stevens canyon exit canyon

Hayduke Desert Panoramas

My 850-mile backpacking trip this Spring took me through Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, through all these National Parks and wild lands I’d never seen before. What better way to see them for the first time than to walk through them and sleep in their dirt? I couldn’t think of one.

I took some neato panoramic photos, so maybe the next best way to look at them is to click on them, blow them up in your browser, look around, and pretend you’re there. Most these iPhone panoramas were taken in remote areas, difficult to get to by car or foot, and most of them were on detours or alternates off the main Hayduke route. Get yourself an eye full of red rock!


Arches National Park Utah slickrock panoramaA view south from the edge of the Great Wall slickrock, with the snowy La Sals in the distance.


I took a lot of detours off the route on this trip to see things, like “The Loop” of the Colorado River, where it folds on itself into a nearly closed figure 8. Unless you’re in an airplane above it you can’t see the whole thing, but from the ledge to the South, I got the idea. Mind blown — you can tell by watching this video just how excited I was!

Indian Creek Canyonlands UtahClimbing up out of Indian Creek was supposed to be complicated but it was well-cairned. I had waited out a rainstorm in my tent most the day before, and now knew I wouldn’t have to worry much about water.

Glen Canyon

Dirty Devil River Loop AerialI wasn’t comfortable wading the Dirty Devil so I took a longer detour up and around it, affording some excellent views and avoiding some awful dirt devils down there!
stevens canyon exit canyonStevens Canyon is terraced and so deep that it’s as if it’s a canyon inside a canyon. This Hayduke alternate route helped me avoid wading the Escalante, was challenging, and was very, very beautiful.

Grand Staircase Escalante

hackberry canyon watson cabin red rockHackberry Canyon does not disappoint for a second, until you’re let out at Cottonwood Creek. Here is the old Watson cabin cradled between its red rock temples.
sunset yellow rock and cockscombOn the suggestion (via satellite email) of another hiker, Joery, I detoured up to the top of Yellow Rock and slept there. This was sunset, looking south at the Cockscomb.

Bryce Canyon

Although the official Hayduke route doesn’t spend much time in Bryce, I extended my stay by a few days and decided Bryce — at least Bryce Canyon proper — was one of the highest highlights of my entire trip.

Bryce Canyon Sunrise pointI took an extra day to day hike through the northern part of the park, and came out on this typical view before descending into the nearby town of Tropic. Snow was falling.
snow sprinkles in Bryce Canyon National ParkApril 26 and Bryce is still getting snow. It was a very cold morning!
Bryce Swamp CanyonBy happenstance, I had a permit for probably the best camping area in all of Bryce, with flowing water nearby and the most incredible sunset views!

Grand Staircase Escalante

Yes, again. The Hayduke goes through this massive land preserve twice.

coyote buttes wire passI walked a few miles with Belgian hiker Joery. He was very concerned about rain this day because he was about to hike the Buckskin Gulch, a famed slot canyon, and the Paria River. I worried myself with the otherworldly scenery. It didn’t rain.

Grand Canyon

I had a 10-day below-the-rim permit for Grand Canyon, and I savored every second down there. I think you’ll be able to tell how much I liked it from my photographs!

tapeats creek trail grand canyonThe Nankoweap Trail in Grand Canyon National Park is the most exacting – and the most breathtaking – maintained trail I have ever hiked.
colorado river pueblan grainary siteUp almost 1000 feet above the river, the Ancestral Puebloans built grainaries and perhaps spent some time with the swifts who still swarm here. An unbelievable vantage point.
Little Colorado River confluenceIs the Little Colorado River really this color? Yes it is. It really is. Here is its confluence with the Colorado River.
grand canyon geology rockTurn a corner on the Tonto Trail and you’re treated with a view of some of the oldest visible anything anywhere, the Vishnu basement rocks of the Grand Canyon. Thinking about this geologic scene had me paralyzed and in tears. WOW.
colorado river float 2016I stuck out my thumb near Deer Creek and ended up partying with these super fun humans for 16 hours. Not a bad way to (hitch)hike along the Colorado river!

Arizona Strip

arizona strip 2016 cattleAfter hiking Grand Canyon, the Arizona Strip is a bit of a come down. But, stay realistic about a long-distance walk through the Southwest. There are visual intermissions, and lots of cow pie.


Angel’s Landing is not on the Hayduke Trail but I was not ready to stop hiking yet. So I continued west another 35 miles, making this stop along the way.

“Angels Landing, known earlier as the Temple of Aeolus, is a 1,488-foot (454 m) tall rock formation in Zion National Park in southern Utah. A trail, cut into solid rock in 1926, leads to the top of Angels Landing and provides a spectacular view of Zion Canyon.” ~Wikipedia

Angels Landing Sunrise 2016It was a near miracle having Angels Rest to myself for sunrise coffee on Memorial Day weekend. It didn’t last long before throngs of people arrived and spoiled the moment.
zion west rim trail vistaViews west, even beyond the trail, to my future. It looks really good!

And here I start to realize the end of my hike isn’t the end of the world. Because the view west as far as I can see is magical. A lot of people get sad after finishing a long hike — it’s happened to me. But this time it was pretty clear at the end that I was the one making the magic happen, and that if I didn’t want it to end, it didn’t have to end.

Check out all of my panoramas here.