How to Avoid the Crypto on the Arches Slickrock Route

Nic Barth has published some fairly loose GPS tracks for his “alternates” or shortcuts on the Hayduke. Some of them might be worth looking into. Myself having hiked the route back and forth more than twice, I frankly don’t think you’ll be missing out if you ignore Barth’s KMZ/GPS input entirely. If you want to miss out, his alts are in fact generous shortcuts.

Barth’s “Arches Slickrock” route is popular. I see scenic advantages to both the Slickrock route and the official Hayduke route. Unfortunately publishing the “Slickrock” route opened the door for significant negative environmental impact. Some people have tried to tell me they have hiked it without killing cryptobiotic soil but they are 101% full of shit. There is no way to hike this route as it is designed without trampling living soil which is crucial to the survival of the desert.

I have tried to make a correction on Nic’s behalf, moving the track slightly to make it less damaging. Click the big button below to see it. If you use the Caltopo satellite layer (paid subscription, worth every penny), you can literally SEE the crypto. It is a funny dull grey purplish black, identifiable even from outer space! Allow the satellite layer to help you plan any backcountry route.


As you can see looking at the route, there is a way to hike the dry first section (in purple on the topo linked above) for the isolation and spectacular views and then re-connect to the main route in Courthouse Wash. I do recommend the first 3.75 miles of his alternate heading south, especially if you do not mind exposure and down-climbing. After that, the (red part of the) route is very concerning, if not for the unapproved and unnecessary crypto destruction and erosion in a National Park, but also for the crowds and views of roads and Moab. Isn’t the point to be out, or at least feel out “in the middle of nowhere?” You can visit the best part of this section (Park Avenue) easily from the highway another time.

There’s a real reason people like Li Brannfors and myself have stopped posting routes publicly, and I hope more people will re-consider casually sharing GPX tracks with strangers online. A lot of damage is caused, and the places you love get “well-loved” (e.g. ruined). I’m posting this correction trying to help a situation caused by casual sharing. Do your very best to stay on use paths, inside washes and drainages, and on solid rock while traveling. Billions of living things thank you.

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