The Hayduke Trail is an extremely strenuous trail through Utah and Arizona. It reaches many famous national parks, including Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Zion. It goes well below sea-level in the canyons, but also reaches enormous heights in the mountains. The trail is considered to be very difficult due to a combination of natural and logistical difficulties. It traverses through extremely rugged and remote desert regions with adverse weather conditions. Additionally, much of the trail is not marked at all, and attaining reliable water and resupply can be very challenging.
The terrain along the HDT is notoriously intense. The trail itself is not heavily trafficked, and instead the route follows the natural features of the landscape, such as mountains, canyons, and mesas that are common to this region. The rocky and rugged terrain becomes more difficult in the desert conditions, and can even become treacherous. Since the route features much rock, some hikers will attach softer ends to their hiking poles.
Water can be difficult to attain regularly, and many hikers will specifically plan out their hiking according to supposed availability of water sources. Therefore, it is important to seek out information ahead of time from the web and guidebooks, and use that for preparation. However, even with that knowledge, a lack of water can be dangerous. Sometimes information is out-of-date, so conserving water as a backup plan is important as well.
Hikers can expect to have resupply available approximately once per week, so that the maximum number of food that needs to be carried at once would be for 6-7 days. Since the trail goes through National Parks, the stores and facilities at those parks are available for hikers to use. Additionally, most parks will allow mailing packages to those stores, so hikers can use them for bounce boxes. Keep in mind that stores are only open during business hours, and some supplies can't be mailed (like fuel).
The heat of the desert becomes unbearable in the summer, so the best times to hike for comfortable temperature ranges are in the spring and fall seasons. The spring comes with longer days, but also carries the possibility of lingering snow in some sections. The fall has shorter days, but without the snow or bugs. During prime hiking months, the weather is usually dry and sunny. Thunderstorms can be particularly dangerous in the canyons, so it is important to obtain forecasts ahead of time when possible.
The HDT is one of the few long distance trails without any signage. It is a completely backcountry route. Therefore, it is imperative to have a GPS with trail routes downloaded ahead of time. Additionally, it is recommended to carry a map and/or guidebook for personal safety. Information is generally sparse, but there is one guidebook, and some online resources.
As an extremely difficult route, the HDT also has many inherent dangers. Weather conditions are an ongoing concern -- desert heat can quickly exhaust hikers, while storms can make hiking very risky in canyons or ridges. Resupply is sparse, so hikers will need to carry fairly heavy backpacks. Additionally, water sources are few and far between, which presents a large hazard in and of itself. The actual trail is non-existent, and navigation is very difficult. All of these factors make the HDT particularly hazardous, and it should only be attempted by the most experienced backcountry hikers. The remoteness of the trail makes it difficult to get help in case of an emergency.
The HDT is popular to write about due to its extremely challenging route, but it is much less popular to hike. There are very few people that even attempt to thru-hike the entire trail. As the route does pass through many National Parks, those areas will be more congested with visitors in the parks -- but even when the trail does go through parks, it will only pass hit civilization very briefly. Hikers on the HDT should be prepared for a very solitary hiking experience.
There is very little access to public transportation along the route, and hikers would typically need to rely on hitchhiking or friends/family to get off the trail. Even getting to the start and end points of the trail can be fairly difficult. The starting point near Moab can be accessed via shuttle after flying in to Grand Junction, Colorado, but getting to the trailhead will still require some maneuvering. The other end of the trail in Zion National Park has the closest airport at St. George, Colorado, but many hikers will rely on hitchhiking to get there.
There are very few options for developed accommodation along the Hayduke trail. The only developed areas that the trail passes through are the town of Moab early on in the route, and built up locations at National Parks. Besides for those, there is a possibility to hitch a ride from the trail to towns in the area for accommodation as a last resort. In any case, hikers will be responsible for providing their own shelter for just about the entire time on the trail.