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.

26 Comments

  1. Drew on April 28, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Hey Andrew! I bought the map pack from you and I have a couple of questions about the route. I was wanting to section hike it and will probably be alone. Which section is the easiest as far as least amount of exposure but still very scenic. Im looking to do maybe a 2 week section. I would go in the Fall. Thanks for any input on this, and by the way your map pack was well done and im sure will be super helpful when i do this trip.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 29, 2013 at 8:21 am

      The logistics of a section hike are difficult due to there being relatively few roads and towns on or near the route. You must be willing to deal with that challenge. I don’t have specific 2-week recommendations. Instead, I will simply say that you should plan to start and finish where it will be logistically easy. How can you reach a point via flight, rail, shuttle, hitch, and/or foot? Trying to do anything fancier than that will be really hard.

      Overall, I don’t think there’s a particularly awesome 2-week stretch — it’ll all pretty awesome, and very unique, and different from other parts of the trip.

      Also, a 2-week section means different things to different people. When I did the HDT in mid-Feb through mid-March I was averaging 25 MPD (and would have been able to do 5-10 more if I’d had more daylight) so for a 2-week trip I’d need 350 miles of real estate, or almost half the route. Other hikers will cover more or less over 2 weeks.

  2. Guy Alter on September 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Hi Andrew!
    I wnted to ask. Since Im a student I can onely do the trip from August to mid october. Do you think it should be a good time to go there? Thank you for your time

    • Andrew Skurka on September 26, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      August will be hot, ditto for September though better; October is considered prime time, though I prefer the comparable spring months (April, May) because of the longer days. Exact conditions will depend on altitude — by October, it’s getting late in Bryce, whereas it will still be hot at Hite, etc.

  3. Guy Alter on September 28, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Hot as in too hot to walk it or just really hot?
    I’ve done the Israeli trail and the dessert region was 40-45 c in April. Just wondering weather it is doable or it will take all the fun out, let alone be dangerous.
    Thank you for your reply 🙂

  4. Ethan on January 12, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Hey Andrew,

    My name is Ethan. I was in the middle of planning a a thru hike from the middle of September until about the middle of November. Unfortunately, My sister decided to have a wedding thing on October 7th. I am guessing October 10th would not be a good time to start a thru hike of the HDT. I was wondering if you have any knowledge of other desert thru hikes that are equally as challenging and long BUT could be started around October 10th. I was thinking somewhere farther South or near Death Valley but cannot find anything. Please tell me what you think.

    Thanks,
    Ethan

    • Andrew Skurka on January 15, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      Desert thru-hikes: PCT through SoCal, Arizona Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, Desert Trail. In most of these cases, there are some high-elevation areas that you may need to work around if the weather is uncooperative. At the lowest elevations, it might be hot and dry still, but there could be snow at 8,000 and higher, or something like that.

      Another option is to thru-hike the length of the Grand Canyon, although that is pretty involved.

      Finally, you could just work the HDT as long as you can. Mid-Oct in Arches should be fine. The higher elevations in Dark Canyon might be a little brisk. I would probably have a back-up route around the Henry’s if you don’t want to deal with that. Skip Bryce. And have a low-elevation route to the Grand Canyon, instead of being on the Kaibab Plateau.

  5. Isaac Macdonald on May 9, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Hi I’m looking to thru hike the hayduke in 2017, but I can only start on may 1st I can hike it in about 2 months is a may June hike douable or just to hot and if its possible should I go east or west thank you for any advice.

    • Andrew Skurka on May 10, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Sounds hot to me, by about a month. If you can bear the heat, the other challenge will be water, since some of the seasonal sources may be dry by then, especially if it’s a dry winter.

      If May-June was my timeframe, personally I would probably find somewhere else to hike, either further north, higher in elevation, or wetter with more shade. There are other worthy locations in Utah and nearby Colorado that are more in-season during late-Spring.

      • Jonathan Gant on March 29, 2019 at 12:47 am

        Hi Andrew,

        I am currently planning a long distance hiking trip during this same timeframe late May/June and was investing possible trails. Just curious what some of these other more in-season locations in Utah and Colorado are?

        Thanks!

        • Andrew Skurka on March 29, 2019 at 8:05 am

          You’ll have to stay low. The Colorado high country will be buried in snow deep into June. Regions that hold their snow longer like the Front Range will be buried into July.

