Named after a character from Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, The Hayduke trail is an 850 mile long backcountry route that travels through some of the most scenic and remote terrain in the United States. It showcases some of the natural wonders of the Colorado Plateau region of the American southwest, linking together six national parks, as well as national monuments and recreation areas, state parks, wilderness areas, and wilderness study areas. Exclusively on public lands in southern Utah and northern Arizona, this out-of-the-way route will lead you through deep desert canyons, over high mountains, across rivers and ridges, always revealing pieces of the personality of this unique region.

The Hayduke Trail is unique among long-distance hiking trails; unlike the “standard” long trails, the Hayduke Trail does not go through many populated areas.  The route was created to intentionally avoid towns to give hikers a taste of real wilderness–when you’re out on the Trail, you are really on your own!

Hikers aspiring to walk the Hayduke Trail must do their homework: this isn’t a route that one can just begin without a lot of preparation–the route is about 850 miles long, and while it intentionally misses the towns that are sparsely spread throughout the Colorado Plateau, it does go through Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, the Grand Canyon, and Zion National Parks; it is broken down into 14 “sections” that are each a phenomenal hike by themselves.  Each section can be accessed by vehicle so the thru-hiker can place food and water caches to re-supply for the long trek.

The logistical planning for heading out on this route is complicated, but those who take the time to set up a through hike will be well rewarded by their experience.

As one of the creators of this amazing route, I’d be happy to help as you delve into the details and planning.

Hiking the Hayduke Trail

Hiking the Hayduke Trail

Mike is one of the creators of the Hayduke Trail, inspired by his need to go for a long walk in the desert after a relationship went sour; after brainstorming ideas for about a week, a walk from Arches to Zion, connected with the other three National Parks in Utah was suggested.  After almost a year of scouring maps, seeking sponsors, and planning, two of us headed out with a message: the public lands that the route goes through are under attack by governmental mismanagement, by over grazing, by an onslaught of out-of-control OHV use.  Our hope was that the more folks knew about this threatened land, the less likely they’d be to allow for it’s destruction–so we arranged for some media coverage about our 94-day long 1998 trek.

Soon came the suggestion: you guys should make this into a “trail”.  But we couldn’t use the route that we hiked in 1998; there were a few issues with private property, and how could we have a route that showcases the best of the Colorado Plateau without the gem of the region: the Grand Canyon?

In 2000, we both headed out again, this time for a planned 117-day exploratory journey starting in Zion National Park.  Spending over a month exploring the Grandest of Canyons, we finished the trek 101 days from the start, after eliminating the San Rafael Swell from our journey–simply too many issues with finding good water along the way.  Tales from that adventure are here:  Our announced intention of creating a thru-hiking trail did not fall upon deaf ears; when we returned from our journey, there was an offer in my mailbox from the University of Utah Press to publish a guidebook–and the rest they say is history!

We spent the next few years refining the route, taking suggestions from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance as to what sensitive areas we might want to avoid, and from experienced desert rats as to what areas need inclusion that we may have missed.

After a number of magazine articles and a guide book, I headed out by myself for a great adventure that’s chronicled here:

While I was the first to attempt a thru-hike of the Hayduke Trail as it’s described in the guide, I’m not sure that anyone has yet to accomplish that….good luck and happy trails!!

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