Hayduke Trail: Hite to Poison Springs Canyon

Cross-country journey over arid badlands followed by a muddy slog through the Dirty Devil River.

Hiking Severe

Distance
60 km
Ascent
1.4 km
Descent
985 m
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
1.1 km
High Point
1.6 km
Gradient
12˚
VIEW ON MAP
Hayduke Trail: Hite to Poison Springs Canyon Map

Description

Section 4 of the Hayduke Trail embodies a paradoxical contrast of the desert: water is either painfully absent or painfully abundant. It’s absent in the parched badlands of the Red Benches, but then the Dirty Devil River is a slog through sinking sand and muddy flowing water.

This section deals quite a few route-finding challenges, but gets easier near the end. The first obstacle is a short scramble through gullies in the cliffs right beside the highway. On top, follow a dirt road for a while before dropping into a canyon, where the walking is mostly easy but some slickrock dryfalls must be scrambled up or around. The next challenge is exiting this canyon with a short Class 4 climb. Then you’ll be on the Red Benches and ready to continue cross country for several miles.

The Red Benches are seemingly endless hills of soft dirt and loose ledges. If you choose your route carefully, you can get away with little more than high steps over the ledges, but hands may be useful here and there. Water and shade are usually nonexistent, so prepare accordingly.

Eventually, you’ll come to the Dirty Devil River, reached by a very steep descent down a dirt and talus slope into a tributary canyon. The river is a reliable source of water but is always very muddy and slightly foul tasting. Springs can be found but can’t be counted on.

You’ll have to make a lot of decisions about river crossings along the Dirty Devil, choosing among bushwhacking, flowing water, or soft sand. The path through this canyon requires crossing the river 10-20 times, but the number varies according to discharge, the nature of the sand, and hiker discretion. The Dirty Devil could be miserable trudging, or not so bad, depending on conditions. High flows are dangerous, and flashes are possible, so you should consider an alternate route if high water is likely.

The going gets much easier at Poison Springs Canyon because a dirt road runs most of its length. This canyon has water as well. You can usually find potholes and a flowing stream, but the best place to fill up is a piped spring which, contrary to the name, is good to drink. Keep an eye out for the numerous petroglyphs scattered through this canyon. It ends at Highway 95, where most hikers will choose to hitch a ride into Hanksville for a meal and a bed before taking on the climb over the Henry Mountains.

Sources: http://www.hayduketrail.org/TheRoute.html http://www.hayduketrail.org/Updates.html https://www.little-package.com/blog/2017/11/hayduke-trail-tips http://www.acrossutah.com/wordpress/hayduke-poison-spring-canyon/ https://caltopo.com/m/5J0S https://caltopo.com/m/6V45

Difficulty

Severe

Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

March, April, May, September, October, November

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area