with big rolling clouds.

In Zion we were looking for something to do on our last day of the holiday that avoiding the crowds. We succeeded as we didn’t see anyone else all day! Also we had a splendid day of slickrock, bushwacking, scrambling and a trail to the Deer Trap Mountain with great views down to Zion Valley.

See our photos from both trips here

 

Hayduke other links

Mike Coronella Co-founder of the trail and co-author of the guidebook.

Hayduke website Co-founder of the Hayduke Joe Mitchell’s website.

Hayduke Trail guidebook If you are thinking of hiking the Hayduke then the book is a must…

Across Utah! Jamal David Green’s excellent and extensive website describing his crossings of Utah with lots of Hayduke overlap. Also includes a superb Hayduke section. A treasure trove of information- nice videos too!

Grand Enchantment Trail Brett Tucker has created many other backpacking adventures in the south west including the G.E.T, the Northern New Mexico Loop and the Sky Islands Traverse. Each has a mapset and planning pack-superb!

Andrew Skurka Hayduke map bundle and resources pack.

Nicolas C Barth Sublime Hayduke photos and well described alternates with maps.

Michael Kelsey’s guidebooks These are wonderful guidebooks covering a lifetime of adventure on the Colorado plateau. ‘Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau’ is a must for inspiration and researching alternates but the others are great too!

Edward Abbey Writer, environmental campaigner and inspiration behind the Hayduke Trail.

Grand Canyon permits You will need a permit for your Hayduke hike through Grand Canyon National Park…..

Slot canyons of the American south west Lots of information on hiking the canyons.

Arizona Trail The Hayduke makes use of this trail for around 60 miles in Northern Arizona. The AZT continues all the way south through the state of Arizona for 800 miles.

Back to our Hayduke blog

Hayduke hiker links

These are some Hayduke trail accounts that we have come across, all of which make great reading. I have still to catch up the latest few…!

The Onion Garret Christensen Autumn 2020 Westbound Hiked in a (hopefully) unusual year with Covid-19 restrictions and at an incredibly dry time.

Endlesssummer Autumn 2019 Westbound

Bearlee Chronicles Spring 2018 Westbound

Kerrie and Ray- Thru we go Spring 2018 Westbound

Isaac Takes A Hike Autumn 2018 Westbound

Arlette Laan Spring 2017 Westbound Lovely photos and descriptions. Hiking with Prana and Haiku. Makes you want to get out there and hike!

Treehugger and Blisterfree Spring 2016  Westbound Two experienced desert hikers set out westbound March 31st from Arches NP and another excellent journal. Interesting comparison of Grand Enchantment Trail with Hayduke from the GET’s creator.

Carrot Quinn Spring 2016 Westbound From the author of ‘Thru Hiking will break your heart’ – Carrot and Dan’s 2016 hike.

Drop-n-roll Spring 2016 Westbound The two Kate’s hike in 2016 – including packrafts and a return to Moab by bike!

Katherine Cook Spring 2015 Westbound Superb account of a daring hike taking in many variations into wild terrain.

Erin Saver ‘Wired’ Spring 2015 Westbound Wired’s blog partly with Katherine and partly with Gavin. Another great trip account. Wired’s web site has lots of hiker info plus a link to a Hayduke introductory article written for Trail Magazine.

Niki and Tenny Autumn 2014 Westbound Nice blog and photos.

Lisa Curry and ‘KCop’ Autumn 2014 Westbound An enjoyable read of a recent hike on the trail in autumn 2014 with dog Shilo!

Spiderwoman and The Brawn Autumn 2014 Westbound Lots of detailed Hayduke tips in word document format.

Brian and Martina Spring 2014 Westbound This site! Our blog, photos and hiker tips including alternatives such as yellow rock and kayaking the Colorado from Moab to the Green River confluence.

Brian Tanzman ‘Buck30’ Spring 2013 Westbound Excellent account of his successful Hayduke hike with Skittles including detailed hiker advice.

Rich Larson ‘Skittles’ Spring 2013 Westbound Another excellent trail journal with Brian Tanzman.

Dirtmonger Spring 2013 Eastbound Part of a massive ‘Vagabond Trail’ hike including the Arizona, Hayduke and Grand Enchantment Trails.

