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

Buckskin Gulch and slickrock

Saturday 29th September 2018 We drove our rental car today from Las Vegas eastward towards Utah and the colorado plateau. Made it to the town of Kanab – familiar to us from previous visits as well as being famous for its movie history – and then onwards to the dirt road over to Buckskin Gulch Trailhead for about 16:30pm.

Our intention as our warm up for this holiday was to hike down Buckskin to the Paria river and then do a cross country loop back north and west to the car via Long Canyon over 2-3 days. Buckskin is one of the best and most famous canyon hikes around being about 14 miles of pure beautiful narrow canyon before reaching the equally lovely but wider Paria canyon. We didn’t have a permit for camping in the canyons so that limited our overnight options somewhat to either camping short before the Buckskin narrows to a slot canyon or camping half way along Buckskin on the canyon rim scrambling up at a place called Middle Trail.  Time was against us for the latter so we set off for a relaxed evening hike down the initial part of Buckskin Gulch.

The evening light made for a mellow hike to help stave off our jetlag – down the sandy wash of Buckskin Gulch surrounded by swirling sandstone slopes. We left the canyon floor about 18:00 and climbed up to the east over some slickrock to find a great pitch for the tent. There was just enough time to explore the rocky slopes further above the tent before the sun set and it was dark quickly by about 19:30.

Fantastic pillow rock shapes in the sandstone as the sun set……

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Sunday 30th September 2018 We had a broken first night’s sleep still suffering from some jetlag. But it was a beautiful night with a bright moon lightening up the tent in the night and a stunning silence over the canyon. This was only broken by what I thought was a harley davidson buzzing by my head….it turned out to be a manic moth!

We hiked further down Buckskin Gulch in the morning and it soon closed in on us with lovely scooped red walls. Muddy marks about 3 meters high were signs of the last flood sweeping through here. The gully bed was surprisingly muddy too and we soon hit the first of many unavoidable dark pools. The confluence of canyons at Wire Pass gave us a bright sunny interlude before continuing down. But we were forced to wade muddy pool after pool with slippy silty slopes unseen under the water. We had visited this part of the canyon in 2014 and had a simple hike in dry conditions able to enjoy the fantastic scenery of the steep walled narrow canyon. This time was different with constant wading and mud…..so we turned around after about an hour and headed back to the open area where we had camped.

To save the day we chose to climb up the slickrock slopes to the east to the plateau above Buckskin Gulch and then head north through pinyon juniper forest to scramble back into Buckskin down some gullies. It was a fantastic little trip….

0930 096 DSC03759 back up buckskin cropped0930 200 DSC03762 slickrock above buckskin0930 202 DSC03763 slickrock above buckskin

 

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 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