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Backpacker Magazine – May 2001

Hiking Utah's Hayduke Trail

You won't find Utah's 725-mile rogue route on any map. But thanks to two passionate Utah hikers, you'll soon be able to search it out with your boots.

by: Dennis Lewon


Expedition Planner: Hayduke Trail

Because the Hayduke is very much a work in progress, and much of it is cross-country, complete and exact route details are still sketchy. If you can't wait for the "official" guidebook, here's a taste of what the trail will offer, courtesy of Joe "Mitch" Mitchell.

SUGGESTED ROUTE: This section of the Hayduke is a mostly trail-less stretch that will carry you through southern Utah backcountry between Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park. Expect serious solitude and keep your compass handy.

The 35-mile hike starts in the high desert (elevation: 5,300 feet) and ends in the mountains (9,100 feet). Begin on Cottonwood Canyon Road, near Kodachrome Basin State Park. Hike southwest on Rock Springs Bench Road (#410) and then down Rock Springs Wash to the confluence with the Paria River (5.5 miles from Cottonwood Canyon Road). Continue downstream along the Paria River bottom for 3.75 miles to the confluence with Sheep Creek, then hang a sharp right and proceed northwest up Sheep Creek for 1.5 miles to the mouth of Bull Valley Gorge (spectacular narrows; allow time to explore). Continue up Sheep Creek for another 3.75 miles to the mouth of Willis Creek, then head generally west up Willis Creek, through the narrows, for 2.5 miles to a dirt road (#500). Stay northwest for just under a mile to a junction with another dirt track (#530), which you follow for the next 8.5 miles (most of it along Willis Creek again). When you reach Agua Canyon, take a connecting trail a mile to Bryce Canyon's Under the Rim Trail, which leads southwest 8 miles to the Rainbow Point trailhead.

SHUTTLE: Arrange a trailhead shuttle through Bryce Canyon Scenic Tours and Shuttles ($40 for up to four people; 800-432-5383; www.brycetours.com). The shuttle departs from Ruby's Inn, just outside Bryce Canyon National Park on UT 63. From Rainbow Point, a Park Service shuttle will return you to Ruby's Inn (May through September only; free with entrance fee, but let the park know you're coming). To reach the trailhead on your own from Cannonville on UT 12, go south on Cottonwood Canyon Road to Rock Springs Bench Road.

PERMITS: You'll need backcountry permits for both Grand Staircase-Escalante (free) and Bryce Canyon ($5 per group, $20 entrance fee). See Contact below. Inside the national park, backcountry camping is allowed only at designated sites.

SEASON: In terms of weather, water availability, and shuttle services, the best time to go is late spring/early summer.

GUIDES: USGS 7.5-minute topo maps Slickrock Bench, Bull Valley Gorge, Rainbow Point, and Tropic Reservoir (888-ASK-USGS; www.usgs.gov; $4 each). For the forthcoming Hayduke Trail guidebook, when available in late 2002, contact the University of Utah Press, (800) 773-6672; www.upress.utah.edu.

WALK SOFTLY: Observe Leave No Trace etiquette when you are safeguarding water sources and disposing of human waste (bury it in a a cathole 6 inches deep at least 200 yards from camp and the nearest water source).

CAUTION: This route is off-trail and has challenges that could pose problems even for experienced hikers. High water, flash floods, and lack of potable water are all possible at one time or another. Treat or boil all drinking water, and don't drink from arsenic-tainted Rock Spring. Check with local land-management officials on current conditions and flood danger before heading out.

CONTACT: Bryce Canyon National Park, (435) 834-5322; www.nps.gov/brca. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Interagency Office, (435) 826-5499; www.ut.blm.gov/monument.




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