Nicolas C Barth Autumn 2013 Westbound Sublime photos and alternates. Unlucky to be halted by a Grand Canyon park closure.

Pace and Whitefish Spring 2012 Westbound Nice trail journal from experienced hikers.

Cam Honan Spring 2012 Westbound Cam hiked westward on the Hayduke to the Grand Canyon south rim before continuing on the Arizona Trail and then the Grand Enchantment Trail to complete a ‘Southwestern Horseshoe’ route- sounds fun!

Ben Mayberry Spring 2011 Eastbound Part of a mega hike on the Arizona Trail, Hayduke, connection to the Continental Divide up to Canada to finish on the Great Divide Trail.

Sandra and Larry Taylor Spring 2011 Eastbound Great blog of a Arizona and Hayduke Trail journey plus more!

Pony Express Autumn 2009 Eastbound Enjoyable trail journal of Pony Express, Lindy and Sharon’s charity eastbound hike.

Andrew Skurka Spring 2009 Westbound Early February start. Andrew created a Hayduke map bundle and resource as a result.

Whiptail and Caron Spring 2009 Westbound Nice blog and paddled the Colorado for a few days from Moab.

Dave and Michelle Spring 2009 Westbound Their first long backpack and another great journal.

Ryan Choi Spring 2008 Westbound A classic! Ryan’s descriptive account with Ben Deumling and heap’s of detours.

Justin Lichter Spring 2008 Westbound ‘Trauma’ completed the first ever Pacific Crest Trail hike in winter 2014-15 with ‘Pepper’.

Shawn ‘Pepper’ Forry Spring 2008 Westbound With ‘Trauma’.

Mike Coronella Spring 2005 Westbound Co-originator of the trail and co-author of the guidebook with fantastic exploration. Lots of trail updates on the website.

Brian Frankle Autumn 2005 Eastbound
The first continuous Hayduke hike- and a great account too!

Back to our Hayduke blog

Hayduke notes- Bryce to Arizona

A short section but including two great highlights; Bryce Canyon National Park itself and ‘The Wave’, both via Hayduke alternates.

Bryce Canyon- In 2014 the park authority required a bear cannister to be taken for overnights in the park. If you are following the guidebook Hayduke then this might not pose a problem as you could probably just camp outside the park. But for us, hiking the extension via Cannonville, Tropic and the Bryce Canyon amphitheatre, this seemed a bit awkward, as not only would we have to carry the cannister but we would have to return it back to wherever we got it from.

We decided to hike the Bryce Canyon ‘Under the rim trail’ by dayhikes and used a connecting trail (Whiteman) to hike onto the park road and hitched back to Bryce campsite. It worked for us but might not suit everyone. 

The ‘Under the rim trail’ provided some great hiking, like the Chinese Wall on the Continental Divide but much more scenic! The amphitheatre area of Bryce Canyon is drop dead beautiful, but is pretty crowded whereas no-one seems to go on the ‘Under the rim trail’.

Section 9|21.6 Riggs Spring had water (12th May).

Section 9|31.2 Adams Spring had good water 20m right/west of the trail piped into an old bathtub (see pic).

We hiked from Adams Spring to Highway 89 and then hitched into Kanab so didn’t check any of the other water sources.

Section 9|50.9-58.5 Upper Buckskin Gulch There was no water in the bed of Buckskin Gulch, just some quicksand.

It is dry until Larkum Tank at Section 10|3.0 and even further if you visit ‘The Wave’. Although someone kindly stopped their jeep to offer us water near the Arizona stateline campsite but we didn’t need it!

Section 9|63.2 At the junction with Coyote Wash to Wire Pass (nice petroglyphs at ground level) we left our packs and sidetracked down Buckskin Gulch for an hour or so and it was well worth it to see a little of this acclaimed slot canyon. Maybe we will return…..

Nicolas Barth did a great looking complete alternate down Buckskin and the Paria and back to the Hayduke on the Kaibab plateau in a loop and has guidance on his site.

The Wave – Coyote Buttes alternate
Why Do it?

The Hayduke passes so close to this iconic landmark set in an amazing landscape it would be a shame to miss it. Defended by a rather impenetrable BLM permit system though!

