SWH – Part 1 – Arches NP to Hite Marina

Tower Arch | Arches NP, Utah.

Distance:  198 miles (318.6 km)

Start:  Tower Arch, Arches National Park, UT

Finish:  Hite Marina, UT

Time:  7 days (2/24/2012 to 3/1/2012)

Daily Average:  28.3 miles (45.5 km)


  • Arches National Park:  The Hayduke Trail bypasses most of the natural rock bridges which make Arches NP world renowned. With this in mind, my hiking buddy Mike Towne and I decided to start our trek at the infrequently visited, but nonetheless spectacular Tower Arch. After spending an hour or so exploring the immediate surrounds of this natural wonder, we made a beeline cross country towards the equally impressive, but significantly more popular Devil’s Garden. Altogether it added on a very worthwhile seven or eight miles to the official route.
  • Confluence of Green and Colorado Rivers: A little more than a mile off trail, the overlook of the two mighty waterways represents one of the finest viewpoints on the Colorado plateau.
  • The Needles, Canyonlands NP: Once again, the Hayduke Trail comes close to, but ultimately skirts around one of the highlights of the region. After visiting the confluence, Mike and  I took an alternative route south through the Needles along Devil’s Lane, linking back up with the Hayduke just before Butler Wash.
  • Mike and Cam’s Cave: Located at Horse Pasture about a mile or so before the descent into Young’s canyon. A classic shelter (see photos) and a very welcome refuge from the roaring winds, which seemed to be our constant companion during the first four weeks of our hike.


  • Young’s Canyon: Mike and I received a good old fashioned backcountry arse kicking in this canyon. Firstly, we somehow chose the wrong place at which to descend (think we may have been discussing the latest Dwight Howard trade rumors) and subsequently spent the best part of an hour vainly trying to find a way in which to rectify our error without having to retrace our steps. Secondly, when we eventually made it to the canyon floor the wind picked up and it began to snow heavily. Soon after I managed to walk face first into a low lying branch. A sudden pain shot through my skull and I turned to Mike and said, “mate, is there something in my left eye?” With a look of shock on his face he nodded and then proceeded to extract two pieces of wood from my upper and lower eye lids. Thirdly, one of the more prominent features of Young’s Canyon is its pour offs. Trying to navigate around these bad boys whilst walking through a huge storm was an exercise in both perseverance and patience. Finally, I managed to rip holes in both my Golite Reed pants and Montbell windshirt. When we eventually exited Young’s at its confluence with the Dark Canyon, the sun appeared as if on cue, and I couldn’t help but look back at our tormentor with an ironic grin and a nod of acknowledgement.  The occasional kick up the backside from Mother Nature is good for a hiker’s perspective.

Notes & Musings:

  • The Return of the Gambler: After spending the previous six months behind an office desk, Mike Towne (a.k.a “The Gambler”), my old hiking buddy from the PCT in 2007, decided to quit his job and join me for the Hayduke section of the Southwestern Horseshoe. Now Mike is one of those guys who always keeps himself in top shape, so I didn’t have too many reservations when it came to him being able to cover big miles right from the get go. That being said,  hiking is like any other physical activity in that it is muscle specific, so after putting in a 30 miler on the second day he was definitely one hurting cowboy! To his credit, he toughed it out and within ten days or so he was back firing on all cylinders.
  • Breweries, Brothels and Value for Money: Walking along the road into Moab, I noticed two or three billboards enthusiastically promoting local breweries. Under normal circumstances I would be noting addresses and planning for a quick pit stop. However, in this case my joy was somewhat more contained due to the fact that in Utah, breweries are not permitted by law to sell beer on tap with an alcohol content greater than 3.2%. Indeed, it brought to mind the advice of a sage old Mexican caballero I once knew (I’m paraphrasing), who compared ‘visiting a brewery in Utah to going to a brothel that only gives out hand jobs. You may walk out satisfied, but deep down inside you know you could have got more for your money’.


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