The Hayduke Trail is a challenging, 800-mile backcountry route on the Colorado Plateau. It traverses six national parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Zion), a national recreation area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and vast wilderness and primitive areas. Named for a fictional character in Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, the trail begins in Arches National Park and ends in Zion National Park, stays entirely on public land, and travels the complete variety of terrain available to hikers on the Plateau short of technical climbing.
-From the back of The Hayduke Trail Guidebook written by Hayduke creators Joe Mitchell and Mike Coronella.
I first found out about the Hayduke Trail after visiting Moab in the spring of 2013 and I knew immediately that I wanted to return to the area for an extended hiking trip. I’ve never seen anything like that landscape before, and I’m dazzled by even the thought of 800 miles of hiking through it. Looking at the map above, you’ll notice the route takes long curving swoops well out of the way to visit yet another fantastic place on the way to Zion from Arches. Not direct, but it’s art! In fact, it’s 310 miles by car to drive Arches National Park (where the route begins) to Zion National Park (where it ends). That’s a measly 5 hours in a car. I’ll take around 2 glorious months to make the journey. That’s about 60 days, or 1440 hours, or 86400 minutes, or 5,184,000 seconds. (Side note: if yous tart counting from 1 and count once a second from when I leave until one I get back, you’ll only have counted 5,184,000 times! That’s not so many. You can do it.)
The Hayduke Trail travels through the Colorado Plateau, a geophysical region in the Four Corners area of the Southwest US. The area is known by it’s nickname Red Rock Country because that’s it in a nutshell: red rocks, exposed for all to see. Most of the Colorado Plateau is drained by the Colorado River, which I will cross within the first couple weeks of the trip and then cross again weeks later in the Grand Canyon. The travel is slow, mostly trail-less, and often follows the natural physical features of the landscape: canyons and washes, up and over mesas or across slickrock (ie Navajo sandstone).
The region is a geologically and historically rich. Archeology sites are scattered throughout, leave-behinds of the Puebloan People who lived in the area over 2,000 years ago. More recent events have left a mark as well: many of the ebbs and flows of industry in the west are evident in old mineshafts from the Uranium days, cowboy camps, and early expeditions into the canyons. (I almost decided bring along John Wesley Powell’s account of his first-white-guy-in-the-area exploration in 1860–the book is called The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons and it is considered a classic in adventure writing genre–but it didn’t make the cut. I may change my mind and get it shipped to me en route though. Anyone out there who’s read it and wants to speak in favor?)
Geologically, there is so much going on here that I get wide-eyed whenever I start to read about it. Unlike a lot of other places, the Colorado Plateau is just so stable. The plates underneath it don’t shove it around–it demonstrates very little of the fault behavior you see just about everywhere else (especially the west coast). One thick “crustal block” (such a delicious term, thank you Wikipedia author for attention to the music of language) around 600 million years, it hasn’t been substantially deformed by upthrusts, a major vehicle of mountain formation. The geological architecture of the region is made under the soft, coaxing, and irresistible power of water. Water, walking softly and carrying a big stick. Actually, maybe water has no stick. It walks softly and still gets it done. I hope to read more about the geology of the region as I go, and rekindle old fantasies of becoming a geologist and living with rocks the Jane Goodall lives with the apes (I would take her job too). If anyone has a fantastic geology source for the area they would like to recommend, happy to take them.
You can read even more about the hike at the Hayduke Trail Website: http://www.hayduketrail.org/
Lots of information can be found here about the trail. Not a lot of people have hiked this route, so information concentrated to a sparse few sources, the website being one of them (it is maintained by one of the guidebook authors). See the Logistics page for other sources.