          If you want to stick with Colorado and Utah, you’ll have to find drier and lower areas. The headwaters of Dark Canyon, upper Escalante/Boulder Mountain, Bryce Canyon, those could all be good options. Also the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

          Colorado is tougher. Our best spots are mountainous.

  6. Aditya Karumanchi on November 14, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for this post, and the video especially. I want to do a 10-day hike during the Christmas holidays with a couple of friends, and was wondering if you knew any shuttle/transportation services to any section of this trail.
    We were thinking that if we start somewhere north of Grand Canyon (maybe 100-120 miles out), it’d simplify our overall travel. I’d really appreciate any information you could provide.
    Thank you!

    • Andrew Skurka on November 14, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      That’s a very remote part of AZ and UT. You probably will struggle to find shuttle services.

      I generally am a strong advocate of loop trips, not point-to-point itineraries, due to logistical simplicity and flexibility, i.e. you don’t need to arrange a shuttle and you don’t need to stick to the itinerary that you were planning to.

      I would specifically recommend that you look at doing a loop in Grand Staircase-Escalante or in the Grand Canyon. Both locations will be pretty cold in December, but beautiful and empty.

  7. Cedar on December 3, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Howdy Andrew,
    Im looking at doing the stretch between Lower Muley Twist and Bryce after I get out of school this spring. That would put me on the trail from May 5 – june 1ish.
    I hate mosquitoes more than about anything on earth. Im wondering if the No see ums and horse flies will be an experience ruiner or if I will be high enough that hopefully they wont be out in full force.
    Thanks much.
    Cedar

    • Andrew Skurka on December 5, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Not sure what your past experience has been with mosquitoes, but because this part of the country is so dry it generally has fewer bugs than elsewhere. If you encounter more bugs than you care to, you should be able to solve the issue by moving away from the perennial water source nearby.

      Most of the time I’ve spent in southern Utah has been earlier in the spring, never beyond early-May. And I’ve spent little time in Bryce. Maybe someone with more experience in this area at this time of year can chime in.

  8. Aidan Manning on December 29, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    Thank you so much for putting all this info together. I was just curious as to whether you know about how many people have completed the HDT (or some near approximation)?

    • Andrew Skurka on December 29, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      No organization keeps track and there is no registry where all hikers keep a log, so hard to know exactly. I would estimate a few dozen per year for the past decade on average.

  9. SE on April 11, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Is there any portion of this trail that wouldn’t require snowshoes/skis/crampons in January?

    • Andrew Skurka on April 11, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      More miles of the HDT stay snow-free than get covered. Bryce, Kaibab Plateau, North Rim, Henry Mountains, maybe Beef Basin get snow. Otherwise it’s temporary or it’s super rare.

  10. Joanna on November 8, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Hi Andrew,

    Thinking of hiking a part of the HDT end of November. Which section would you recommend? Were looking to hike about 150 miles. Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka on November 8, 2017 at 10:58 am

      Stay low.

      Avoid: Bryce, Kaibab and North Rim, Beef Basin (between Canyonlands and Dark Canyon), Henry Mountains, Kaiparowits Plateau

      Most other areas should be okay, although you will encounter ice and possibly some thin snow cover in other areas.

      Personally, I would plan a loop trip, to make logistics easy. Hitchhiking is not easy in this part of the country — there are not many roads. Look at the Escalante area or the Grand Canyon.

  11. John Vogel on December 12, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    Andrew,

    I am planning to do the HDT starting in March o 2018. I will drive down from Idaho. Where could I leave a car for 2 or 3 months? Is there a shuttle that you know of that can bring us to the trailhead?

    Thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka on December 13, 2018 at 8:43 am

      The HDT is very long. Did you have a specific place in mind where you would start or finish.

      Not sure there is a public place where you could leave a car for 2-3 months. You probably will need to make friends with someone who has a big driveway or put it in storage. Personally, I would find a way to do it without driving my car to the area.

  12. Chris on March 3, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    This year with an above average snowpack in Utah, what are your thoughts on an April 1 vs April 21 (ish) start date traveling westbound anticipating 45-60 days for completion?

    • Andrew Skurka on March 4, 2019 at 11:14 am

      This question might be better pitched to some previous HDT hikers who hiked at a more normal time of year. Or, make a few calls to Bryce and GC to ask about anticipated melt-out dates. The Henry’s are easier — it’s a short section and you can sneak around them to stay low and out of the snow.

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