How?
Section 9|63.7 We visited ‘The Wave’ in Coyote Buttes from just before Wire Pass. It was pretty easy to find although I think the BLM staff remove any cairns.

After ‘The Wave’, we then hiked out south, cross countrying up Sand Cove over ‘The Notch’ and then onto the jeep road in Arizona which can be easily followed north to the stateline campsite. The campsite has no water but I guess there would be scope for ‘yogi-ing’ some if desperate. The route over ‘The Notch’ required some scrambling and on the descent westwards we picked up trail after a while. A point to note is that the descent trail crosses a wash and climbs its bank on the south side before heading back down westward. The wash itself terminates in a steep drop off so is best avoided.

Kelsey’s excellent ‘Hiking and Exploring the Paria river’ guidebook notes excellent petroglyphs at ‘The Notch’ but unfortunately we couldn’t locate them quickly and were pretty keen to push on for a long day.

Back to our Hayduke blog

Next Hayduke notes – Arizona to Grand Canyon

Hayduke notes-Escalante to Bryce

The notes here are a bit sparse but include random info I wrote down on the way…

Section 8|2.9 Round Valley Draw narrows were great but had no water (5th May).

Section 8|11.2 Hackberry Canyon’s first water was here with small pools. Good flow down to Cottonwood Creek at Section 8|20.8.

Yellow Rock alternate
Why Do it?

This is a great little hike up above the canyons which we loved. It breaks up a long Hayduke hike following the bottom of Hackberry and Paria Canyons by climbing up onto the slickrock plateau above for extensive views and the best colourful rock this side of ‘The Wave’. About the same length as the Hayduke but maybe an hour or so longer. We got the idea from this Falcon guidebook.

How?
Section 8|21.1 Starts 0.3 miles south of Cottonwood Trailhead.
Section 8|24.8 Ends about 1 mile south of the Paria townsite.

(Westbound) Exit Hackberry Canyon to Cottonwood Creek where there is trailhead. Follow the creek down for about 0.3 miles to a box canyon on the right with a trail and cairns.

Follow the trail into the box and up the right (north) slope to the bottom of the very obvious yellow dome.

You can cross westward, south of the dome on slickrock but climbing to the top is a must (nice colours and views back up Hackberry).

Descend down south from the dome on swirly yellow slickrock to the large natural cairn.

From the cairn drop west then up slickrock to a north-south ridge. Follow a faint trail northward for 0.3 miles then it heads west, skirting round a small dome.

Keep on the trail westwards although it gets very faint for a while until it improves again to a junction with a north-south trail.

Turn left (south) and follow the good trail down through pinyon juniper. It eventually opens out to great views above the Paria. From there the trail drops down to the river level itself.

Back on the Hayduke….
Paria River
Section 8|30.1 Kitchen Canyon The water quality in the main river is pretty grim- silty and cow trashed. We took water from small fresh spring seeps about 1/3 mile up Kitchen Canyon which were ok but I am sure some of the other springs would be better.

Bull Valley Gorge – Willis Creek alternate
Why Do it?

The approach to Bull Valley Gorge has a big mountain, wild, feel to it and then the slot itself is grand, long and with some good scrambling. 

In short, an excellent little diversion. There is even a car jammed in the slot at the far west end.

Willis Creek is much more gentle and relaxed although again within some fine canyon scenery. The two are connected by a dirt road- ‘Skutumpah Road’. It’s a bit longer than the main Hayduke alternate following Sheep Creek towards Tropic though. You could also use Bull Valley Gorge as a way to connect with the standard Hayduke route into Bryce Canyon – lots of choices!

How?
Section 8|42.9 Split from Sheep Creek and take the left fork of Bull Valley Gorge heading west.

After about 1.5 miles, just before the gorge trends north, on your left/south there is a deep pothole in the slickrock full of water (see pic).

At the west end of the gorge, climb out on the north side, then follow a trail back right -east to the dirt road. Follow this ‘Skutumpah Road’ generally north eastwards to the Willis Creek trailhead. Nice spacious views to Bryce and Powell Point to the north.

If heading back to the common (and recommended) alternate of Bryce Canyon amphitheatre via Tropic, then turn right and head down Willis Creek back to Sheep Creek.

