Hayduke Trail, Utah and Arizona

Photograph by Lee Cohen
Photograph by Lee Cohen

Best For: Desert rats; hardcore hikers looking to spend several challenging months alone in the wild; red-rock fans who want to explore the area in shorter trips

Distance: 800-plus miles in 14 sections

Named for Edward Abbey’s fictional eco-warrior (introduced in The Monkey Wrench Gang), the Hayduke traverses six stunning national parks of the Colorado Plateau—Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Zion. It clambers up to around 11,420 feet on Mount Ellen near Capitol Reef and then plunges to the bottom of the Grand Canyon at 1,800 feet. Along the way, it hops down the plateau’s famed Grand Staircase—layers of sandstone and limestone excavated by the region’s rivers that tell a geologic story of ancient oceans and sand dunes buried by time.

Though the megatrail brings hikers to wonders too numerous to count, from the sweeping views of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim to the secret ruins in Dark Canyon, be forewarned: The Hayduke is only a “trail” in the roughest sense. Much of it is unsigned and unmarked as it works its way into slot canyons and across slickrock. It’s a celebration of the landscape that captured Abbey’s imagination and fueled an environmental philosophy to keep the place free of developers and government.

When to Go: Spring and fall are best, since the summer is too hot and water then is too scarce. Snow can be an obstacle in winter.

Shortcut: Each of the 14 sections is classic in its own right. If you can only do one, try section two, which covers 47 miles along the Colorado River and in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

Insider Tip: The trail crosses numerous highways and dirt roads, offering ample opportunity to cache food and water.