This is an awesome and remote section of the Hayduke Trail. There are two parts that can give hikers some difficulty in this section based on the reports I’ve read. The first is a the big dryfall in Rustler Canyon and the second is the exit/entrance to Indian Creek. There is also a small dryfall in one of the upper branches of Rustler, but the bypass is fairly obvious and used by cows, so I’ll focus on the other two headed down Rustler and then up Indian Creek:
The Rustler Canyon Dryfall
This obstacle looks daunting at first glance and I’ve seen reports of people doing long bypasses and/or using ropes to descend the nearby cliffs.
There is NO NEED for all that.
It’s really easy to simply go straight down through the mini slot underneath the large boulder. It could be a little slippery, so you might want to take off the pack. But, it’s a fairly short climb and there is a large shelf below.
From the shelf it is about another 20′ sheer drop to the bottom. But, fortunately, there is a bypass to the left along the shelf which leads to an easy ramp down via a dirt hill on the eastern side.
Here’s a shot of the obstacle from below:
And a bit farther back to see how to get up (or down):
Once below the dryfall it’s an easy walk down to the junction of Indian Creek. If you are lucky it will flowing and will look something like this:
If it is, you might want to take the short diversion down to Indian Creek Falls.
However, it’s also possible that Indian Creek will be dry or just a string of stagnant pools. Evidently this is fairly rare, but what makes it frustrating is that it is hard to predict. That’s because of the lack of water is not necessarily based on season or recent weather, but instead on how much water is released by the ranchers upstream who control the water rights (and do not report their outflows to the park.)
Exit from Indian Creek
After heading upstream about a 1 mile it will be about time to find one’s way out of the canyon. Take note when the stream abruptly turns east. There is a side canyon at that point, but it’s not the way you want to go. Instead head another 400 yards or so upstream and look for a crack in the lower wall and a talus slope leading up to the upper shelf. If all else fails… N38.2791,W-109.7733. Every time I’ve been here there’s been a nice cairn against the skyline:
Once up to this point, I find it easier to just walk up this sandstone floor of the side canyon. The book references following the ridge to the right, but I found that to be more difficult (even through there is a really cool balanced rock over that way.)
In the upper part of the canyon it will be necessary to get out and work your way around the top. Then one final cliffband stops progress from getting to the very top. There are probably several ways to get up, but finding one might take some scouting. I always use what a call “Top Crack” which is a nice ramp going through a narrow slot between two boulders.
This route is at… N38.2752,W-109.7753.
Once on top of this obstacle, you are home free and ready to enjoy the awesome walk atop the ridge south toward the next wash over. Before heading out, turn around and enjoy the view back over Indian Creek toward Lockhart Basin: