The Hayduke Trail (HDT) is an 812-mile hiking route from Arches National Park to Zion National Park, through the heart of “canyon country” in southern Utah and northern Arizona. It is not a formal trail, like the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trails; rather, it is a well researched suggestion about where and how to travel across this unique landscape. The route was put together by Joe Mitchell and Mike Coronella in the early-2000’s and it was first thru-hiked by Brian Frankle in 2005.
Where can I obtain the information I need to hike the HDT?
The one essential resource is the guidebook, The Hayduke Trail: A Guide to the Backcountry Hiking Trail on the Colorado Plateau. It’d also be helpful to check out the website, HaydukeTrail.org
After my HDT thru-hike in February & March 2009 I developed a package of information I call the Hayduke Trail Hiking Resources Bundle. It is not an “essential” resource since all of this information could be developed independently, but it’s an extremely worthwhile $30 investment because it’ll save an aspiring HDT hiker considerable time and money. It has four parts: Handbook, Water Chart, Databook, and Mapset. The guidebook and Bundle contain nearly all of the information one needs to hike the HDT.
What challenges will I encounter on the HDT?
Among other things, hikers must be comfortable with Class 3 and occasional Class 4 scrambles while wearing a full backpack. They must be capable of navigating with pinpoint accuracy, due to a handful of situations in which there is only route that will “go,” e.g., ascending out of or descending into a canyon through an otherwise impassable rim wall. Hikers must be able to route-find efficiently when traveling off-trail and/or without a natural thoroughfare (e.g. a wash). They must know how to determine their water and caloric needs in order to stay hydrated and nourished in a land that offers relatively little water and few resupply opportunities. And they must travel lightly while still having what they need, or cumulative pack weight (gear plus food & water) will be prohibitively heavy.
I am an inspiring HDT thru-hiker. How many days/weeks/months should I block out to complete the entire route?
Of course, it depends on how many miles you hike each day on average. If you are considering a thru-hike of the HDT you probably already know your optimum mileage, i.e. not too short, not too long, just right. Compared to one’s performance on a more refined long-distance trail (e.g. CDT, PCT), an HDT hiker should expect to average about 75 percent of their average mileage, plus or minus 15 percent depending on how efficiently they handle the HDT’s challenges. See the table below to help you determine how much time you should block out to hike the HDT.
When is the best time to hike the HDT?
In short, Spring and Fall are the two most logical windows during which to the hike the HDT. On the Colorado Plateau this means: March through May, and September through November. These seasons offer relatively comfortable hiking temperatures and normally an adequate number of wet water sources. The days are longer in the Spring, but the bugs can be more active and snow lingers in the high elevations. The days are shorter in the Fall but there are no bugs and no snow with which to contend.
One can hike the HDT year-round if they go to appropriate places. But there are stretches of the HDT that should not be attempted during the winter or summer. In the winter, portions of the HDT feature frightful scrambling on snow-covered slick rock and/or require carrying snowshoes or skis. In the summer, portions of the HDT are inhospitably hot and dry.