Hayduke Trail Day 19: Route Finding and Finding Roots

Daily Neat Beat
Day 19
Total Miles: 22.2
Cumulative Miles: 334.7
Ray has done the route finding for the last several days and it is my turn today. 
Route finding with my phone on the top of the Waterpocket Fold

We will be climbing 2,000 feet over the Waterpocket Fold and dropping down into Stevens Canyon which connects with the Escalante River. 

More waterpockets. I would love to come back and spend more time exploring and looking for these pockets

Although this is an alternate route for the Hayduke Trail, the original route goes over the Waterpocket Fold north at Moody Canyon but then requires hiking in the Escalante River (or pack rafting if you are willing to carry a packraft over the Waterpocket Fold…) for 25 miles.

View looking back up Halls Creek from climbing up the Waterpocket Fold

Ray and I have hiked and packrafted in the Escalante area a number of times. We know not to hike/bushwhack/wade the Escalante River for that many miles. The Stevens Canyon alternative we are taking only requires hiking in or along the river for 1.5 miles to Coyote Gulch where you exit Escalante River on the west side.

The current challenge with the alternative we are taking is there is not a lot of route information available. The original Hayduke Guidebook doesn’t have this alternative in it. The Andrew Skurka data bundle doesn’t have the Stevens Canyon alternative either.  Luckily, Jamal Green has some waypoints on his Across Utah website and we have the Steve Allen’s Canyoneering 3 book. Using these sources, I added the route to our Gaia app. This seems to be becoming the more common route for Hayduke hikers.
The morning is pleasant but starts to get hot as we start climbing up the Waterpocket Fold. We are on the white and wind-formed Navajo Sandstone.
Hiking up on the Navajo Sandstone

There is an old route that goes over the Waterpocket in this area called the Baker Route. Eugene Baker was a rancher who settled in the Halls Creek area in 1919 with his sons. 

“C Baker 1942” inscription on the Baker Route

 I wonder about this route and have a hard time imagining herding cattle over the Waterpocket Fold. They were tough in those days. We are excited when we find “C Baker 1942” carved in a boulder along the route.

Cresting the ridge

The route into Steven’s Canyon isn’t that hard but we had to pay attention in three places: a dry fall that Jamal Green refers to as “the Switchback”, a second dry fall that requires climbing a sand dune on the left side and traversing above a sandstone ledge with some exposure, and making sure we drop into the canyon at what is referred to as the “Southside Inner Exit Ramp”.

Hiking along the edge of Steven’s Canyon where it drops off.

Stevens Canyon is a beautiful canyon with solitude, water, red walls and hoodoos.

Upper Steven’s Canyon has some beautiful stretches wth water and pools.

And, of course, poison ivy. Luckily it is early season still and we hope that because the poison ivy is just starting to leaf out we won’t get it. Just trying to stay positive.

Lower Steven’s Canyon has the high red walls so characteristic of canyons in the Escalante drainage.

We hike all day and set up camp near the junction of Stevens Creek and the Escalante River. We are right below the Steven’s Canyon Arch. It glows a beautiful gold, like heated metal as we melt into our sleeping bags.

A golden glow as the sun sets over Steven’s Arch


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