As if the Haydake Route wasn’t hard enough to just hike, there are some logistical red-tape hurdles for those making the full adventure. The following is some general guidance for the necessary permit process. Be aware that similar to how conditions/obstacles frequently change along the route, the permit process also seems to always be in a state of flux! Therefore be sure to check with the appropriate jurisdictions for the latest updates well in advance of setting out on any Hayduke-ish adventure.
Whenever I set out on a long hike I try to secure all my necessary permits ahead of time and then strive to hit my specific dates. Logistically I tend to plan an easy/slow day or two before important permit dates just to allow for some ability to make up time if needed. Sometimes, but not always, it’s possible to call the NPS/BLM and update an existing permit to shift the dates and/or location if one seems to be slipping off schedule. When possible I also always opt for ZONES instead of designated sites to provide additional flexibility.
Many of the permit areas now require use of a WAG bag. This usually doesn’t work for thru-hikers, so when possible a) avoid camping in these areas or b) carry one, but be sure to do your business elsewhere.
Below is some area-specific information and suggestions based on the official route and select alternates listed in order for those headed in traditional direction.
The permitted backcountry camping locations have changed several times over recent history. Currently there are four designated sites available: one in the Devils Garden and three in Courthouse Wash (two in upper and one in lower.) If you want to camp in this area and can grab a permit ahead of time you should. Otherwise, it’s fairly easy to skip camping in the park completely by strategically planning your nights just outside the boundary.
Canyonlands is becoming a difficult permit to grab due to popularity and the rangers have vowed to begin cracking down on “poachers”. But, there is an online reservation system which makes the process a little easier*. The park used to require that you pick up the permit in person. SOMETIMES they will let one do this in the Moab office or even better send it via email if you are willing to talk with a ranger on the phone first (to go over etiquette issues.) The official Hayduke route through Canyonlands could be done in a single day and thus no permit needed — but it would be rushed and would bypass many of the great diversions. Alternates from Needles Outpost through Chesler Park and to the south boundary could also be done in a (long) day. Salt Creek is an amazing alternate, but the bear canister requirement and scarcity of permits make it problematic. Note: look for some creative options on the map as sometimes it’s possible to get a permit for a less-popular area by strategically planning one’s camp via a short diversion.
* all backcountry overnight campsites and areas become available on a seasonal basis, four months before the start of the season (eg Spring permits for March 10 – June 9 open November 10).
Fees are $36 Permit Reservation fee + $5 per person, per night.
Capitol Reef has a history of being very harsh on backpackers without a proper permit. They used to require in-person pick-up at only a few select locations during normal business hours. In addition to the main Visitor Center an alternative location is the Interagency Visitor Center in Escalante which can be great for multiple permits (see below). A few years ago though Capitol Reef made it much easier for Haydukers and other thru-hikers with an email program to obtain a permit*. I haven’t personally used this system, but have heard good things. With some effort it’s possible to NOT camp in Capitol Reef at all via a LONG day or better by ditching outside the boundary in a few strategic locations.
* near the bottom of the above linked page is a “Hayduke” blurb with an email form link to request more info.
GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE and GLEN CANYON
Permits for GSENM and GCNRA are the most lax of all those necessary. Some hikers even go without, but one should still have them to be official. One can get multiple permits to cover GSENM, GCNRA, and Capitol Reef at the Interagency Visitor Center in Escalante. The dates for Capitol Reef need to be precise, but the dates for the other two areas can be “flexible”. One can also pickup and submit a permit for GSENM/GCNRA at any popular trailhead within the monument. If doing the official Hayduke one won’t find this at Red Slide, but… one could possibly get/submit permit beforehand at another location. Worst case scenario would be to get a permit at Hurricane Wash and submit for the the entire leg through GSENM (both past and future sections.)
Permits for Bryce Canyon are for designated sites along the Under-the-Rim Trail and Riggs Loop and require carrying a bear canister. However, it’s extremely easy to ditch outside the park boundary in several places and camp in the National Forest without needing a permit.
fees: $10 per permit + $5 per person
BUCKSKIN GULCH, LOWER PARIA, and COYOTE BUTTES
If just doing the official Hayduke through the upper portion of the Buckskin one can get a day-hike permit at the trailhead and easily make it through the canyon in a day (requires small payment and smartphone*). If opting for the longer full Buckskin and Lower Paria alternate this requires getting a backpacking permit which can be hard to secure due to popularity (and rangers walk up route frequently to check permits). One is also supposed to carry/use wag bags through the narrows here — though my guess is thru-hikers could get a pass on this, but again don’t do your business in popular areas (ie the Confluence). A diversion/alternate through Coyote Buttes (The Wave) requires a very difficult to secure permit and it is frequently enforced with harsh consequences (and definitely no camping there.)
* Note: recently the Paria Canyon moved to a cashless system at trailheads requiring a smartphone. They evidently installed cell boosters in order to make this work. One may also obtain a day-hike permit ahead of time at the Paria Contact Station. Overnight Permits always require advanced in-person pick up.
THE GRAND CANYON
Obtaining the permits for the Grand Canyon will likely be the biggest challenge (and expense) of all because they are popular and doing a thru-hike requires an extended period through multiple zones. Getting reservations for this is essential and could be the linchpin in one’s entire schedule. Permit reservations should be requested 4-5 months in advance (see details via link below). Others have stated that the rangers in the GC have been extremely helpful in accommodating thru-hikers — but be patient and flexible and remember that they have to balance the limited resources with the numerous amount of people wanting to do shorter backpacking trips in the canyon (they evidently get thousands of requests per month).
fees: $10 per permit + $12 per person per night (only $8/p/n before July 2022)
The backcountry in Zion is also becoming more and more popular. For the official Hayduke it’s completely possible to not need to camp in Zion by timing your days and/or camping right outside the boundary. If extending one’s trip to include The Narrows or the West Rim Trail to Kolob Canyons a permit will likely be required. About half of the backcountry spots can be reserved ahead of time, while the rest are saved for “Walk-in” permits which can be claimed the day before or day of camping. Permits typically have to be picked up at the main Visitor Center just prior to your trip. However, Zion does offer a permit email system (Zion Express Membership), but it requires an in-person visit to the visitor center to initially set up. Note that as of April 2022 a day-hike permit is needed for Angels Landing. TBD if a backcountry permit acts as a substitute for this as it used to for shuttle tickets.
Note: as of 2020 Wilderness Permits cannot be obtained at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center.
Backcountry reservations become available on the 5th of each month for the entire next calendar month. For example: for any date in April, that permit would become available on March 5th.
fees: $15.00 for 1 to 2 people, $20.00 for 3 to 7 people
As I found out the hard way, the posts with a slot at the top in which you could deposit an envelope with a payment are gone at the Paria. It’s now an all-electronic transaction. This is not clearly communicated on the website. Since at the entry to the Paria you are in an electronic black hole, it’s also not easily fixed once you are there. The White House ranger station does not accept cash either.
I will report later with specifics how one can deal with this. I am going to be on the Hayduke later this Spring, so I will have to figure it out.
Thanks for bringing this up as I forgot to note it. When they implemented this new system they installed boosters at each trailhead so in theory a cellphone should work for the permit. The website also notes it’s possible to get the day-hike permit ahead of time at the Paria Station if one doesn’t wish to use this method. Overnight permits must always be obtained ahead of time.
It was actually working as I passed by the White House TH in late September ‘22.