Hayduke Trail, One Section At A Time
For the past year my friends and I have been dreaming of the adventure that is the Hayduke Trail, an 880-mile journey from Arches National Park to Zion National Park by way of the Grand Canyon.
The problem we have is we can’t take off three plus months while we’re in school and working. So we’ve decided to section hike it.
The first section of the Hayduke Trail is a 40-mile adventure through a great section of backcountry in Arches National Park, through Moab, and onto a busy dirt road up Kane Springs.
In the Hayduke Guidebook it says to do this section in five days. We had to crush out the 40 miles in three days. This was a pretty good timeline for this section, but I wish we would’ve done it in four days instead. That would’ve given us a better chance to enjoy the scenery. At the pace we had, we would see something and have to say, “That’s pretty neat. We have a ton of ground to cover today so we can’t check it out.”
Also since we’re section-hiking the trail and not thru-hiking it we felt we could get away with pushing ourselves a bit harder than the book says.
DAY 1: A Long Day Through Backcountry Arches
We started in Salt Valley at the Arches boundary. This valley is relatively flat and the sunrise comes early. The bright light hit us at about 6:30 a.m. and lit up our little patch of ground forcing us to wake up (three hours after we arrived at the trailhead). It was time to go, so we ate our oatmeal, packed up the backpacks, and entered into Arches National Park.
As we wandered into the backcountry of Arches, the snowcapped La Sal mountains stood over the red rock desert and were amazingly beautiful.
We followed some 4×4 trails through the park, past some of the less-visited arches and bluffs for about half of the milage we were going to do that day. A few of the crew members (the fast hiking ones) pass the mark where we venture off road and have to start route finding.
Weaving through the brush and around the cryptobiotic soil took more effort than walking on the road, but this is where the beauty of the backcountry can be found. We dropped off these sandstone fins into a wash and found a twisting, narrow slot canyon with deep potholes of water. All the while the La Sals stood there as sentinel over the red rock desert.
The bottom of the wash was flowing with fresh water and each step we moved deeper into the wilderness.
However, 15 miles can take its toll, and no amount of beauty changes that. Finally we reached our camp destination at Sevenmile Canyon, and it was time to stop moving, cook some dinner and get some much-needed rest.
DAY 2: WHAT! This is in Arches National Park
Well, 9 a.m. rolled around, and we were all finally up and eating breakfast. What a lazy start! I guess that will happen when you only get three hours of sleep the night before and walk 15 miles.
With the late start, we had to book it through this section. Which I regret horribly because Courthouse Wash was amazing.
The sandstone walls are narrow. Courthouse Creek, at this time of year, was flowing strong, and the deep pools in the canyon were calling my name. As we continued through the canyon, the water had cut deeper into the sandstone and cascading waterfalls were everywhere.
I was blown away at the beauty of Courthouse Wash. I’d never heard of it, nor seen pictures. It’s amazing how you can visit a place so many times and still find adventure and exploration.
Courthouse drops back into civilization right where Highway 191 crosses the mighty Colorado River on the north side of Moab. From this point on, we were on a road. I don’t care much for backpacking through a town. It just feels unnecessary.
After another five miles, we arrived at our campsite just as the sun was going down.
DAY 3: Hayduke Trail Is Great, But My Achilles Tendons Hate Me
We got up much earlier on day three. We only had nine miles to go to the cars, all of it on a road. Electing to leave everything behind but water, food, first-aid and keys to the cars, we were able to crush the nine miles in three hours.
Kane Springs Rd. has some great sites and side canyons that I need to get back and explore. We saw tons of petroglyphs. There are quite a few great mountain biking trails in the area and 4×4 trails. Lots of fun to be found in this area of Moab.
The last two miles, my ankles had basically told me to give up, but I had to just keep going. When we reached the cars I could tell I pushed my legs a bit too hard and they would need some healing after this trip; but the fresh powder back in Salt Lake was calling my name.
We’ll be continuing with the Hayduke Trail soon. Section two looks to be a full-blown backcountry adventure as we get into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.