The route I ultimately took had two inspirations. The first was the Hayduke Trail, an 812-mile route across the Colorado Plateau from Arches National Park to Zion National Park that, to my knowledge, has never been completed as it’s precisely described in the guidebook, even by the guidebook authors. The second was the book, “The Man Who Walked through Time,” in which famed backpacker Colin Fletcher documents his traverse of the Grand Canyon from Nankoweap Trailhead to Supai village.

I had wanted to do both routes for a while and I thought that I might be able to complete both in one trip. But I eventually concluded that it made more sense to develop a hybrid of the two. In particular, the guidebook HDT crosses a lot of marginal terrain in order to reach Zion National Park, where the excitement is pretty short-lived; and I believed that it would be a more fulfilling experience to finish in the grandest of canyons instead.

For the first 485 miles, from Arches National Park to the Arizona-Utah border near Coyote Buttes, I followed the Hayduke Trail. I made three notable detours from the guidebook route: I left the HDT 2 miles into the trip in order to visit Devil’s Garden, home to famous landmarks like Landscape Arch; in order to resupply in Escalante without relying on an unlikely hitch, I left the HDT at the head of Moody Canyon just west of the Waterpocket Fold and rejoined it near Grosvenor Arch; and I bypassed most of the snowbound Bryce Canyon National Park section via Skutumpah Road. From the UT-AZ border I took a lower-elevation route for 60 miles to Nankoweap Trailhead via Coyote Wash and House Rock Wash in order to avoid the Kaibab Plateau, which is usually snowbound through April. Once I entered Grand Canyon National Park at Nankoweap, I followed a mix of trails, use-trails, and trail-less routes for 220 miles to the Park’s western boundary near Havasu Canyon. In the final 30 miles I essentially self-extracted myself to the closest hub of civilization, the Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim.

Below is a landmark-to-landmark overview of the route…

Northern boundary of Arches National Park in Salt Valley…Devil’s Garden…Courthouse Wash…Moab, UT…Needles District of Canyonlands National Park…Beef Basin…Young Canyon to Dark Canyon…Hite, at the eastern end of Lake Powell…Dirty Devil River…Highway 95 at Poison Spring Wash…the Henry Mountains…Tarantula Mesa…Muley Twist Canyon…Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park…Red Slide…Circle Cliffs…Silver Falls Creek…Harris Wash…Hole-in-the-Rock Road…Escalante, UT…Kaiparowits Plateau…Smokey Mountain Road…Canaan Peak…Grosvenor Arch…Round Valley Draw…Hackberry Canyon…Paria River and townsite…Sheep Creek…Skutumpah Road…Bullrush Gorge…Kitchen Corral Wash…Kaibab Gulch…Buckskin Gulch…Coyote Buttes and “The Wave”…House Rock Wash…Nankoweap Trailhead…Marble Gorge…Little Colorado River Confluence…Beamer, Tanner, Escalante, and Tonto Trails…Grand Canyon Village at South Rim…Tonto Trail to South Bass Trail…Aztec Ampitheater…Apache Point…Forester Canyon…Fossil Canyon…Great Thumb Mesa…Sinyella Fault…Olo and Matkatamibia Canyons…Grand Canyon Village at South Rim.


  1. Joann Mariu on November 15, 2021 at 5:01 am

    WOW!!!!Sounds awesome! I would love to go there one day; hopefully I won’t be too old that I can’t!

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