Back to our Hayduke blog

Next Hayduke notes – Bryce to Arizona

Into Bryce Canyon National Park

8th May Skutumpah Road to Cannonville 11.5 miles

 The temperature plummeted overnight and in the morning there was ice all over the tent. Temperature differences in the desert are mind boggling! We had a slow start before shuffling off in the cold sun on a dirt road through pinyon-juniper to Willis Creek trailhead. Although only a dirt road the panoramic views in the clear air to horizons lined with crisp new snow were superb.
At Willis Creek we headed down the mellow canyon eastward back to the main Hayduke route in Sheep Creek. The sun started warming us and we stopped to dry out the tent and sleeping gear soaking up the warm rays.
Hiking up Sheep Creek the canyon opened up but the clear post rainstorm air made everything look lovely this morning.
Willis Creek
Crisp air in Upper Sheep Creek

We soon hit jeep trails and roads and headed north to the town of Cannonville. We had left a food package for ourselves here a few days ago and were happy to collect that and book into the motel here for a night. There was a grocery at the motel and the nearby KOA campground had a great selection of Uinta brewery beers – enough for us to have a veggie Mexican meal outside the motel!

9th May Cannonville-Tropic-Bryce Canyon National Park campsite 18 miles
The official Hayduke route bypasses Bryce Canyon National Park (or at least the most famous part of it) so we decided to continue north and west into the park on a longer alternate.

A jeep track led from the town of Tropic to the National Park and then we were on trails from there. Bryce looked like NOTHING else on this planet! We followed the Queens Garden trail up through the magical ‘hoodoos’ (pinnacles of rock) onto the rim of the escarpment to where there is road access and lots and lots of people. After meandering around a national park campsite that is designed for cars and not hikers we eventually were able to book into the campsite and have some food outside the little grocery store cafe nearby.

Later on in the day we followed some more scenic park trails – the Navajo and Peek-a-boo. The crowds died down into the evening but the light was lower and the hoodoos looked even more vivid. Back to the tent and the luxury of a picnic table for a late dinner plus beers, biscuits, peanuts and crisps- great!

 

Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Ground squirrel in Bryce

 

Bryce Canyon

10th May Bryce Under the Rim Trail 21 miles
A mild complication of being in the national park was that there is a rule that we need to have bear canisters to protect our food when backcountry camping. Unfortunately we don’t have a means of getting a canister or if we did, returning it back, as we will be hiking south from here. We could have arranged to camp outside the park boundary – where the rules don’t apply – but we were not sure if the bears will conform to the rules though! But instead we decide to hike south from the park center where we are camped with daypacks and hitch back at the end of the day to the same campsite. Then hitch out the next day to carry on hiking where we will be able to camp the next night outside the park.

First though we had a luxury breakfast at our picnic table with real milk, yogurt and grapefruits. A nice couple from Michigan parked next to us gave us the grapefruits. They are ‘snow birds’ who have spent 6 winter months in Arizona’s ‘Sun City’ before travelling back to spend the summer in Michigan.

We set off with light backpacks along the Bryce canyon rim to Bryce point which has a wonderful panoramic view of the hoodoos. We then descended a wonderful trail through colorful clay and gravel beds onto the ‘Under the rim’ trail, soon reaching an area called the ‘Hat Shop’ -lots of pinnacles at the cliff edge with limestone boulders perched on top.

The trail was excellent, reminiscent of the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California. Lots of ups and downs, zig-zagging over ridges extending out from the pink cliffs of the rim edge. And then looking up to the escarpment it was like a better version of the Continental Divide Trail’s ‘Bob Marshall Wilderness’ section. Anyway – it was great!

Eventually we pull off the trail to climb up the escarpment to the park road. We hoped to catch a shuttle bus here back to the campsite but none appeared so hitching was required! We lucked out and got a great ride back from another Michigan couple in the back of their pickup truck.

Around 10pm a storm came through. We were at 9,000 feet here and we got dumped on by a huge amount of snow through the night along with gale force winds!  Our tent was sheltered to an extent in the tall ponderosa pines- but Martina spent most of the night shaking the tent to free it of snow- Brian slept through!

11th May Bryce 0 miles

We beat a retreat in the morning back to the park visitor centre then caught a bus 3 or 4 miles down to the town of Ruby’s Inn where we dried out in a motel.
Hit by a snowstorm in Bryce